Our daily habits and routines contribute heavily to increasing our risk of diabetes.
In today’s mass-produced consumerist society, we often find foods which are packed with processed sugars. Having the ability to identify certain food groups and products can dramatically decrease your cardiovascular risk, this means knowing both what to eat and what not to eat.
Click next for the best foods to get to grips with, in order to keep your blood sugar in check.
Sweetened Breakfast Cereals
Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day and it is imperative that you make eating breakfast a regular habit. The benefits are numerous, ranging from lower rates of diabetes to increased satiety and weight loss.
Consuming breakfast first thing in the morning greatly decreases hunger and cravings throughout the day. In which case, you are less likely to be hungry, and thus, less likely to eat too much. Researchers found that people who regularly ate breakfast decreased their risk of diabetes by almost 30%. A possible explanation for this is that skipping breakfast can cause insulin resistance.
However, what we eat for breakfast needs a closer look, to ensure we are providing our body with the correct nutrients and balance of diet. Processed, refined, high sugary cereals are rich in calories, and sugar. When choosing a cereal, it’s important to choose a cereal that is low in sugar and high in fibre. Just ticking the “I have had breakfast” box in any shape or form can become a bad habit that your body struggles to manage over a long period of time.
Therefore, try whole grain cereals that are made with healthy ingredients such as nuts which are healthy, but can also be rich in calories and fat for a small portion. The good news is that if you choose wisely and watch your portions, you can enjoy cereal. In fact, many cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, which can help you meet your nutritional needs.
Flavoured Coffee Drinks
There’s no escape from coffee, with an outlet on every street corner this highly popular hot drink is everywhere we turn. And if you like coffee, then that’s ok, because we have the power of choice.
In 2014, researchers at Harvard found that 100,000 people over a 20 year period discovered that people who increased their coffee intake by over one cup per day had an 11 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, not all is what it seems with the wide range of coffee drinks available today.
The benefits of pure coffee are not the same for coffee drinks with added sweeteners or dairy products. Creamy, sugary drinks found at cafe chains are often loaded with unhealthy carbs and are also very high in calories. Seasonal and flavoured coffee may well taste nice, but they quite simply hold the same calories as a small meal in a glass. Loaded with flavour also means loaded with sugar.
Before you order, check out the nutritional information available in the coffee shop on the specific coffee selections, and sip smarter. Most big coffee chains offer drink options with fewer carbs and fat. “Skinny” coffee drinks allow you the morning wake-up or afternoon pick-me-up without the sugar rush.
Sugary drinks surround us. Wherever we go, there are drinks on offer that are laden with calories and sugar. These drinks also have a ‘glycaemic effect’ that can lead to rapid spikes in blood glucose, as well as disturbances to the hormone insulin, which normally regulates blood sugar.
Whether it’s in bars, restaurants or cafés that you find yourself consuming fruit juices and sugary drinks you can often expose yourself to ingesting more calories and sugar than you’re meant to.
If you are active and trying to keep active, reaching for popular sports drinks may seem like a healthy choice, but most sports drinks are only slightly better than soda in terms of sugar and calories. A 32-ounce sports drink contains between 56 and 76 grams of sugar.
The number of people reaching for sugary sports drinks weekly are going up, this is due to clever advertising as opposed to real benefits for sport. Most sports drinks still have about two-thirds as much sugar as soda or pop.
Avoiding soda, ‘pop’ and energy/sports drinks is a must as these take the top spots on the list of drinks to dodge. These sugary drinks are also linked to weight gain and tooth decay, so let’s just leave it there! Why not try fruit-infused water or tea to reach your hydration levels.
We grow up with sweets, as rewards, treats and prizes. They are at every event, birthday and party. In which case these childhood habits often shape the way we eat as an adult. Even in adult hood sweet treats are used as a celebration or reward for good behaviour.
Diabetes.org.uk says that it is not known exactly what causes Type 1 diabetes. But it isn’t linked to lifestyle and so sugar doesn’t directly cause the condition. The question of whether sugar directly causes Type 2 diabetes is a bit complicated as sugar encourage gain weight which is a cause of type 2 diabetes.
While sweets do not cause you to develop diabetes, foods with a high glycemic index, such as processed cakes or cookies raise your blood sugar more rapidly than foods with a lower glycemic index. Sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which play a role in poor wellbeing.
