diabetes and diet
Together with Pick n Pay, we’ve designed a cookbook specifically for people with diabetes who want ideas for every meal of the day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and treats – there’s something for everyone!
Get nutritional advice on how to build balanced meals, and delicious recipes the whole family will enjoy – whether or not they have diabetes.
From our community blog:
I am a Type 1 diabetic since 1991. I have had two children and desperately want a third, but cannot face another pregnancy like the second due to severe hypoglycaemia that kept occurring.
I want to get a pump – my doctor did initially suggest it and I have asked for a referral to a centre that deals with pumps. I also would like to know what the chance of getting a pump on medical aid is if it is recommended by a doctor and if the medical aid is paying for CDE at the moment?
I am trying to control my sugars now but even tracking them 6-8 times a day, taking multiple extra shots when needed and tracking my diet closely is not helping.
The CDE has 5 pump centers in Johannesburg. 011 7126000. They also have an amazing 5 day course called DINE. Speak to Michelle Daniels.
I hope this may be of some help in resolving your control problems. I used a pump for 10 years and found it to be helpful particularly as you can control the long acting (basal) insulin for your individual requirements. You programme the pump to dispense whatever you need for each hour of the 24 hour day which will be exclusive to your needs.
A phone call to your medical aid should be able to tell you if they will support the purchase fully or partially. I stopped using mine because my levy on the consumables was increasing beyond reason.
It needs time and expertise to learn how to use the pump. I know we are all different but I believe that with the proper advise and treatment you should be able to get control before getting a pump. It will help your new doctor (it seems you need one) if you keep a record of insulin taken, food consumed, and exercise taken.
I’m a chairman of a support group, find one of these as they can also be very helpful.
Ask the dietician: Genevieve Jardine
From our community: “Being newly diagnosed, I am learning about foods that I can and can’t use. I cannot find an article explaining what to look for. It’s all a bit confusing. Help would be greatly appreciated.” David Staff.
“Eat the right type of food, in the right amount, at the right time of the day”
It’s important to make dietary changes that are simple and progressive. First you need to learn what foods should be in your trolley, fridge and kitchen cupboards: that will make good eating decisions easier to choose.
I have one simple rule: eat food that is as close to its natural form as possible! This helps to reduce the amount of processed, high sugar, high-fat foods that cause problems with weight and blood sugar control. Try not to focus on what you can’t have (it is very depressing) and rather be adventurous in experimenting with healthy nutritious meals.
Once you know which foods are suitable, you need to get specific and work out how much to eat. Portion control is very important. The good news is that almost all foods are allowed in correct portions.
Here are some general rules:
Starch: Use low GI, high fibre starches. Reduce foods made with lots of white flour and sugar (doughnuts, biscuits, cakes ). For your main meal, the portion size of starch should be the size of your fist (approximately 2 portions of starch).
Protein: Opt for low-fat protein. Remove visible fat from meat and skin from chicken. For your main meal, the portion of protein should be the size of the palm of your hand and the same thickness as your baby finger (less at other meals)
Dairy: Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy. Try for 2 portions of dairy a day.
Vegetables: Choose a variety of colours and serve raw, steamed and roasted. Eat lots – double portions where possible!
Fruit: Try to eat a variety of fruits. The size should be that of a tennis ball and you should aim for 2 servings of fruit a day.
Fat: Try to reduce the use of fats in your cooking. Rather grill, bake, boil, steam, microwave or stir-fry your food. The portion of fat should equal the size of the tip of your thumb.
Specific portion sizes:
- ½ cup wholewheat cereal / muesli
- ½ cup cooked, cooled and reheated mealie meal / oats porridge
- 1 slice seed loaf
- ½ wholegrain seed roll / low GI bread roll
- 3 Provita / 2 Ryvita
- ½ cup (2 Tbs) beans or whole corn
- 1 small mealie on the cob
- ½ cup cooked, cooled & then reheated samp
- ½ cup pasta / long grain rice / wild rice
- ⅓ cup white rice
- ½ cup brown rice with added lentils
- ½ medium sweet potato
- 2 – 3 baby potatoes
- ½ cup cooked lentils
- 1 egg
- 30g grilled chicken / ostrich / extra lean mince / grilled beef or pork
- ¼ cup tuna
- 30g steamed / poached / grilled / baked fish
- 2 tbs peanut butter
- 50g raw soya
- 90g tofu
- ½ cup cooked lentils / beans
- 1 cup low-fat / fat-free milk
- 100ml low-fat / fat-free sweetened yoghurt
- 30g low-fat cheese (Lichten Blanc, Dairybelle InShape, Elite Edam, Woolworths, Mozzarella)
- 50g low-fat feta cheese (Pick n Pay Choice Danish Style / Traditional, Simonsberg)
- 50g low-fat cottage cheese (Dairybelle, Lancewood, Parmalat, In Shape, Clover)
- Green pepper
- Baby marrow
- Bean sprouts
- Mixed vegetables
- Green beans
- 1 medium apple / peach / pear / grapefruit / orange
- 1 large naartjie
- 3 small apricots
- 10 – 12 grapes (only!)
