An eating plan for treating type-2 diabetes is exactly the same as for preventing it.
Confusingly, diabetics need carbohydrates with every meal – even though they raise blood-sugar levels. Without carbs, the body can’t produce energy. The best are those with a low-glycaemic index (GI), such as sweet potato, long-grain rice, wholegrain or rye bread, which produce a nice slow release of energy to keep blood sugars down. Rolled porridge oats are ideal, because they also lower cholesterol. High-GI carbs such as white bread and mashed potatoes are best avoided, though this does not put a total ban on them for diabetics. If you eat white bread with, say, baked beans – which are low-GI – it shifts the GI and it’s fine. Beans and lentils should be eaten often. As well as providing carbs, they’re high in fibre and health-giving plant sterols.
Fruits should be low-GI: apples, oranges or a few grapes are better than dates and watermelon (which are high-GI). Try to eat no more than a handful at a time and spread them throughout the day. Watch out for fruit juice, which can send blood sugars soaring. Fruit, with all its fibre and bulk, is more filling than juice so much better for weight loss.
With diabetes, it’s a low-sugar diet, not a no-sugar diet. Small amounts of sucrose are okay. Sometimes, diabetics need sugar to bring their blood sugars up after a ‘hypo’ (hypo-glycaemia is low blood sugar). Fructose (fruit sugar) is also fine if you’re having a whole fruit; it works in a slower way than sucrose. Lactose (milk sugar) is low-GI, so it’s fine for people to have milk or low-fat yoghurt.
Diabetics need to limit eggs to three a week because they contain cholesterol and saturated fats. Omega-3 oil-enriched fish is recommended – but men should eat no more than four portions a week, women two. Lean meats are best, ideally with skin removed to minimize fat.
Saturated fat is the one to avoid. Mono-saturated fat, found in olive oil and spreads, brings down ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol without touching the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fat, in foods like sunflower and corn oil, lowers both. You can’t cut out saturated fat entirely, because you even get it in lean meat. But try cutting your cheese intake in half or eat a reduced-fat version.