Get Your Glucose Levels in Check

Get Your Glucose Levels in Check
Get Your Glucose Levels in Check

Recent data from the International Diabetes Federation estimates that 7% of adult South Africans have diabetes.

Topping almost four million people, this means that South Africa has the highest proportion of adult diabetics on the continent, and diabetes is the sixth most common cause of death in the country.

The trouble is that uncontrolled diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, amputation, and death. This pandemic has been fueled by soaring rates of overweight and obesity-related to inactive lifestyles and poor nutrition choices.

Newly diagnosed and do not know where to start with making better nutrition choices? The FitChef Diabetic Kits are made up of healthy, balanced yet tasty meals to support the nutrition of diabetics.

The kit includes portion-controlled meals with high fibre foods like chickpeas, red kidney beans, quinoa, and brown rice for blood glucose control. While all foods can fit as part of a diabetic diet, FitChef has opted to leave out our juices and smoothies from this kit.

Rather, the kit is complemented by 21 food snacks to help better manage blood glucose levels between meals.

Each Year, World Diabetes Day aims to educate and inform the public on this devastating disease, and how it is completely possible to prevent and even reverse your risk of getting diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

All the foods and liquids we consume are digested by the gut to provide the body with essential nutrients and energy. These foods are broken down into glucose, the main source of energy for our bodies.

From the gut, the glucose moves into the blood and is carried into the body cells with the help of insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas. After entering your body cells, the glucose is used to make energy.

When the body’s blood glucose levels remain high for long periods, this can lead to insulin resistance, meaning your body loses its ability to use insulin properly.

If left unchecked, this insulin resistance can develop into diabetes. Stabilizing blood glucose levels is important for our overall health as unstable glucose levels can damage blood vessels leading to heart disease. Mood and concentration can be affected, as well as cravings worsened, and energy zapped. This makes watching our glucose levels everyone’s concern, diabetic or not.

Time Your Meals

Skipping meals can cause your blood glucose levels to fluctuate making it easy to overeat at the next meal. For this reason, aim to eat three main meals each day.

This is the best way to control the portions of your meals, and thus your blood glucose level. Portion-controlled healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, finger vegetables, plain yoghurt, nuts, or biltong between meals may be an option for some, especially if mealtimes are far apart. Be wary of poor snack choices such as biscuits, crisps, and chocolates.

Practice Your Portions

Leading on from regular eating, the volume of food eaten at a given time can affect your blood glucose levels. In particular, it is important to control carbohydrate portions.

To avoid this, always balance your meal to include at least half a plate of salad and/or vegetables, a fist-sized portion of the starch, and a palm-sized portion of lean protein.

Get to Know the GI

Highly processed foods like chocolates, sugary drinks, white bread, and takeaway food are rapidly digested and absorbed. On the other hand, unprocessed, fibre-rich foods slow down digestion to allow glucose to be released more slowly into the blood. This measure of how quickly a food raises our blood glucose is called the Glycaemic Index (GI).

Low GI foods are advised as part of a healthy diet and include whole grains, fresh fruit, and vegetables. High GI foods do the opposite and are rapidly digested, causing blood glucose to rise quickly.

To follow a low GI diet, aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, and always choose high fibre, unrefined starches with more than 6g of fibre per 100g of product.

The other food groups, protein, and fats, can also affect blood glucose control, even though carbs are mostly implicated. For example, saturated fats inhibit the sensitivity of insulin on the cell walls.

For this reason, saturated fats found in protein foods like fatty cuts of meat, chicken with the skin, and cheese should be limited to help control blood glucose.

Choose more unsaturated fats to keep cells sensitive to insulin such as avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds.

It is important to remember though that all fats are high in energy and can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess so control the amounts of healthy fats in your daily diet.

Replacing some animal proteins with legumes such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils are not only low-fat sources of protein but also contain soluble fibre for slow blood glucose absorption.

Get Moving

Being physically active encourages the use of blood glucose by the body for energy, helping to stabilize blood glucose levels. Half of the males and almost two-thirds of females are physically inactive in South Africa.

Choose a type of exercise you will enjoy and that suits your lifestyle. A combination of cardiovascular, resistance and stretching is recommended most days of the week. Being moderately active at least 150 minutes a week may also help with weight loss, another factor that helps manage blood glucose.

What proof that real food can make all the difference? Led by a registered dietitian, here are the results of average changes in body measurements and blood tests before and after participants received a FitChef 21-day Best Results Challenge.

MeasurementMalesFemales
Weight– 8.4 kg (average 4.3 kg)2 kg – 5.1kg (average 3.4kg)
% Body Fat4.0 %5.9%
Waist9 cm5 cm
Muscle Mass Gained1.3 – 1.7 kg
Cholesterol Ratio: HDL/Total Cholesterol6.15 – 4.18 mmol/L
Triglycerides1.70 – 1.29 mmol/L
Metabolic Age4.5 years

References 

  1. Colberg SI et al. Physical activity/exercise and diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2016;39:2065-79.
  2. Imamura F et al. Effects of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and carbohydrate on glucose-insulin homeostasis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled feeding trials. PLOS Medicine. 2016. DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002087.
  3. International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas. Seventh Edition. Brussels, IDF. 015. 2. Statistics South Africa. South Africa. Mid-year population estimates 2015. 2015 (July). Available from: http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0302/P03022015.pdf
  4. Pheiffer C et al. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in South Africa: a systematic review protocol. BMJ Open. 2018;8(7). Doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-021029
  5. Powers MA et al. 2017. Diabetes Self-management Education and Support in Type 2 Diabetes. A Joint Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association, the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2017;43(1):84-113.
  6. Russel WR et al. Impact of Diet Composition on Blood Glucose Regulation. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2016; 56(4)
  7. Snoorgard O et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary carbohydrate restriction in patients with type 2 diabetes. B M J Open Diabetes Research & Care. 2017. DOI: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2016-000354.
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