As of 2020 there were 88 million Americans who were pre-diabetic and are at very high risk of developing full blown diabetes and joining the over 34 million who already have the disease. CDS Diabetes
According to the World Health Authority it is estimated that there are 422 million people worldwide with diabetes. If the ratio of those with pre-diabetes to those with the disease in the US is common globally it would mean that there are over a billion men and women worldwide who are at risk of this very dangerous disease. Whilst Type 1 is genetic and is approximately 10% of cases, Type 2 is predominantly lifestyle and diet related and can usually be reversed.
Unfortunately it is the many millions who are undiagnosed that are at the greatest risk
You do not need to have full-blown diabetes to be suffering from some of the symptoms associated with the disease. There is a condition called pre-diabetes that can be managed with diet and exercise and does not have to lead to the development of type 2 diabetes in the future.
It is also called impaired glucose intolerance and in my experience very closely connected with lifestyle and diet and a possible overgrowth of Candida Albicans. Being overweight, not doing enough exercise and elevated LDL cholesterol levels are also part of the equation. LDL (low density lipoprotein) has smaller particles than the HDL (high density lipoprotein) and because of this it is easier for the LDL to clump and form plaque in the arteries which will narrow them causing a blockage.
Symptoms of Pre-Diabetes
There are a number of symptoms that you might experience either singularly or in combination with one or more of the others.
- Feeling hungry all the time
- Losing or gaining weight without much change to your diet
- Feeling weak as if you might have the flu
- Slow healing of cuts or bruises
- Unexplained skin rashes
- Bladder infections
- Vision problems.
If pre-diabetes is tackled positively with food and exercise the symptoms can disappear in a few weeks and if the healthy approach is maintained there should not be any further reason for concern.
Unfortunately some people do not suffer any symptoms at all making this a silent disease and if this is the case it might not be detected until the person is suffering from full blown diabetes.
If you are at all concerned a simple blood test will identify if you are at risk and your Doctor of Pharmacy will talk you through the process.
Taking the first step to avoiding the development of diabetes.
The evidence is very strongly pointing toward lifestyle and diet changes as being the most effective way of dealing with the problem and it is very easy to incorporate the right foods in an appetising way as part of a healthy programme. Even a 10% change to weight can make a huge difference and adding a brisk walk a day, five days a week for 30 minutes at least is also very important.
What are some of the dietary changes necessary.
Apart from getting to a healthier weight there are some other dietary changes you can make to reduce your blood sugar levels. There are certain foods that will cause your blood sugar levels to rise and I cover that later in the post, where I look at the Glycemic value of foods and their effect on the body.
Fibre is important – Apart from the nutrients that wholegrains, fruit and vegetables supply they also contain great amounts of fibre necessary to clean the circulatory system of cholesterol plaque and toxins, keeping the blood clear of unnecessary additives.
Protein is essential and it should not be taken out of the diet. Protein does not have to come from animal sources but if you choose to be vegetarian then make sure you are including beans and fermented soya products for example.
It is our liver that is instrumental in determining our cholesterol levels in combination with certain foods. However, there are some myths surrounding certain foods such as avocados and eggs, which are very misleading.
Fat is absolutely necessary in our diets and there is no evidence to show that eating plant based fats, eggs and animal lean protein moderately causes high cholesterol. It is the hydrogenated fats found in processed protein such as hams, sausages and pastries and other processed prepared foods that are likely to cause a problem.
What about refined sugars and their role in our diet.
We live in a real world and as a Candida or pre-diabetes sufferer it would be pretty miserable without some sugar in your diet. However I do recommend that for the first six weeks you give up sugar completely except for a piece of low GI fruit each day.
The types of sweeteners used by food manufacturers are not natural and many are downright toxic. The one thing that I am definitely sure about is that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharine, sucralose and acesulfame-k have no place in our food chain.
When you exercise your body uses insulin which controls your blood sugar levels. If you’re doing moderate exercise for a longer time, your muscles take up glucose at several times the normal rate. This is the type of exercise you should be aiming for.
Start slowly for 30 minutes walking slowly over a fixed distance and then increase you pace over the same distance until you are walking briskly, just slightly out of breath. Then increase your distance each week until you are walking a mile in 15 minutes.
