Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and knowing how to manage your condition can seem overwhelming. The good news is that in many cases, type 2 diabetes can be improved by eating a balanced diet, enjoying some regular daily exercise, and losing excess weight.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Diabetes is a rapidly growing chronic condition. More than 4.9 million people in the UK have type 2 diabetes, and another 850,000 people are estimated to be living with type 2 diabetes but are yet to be diagnosed.
Type 2 diabetes develops when insulin (the hormone your pancreas makes) doesn’t work as well as it should, or not enough is made. You need insulin to control the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. It helps to move glucose from your blood to your muscles when you need energy.
If you have type 2 diabetes, your blood glucose levels can become too high which can increase your risk of heart disease and may lead to complications in your kidneys, nerves, skin and eyes.
What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?
Many people don’t experience any diabetes symptoms, but some symptoms to look out for include:
Excessive thirst and going to the toilet more often
Tiredness and lethargy
Cuts that heal slowly, itching and skin infections
If you have any of these diabetes symptoms, it’s important to contact your GP and ask for a blood test for diabetes.
So I’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, now what?
After being diagnosed, you may require tablets or insulin to help manage your blood glucose levels. However, for most people, treatment involves checking your blood glucose levels regularly, taking regular exercise and eating a healthy balanced diet.
Here’s my top tips for eating with diabetes:
Eat regularly. Have regular meals spread throughout the day. Try not to skip meals.
Eat smart carbohydrates. Good options include wholegrain breakfast cereals or oats, wholegrain bread, wholemeal pasta, pulses such as chickpeas, beans and lentils, brown rice or basmati rice. These contain higher amounts of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. They also have a lower glycaemic index (GI). This means they are slow-digesting carbohydrates and raise your glucose level slowly, which can help to control blood glucose levels.
Watch your portions. The key to eating a healthy diet is getting the balance right. Try to eat a wide variety of foods in the appropriate amounts. Eating smaller amounts at meals will help you to manage your weight. Being a healthy weight can help you to improve your blood glucose levels.
Be snack savvy. Try to be mindful of your snack choices if you’re hungry in between meals. Set yourself a goal to have a healthy snack to hand if you’re on the go, at work or at home. A healthy snack option could be a low-fat yoghurt, a small handful of unsalted nuts, a piece of fruit or some chopped-up raw vegetables.
Choose unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats can keep your heart healthy, which is important if you have diabetes. Cook with olive, canola, or rice bran oils, use hummus or avocado as a spread, choose a handful of unsalted nuts or seeds as a snack and eat oily fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines or pilchards) twice a week to keep your heart healthy. Try to cut down on sources of saturated fat such as butter, cream, pastries, pies, cakes, biscuits, crisps, processed meats like salami, bacon, and sausages and takeaway foods.
Eat more fruit and vegetables. These are packed full of vitamins and minerals, but also fibre, which can help you feel satisfied after meals and are great as snacks too. Aim for 5 portions each day and vary the colours of your fruit and veg to gain all their different health benefits.
Watch the salt. We eat twice as much salt as we should eat. Go for fresh foods, boost the flavour of meals with fresh herbs, garlic and chilli, instead of sprinkling salt over your food. You can also try buying reduced-salt varieties of foods when you can.
Move more. Regular exercise can help to lower your blood glucose levels. It can also help you to manage your weight and strengthens your heart. Choose an activity you enjoy and aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. If you’re new to exercise, start gradually and build up to your desired level. You might want to break it down into achievable goals, for example, you could try going for a 10-minute walk 3 times each day, or a 15-minute walk a couple of times each day.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I can help you to make achievable and life-long changes to your diet and lifestyle. Book your free 20-minute consultation today!
This blog article was written for Stove (9 November 2022).