An excess of sweetened foods and beverages can lead to weight gain, blood sugar problems and an increased risk of heart disease, among other dangerous conditions. For these reasons, added sugar should be kept to a minimum whenever possible.
If you already have a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, then managing your processed sweet intake is a must. Sweets drastically increase your carbohydrate intake; these are liable for raising your blood sugar levels. Refined sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar. Low-fat foods are the worst offenders, such as sweets, as manufacturers use sugar to add flavour. Most of the processed foods, including sweets we eat add calories and sugar with a pointless amount of nutritional value.
Packaged Snack Foods
Packaged and fast foods, especially those high in sugar such as baked goods, sweets, chips, and desserts, need to be on the naughty list. Packaged snacks such as crisps are often high in unhealthy fats. They usually contain cheap fats, refined seed- and vegetable oils which are often hydrogenated; this turns them into trans fats. Vegetable oils are extremely unhealthy but are so easily accessible to customers.
A large part of your daily sugar intake is hidden inside various packaged and processed foods, many of which are marketed as healthy. Manufacturers often plaster their packaging with health claims, making some items seem healthy when they’re really full of added sugar. The most common examples include labels like “natural,” “healthy,” “low-fat,” “diet,” and “light.” While these products may be low in fat and calories, they’re often packed with added sugar. These labels are also in highly colourful, attractive packages that make them easy to spot and often found in two for one deals and discounts.
This ease of access to claimed “healthy” foods can be our downfall, often living fast and hectic lifestyles food preparation is way down on our ‘to do’ list. This leaves us looking for shortcuts, especially when it comes to food. Pre-packed or processed foods contain high amounts of sodium, MSG, and artificial colors and are low in fiber and nutrients. Added sugar can be difficult to detect, in which case the easiest way to avoid added sugar is to avoid highly processed goods, selecting unprocessed, whole food in its place.
Alcoholic drinks are full of empty calories and have no nutritional value being bad news for your waistline. But what many people don’t consider is that they can also be full of sugar.
A pint of cider can contain as many as five teaspoons of sugar – almost as much as the World Health Organisation recommends that you do not exceed in a single day. In which case, alcohol can then negatively alter blood sugar levels, putting heavy drinkers at increased risk of developing alcohol related diabetes.
You can still drink alcohol if you have diabetes. But there are a few things you need to bear in mind to make sure you stay healthy. A recent report has found that the consumption of alcohol on three to four days a week was associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes for men. But, what if you are a diabetic already? Well, alcoholic drinks often contain a lot of calories, for example one pint of lager can be equivalent to a slice of pizza, and this puts strain on your ability to manage the condition.
Drinking alcohol can further increase your chance of becoming overweight which raises your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, heavy drinking can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can also trigger type 2 diabetes.
If you’re concerned about the amount of sugar you’re consuming from alcohol, then there are ways to cut down, such as drinking a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage, choosing to drink low-alcohol, as well as eating whilst drinking alcohol as part of your experience of the meal.
In the morning we often reach for a glass of fruit juice, in the hope to get the day off to a good start and build on ‘1 of our 5 a day’. Because fruit juice has the word ‘fruit’, we often associate it with being healthy. Choosing the right drinks can help you avoid unpleasant side effects, manage your symptoms, and maintain a healthy weight.
Fruit juices can be loaded with many important micronutrients, especially vitamins and minerals, that are not broken down during the process of juicing, and this is especially true when blended from whole fruits. Fresh fruit juices with no added sugar are certainly recommendable in comparison to sugary drinks like sodas.
Though, it’s important to bear in mind that some juices, made from concentrate contain considerable amounts of sugar; this can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and increase your risk of weight gain. Try to aim for fruit juices that are 100% pure and contains no added sugars. Also good to be aware that most fruit juices sold commercially are pasteurised, (treated with mild heat, usually to less than 100 °C (212 °F), to eliminate pathogens and extend shelf life) which may result in decreasing the levels of certain nutrients and aroma. So It’s best to press your own juice.
Granola, Energy, and Protein Bars
We can often fall victim to snack and go mentality, especially trying to keep up with our hectic lives and looking for a hunger ‘quick fix’.
These little pocket-sized bars may look harmless on the outside, but they are often jam-packed with calories, fat, and carbohydrates. Cereal bars are a little better, but usually still too high in sugar and carbs to be included in a healthy diet. Instead, try making a bowl of high-fibre or whole-grain cereal with fat-free milk instead. Keep this in your cupboards as you ‘go-to’ rather than quick fix bars.
