What is Diabetes?

Diet plays an important role in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, a condition in which there is too much glucose or sugar in the blood. With Type 1 diabetes, the body fails to produce insulin, a hormone that controls sugar levels. People with Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 per cent of all diabetes cases in the UK and elsewhere, do not produce enough insulin or do not use insulin effectively in their bodies.

While there is not a special diet for either type of diabetes, people with diabetes should eat a healthy diet. The National Health Service (NHS) recommends a diet low in fat, sugar, and salt, which includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. People with diabetes should eat foods that will not interfere with blood sugar control. While starchy carbohydrates are important, people with diabetes should avoid sugary foods, like sweets and cakes, as well as large quantities of fruit juices. The fruit sugar in juice, known as fructose, can interfere with blood sugar control.

When choosing carbohydrate foods, the NHS recommends those that have a low glycaemic index (GI). Foods with low GI release energy slowly into the bloodstream thus keeping blood sugar levels more stable. An example of a low GI food is wholemeal bread. For those prone to periods of low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia, low GI foods are recommended for stabilizing blood sugar levels during those times.

The Food Standards Agency and Diabetes UK do not recommend foods labelled ‘diabetic,’ as these do not tend to be healthier and generally are more expensive. A well-rounded, healthy diet is the key to stable blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.

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