What we can eat and what we can’t.
When diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetic the doctors’ advice is generally “change your diet and exercise more”. The doctor may recommend you see a nutritionist. Anyone who has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetic knows how difficult it is to work out what you can eat and what you can’t. Of course, diets abound complete with recipes but sticking to them long term may be difficult. Unfortunately, once you are type 2 diabetic consider it to be life-long. Tweaking your own diet may work out much better in the long run and be much easier to sustain. A radical change in diet for whatever reason has been proven by many not to work long-term. Modifying a diet, on the other hand, is easier to accept as a lifestyle change.
What follows is an attempt to take some of the confusion out of the myriad of information that’s out there.
Tweak your diet to help deal with Type 2 Diabetes
An interesting exercise is to see the main food types you use as a staple every day. For instance, for every main meal, you may include a hefty serve of potatoes as a side dish. Perhaps cheese or cream sauces are your thing. Maybe, bread is a mainstay for when you are feeling peckish. Recognizing what you are eating frequently may give you clues on what needs to change. It could be as simple as changing the type of bread you are consuming. Or cutting down the portion size or cooking the food preference differently.
The six things to look at when making a decision about what to eat.
To determine what you can eat the following needs to be taken into consideration:
- Glycemic load.
- Glycemic index.
- sugar content.
- fat content.
- resistant starch.
- portion size.
Dr. Bernstein, in his book Diabetes Diet, explains how GL and GI are measured. I have drawn on his information below as well as from Jenefer Roberts’ book “Can I eat that?”
Breaking it down: the Glycemic load (GL) is a measure of how much the carbohydrate in a standard portion (usually 100g) raises the blood glucose level. A high GL would be 20+; Medium GL = 10-19 and a Low GL is 10 or below.
The GL and portion size are probably the more useful but the other 4 factors mentioned above should be taken into the equation when determining what to eat.
Dr. Bernstein warns that some foods with a low GI may cause significant increases in blood glucose in people with diabetes. He also states “the GI was never meant to be the sole determinant of what foods you choose to eat.”
Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how much a standard amount of carbohydrate (usually 50g) from a particular food will raise the blood glucose level. Foods containing a lot of fiber and the conversion of carbohydrates to blood glucose that take longer are rated as low GI.
Eating food with a high resistant starch can reduce the glycemic impact of a subsequent high GI meal. Sources of resistant starch are as follows:
- Pearl barley
- Bulgar wheat
- Sourdough bread
- Long-grain brown rice
- Green bananas
Combining foods with a high GI and a low GI will result in a medium GI.
Four favorite foods you can still eat
Small potatoes are better than old potatoes or the larger ones. Cook and put in the fridge, leave for 24 hrs and make a potato salad from this. The idea is to chill the potato first and you can either eat it cold or reheat. Or cook potatoes and steam a similar quantity of broccoli and cauliflower on top. Mix in a generous amount of spinach and mash. All this lowers, in theory, the GI. Unfortunately, Baked potatoes and chips are not recommended no matter what is done to them.
Rice: Converted rice with a low GI rate is best. The GL rating is unavailable. Although it is a little hard to come by you can buy it on Amazon.com Uncle Bens original parboiled long grain rice. It cooks quickly, is less sticky and fairly filling.
Basmati Rice has a higher amylase (a resistant starch) than other types of rice so it should have a low GI. Precooked in a pouch Basmati Rice is around a medium GI where regular rice that you cook up yourself is Low.
Type of Bread GI GL
Baguette White 95 (high) 15 (Med)
White Bread, wheat 70 (high) 10 (low)
Hamburger bun 61 (medium) 9 (low)
100% whole grain 59 (medium) 7 (low)
Pitta Bread White 57 (medium) 10 (low)
Corn Tortilla 52 (low 12 (med)
Pumpernickel Rye 53 (low) 5 (low)
Wheat Tortilla 30 (low) 8 (low)
Using a bread machine to make your own is quick and very easy apparently. I had a quick look at the cost of a bread machine and a couple of reviews. The cost is anywhere from around $50.00 to $200.00. Of course, there are machines that cost much more. A criticism on some machines is they tend to shake around a bit when kneading the dough. However, that was at the lower end of the price scale. Apparently, homemade bread is denser and therefore is more filling than store bought bread. In theory, this should cut down the amount of bread you feel you need to eat. I’m not so sure about this theory. The aroma of home baked bread does tend to increase my appetite. I’m not sure if it has the same effect on you.
Research has discovered that chilling Pasta the same as recommended above for potatoes will provide resistant starch. You can either reheat or have as a cold pasta salad. Wholemeal spaghetti boiled (al dente) or fettuccini boiled rate with a low GI and a medium GL. Always keep portion sizes to recommended size when determining what you would like to eat within the guidelines of GL and resistant starch.
Summary for type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetic
Most importantly, the portion size when working out the GL rating and most definitely those foods that are classified as having resistant starch. Incorporating resistant starch foods into an otherwise high GL meal can reduce the impact of the glycemic load in type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetic. Furthermore, GL and GI ratings are both concerned with carbohydrate. Consequently, the overall rule of thumb is less carbohydrate and less processed food, results in better after-meal blood glucose.
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- Book “diabetes diet” written by Dr. Richard K Bernstein
- Book “Can I eat that” written by Jenefer Roberts.