Did you know that roughly 1.8 million Australians have diabetes? Diabetes is a chronic disorder that causes high blood sugar due to low insulin production or cells that are unresponsive to the insulin that is being produced.
There are two primary types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes: The autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas
- Type 2 diabetes: The most common form which sees a reduced production of insulin and tissue that will not properly respond to the insulin being produced
There is no current cure for diabetes, so those with type 1 must continually keep their blood glucose levels steady with multiple daily insulin injections or a regular insulin infusion. Type 2 suffers can manage their blood glucose levels with medication, diet, and exercise.
Australia is currently the 7th highest country globally with type 1 diabetes, which ranks in Australia's top 10 leading causes of death. Following a suitable diabetic diet based on low GI foods is one safe way to control blood glucose levels within an optimal range. Read on to understand more about this.
How is diabetes caused?
Type 1 diabetes (also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes) occurs when the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Our bodies require insulin to allow sugar (glucose) to create energy by entering our cells. There are many reasons why someone may be affected by type 1 diabetes, such as genetics or specific viruses. Type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or adolescence but can also develop in adults.
Type 2 diabetes forms when cells in our muscle, fat or liver begin to resist insulin, lowering our sugar intake. Controlling type 2 diabetes can be made easier by eating low-GI foods, which train the body to be insulin sensitive, reducing insulin spikes.
Living with diabetes
You can manage diabetes with healthy eating and regular physical exercise. This can include eating plenty of vegetables and legumes and high-fibre, low-GI carbohydrates like wholegrain bread or cereals and fruit. Reducing your saturated fat intake and added sugars and opting for low salt foods can also be beneficial.
Healthy eating when you have diabetes can help you:
- Maintain general good health
- Manage your blood glucose levels
- Reach target blood lipid (fat) levels
- Ensure a healthy blood pressure
- Stay within a recommended body weight
- Prevent or slow diabetes complications
Physical activity is also important, with at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity recommended each day. This can help to lower:
- Blood glucose levels
- Blood pressure
- Stress and anxiety
Physical activity can also improve mood and self-esteem, sleep quality, and muscle and bone strength.
What should I eat as a type 2 diabetic? What is diabetic friendly food?
There is no one-size-fits-all diabetic diet, so we recommend consulting a qualified health professional to choose the right strategy for you. Including lots of fruit and vegetables is a must, and you should eat regular meals evenly throughout the day. Aim for low-fat foods, and try to limit saturated fat. Small amounts of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats will provide the essential fatty acids and vitamins you need throughout the day.
Carbohydrate foods are an essential energy source for your body. Low GI carbohydrate foods have a lower impact on blood glucose levels, and examples of these include:
- Traditional rolled oats
- Wholegrain bread
- Lentils and legumes
- Sweet potato
- Fresh fruits
You can also include some sugar in your diet; however, foods high in added sugars should be limited. Likewise, high energy foods such as lollies and soft drinks should be consumed sparingly. An alternative sweetener can also be a good replacement option for those with a sweet tooth.
Benefits of a diabetic-friendly diet; how do low-GI foods help type 2 diabetes?
Low-GI classified foods break down slowly, making them less likely to cause rapid blood sugar spikes. As a result, they are an easier option for those trying to regulate glucose.
The low-GI diet can also provide other health benefits such as:
- The ability to reduce total cholesterol by 9.6% and bad cholesterol by 8.6%.
- Assistance with weight-loss
- Reduction in the risk of developing cancer
- Reduced risk of developing heart disease
It is important to note that at the other end of the scale, foods with a high-GI are quickly digested and absorbed, which can cause a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels. As a result, these should be limited.