Once you have reached that fitness level it is very effective to add in some high-intensity activity for just a minute every 10 minutes. That might be running for a minute, skipping with a rope, cycling at full speed (static bike) etc.
The other recent trend is to demonise all carbohydrates including grains as being the culprits behind most of our modern ills. As with all food advice, one size does not fit all and I am not an advocate for cutting out all food groups entirely based on what is the trend at the moment. We need varying amounts of the main food groups as we get older and complete the transition to adulthood. However, there comes a time in later life when our digestive system is not so effective, when we need to increase certain food groups to ensure we are getting sufficient nutrients.
Our bodies have evolved over several hundred thousands of years. We were and still are opportunistic feeders. Whatever we could get our hands on. The biggest problem occurred when we no longer had to travel miles a day to either hunt or gather our food. That would have included seasonal game, fish, wild grains, berries and fruit, roots, honey etc. It would have been eaten raw until the discovery of fire and we would have not bothered cutting off the fat or counting the calories.
However, today we just have to pop into the car, drive to the nearest supermarket and fill our trollies with foods from all over the world, all year around. That is where ‘moderation’ comes in. Now that most of us, certainly in the western world have so much food available it is down to us to be careful about how much we consume of this bounty.
The glycemic value of the foods that we eat has an impact on our blood glucose levels and I have found that my clients following a lower glycemic approach to carbohydrates and the other foods have found it effective in maintaining a healthy level.
THE GLYCEMIC INDEX.
Not all carbohydrate foods behave the same way when eaten. The Glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Foods are ranked according to their effect in relation to pure sugar which would be 100.
So a food that is ranked at 50 has a much slower effect on blood glucose levels than sugar which causes a much faster reaction. The slower the reaction the less insulin is released into the bloodstream.
This results in less fat being stored, particularly around the hips and thighs.
A low Glycemic diet reduces the onset of dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar levels and therefore will regulate the feelings of hunger. In addition lower Glycemic foods are usually much higher in nutrients and fibre having an overall effect on health.
Low Glycemic Index foods are slowly digested, releasing sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream gradually, resulting in a slow and steady increase in blood sugar that helps keep your body functioning well for longer than high GI foods.
High Glycemic Index foods are quickly digested and metabolized, producing a rapid rise in blood sugar. It’s best to avoid these high GI foods that cause spikes in blood sugar that can result in your body “crashing” or feeling hungry again quite quickly after you eat.
LOW GLYCEMIC FOODS (under the value of 55) Can eat daily
- Most Vegetables: asparagus, avocados, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, carrots (small portion) cauliflower, green beans, peas, celery, red cabbage, cucumber, lettuce particularly rocket, mushrooms, onions (very important as they contain chromium which naturally controls blood sugar levels), Garlic, peppers, spinach squash and yams.
- Fruits: apples, apricots, grapes, blueberries, cherries, lemons raspberries, strawberries, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, prunes
- Juices: apple, grapefruit, pineapple, tomato (unsweetened) small glass and add sparkling water to dilute.
- Legumes: black, navy, pinto, and kidney beans; chickpeas; lentils; black-eyed peas
- Starches: The key is to have a moderate portion and always have protein with it as this offsets the Glycemic affect. So for example:- porridge with milk (but not lots of sweeteners). Sandwich with chicken etc. Piece of toast with an egg. You must avoid white processed carbohydrates however and this includes biscuits, cakes and white bread as these are most likely to contain artificial sweeteners and trans-fats. I find that whole grain baguettes made in most large supermarket bakeries have few additives but check labels. Or make yourself
- Milk products– cheese is wonderful but it is fattening – Milk in tea and on cereals is not a problem but if you are trying to lose weight then go easy when pouring. A piece of mature cheddar a couple of times a week if you are exercising and eating lots of vegetables and lean protein is not an issue – much better than eating a bar of chocolate. Fermented yoghurts may have some benefit on intestinal flora and help the digestive process – watch for sugar content – plain is quite boring but you can add nuts or a small amount of the low glycemic fruit to improve.