- 1 small to medium nectarine
- 1 tablespoon dried fruit
- ½ cup fruit salad
- 2 teaspoons low-fat margarine / mayonnaise / dressing
- 4 olives
- ¼ avocado
- 80ml low-fat gravy / sauce
- 1 teaspoon olive / canola oil
From the artificial pancreas to new ways of testing blood sugar and more, we take a look at the future for those with diabetes.
Diabetes is a rollercoaster ride of blood sugar ups and downs, and tight control can be hard work. But there’s good news: while some researchers are working on a cure, others are making life easier for those with diabetes right now, through technology.
Carine Visagie brings you a roundup of the top new technologies out there.
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices are soon going to take blood sugar control to another level.
With the help of tiny electrodes stuck beneath the skin, CGM devices allow for real-time glucose readings throughout the day. The results are sent wirelessly to a monitor you can clip onto your belt and access on the go, and some devices can even send results to your doctor. Normal finger prick testing is still required (for a double check and to calibrate the CGM sensor), but you can rest assured that a CGM device will alert you if your sugar spikes or drops below your limits.
Examples include the Flash Glucose Monitoring System (Abbott) and the Guardian REAL-Time Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (Medtronic).
Ask the expert: Dr Joel Dave, endocrinologist
“24-hour glucose monitoring is going to be very helpful in patients that have difficulty controlling their blood glucose levels, as it will provide a 24-hour 360-degree view of their diabetes control.”
Ask the expert: Dr Wayne May, endocrinologist
“I’m looking forward to the Abbotts Flash Monitor, as it will stay on for 14 days and doesn’t require calibrating with a second machine.”
Insulin pumps keep getting smarter: some of the latest ones sync with CGM devices, while others are incredibly accurate at giving just the right insulin dose at the right time.
One example is the touch-screen Tandem t:slim insulin pump, which shows the date, time, how much insulin is ‘on board’ (seeing this before you bolus can help you avoid stacking your insulin*), duration of insulin action, and the amount of insulin in the reservoir. It looks like a smartphone and data is easily transferrable via a USB port. Plus, it can deliver insulin in very small doses.
*Insulin stacking is injecting a second dose too soon after a first, without taking into account the insulin already in your system. This can result in low blood sugar.
Another insulin pump to watch is the MiniMed530G by Medtronic – the first pump to shut off when blood sugar goes below a predetermined level.
Ask the expert: Dr Joel Dave, endocrinologist
“Although an insulin pump isn’t the ideal way of administering insulin for everyone, many diabetics find a pump improves their diabetes control and quality of life. Since the addition of CGM, the use of this technology has improved even more, especially in children and patients with very erratic blood sugar.”
Bionic (artificial) pancreas systems are the next big thing in diabetes management. These systems, the first of which is still being tested, combine the latest CGM tech with the most advanced insulin pump tech and add a sophisticated computer programme to simulate the function of the pancreas.
The system constantly checks blood sugar levels by means of a CGM, and responds automatically by administering either insulin (to lower blood sugar) or glucagon (to raise blood sugar levels quickly) via two separate pumps. The system hooks up to a programme on your smartphone that makes decisions every few minutes, telling the pumps via Bluetooth how much hormone to deliver.
The bionic pancreas should be available in the next 5 years.
Ask the expert: Dr Joel Dave, endocrinologist
“The artificial pancreas has been the ‘holy grail’ for diabetes care for many years. The system has been vastly improved and early studies are showing great promise. Although not for routine clinical use at the moment, in the near future it will be a life-changing addition to the diabetes care of many patients.”
What about now? Smartphone apps for diabetes
If the future of diabetes tech seems too far away, keep an eye out for apps that can help you deal with diabetes right now, on your smartphone. We like:
Glucose Buddy: to track blood sugar readings, insulin doses, carb intake, exercise, blood pressure and weight, and
Diabetic Connect: helping you tap into trusted advice, friends, support and tips.
But be warned: many international apps use mg/dL, the US blood glucose standard, instead of mmol/l, the South African standard.
- Half of South African adults are overweight or obese. What that means is increased risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and premature death.
- Our eating habits have changed so much that South Africans now spend more money on beer than on vegetables and fruit combined. What?!
- 45% of South African women are obese, as opposed to only 15% men. In 2013, South African women were the most obese in sub-Saharan Africa. So South African women are the most at risk for obesity.
I asked why that was and apparently there are three reasons:
- Women who were nutritionally deprived as children are more likely to be obese as adults (men who were deprived as children are not).
- Women of higher adult socioeconomic status (which is income, education and occupation) are more likely to be obese, which is not true for men.
- And possibly: in South Africa, women’s perceptions of an ‘ideal’ female body are larger than men’s perceptions of the ‘ideal’ male body – it’s seen as a status symbol to be a heavier woman.
Are you a South African woman? I am… Let’s make sure we’re informed and don’t let obesity happen to us and our sisters, mothers, daughters, friends.
Vitality gathered data from half a million Discovery members to give us these results:
- Their weight status (BMI and waist circumference)
Cape Town scores highest, with 53.5% of Capetonians in a normal weight range. Cape Town also topped the healthy purchasing score (which shows a positive relation between what you buy and whether your weight is in range or not.)
