Many people don’t realise that with the right nutrition and exercise it’s possible not only to prevent type 2 diabetes, but even, in some cases, to reverse the problem.
The NHS has just announced a multi million pound lifestyle programme for those most at risk from type 2 diabetes. GPs across the UK are being asked to identify the people who would benefit the most from the programme by undertaking blood-glucose testing and monitoring for signs of pre-diabetes. Those patients identified as most at risk of developing type 2 diabetes will be offered 13 sessions focusing on exercise, education and lifestyle changes.
Our Nutritional Therapist Catherine Jeans has her own top tips on how to reduce your type 2 diabetes risk, which you can start today.
1. Get moving!
We all know that a bit of exercise is good for us, but when it comes to type 2 diabetes, it’s so important to reduce your sedentary lifestyle. Some cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart moving alongside some resistance or weight training helps to actually sensitise your cells to insulin. What this means is that you’re helping to reduce insulin resistance – which is what starts you on the road to type 2 diabetes – when your cell receptors stop listening to the insulin your pancreas releases and more and more insulin has to be released to get a cell reaction.
Just 20 to 30 minutes of exercise 5 times per week can make a real difference… this doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym. Try walking to the shops instead of taking the car, get yourself a pedometer so you can check how many steps you’re doing, enroll in a yoga class or go for a swim with the kids. Whatever gets your pulse rate up is ideal.
2. De-stress yourself
The more stressed you are, the more you’ll be releasing one of your stress hormones: Cortisol. This hormone causes fat storage around your tummy, and the more tummy fat you have, the more risk you have of type 2 diabetes. Now I’m not going to sit here and say “Don’t get stressed!” That’s about as helpful as putting a bar of your favourite sweet treats in front of you and saying, “Don’t eat these!” So instead, look at ways to support your body’s ability to manage stress. Do you schedule in relaxation time on a weekly basis? Could you book in a regular monthly massage, or an hour a week to read your book or go for a gentle walk? Perhaps practice some mindfulness techniques or think about how well you’re sleeping, and put in a relaxing bedtime routine. How you eat can also affect your body’s ability to manage stress… as you’ll see from my next tip.
3. Work on keeping your blood sugar levels balanced
Cut out sweet treats and white carbs and replace them with wholegrains and plenty of lean protein. If you eat lean protein such as chicken, fish, eggs, beans, pulses, cottage cheese with your main meals, this helps you to feel fuller for longer and actually helps to prevent blood sugar spikes and lows. This means you’re less likely to crave the sweet stuff and white carbs, which can imbalance your blood sugar and long term, leave you at a greater risk of type 2 diabetes.
4. Don’t eat sweet foods when you’re hungry!
How many times have you reached for a chocolate bar instead of proper food when you’re feeling hungry and in a rush? I’m not saying never eat a sweet treat, but don’t class the naughty stuff as food. Instead, eat a little bit of good quality (if possible dark) chocolate as a treat, after a meal or healthy snack, and eat it mindfully so that you really truly enjoy the experience. Rather than eating it like cookie monster might eat a biscuit… without control, and just as a quick fix because you’re hungry.
Need a sweet fix without the guilt? Try our Healthy Flapjacks recipe.
5. Don’t drink your way to type 2 diabetes
The government might just have introduced a sugar tax on fizzy drinks, but some of you might not be aware of just how much sugar there is in other types of drink. Some fruit juices aimed at children have even more sugar than a can of energy drink! Avoid packaged juices, including fresh juices and smoothies as much as possible. Instead stick to water, very dilute squash, herbal teas and home-made smoothies which have only one fruit and the rest veggies.