In the United Kingdom, where 4.3 million individuals are currently affected by type 2 diabetes and another 2.4 million are at risk of developing the condition, qualified nutritional therapist and naturopath Caroline Peyton has provided valuable insights into taking positive and preventative action by making dietary adjustments. With over a decade of experience running clinics in Wiltshire, the Cotswolds, and online, Peyton aims to empower individuals to reduce their consumption of foods that can contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes arises when the body’s ability to regulate glucose levels in the bloodstream diminishes. There are two primary reasons for this occurrence: first, the pancreas fails to produce sufficient insulin, the hormone responsible for facilitating the movement of sugar into cells for energy production; and second, the body’s cells become resistant to insulin, leading to an inability to effectively uptake glucose from the bloodstream. As a result, blood sugar levels become dangerously high.
Type 2 diabetes is widely recognized as a lifestyle disease, as dietary and lifestyle choices, including exercise, play a significant role in determining an individual’s susceptibility to the condition. Dr. David Unwin, a general practitioner in Southport, gained recognition for his work with diabetes patients, earning him the NHS Innovator of the Year award in 2016. His success demonstrated that making dietary adjustments can reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes.
Ahead of Diabetes Awareness Week, which will be observed from June 12th to 18th, Peyton shares her top tips for reducing the consumption of foods that can lead to type 2 diabetes. Her recommendations are focused on minimizing the intake of sugary and starchy foods, which can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. The following suggestions aim to help individuals make informed dietary choices:
- Starchy Grains: All grains, such as wheat, oats, and barley, contain high levels of simple sugars (glucose) that are transported into the bloodstream. However, refined white grains like bread, pasta, and white rice lack fiber and are digested quickly, leading to a spike in blood sugar levels. It is advisable to avoid white refined grains and consume small portions of whole grains, such as oats, brown rice, and wholegrain bread, limiting them to once a day. Pasta should be avoided altogether.
- Wheat-based Products: Many popular food choices, including pizza, pies, pastry, crackers, cakes, and biscuits, are wheat-based and often lack sufficient protein and fats. These items are frequently consumed alongside other starchy foods like potatoes, resulting in an overload of sugars and starches. Peyton advises individuals to choose either the wheat-based product or the starchy food, rather than consuming both simultaneously.
- Starchy (Root) Vegetables: Root vegetables like white and sweet potatoes, parsnips, swede, beetroot, turnips, sweetcorn, and butternut squash are rich in sugars. Although nutritious choices like beetroot, sweet potato, and squashes can be consumed in moderation, it is recommended to consume small portions of these starchy vegetables and avoid combining them with other starchy foods, such as potatoes and parsnips, beetroot and pasta, or squash and rice. Individuals should choose one starchy vegetable or another.
- Cereals: Many commonly consumed cereals are based on refined grains and contain excessive amounts of sugar. Although some may emphasize added nutrients and fiber, the high carbohydrate and sugar content often make them unwise breakfast choices. Peyton advises individuals to be cautious when selecting “healthy-looking” muesli or granola, as the combination of grains and dried fruit can significantly increase sugar levels. It is best to avoid these cereals altogether.
- Fruits: While fruits are generally considered healthy, some varieties have high sugar or starch levels. Tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, grapes, and bananas have a tendency to rapidly elevate blood sugar levels. Peyton recommends consuming fruits in moderation, limiting intake to no more than two portions per day. Dried fruit and fruit juices should be avoided as they have even higher sugar levels.
Peyton emphasizes that the majority of the population consumes an excessive amount of these foods on a daily basis. By being mindful of dietary choices and reducing overall intake, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
As Diabetes Awareness Week approaches, Peyton’s valuable insights provide a timely reminder of the importance of making informed dietary decisions to maintain good health and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.