By 2025 there will be more than 4 million people in Britain with diabetes. Every day, 400 new cases are diagnosed. But diabetes doesn’t happen overnight. In fact there is a continuum from optimal blood sugar balance toward insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and full-blown diabetes. However healthy you think your diet is making sure you control your blood sugar levels is crucial for healthy ageing and reducing the risk of long term disease. In clinic we practice the functional nutrition approach – looking at underlying imbalances in the body and how these can be corrected with diet, lifestyle changes and optimising nutrition.
How do you know if you are at risk from blood sugar imbalances and insulin resistance? Here are a few indications you may need to look at intervention:
- Regularly crave sugary food and drinks
- Been told by your GP that your fasting glucose is too high
- Suffer with noticeable energy highs and lows through the day
- You feel shaky and irritable if you have not eaten for 2-3 hours
- You feel you can’t stop eating once you start eating sweets or carbohydrates
- Want to reach for the bread basket when eating out
- Eating a plate of pasta makes you sleepy?
- Need a cup of coffee to get you going in the morning
- Struggle with regular yeast infections / jock itch / vaginal infections
- Have a BMI higher than 30
- Family history of diabetes
- You are of nonwhite ancestry (African, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Indian, Middle Eastern)
- High triglycerides
There are lab tests you can consider too. Fasting glucose, Fasting insulin, Haemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) are useful tests to consider.
If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels then seek support from your GP / consultant. However making simple dietary changes can have a profound effect on your blood sugar. There are also a range of top foods to include that have particular benefits
Ditch the Sugar. Sounds obvious but you would be surprised how much sugar is in the foods we eat daily – sauces, dressings, drinks, cereals, canned foods, ready meals just to name a few. The easiest way to reduce your intake is to eat and good real, unprocessed foods.
Cut the Carbs. A diet full of empty calories and quickly absorbed sugar, liquid sugar calories, and refined carbohydrates – all of which convert to sugar – creates high insulin levels, eventually leading to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Carbohydrates are found in grains, pseudo grains, beans, pulses, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, dairy products. If you pile your plate with potatoes or pasta you will cause your blood sugar levels to rise dramatically. Forget the eat well plate – you should be piling your plate with low carbohydrate vegetables – vegetables that grow above the ground (think leafy green vegetables, salad greens, mushrooms, courgettes etc). In fact at least half of your plate should be vegetables. The remaining plate should be dominated with lean protein (fish, eggs, seafood, meat, poultry). Avoid carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, pasta, bread or consume infrequently in small amounts. If you have a problem with blood sugar cut them out and instead include a little starchy vegetable like carrot, parsnip, swede, butternut squash.
Don’t Drink Your Sugar. It’s not just fizzy drinks and squash you need to be mindful of. Fruit juices, smoothies, alcohol are all high in sugar. Switch to herbal tea, green tea, water.
Include Healthy Fat. Oily fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids known for their heart protective properties and their ability to improve insulin function. Aim to include oily fish 3 times a week. Include other healthy fats too such as olives, avocado, nuts and seeds. Use more delicate oils like walnut oil, flaxseed oil, chia seed etc in dressings – they are very heat sensitive so do not cook with them.
Eat Magnesium Rich Foods. Magnesium is crucial for energy production and depleted during times of stress. Focus on magnesium rich foods daily such as leafy green vegetables, pumpkin seeds, almonds, halibut. Magnesium is often low in diabetics so if you suffer with poor sleep, muscle cramps, muscle twitching, low energy levels then consider a supplement
Get Sufficient Sleep. Lack of sleep or poor sleep not only spikes sugar but increases carb cravings and makes you eat more. Studies suggest that even among healthy subjects who had just one night of poor sleep it could induce insulin resistance.
Move Regularly. Exercise is crucial for improving insulin sensitivity and uptake of glucose into the cells. Try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training which have been shown to be of particular benefit for Type 2 Diabetes
Address Ongoing Stress. When we face chronic stress, our levels of insulin, cortisol, and inflammatory compounds called cytokines all increase. This drives metabolic imbalances that leads to weight gain, insulin resistance, and eventually Type 2 diabetes. Take measures to control stress levels.
Go for High Fibre. Eating a diet rich in high-fibre foods prevents and reduces the harm caused by chronically elevated blood glucose. It helps slow down how quickly sugars are released into the blood stream as well as helping you feel fuller for longer. Good choices include beans, pulses, flaxseed, chia seed, oats, sea vegetables.
Check Vitamin D. The majority of people in the UK are low in vitamin D – particularly during the winter months. Vitamin D supplementation may reduce susceptibility to type II diabetes by slowing the loss of insulin sensitivity in people who show early signs of the disease. Optimal levels have also been associated with a lower risk of autoimmune conditions. Get yourself tested and supplement if needed
Blood Sugar Friendly Foods. As well as making the dietary changes above there are a number of great foods to include regularly.
Cinnamon is known for its ability to activate the cell membrane’s insulin receptors, thus increasing glucose uptake and lowering blood glucose levels – try sprinkling it over your meals every day.
Green tea is packed with antioxidants which can improve metabolism and support fat burning. They are also known to be protective for the pancreas and liver. Try drinking 3-5 cups daily.
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and fibre and studies have shown they can help lower baseline blood sugar levels in those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Blueberry powder has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Try adding them to your morning protein shake.
Apples are also high in soluble fibre and contain the antioxidant quercetin. This antioxidant appears to have protective anti-inflammatory benefits
Lean protein. Satisfy your appetite by making sure you include a palm size portion of protein at each meal – lean meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs etc are great sources.
Avocado. Rich, creamy, and packed with heart healthy monounsaturated fat, avocado slows digestion and helps keep blood sugar from spiking after a meal. A diet high in good fats may even help reverse insulin resistance, which translates to steadier blood sugar long-term.
Nut butters. Adding nut butter including no added sugar peanut butter helps dampen your appetite for up to 2 hours longer than a low-fibre, high-carb snack – they are incredibly satisfying and nutritious making them an ideal snack.
Vinegar. Two tablespoons of vinegar taken before a meal can help your blood sugar go down during a meal. Try drizzling it over your meals or mixing with olive oil in a salad dressing.
Oily Fish – packed with omega 3 fats, vitamin D these are heart healthy foods to include regularly. Omega 3 fats are important for healthy cell membranes and can improve insulin sensitivity.
There are plenty of effective supplements to choose. However if you are on medication already for your blood sugar then it is important to seek professional support to avoid dramatic dips in blood sugar.
One of the most popular minerals for insulin function is chromium. Chromium is an essential trace mineral that plays a significant role in sugar metabolism. Chromium supplementation helps control blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes and improves metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids.
Other beneficial supplements include antioxidants like vitamin C, flavonoids, NAC, COQ10 and Lipoic Acid.
Carnitine lowers blood glucose and HbA1c levels, increases insulin sensitivity and glucose storage, and optimizes fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
Green coffee bean extract, white kidney bean extract, extracts from sea vegetables, Ginkgo biloba, green tea extracts, vitamin D are other supplements often incorporated in blood sugar programmes.
For more information why not contact our clinic and book in for a consultation