- Sweeteners: I have used Stevia – I don’t particular advocate because I think it just feeds your sugar craving. I am suspicious of other artificial alternatives and if you can do without entirely. If not then like salt, use pinches of sugar to sprinkle on your cereal rather than a teaspoon, it will teach your taste buds to expect less!
- Beverages –Start the day with hot water and fresh squeezed lemon. Not only does it hydrate, give your body a Vitamin C hit but it also gets the digestive process started, helps the liver and retrains your taste buds. You should find within a week that you no longer have a sugar craving. Tea is fine – green tea is excellent as it lowers blood sugar levels. Scientists are on the fence about coffee consumption – some research indicates that it might reduce blood sugar levels and others the opposite. My advice is if you enjoy a cup of coffee then get ground decaffeinated and have a cup every day and enjoy!
- Protein. You need protein every day but not as much as people think. If you are eating yoghurts and drinking milk you will be obtaining protein but you can also eat 1 oz. cottage cheese – 1 egg – prawns – chicken – lamb, pork or fish per day. Avoid red meat as this can increase sugar cravings. Oily fish are good for you so try to eat three times a week this includes fresh sardines, salmon and tuna. I would suggest that you also use goat’s cheese and feta cheese as an alternative. Also in Spinach, broccoli and Brussel sprouts.
- Salad dressings. Make your own with low fat yoghurt and lemon juice, or cider or balsamic vinegar and herbs.
- Nuts and seeds. Walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds. Made up into 2oz packets and used for snacks – the healthy fat will act as a brake on the insulin production and will help with hunger pangs. Buy from a good source and make the mix yourself – unsalted of course. Find the right size zip lock bags and they will keep for ages. Take one to work with you as one of your snacks.
- Oils– Very important to include extra virgin olive oil for dressings as this is a fat that is good for you. Would suggest that you also use this on bread rather than butter and mix with seasonings to use on vegetables and salads. For cooking use ordinary olive oil and I find that rather than frying, it is a good idea to brush some oil onto your meat, fish or poultry and bake in the oven.
MEDIUM GYLCEMIC FOODS(56 -69) eat two or three times a week.
- Vegetables: white and sweet potatoes
- Fruits: bananas, tropical fruits (mango, cantaloupe, papaya, pineapple), kiwi fruit, raisins, figs, fruit cocktail
- Juices: orange,
- Starches: cous cous
- Cereals: oats, homemade muesli (without dried sugar) Weetabix.
- Sweeteners: honey (Manuka honey can be consumed more often)
HIGH GLYCEMIC FOODS(above 70) eat very occasionally.
- Fruits: watermelon, dates
- Processed foods– It is important over the initial period to avoid processed sauces, meats, meals or anything else that might have hidden sugars or too many carbohydrates. Prepare everything fresh – for example pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes, onions, mushrooms etc.
- Snacks: popcorn, rice cakes, most crackers (soda, Stoned Wheat Thins, Water Crackers), cakes, doughnuts, croissants, muffins, waffles, white bread, baguette, bagels
- Starches: millet
- Most Cereals: Bran Flakes, Cheerio’s, Cornflakes, Rice Krispies, Shredded Wheat, Special K, Total or any cereal that is sugar coated.
- Sweeteners/Sweets: table sugar, hard candy, soft drinks, sports drinks, fizzy diet drinks, chocolate except for 2 squares of dark (85%) chocolate once or twice a week.
- Alcohol. It is a good idea to give up alcohol all together for six weeks if you want to stabilise your blood sugar levels.
Personally I eat within an eight hour window every day which is a form of Intermittent Fasting that suits me best. This gives my body 16 hours each day to get on with what it needs to do in the way of processing the food I have eaten, extracting the nutrients and also allowing for some downtime for major organs such as the liver.
If you usually finish eating at 6.00pm then you can easily eat three balanced meals a day with a couple of snacks between if you need additional energy but they should be nuts, seeds and certain low GI fruits rather than chocolate bars.
This does not mean that if you enjoy chocolate that you cannot eat it. I have two squares of dark chocolate each day after my lunch. (Antioxidants).
©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2021
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2021