Many protein and energy bars have a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, making them a nice choice for a snack or post workout recovery boost. However, some protein bars are higher in sugar while others use sugar alcohols, in which case if your desperate for a snack try consuming protein bars with 200 calories or less.
You’ll often find that granola, protein and energy bars have weird and wonderful flavours. These flavours are a red flag for additives and sugar. These bars are often found to have non-protein ingredients, and high amounts of vegetable oils such as corn and sunflower oil. These are detrimental to health and wellbeing, the vast array of flavours come from various other dubious and mysterious additives that are included in the ingredients.
Low-Fat and sweetened yogurt
Yogurt is a healthy food, but only if you choose full fat, organic and plain. Many people are choosing low-fat or sweetened yogurt, thinking that they are consuming less added sugars.
In moderation, yogurt can be a healthy source of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and good bacteria. Just be mindful of the portion size, the frequency and the calorie count of certain brands. Yoghurt is an excellent source of calcium, protein and probiotics, regular consumption of yogurt is also associated with better immune system function, weight management and reduced inflammation.
Low fat and sweetened yogurt are often loaded with sugar so in future try choosing plain, full fat organic yogurt. You are of course allowed to sweeten this with fruit such as berries, or even half a teaspoon of honey or real maple syrup. Yes, this is still sugar, but it allows you to be in control how much sugar you are consuming on a regular basis.
The energy drink market grew by nearly 9 percent in volume in 2018 and is on track to increase by nearly 8 percent in 2019. Energy drinks are becoming the beverage of choice for many young people, and as their popularity rises, so do the sales numbers. Although soft drinks, such as soda and pop still sell the most of all cold drinks, energy drinks continue to rise in this very lucrative market each year. Much of the gain in popularity of energy drinks has to do with aggressive marketing campaigns directed primarily at young people.
If you are particularly active throughout the week or on weekends, it’s often very tempting to replenish your energy and hydration with a sports drink. Though, bear in mind that many sports drinks are high in sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Energy drinks are high in both caffeine and carbohydrates, which may do the trick after your run. However, research has shown that energy drinks not only spike your blood sugar, but may also cause insulin resistance. This can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Further excessive caffeine can create nervousness, increase your blood pressure, and lead to insomnia. All of these can affect your general health and wellbeing. In most situations, water is the best hydrator for sports activities. If you’re sweating heavily or are concerned about electrolyte loss, adding a small amount of coconut water to your water bottle or eating fruit, such as a banana or orange, will help. Quench your thirst further with plain or sparkling water flavoured with a fresh lemon or lime.
Fruits in general are a good source of vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients. However, if you are eating tinned or canned fruit, make sure that it does not have added sugar. Aim to choose one that is canned in the natural juice rather than syrup.
Canned fruits and vegetables may seem like a great snack when short on time, but canned fruits are loaded with excess sugar and their nutrient content is a lot lower than fresh fruits; one-half cup of pears canned in their own juice provides 60 calories and 12 grams of sugar. That’s because, canned fruits often have their flavour strengthened by sweeteners.
Furthermore, the cans are often lined with a toxic chemical that acts as a preservative. So the bottom line is that canned fruit can be enjoyed as a snack, in moderation. But using these as your go two post meal sweet can lead to detrimental physical health and wellbeing in the long term.
Regularly snacking on dried fruit
Dried fruit tends to contain significant amounts of natural sugars. Because the water has been removed from dried fruit, this concentrates all the sugar and calories in a much smaller package.
Many fruits such as cranberries, blueberries, cherries, strawberries and mango are infused with a sweetener (e.g. sucrose syrup) prior to drying. So even though dried fruits retain most of the nutritional value of fresh fruits, there are also very high in calories and sugar, including both glucose and fructose.
The fact that dried fruits contain fiber and many nutrients, make them a good snack, but to have with moderation. Just watch your portion control and frequency of consuming the moreish snacks. A small 1-ounce portion of raisins contains 84 calories, almost exclusively from sugar. Because dried fruit is sweet and energy-dense, it is easy to eat large amounts at a time, which can result in excess sugar and calorie intake.
Consuming too much red meat
A study led by Professor Koh Woon Puay, professor of Clinical Sciences at Duke-NUS Medical School, revealed that a higher intake of red meat and poultry is associated with significantly increased risk of developing diabetes, which is partially attributed to their higher content of “heme iron” in these meats.
