Food for Thought
7 steps to better blood glucose
1. Eat more regularly whether you have three meals a day or have three smaller meals plus snacks. If you use insulin or take medication that stimulates insulin production from your pancreas, it is helpful if you can maintain some consistency in the times you eat your meals. Make meals a time to relax and enjoy food – you are more likely to feel satisfied if you do. Just remember to put your knife and fork down when you are full (not stuffed).
2. Switch to low GI foods – the ‘smart’ carbs (‘tricklers’) that are slowly digested and absorbed when you eat them producing only gentle rises and falls in your blood glucose and insulin levels. A Cochrane review that analysed 11 randomised controlled trials found that following a low GI diet significantly helps people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes improve their blood glucose levels. In fact, the researchers found that HbA1c (A1c) levels decreased by 0.5% with a low GI diet, and point out that the findings are significant both statistically and clinically. (HbA1c gives a picture of a person’s average blood glucose levels over several months.) You can check out our 10 tips to reduce the overall GI of your diet HERE.
3. Keep carb portions moderate – 50–60g of carbohydrate at any one sitting is a good average. On your dinner plate, that’s the equivalent of 1¼ cups of cooked (al dente) pasta – measure it out and see what it looks like. And in this super-sized world, eat smaller portions for your meals and snacks overall. Using smaller plates and bowls is a help.
4. Eat more fruits and vegetables. You see, it isn’t all about cutting back. Most people don’t eat anywhere near enough of them. Fresh, frozen, dried and canned (in juice not syrup) fruits are all suitable. And when it comes to non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, tomatoes, onions, etc), you can eat as much as you like. As bonus, toss your salad in a vinaigrette dressing – adding acid to your meals can help reduce your blood glucose response. In GI Symbol News in this issue, Alan Barclay talks about serve sizes for starchy veggies.
5. Favour the good fats. The type of fat can make a big difference to your health and waistline. Cut back on saturated fat and focus on the good fats – monounsaturated fat (found in olive oil, nuts and avocados), omega-3 fatty acids (fish is the best source) and polyunsaturated fats (in vegetable oils). Fat doesn’t raise your blood glucose and it doesn’t require insulin in order to be metabolised so it doesn’t raise insulin levels either. And because it slows the rate at which food leaves your stomach it can blunt the blood glucose effect of a whole meal.
6. Eat more protein at every meal. It won’t increase your blood glucose levels and keeps hunger pangs at bay as it helps you feel fuller for longer. There’s no need to go overboard – a small (100g/3½oz) piece of lean chicken or steak, a little can of fish, a side dish of legumes, an egg, a tub of skinny yoghurt or a handful of nuts will do it.
7. Get regular physical activity. Exercising muscles need fuel and the fuel they prefer is glucose. So as soon as you start moving your muscles they’ll start burning up glucose. First they’ll use their own stores of glucose (that’s glycogen); then they’ll call on the liver for some of its stores, all the time drawing the glucose out of the blood and lowering your blood glucose levels.
‘My aim is a calm pancreas – avoiding the highs and lows.’ – Dianne
‘I was devastated when I discovered that my fasting blood glucose levels were higher than normal and that I was on the path to type 2 diabetes. I did some research and was delighted to read that I could delay the onset of diabetes by changing my lifestyle and my eating habits. It’s early days yet, but I have lost 6 kilos and I am walking for an hour 5–6 days a week. The Low GI Handbook has helped. I have changed my diet and am feeling so great – no more acid reflux, no more feeling sluggish after lunch. I have so much more energy and feel on top of world. My husband has joined me in support and he speaks volumes for changes he is feeling too. We are eating more fish and I can’t believe how many fresh vegetables we get through in a week. We’ve not eaten white bread, biscuits, cake or sweet desserts now for 103 days! (I keep a diary of my food intake.) Instead, we’ve replaced these with grainy breads, nuts and berries. I can’t wait for that follow up blood test my doctor said I should have a year after the last. I’m expecting a big change. Here’s to a low GI diet for life!
The Low GI Handbook is available from bookstores and online.
US/Canada edition (available bookshops July13th; or as a pre-order from Amazon)