How can I avoid type 2 diabetes?
New Zealand’s favourite wellbeing expert answers readers’ questions about their health.
Question: I’ve been told I need to look after my blood sugar levels by my GP so I don’t get type 2 diabetes. Howdo I do this? Regards, David
Diabetes is the result of the body not creating enough insulin to keep blood glucose (sugar) levels in the normal range. Everyone needs some glucose in their blood, but if it’s too high it can damage your body over time. In type 2 diabetes, either the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the cells in the body don’t recognise the insulin that is present. The end result, however, is the same: high levels of glucose in your blood.
For many people, type 2 diabetes can be prevented with diet and lifestyle changes.Regular movement (both aerobic and resistance) helps to regulate blood glucose control as does consuming a diet rich in plant foods (especially vegetables). Avoiding or reducing refined sugar is also important; you can significantly decrease your consumption of refined sugar by minimising your consumption of processed or packaged foods. Go back to basics – make your own salad dressings, sauces and baking as that way you know what the ingredients are. Also, incorporate good fats such as avocado, raw nuts and seeds in your diet as they slow down the release of glucose into your blood stream meaning you actually feel satisfied for longer.
Question: I read about healthy fats but what are these? I thought not eating fat was best for good health. Or is my information out of date? Thank you, Mrs P O’Sullivan
Questions have arisen in scientific circles about whether excessive fat intake is a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic, heart disease, high blood pressure and in the risk of developing colon cancer – it is no wonder people are confused and some are shunning fats.
The good fats: there are three main categories of fats – saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats and all three fats can be obtained from eating wholefoods. The bad fats: most concerning are the trans fats, which are found mainly in processed foods, especially deepfried foods, processed cakes, biscuits and muesli bars and foods with long shelf lives. Trans fats are created when some types of polyunsaturated fats are damaged due to heat.
The ratio of fats consumed can also be a problem. Within the polyunsaturated category, there are two types of fat – the omega 3s and the omega 6s. A common dietary error that can have significant health consequences is the regular over-consumption of omega 6 fats compared to omega 3s. You want to focus on eating less omega 6-rich foods, which will naturally happen when you eat less processed food and more real food.
Research suggests that the type of fat you eat is actually more important than the total amount. Consuming adequate fat helps you to manage your mood, stay alert and even assist with weight management. Fats are also needed for helping us absorb essential vitamins like D, E, K and A, as well as for maintaining healthy skin. They are an integral part of our immunity and brain development.
Some people feel good eating plenty of wholefood fats, while others feel better with less. Notice how eating wholefood fats makes you feel and if you experience sugar cravings, having some more healthy fats may help reduce these cravings.
Dr Libby is a a nutritional biochemist, author and speaker. The advice in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional.
Avocados contain healthy fats.