Written by: Teah Randle (APD)
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the body’s ability to process sugars deteriorates. This is a progressive condition and over time the body will become worse at processing. The body becomes resistant to the hormone insulin which is produced by the pancreas. This hormone is responsible for taking the sugars in our blood and moving them into our body’s cells to be stored or used as energy.
When our body becomes resistant to this hormone, our blood sugars are higher than they should be. As a response, our pancreas ramps up the production of insulin and over time, tires itself out. When type 2 diabetes does develop, a lot of the special cells that make insulin in the pancreas are not working anymore.
Over an extended time with high blood sugars our bodies can become damaged, particularly the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and lower limbs.
Important note: Diabetes is progressive and after having the condition for a long time, it is very likely that you will need some sort of medication to help sort your pancreas.
What can cause type 2 diabetes?
There are a range of modifiable factors including poor eating habits, high blood pressure, not exercising, being overweight, and having extra fat around your stomach area. There are also factors we cannot change such as family history, age, ethnic background, polycystic ovarian syndrome and having previous gestational diabetes.
Why is diet important to manage type 2 diabetes?
Diet is important for this condition because conscious control over the carbohydrate containing foods you eat can have very positive effects on your blood sugar levels. When we eat carbohydrate containing foods such as breads, wraps, cereals, starchy vegetables, pasta, rice, oats, grains, fruits, our body breaks these down into sugars, which then enter our bloodstream. Once in our bloodstream, their cause a rise in our blood sugar levels. So to effectively manage your diabetes, you need to be aware of the carbohydrates you are having, how much you are having and when you are having them.
The other foods such as fats and proteins do not have a direct effect on blood sugars but can slow down the digestion of carbohydrate containing foods.
So, what are some strategies?
- Watch the GI: this rating system, called glycaemic index, rates carbohydrate foods for how quickly they get into your blood and how sharply they rise your sugars. The simpler and more refined the sugars are in the food, the higher their GI will be. For example, a high GI food would be a bar of chocolate. It is high GI because it is full of refined sugars, whereas, bran cereals are low GI, as they have complex, unrefined sugars in them.
|Low GI||High GI|
|• All oats except quick oats.
• Pasta, rice noodles, quinoa, other grains
• Legumes and beans
• Corn and sweet potatoes
• Dairy foods
• Most fruits
|• White bread
• Corn flakes and other refined, sugary cereals
• Fruit juice
• Instant noodles
• Rice cakes
• White potatoes
- Pump up the fibre: fibre is a wonder nutrient, not only does it lower the GI of foods and slow digestion of sugars, but it also helps keep you fuller for longer.
- Carbohydrate timing: it is important to spread your carbohydrates throughout the day. It is easier for your body to manage your body sugars if you are having regular meals throughout the day and minimal carbohydrate snacking between. It can be very helpful to plan out your meals and the carbohydrate foods you are planning to eat.
- Portions: for good sugar control, it is highly important to manage your portions of carbohydrates. Although this will be slightly different for everyone, it is important to remember the general rule of thumb for portioning a meal.
Why will seeing a dietitian help?
Considering the chronic, progressive, and individual nature of type 2 diabetes, it can be extremely beneficial to see a dietitian ongoing to help manage your diet. We acknowledge that diabetes is very hard work sometimes, so it can help to share the load. Not only can we help work through different strategies with you, but we can also create individualised plans to best suit your needs.
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