Fruit and vegetables
Cape Town purchased the most portions of fruit and vegetables compared to other cities – see the ranking above. In general, though, South Africans are only eating 3 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, as opposed to the 5 servings we should be eating.
Durban purchased the least amount of salt in SA, with Cape Town purchasing the most. We are eating twice as much salt as we should be in a day: it should only be 5g (1 teaspoon).
Durban came out top of this test too, with the lowest average number of teaspoons of sugar purchased – Bloemfontein purchased the most sugar. And again, we’re eating twice as much sugar as we should be – a staggering 100g a day! (That’s 24 teaspoons – in the food and drink we consume.)
There are a number of factors that play into this, of course. The way we buy our food – the impulse buys, the treats, emotional eating. Fast food is also a huge problem, because it’s loaded with salt, sugar and bad fats. Cooking at home with whole foods (not convenience foods or ready-made meals) has been proven to have an enormous impact on health and weight.
So what should we be eating? Here are some excellent guidelines.
What do you think? This information made me take a closer look at how I shop and what we eat… Not even because I’m diabetic, but just because I want my family to be as healthy as we possibly can.
From Facebook (Diabetic South Africans):
What does living well with diabetes look like for you?
Tried changing my way of eating, lost weight and still had to go on tablets. My levels are stable though – between 5.3 and 6.1 – enjoying my new way of life.
Well… Sharon, that’s living well with diabetes, the rest is history! Well done.
I am Type 2 and lost 40kg from 110kg, gained muscle, full of energy and feeling 10 years younger! What I eat is part of living well with diabetes.
It sucks big time. But taking it day by day. Some days are cool, but some are just hell.
Totally sucks. Got neuropathy from my ankles to my toes! Sugar down from mid 16s to between 8 and 12. Doc wants to put me on insulin but I don’t want to. Staying positive and fighting hard!
After taking control of my diabetes myself, i.e. testing throughout the day and increasing my insulin to where I needed it, I’m happy to report I tend to stay between 4 and 8 with a couple of hiccups here and there when I hit 12 or 9 – but nowhere close to 16 as before… Anton, I fought insulin injections too. But it works and I feel so much better. The fight against insulin is not worth it if you are damaging your body…
Are dietary supplements really necessary if you have diabetes? Nicole McCreedy asks the experts.
Like many other people with diabetes, you may be wondering whether you need to take supplements to help manage your condition. Dietary supplements can be vitamins, minerals, herbs or other plants, amino acids (the building blocks of protein) or a combination of the above. They can be in pill, capsule, powder or liquid form.
Despite some of the claims being made, there is not enough scientific evidence to suggest that any dietary supplements can help prevent or manage Type 2 diabetes. That said, dietary supplements may provide extra nutritional benefit to people with special health problems, including diabetes. In such cases, they are usually recommended when there is a specific lack of something in the body.
Do: Eat correctly
It’s important to try and get the nutrition your body needs from a balanced diet. Making healthy food choices and choosing fruit, vegetables and whole grains over carbohydrates, refined sugars and foods high in saturated fats can make a big difference. Compared with supplements, whole foods provide a variety of different nutrients for health in one package, whereas single vitamin supplements are most often for a single purpose. An apple, for example, contains vitamin C, fibre, and antioxidants – all in one crunchy package!
Dr Claudine Lee, a GP from Hilton, says that following a balanced and healthy diet is essential. “If you think you’re not getting the vitamins and minerals you need from your diet, consult with your GP whether it is necessary to take a supplement,” she advises. Eating correctly, being physically active and taking your prescribed medication is vital for maintaining good control of blood sugar levels to avoid serious complications like strokes, heart and kidney disease, limb amputation and blindness.
Don’t: Go it alone
Talk with your doctor. That is the first step in deciding whether or not to use a dietary supplement. He or she can discuss the possible benefits of dietary supplements, and check that any supplements you take will not interact dangerously with your medications.
Be sure to list any dietary supplements you take whenever you tell your doctor or any other healthcare professional about your medications. Most importantly, keep in mind that a dietary supplement is not a replacement for the diabetes treatment and care advised by your doctor.
So who could benefit from a vitamin supplement?
- Those on low calorie diets, who do not eat a variety of foods.
- Those following vegan diets.
- Those with certain food allergies, kidney disease or diseases of the gastrointestinal tract that interfere with nutrient digestion or absorption.
- Pregnant women.
An A to Z of supplements and their benefits
Ask the expert: Andrea Jenkins, nutritionist.
“The following supplements have been shown to improve blood sugar control or limit diabetic damage.”
Carnitine (L-carnitine), a nutrient made from amino acids that helps the body turn fat into energy, has been found to be deficient in people with diabetes. Almonds, egg and cottage cheese are rich in this nutrient.
Antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of diabetic complications. Choose brightly coloured fruits and vegetables in smoothies, salads and soups to ensure a variety of antioxidants.
Digestive enzymes help ensure that mineral uptake is strong and can aid the management of diabetes. Pre- and probiotics are also helpful to maintain digestion and immunity.
