Dr Alan Barclay is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia. Here he gives his insights into eating well for those with Type 2 diabetes and shares a recipe from his cook book Reversing Diabetes.
How important is it to eat well?
Healthy eating forms just one of the three key pillars for diabetes management, which also includes physical activity and optimal medication. All need to work together for the overall health and wellbeing of someone living with diabetes.
How can an eating plan help?
There is not one single diet for people with diabetes – there are many different ways to eat well and the role of a Dietitian is to build an eating plan that is tailor-made to their client's cultural background and personal food preferences. Food is to be enjoyed – a tailor-made eating plan helps achieve this.
How important is weight management?
A healthy eating focus will often require some weight loss, but it doesn’t need to be a huge amount. A weight reduction of just 10% will make a significant difference to blood glucose levels. This small reduction, which equates to 8kg for someone who is 80kg, is achievable and far more sustainable in the long run than aiming for a huge reduction in weight.
What food myths are out there?
One of the biggest food myths is around sugar, that it causes diabetes, and those with diabetes should not eat it. There is no evidence for this and every food choice and decision we make needs to be based on the best available scientific evidence. Sugar is only one form of carbohydrate in the diet. Starches are the other kind. We need to look at our dietary intake holistically and not single out one ingredient. You don’t need to completely avoid sugar if you have diabetes; you just need to manage the amount in accordance with your entire diet in order to maintain your blood glucose levels. Like everyone else, aim to have no more than 10% of your daily energy intake from added sugars – or less than 55 g for an adult consuming 8,700 kJ per day.
Can managing diabetes impact complicating diseases such as diabetic eye disease?
Management of diabetes is an individual thing but you need to keep your blood glucose levels at an optimal range as much as possible. Keeping the fluctuation of blood glucose under control will mean reduced damage to blood vessels, and less likelihood of developing complicating diseases such as diabetic eye disease.
Alan’s top tips for eating well:
Tip 1 - Manage your blood glucose
The amount and type of carbohydrates eaten is what has the biggest impact on blood glucose. Eating high quality carbohydrates, those with a low glycemic index (GI), is key. Include in your diet quality wholegrains (bread, pasta, rice), legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas), fruit and veggies (corn, peas, sweet potato, pumpkins). Avoid processed and highly refined foods (soft drink, chips, rice crackers, confectionery, etc…) as they raise blood glucose but have little other nutritional value.
Tip 2 - Keep your blood fats in order
If you have diabetes you should be eating less saturated fat (found in highly processed foods, takeaways, and foods such as meats, butter and full cream) and replace with unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated oils (olive, peanut, sesame) and polyunsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, oily fish).
Tip 3 – Keep blood pressure in check
Help to keep your blood pressure in check by eating more fruit and vegetables, and limit salt in your diet by choosing “reduced salt” foods. There is also good evidence that potassium helps regulate blood pressure. Great sources include vine fruit such as tomatoes – along with apples, oranges, and of course bananas! Include green leafy veggies such as bok choy, silverbeet, and spinach. Sweet potato, legumes (tinned with no salt) and unprocessed bran are all good sources too.
Dr Alan Barclay's delicious lime and black pepper beef stir-fry recipe
(pictured above) is included in our Macula Menu.
Download your free copy here.
To find an accredited dietitian, visit the Dietitians Association of Australia website at www.daa.asn.au
To find a credentialed diabetes educator and other diabetes health professionals visit National Diabetes Services Scheme website at http://osd.ndss.com.au/search/
Dr Alan Barclay is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia. He is a research associate at the University of Sydney, is a consultant to the Glycemic Index Foundation and Merisant, and works in clinical dietetics maintaining a private practice in Sydney. He has authored or co-authored more than 30 peer reviewed articles in the scientific literature, and is also the author or co-author of five books including The Good Carb Cookbook and Reversing Diabetes.