Red meat is loaded with saturated fat. Diabetics should limit or avoid high-fat cuts of meat, such as regular ground beef, hot dogs, sausage and bacon due to its high saturated fats content. A meta-analysis from the Harvard School of Public Health found that a daily serving of red meat was associated with a 19% increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
However, meat can be a great source protein and other nutrients when you are trying to manage your health and wellbeing. Beef is an important source of protein and essential vitamins/minerals, including; iron, zinc and vitamin B12. It’s suggested that reducing red meat intake while eating other protein foods or more whole grains and vegetables would support a well-balanced diabetic diet.
To stay healthy or if you are managing diabetes, try to eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fibre, fruit and vegetables; and cut back on red and processed meat, and salt, too.
Diabetes.org.uk recommends eating less than 70g of red or processed meat a day.
Minced beef in a regular portion is about 100g, use less meat and try to add beans or vegetables. Fish is also a very good alternative.
Processed and ready to eat meals
We often live a hectic life with just enough time to have a lunch break, so we’re making processed and ready to eat meals a ‘go-to’.
Euromonitor, the world’s leading independent provider of strategic market research, says that the UK spends £4.7 billion on ready-to-eat meals each year. Global Data have suggested that this worldwide figure reached $83.4 billion in 2017, that value is expected to grow to $99.1 billion by 2021.
The National Institute of Health found that people who eat processed and ready to eat meals consume about 500 more calories per day than people on an unprocessed diet. These people also eat faster and consequently gain weight. Those meals can ultimately lead to obesity, which is a cause of type 2 diabetes.
Processed and ‘ready to eat’ foods don’t contain most of the essential nutrients our body needs. Making them devoid of any real benefits. Consuming ready to eat food means that you are essentially eating empty calories, which not only provides no health benefits, but also won’t keep you satiated for long.
Ready to eat meals needs to be avoided. It is encouraged to cook yourself as much as possible to absorb as many nutrients as possible.
A small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body cannot make itself. Fat helps the body absorb vitamin A, D and E. These vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they can only be absorbed with the help of fats.
The main types of fat found in our food are saturated and unsaturated, and most foods will have a combination of these. All of us need to cut saturated fat, such as butter, cream, cheese, red meat and replace it with more unsaturated fats and oils, such as rapeseed or olive oil, as these types are better for your heart and general wellbeing. Saturated fats are found in many foods, both sweet and savoury. Most of them come from animal sources, including meat and dairy products, as well as some plant foods, like palm oil and coconut oil.
There is good evidence that there is a link between saturated fat and raised cholesterol levels. Diabetes UK and the British Dietetic Association are calling on healthcare professionals not to recommend diets that are high in saturated fats (3). It is important that any diet recommended for people with Type 2 diabetes is based on evidence, and tailored to the individual. Therefore, diets such as low carb or Mediterranean diets, which are not high in saturated fats can continue to be recommended for diabetics.
Eating foods lower in unhealthy fats, especially saturated and trans fats is particularly important to keep that risk of diabetes as low as possible. It can also help you lose weight, especially when also paired with exercise.
Night time eating may be the result of overly restricted daytime food intake, leading to ravenous hunger at night. It may also be caused by habit or boredom. However, night time eating has also been linked to some eating disorders, including binge eating disorder and night eating syndrome. Although, late-night snacks are a one-way ticket to weight gain, insomnia and poor eating habits.
You can prevent this craving by eating healthier snacks before bed; this will aid you in managing blood sugar levels and satisfy night time hunger. For example a handful of nuts, hard-boiled eggs, low-fat cheese and whole-wheat crackers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, or cucumber slices will all provide you with a safe, nutritious and tummy filling snack before bed.
Overeating at night has been linked to irregular eating patterns that can often be categorized as a disordered eating structure. To help avoid this pattern of behavior you can take control by eating at planned intervals throughout the day in line with “normal” eating patterns that can help keep your blood sugar levels steady.
A further tip to help manage your night time snacking, or prevent them completely is to include protein in every meal throughout the day to help curb your hunger.
This way of eating can make you feel more satisfied throughout the day, stop you from being preoccupied with food and help prevent snacking at night. Research suggests that eating frequent high-protein meals reduced cravings by 60% and cut the desire to eat at night by half.