Lipids and essential fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and can help to relieve many of the complications associated with diabetes.
Magnesium, common in leafy green vegetables, is frequently lacking in people with Type 2 diabetes, as is chromium. Brewers yeast, mushrooms and non-refined grains all contain chromium. Zinc improves insulin function, and potassium (found in all fruits and vegetables), can improve insulin sensitivity.
A vitamin B complex improves the metabolism of glucose, and vitamins C and E can improve eye health.
Remember that dietary changes are important to treat diabetes successfully. Many foods can have a positive impact on blood sugar, for example artichokes, garlic, nuts, onions, olives, cinnamon, blueberries, avocado and fenugreek. Try to include some (or all!) of these in your next meal…
Ask the expert: Faaiza Paruk, dietician
“Some people believe that by taking a supplement they won’t need to exercise or take any medication. This is untrue. You need a balanced diet as well as exercise to help control your sugar levels. A balanced diet includes five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, a low intake of salt and fat, lean meat and complex carbohydrates found in foods such as brown rice, potatoes, beans and lentils.”
We were just sent this advice about raising children with diabetes… It takes a family to raise a diabetic child, as we all know! Do you have anything to add?
Hearing the diagnosis for the first time can be overwhelming and will leave any parent and child with mixed emotions – it’s unfair, it’s exhausting, it’s stressful, it’s scary and it’s tough to manage. Yet there is nothing on earth that any parent could have done better to prevent their child from living with Type 1 diabetes. It is estimated that there are now more than half a million children aged 14 and younger living with Type 1 diabetes according to the 7th IDF Diabetes Atlas.
According to Dr Ntsiki Molefe-Osman, Diabetes Medical Advisor at Lilly South Africa, Type 1 diabetes is a disorder of metabolism caused by the body’s immune system which attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. “Children are not born with it, rather it develops over time and there is usually a genetic predisposition. In children, Type 1 diabetes presents commonly at around 14 years of age and younger. This means that Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition, it is serious, and managing it needs to be done diligently as poor control of the condition today will have lifelong repercussions. When a child is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, so is the entire family who all need to adapt to a new lifestyle.”
“The importance of good glycaemic control can’t be emphasized enough,” says Dr Ntsiki Molefe-Osman. The basic 101 of managing and preventing the complications of Type 1 diabetes is careful daily management of blood glucose and sustaining tight glucose control as close to normal levels as possible.”
“Diabetes is a progressive disease, which left unchecked will cause organ damage. This has significant health repercussions for later on in life – from kidney failure, heart failure, blindness, nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) and as a result loss of limbs. What you do for your diabetic child today and the responsibilities you teach your teen in managing Type 1 diabetes, will influence the quality of life they can expect to live later in life,” explains Dr Molefe-Osman.
Why do Type 1 diabetics need insulin?
People living with Type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin at all, so it needs to be replaced with insulin injections. Insulin moves blood sugar into body tissues where it is used for energy. When there is no insulin, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. This is commonly referred to as high blood sugar, or hyperglycaemia – it is dangerous and has many side effects. Fortunately when the blood sugar is stabilised with insulin treatment, these symptoms go away.
It can be managed
While a diabetes diagnosis for your child may come as a shock and will mean that lifestyle adjustments will have to be made, it is important to remember that with consistent control and the support of a healthcare provider, people living with Type 1 diabetes can live full, active lives.
Family support is vital
Managing Type 1 diabetes in your child takes a lot of courage and determination. Imagine the mountain that a child faces knowing that injections will be part of their daily routine. They may also worry that their condition will preclude them from enjoying all the things that other children get to experience, or lead to them being treated as ‘different’ in their school and peer environment.
It all comes down to how you work together as family to support and guide your child in helping them see their daily treatment regime as a positive step towards a healthy and normal life, rather than as a punishment or burden. It is important to help your child believe wholeheartedly that with the right control and responsible approach, they can do whatever they want to do.
Managing chronic illness
“Coping with and learning to manage a chronic illness like diabetes is a big job for a child or teen. It may also cause emotional and behavioral challenges and talking to a diabetes educator or psychologist can help immensely. It’s also important that family, friends, teachers and other people in your child’s network know of and understand the condition so they are alert to any symptoms or signs that their blood sugar is out of control and what to do to help them in an emergency situation,” adds Dr. Molefe-Osman.
It takes a huge amount of discipline on the part of the parent and child in managing the demanding diet, lifestyle and treatment regimen, so it’s essential to establish a routine that works for everyone concerned. Establishing good habits early, providing a support structure and ensuring that your child understands why good control is important are vital. It’s the difference between your child managing their diabetes, or diabetes managing them,” she concludes.
- The 7th Edition of the International Diabetes Federation Atlas, World Health Organisation (WHO)
- http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/), Statistics SA
From Facebook (Diabetic South Africans):
How do you treat yourself when you feel like something sweet?
I only have a tiny taste, seems to work for me, but then I don’t really have a sweet tooth.
Very difficult question 🙁
Jungle Oats Light snack bar or Canderel sweets… Sweet enough and good.
Any sweet fruit that is in season! For now grapes and mangoes work for me.
Lehuma, fruits do contain a lot of sugar – especially grapes and mango. Remember to have small portions.
Yes I know, Sharon, hence I only eat them as a treat when I feel like something sweet!
Two blocks of Lindt 70% dark chocolate.
Wow! I thought I was the only one who had this craving for sweet things. I eat ice-cream once in a while. I was really feeling bad about it.
We chat to Ishay Govender, acclaimed foodie writer, about her love of cooking and how to make Indian food just as tasty – but a little healthier.
You have a family history of diabetes – have you been tested yourself?
I get my blood sugar and cholesterol tested once a year – every year. Because I’m aware that Type 2 diabetes is often a hereditary condition, I’m very conscious of my health and how food contributes to my wellbeing. In traditional homes there’s an emphasis on food and family as a way of expressing love, and I know I’ve inherited that from my mother and grandmother – sharing food with people is my way of expressing that love.
Have you made any changes to your diet because you know Type 2 diabetes runs in the family?
I’ve learnt to alter things slightly so that they’re healthier but still have lots of flavour. When we first found out that my mom was diabetic I did a lot of research, and made sure she went to a dietician and found out specifics of how to change her cooking style. That said, we grew up in a very healthy household so the changes weren’t too difficult.
What advice would you offer to people who are struggling to eat a healthy diet?
I think the most important thing is to accept and make peace with the fact that you have diabetes – it doesn’t make sense to fight it. Also, food should never be about restriction, it’s about enjoyment. Change the spotlight from focusing on what you can’t have to what you can enjoy. It’s a great time to explore flavours, textures and a sense of fun in the kitchen.
Have you learnt any ‘tricks’ to make traditional Indian food a little healthier?
A few! Here are the main ones:
- Cook with less oil – it is possible, especially if you use olive oil cooking spray.
- Don’t eat double starch (i.e. rice and potato curry, or curry and roti)
- Cook vegetables for a shorter period of time so that they keep some of their goodness – things like okra and butternut don’t have to be cooked to mush.
- Rethink vegetables – they don’t only have to be pickled or curried, they can be fresh with interesting dressings. I try to include half a salad in a meal, with a yoghurt dressing (plain low fat yoghurt with toasted cumin seeds, mint and lemon zest – delicious!)
- I only use baby potatoes with their skins on – they’re low GI and the skin has fibre.
- Brown rice is so much healthier than white rice – it’s full of fibre and has a lovely nutty flavour. You also need less rice because it fills you up more.
- Spices and herbs are a diabetic’s best friends! They add such flavour and zest, and you can experiment with different combinations to make a dish more interesting.
What makes your life sweet?
The pleasure of enjoying food and food travel with my husband. Cotton pyjamas and fresh linen. The knowledge that even someone with a ‘soft’ voice like mine, can make a difference using it.
Get in touch with Ishay: @IshayGovender on Twitter / Instagram / Vin
Ask the dietician: Cheryl Meyer
From our community: “Sometimes it feels like I’m constantly trying to juggle what I want to eat and what I should be eating. Are there certain foods I must include in my diet because I’m diabetic?” Gracie Monaheng
The term “superfood” has become very popular in the language of food and health. We know that Mother Nature offers a wonderful selection of healthy foods, but research has yet to prove any of them magical. No single food, no matter how “super,” can take the place of the important combination of nutrients from a diet based on a variety of nutritious foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Some tests to help you decide whether a certain food is worth trying:
- How does it taste? No food is worth eating if it doesn’t taste good. There are plenty of options to choose from that offer both health benefits and flavour.
- Where was it grown? Has it had to travel long distances from where it was grown to where it was sold?
- How much does it cost? Has its “super” title brought with it a “super” price tag?
- Has it been researched? Check with your healthcare team.
- What value does it add to my overall diet? Variety is an important measure of diet quality, but bear in mind that adding variety doesn’t necessarily mean trying wildly new things: even just a slight change can wake up your taste buds.
Think positive when planning your diet — focusing on foods to add, rather than avoid. Aim to include*:
- Omega-3 rich foods: like salmon, mackerel, pilchards, tuna, canola oil, flaxseed oil, flaxseeds and walnuts.
- Leafy green vegetables: like spinach, kale, lettuce and bok choi. These powerhouse foods are low in kilojoules and total carbohydrate.
- Wholegrains: easily trump their paler, refined counterparts. Choose brown or wholewheat options for a source of protein, fibre and B vitamins.
- Berries: sweet, yet low in calories and packed with antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.
- Nuts: plenty of flavour, very versatile and with a good dose of fibre and selenium. Although they are high in fat and calories, a few nuts go a long way to adding taste to all kinds of meals.
- Legumes: delicious, low in fat, high in fibre and rich in protein.
*As with all foods, you need to work these into your individual meal plan in appropriate portions.
So what’s on the plate of a diabetic?
Many diabetics have a challenge keeping their glucose levels controlled. Remember that a combination of the following 3 factors ensures good glucose control:
- Use of medication (oral meds or insulin injections)
When it comes to diet, most diabetics are familiar with the “AVOID” list of foods. Sugar, sweets and chocolates, sugary cooldrinks, cakes, pastries, biscuits, ice cream and puddings are the most popular. If you’re a diabetic and continue consuming the above list then you are literally accelerating the chances of complications of diabetes – blurred vision, kidney failure, sores on feet etc.
However there are many who are compliant to the “AVOID” list yet may still find elevated sugar levels. Many years of clinical experience of working with diabetics has allowed me to create a shortlist of other foods that are most likely spiking sugar and you are not even aware they are the cause.
These are 100% fruit juice, dried fruit, energy drinks, energy bars, muesli (containing nuts and dried fruit), popcorn and rusks.
Juices and dried fruits are a concentrated source of natural sugar resulting in blood sugar elevation. Most energy drinks are loaded with sugar and are not suitable for diabetics. Energy bars tend to be marketed as low fat however that is not sugar free.
The key to remember is that a diabetic should be aware of all foods that elevate bloods sugar levels. Grains, fruit and vegetables are all healthy but they need to be eaten in the correct portions to keep sugar controlled. Protein helps to stabilise sugar and thus an extra serving of meat / fish / chicken / egg / cold meat etc. will not elevate glucose as much as an additional slice of bread / rice / potato.
The magic to a diabetic’s diet lies in the correct proportion of carb to protein at meals and snacks and to ensure correct portions at every meal and snack.
Omega 3 available from tuna, sardine, salmon and mackerel is an essential fatty acid that is protective towards cardiovascular health and is anti-inflammatory. Due to diabetics being at high risk of heart disease omega 3 supplements are highly recommended. Make sure that you use good quality omega 3 that is heavy metal free.
So my message in a nutshell would be – it’s not just about “no sugar”
Rather, it’s about getting the carb – protein balance. Remember to test your glucose regularly and at different times of day. This enables you to monitor your control throughout the day. Test your sugar before a meal or 2 hours after a main meal. Keep a record of your glucose values.
At Easy Health Wellness we assist our clients by teaching them how to exchange carbs and to count carbs to ensure that they always are in balance at each meal and snack, and they can enjoy variety in their eating plans.
Remember: The diabetic way of eating is a very healthy way of eating, for all of us!
Recent research suggests that a certain kind of surgery may “cure” Type 2 diabetes. We find out more, and give you the facts.
One of the experts in the field of gastric bypass surgery is Professor Tess van der Merwe, the president of the South African Society for Obesity and Metabolism, who have been sharing information about the surgery. We found out what it could mean for Type 2 diabetes, then asked our experts to weigh in on the topic.
Is this surgery a cure for Type 2 diabetes?
Gastric bypass surgery has been used to help obese people lose weight since it was first performed 20 years ago. But now there is new research that this same surgery (specifically a type called “laparoscopic Roux–en–Y gastric bypass”) could cause Type 2 diabetes to go into long-term remission. What does this mean? Type 2 diabetes could be “paused” for a number of years. An international study shows that about 90% of obese patients with Type 2 diabetes who go for this surgery have normal blood sugar and no evidence of diabetes for three to fifteen years.
Is it a cure? No. But it is possibly a very long break from a chronic condition.
Some might say that any surgery that causes very overweight people to lose weight will have a good effect on blood sugar, but experts say the difference can be seen before the weight is lost. Professor Francesco Rubino (a leader in surgery for Type 2 diabetes) was in Johannesburg for the 3rd Centres for Metabolic Medicine and Surgery Workshop. He said that a few days after a gastric bypass, patients with Type 2 diabetes show normal blood sugar levels, even before any weight has been lost.
Ask the expert: Dr. Joel Dave, endocrinologist
“Bariatric surgery is becoming an important part of the treatment of diabetic patients with a BMI over 35. But although the results with this surgery are very good, it is still an invasive procedure with potential complications. It should not be considered a shortcut to weight loss and diabetes improvement, but a last resort after a low calorie diet and structured exercise programme has failed.”
What if the Type 2 diabetic ate badly and didn’t exercise, and returns to this same lifestyle – will the surgery still work?
The surgery doesn’t just help the patient by making their stomach smaller. It also triggers changes to the hormones, the appetite and the metabolism, so that long-term change is possible. But it is not a magical cure – the patient has to be ready to make changes to their diet and exercise. As Prof. van der Merwe points out, “There is not a single treatment in medicine that will be immune to an uncooperative patient.” In other words, if the patient goes back to a diet of fast food and no exercise, the same problems will return. One of the ways they guard against this in the Centres of Excellence (where they do the surgery) is by coaching the patient to start new, positive habits. They have a team of experts to help with this.
Ask the expert: Genevieve Jardine, dietician
“It is my opinion that gastric bypass surgery may be a good option for those who have a high BMI (above 35) and have tried for many years to lose weight. If they are managed well after surgery and take this opportunity to start over, it could mean a second chance at health. It is important to remember, though, that it still comes down to diet and exercise. Lifelong lifestyle changes are still the foundation of good diabetes management.”
How extreme is the surgery?
The surgery is minimally invasive. It is also known as laparoscopic surgery, keyhole surgery or bandaid surgery because the cuts made are so small – on average 0.5 to 1.5 cm. The doctor uses images on TV screens to magnify the surgery so they can see what they need to do.
Ask the expert: Dr. Joel Dave, endocrinologist
“Although the procedure is minimally invasive there are still some potentially serious complications. The patient’s decision to have this surgery must not be taken lightly.”
Is the surgery covered by medical aids?
That depends on how urgently you need it. In order to work that out, doctors look at your BMI (Body Mass Index), which outlines whether you are underweight, at a healthy weight, or overweight (see the box on this page). Diabetic patients with a BMI over 35 may be able to get the surgery covered if they have a motivation letter from a Metabolic Centre for Excellence, and if they are on the right medical aid option. There is usually a 20 to 30% co-payment that the patient would have to pay.
Have there been any local studies?
A South African study based at Netcare Waterfall City Hospital tracked 820 patients who had not been able to lose weight for up to 18 years before they had surgery. Three years later, 88.5% of the patients who had diabetes at the time of the surgery still had normal blood sugar levels.
Is there anyone it won’t work on?
This surgery is only an option for Type 2 diabetics who are very overweight – with a BMI greater than 35. They are doing research on lower BMI’s as well.
Want to find out more?
How to work out your BMI
There are many websites (http://www.smartbmicalculator.com/) that calculate BMI for you, but if you want to do it yourself, here’s what you need:
- Your weight.
- Your height in metres.
- A piece of paper and a calculator!
First, find out the square of your height in metres (your height times your height, i.e. 1,5m x 1,5m).
Then do this sum: (Weight in kg) divided by (square of height in metres)
You should get a number between 18.5 and 40.
- Less than 18.5 means you are underweight.
- 18.5 to 25 means you are at a healthy weight.
- 25 to 30 means you are slightly overweight.
- More than 30 means you are very overweight (obese).
Ask the dietician: Genevieve Jardine
From the community: “Every year I hold a National Heritage Day feast for my friends and serve up all the South African classics: boerewors rolls, koeksisters, samoosas, shisa nyama and curry. This year I have a diabetic friend coming and don’t want him to feel left out. How do I make the feast more diabetes-friendly?” Nashikta Singh
National Heritage Day is about celebrating the mixed flavours of South Africa, and there’s no better way to do this than by showing off our traditional dishes. Coming together around the braai or dining room table lets us share our past and create our future.
Traditional South African dishes have a lot of flavour and nutrition. Many of the classic dishes are naturally diabetes-friendly, while others may require some simple changes.
Made with onions, tomatoes, carrots, chillis, garlic, cabbage and cauliflower. It is packed with nutrients, fibre and flavour.
Tip: Don’t use too much oil while making chakalaka.
Mielie meal is a starch, so it will affect blood sugar. For better blood glucose control, you can cook it the night before and then reheat it on the day. This lowers the GI (glycemic index) of the pap.
Tip: Mix pap with cooked beans to further reduce the GI.
Use lean cuts of meat and fill the pot with a wide variety of vegetables. This method of cooking keeps the nutrients locked in the sauce.
Tip: Add plenty of non-starchy vegetables like baby marrows and green beans.
Curry and bobotie
The beauty of Indian cooking is all the herbs and spices. Garlic, onion, fresh chilli, turmeric, coriander and clove are all great for your health. Try to use lean cuts of meat (extra lean mince) and serve with small portions of brown basmati rice and vegetables.
Tip: Bean or lentil curry make an excellent starch alternative.
Shisa nyama or braai
Traditionally, braai meat is fatty (brisket, boerewors, chicken wings) and served chargrilled. Try to use leaner cuts of meat like skinless chicken or sirloin, with different marinades to keep the meat tender. Don’t only think meat when it comes to a braai: mielies, butternut, sweet potatoes and madumbes are also delicious.
Some traditional foods, like lean biltong or air-fried samoosas, can be altered to make them healthier. But when it comes to things like vetkoek and koeksisters, there’s not much you can do!
Looking for an update on how many people have diabetes? Try to wrap your head around these numbers!
415 million people currently live with diabetes, with this figure expected to grow to 642 million people by 2040 according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). More distressingly, for the first time it is estimated there are now more than half a million children aged 14 and younger living with Type 1 diabetes, according to the 7th IDF Diabetes Atlas.
A further 318 million adults are estimated to have impaired glucose tolerance which puts them at high risk of progressing to diabetes, a disease that has already killed more people than HIV/Aids, TB and Malaria combined.
“Of concern is that of the 415 million people living with diabetes, an estimated 193 million – almost half – are undiagnosed. In support of this year’s IDF campaign themed “Eyes on Diabetes”, Lilly South Africa is encouraging South Africans to educate themselves about the risk factors for diabetes, and to proactively screen for Type 2 diabetes in a bid to modify its course and reduce the risk of complications.
A person with Type 2 diabetes can live for several years without showing any symptoms of this chronic disease, during which time high and uncontrolled blood glucose can cause significant damage in the body. There is an urgent need to screen, diagnose and provide appropriate treatment to people with diabetes, as well as screen for complications as an essential part of managing both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes,” explains Dr Ntsiki Molefe-Osman, Diabetes Medical Advisor at Lilly South Africa.
Diabetes is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, blindness, renal failure and lower-limb amputation. More than a third of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics will also develop some form of damage to their eyes that can lead to blindness.
“Fundamental to managing and preventing the complications of diabetes is diligent management of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels to as close to normal levels as possible. While diabetes can present with many complications, these can be picked up early through proactive screening so that they can be treated and managed, preventing them from becoming more severe and impacting health and quality of life. Whilst a diagnosis of diabetes may come as a shock and does require significant lifestyle adjustments, it’s important to remember that with consistent and good control, millions of people living with diabetes live full, active lives,” adds Dr Molefe Osman.
What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?
Diabetes is a complex disorder of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism that is primarily a result of a deficiency or complete lack of insulin secretion by the pancreas, or resistance to insulin.
- Type 1 diabetes – usually begins in childhood or adolescence and is caused by a faulty autoimmune response that causes the body to destroy the pancreatic cells that produce insulin, which in turn leads to an insulin deficiency.
- Type 2 diabetes – approximately 90% of all cases of diabetes are type 2. In the case of type 2 diabetes, insulin is produced, but the body’s cells do not respond to it correctly. Instead, the body becomes resistant to insulin. It is most often but not always associated with obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, advancing age, family history of diabetes, ethnicity and high blood glucose during pregnancy. It can go undiagnosed for years. Due to the progressive nature of the disease, a majority will eventually need insulin to be added to their treatment.
- Read more here.
Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Persistently dry skin
- Always feeling hunger
- Blurred vision
There is no cure for diabetes – prevention is crucial
There’s no cure for Type 1 diabetes although researchers are working on preventing the disease as well as the further destructive progression of the disease in people who are newly diagnosed. However, up to 80% of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by making simple changes in our everyday lives and knowing the risks. The huge emphasis on prevention, or if you’re already living with diabetes, on strict control, is with good reason. Diabetes is an exceptionally challenging disease to live with and manage, requiring the support of specialist doctors, and a huge amount of discipline on the part of the patient in managing the demanding diet, lifestyle and treatment regimen.
Potential health challenges
- Diabetic retinopathy – diabetes can lead to eye disease (retinopathy), which can damage vision and even cause blindness.
- Nerve damage – poorly controlled blood glucose and high blood pressure can lead to damage of the nerves throughout the body (neuropathy). This damage can lead to problems with digestion, urination, erectile dysfunction in men and other complications. Among the most commonly affected areas are the extremities, in particular the feet, where nerve damage can lead to pain, tingling, and loss of feeling. Loss of feeling is particularly important because it can allow injuries to go unnoticed, leading to serious infections and possible amputations.
- Kidney failure – Kidney disease (nephropathy) is far more common in people with diabetes, a leading cause of chronic kidney disease.
- Heart Disease – 50% of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease – angina, heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and congestive heart failure.
- Depression – Diabetes can cause complications and health problems that worsen symptoms of depression, leading to poor lifestyle decisions, such as unhealthy eating, less exercise, smoking and weight gain.
- Mortality risk – the risk of dying prematurely among people with diabetes is at least double the risk of people without diabetes.
How to reduce your risk
While some risk factors for diabetes such as age, ethnicity and family history can’t be changed, many other risk factors such as managing your weight, eating healthy foods in the right quantities and exercising regularly can be managed. According to Diabetes South Africa, there are various aspects to good diabetes management including:
- Education – Knowing about diabetes is an essential first step. All people with diabetes need to understand their condition in order to make healthy lifestyle choices and manage their diabetes well.
- Healthy eating – There is no such thing as a ‘diabetic diet’, only a healthy way of eating, which is recommended for everyone. However, what, when and how much you eat plays an important role in regulating how well your body manages blood glucose levels. It’s a good idea to visit a registered dietician who can help you work out a meal plan that is suitable for your lifestyle.
- Exercise – Regular exercise helps your body lower blood glucose levels, promotes weight loss, reduces stress and enhances overall fitness.
- Weight management – Maintaining a healthy weight is especially important in the control of type 2 diabetes.
- Medication – People with type 1 diabetes require daily insulin injections to survive. There are various types of insulin available in South Africa. Type 2 diabetes is controlled through exercise and meal planning and may require diabetes tablets and\or insulin to assist the body in making or using insulin more effectively. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment option for you, as well as the all-important cost considerations of different treatments.
- Lifestyle management – Learning to reduce stress levels in daily living can help people manage their blood glucose levels. Smoking is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes.
“As a major contributor towards diabetes care for over 93 years, Lilly works with healthcare providers that can help people overcome the daily challenges of living with this chronic condition. Your doctor is your best resource for information about living with diabetes. However, while your healthcare team will advise and support you, how well your diabetes is managed depends on you. Use the resources available to empower yourself to improve your metabolic control, increase fitness levels and manage weight loss and other cardiovascular disease risk factors, which in turn will improve your sense of well-being and quality of life,” concludes Dr Molefe-Osman.