Diet for diabetes – does it make any difference?

A healthy diet for diabetes and pre-diabetes (in fact for all of us) is one that limits sugars and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta and rice, cakes, biscuits, sweets and sweet drinks. A Mediterranean-style diet, the chosen dietary pattern at Nuush, in conjunction with achieving a healthier weight has been shown to be effective at putting type 2 diabetes into remission and reducing or eliminating the need for diabetes medications. I’ll talk about what to eat for diabetes further on in the article.

Approx read time: 4 mins

What is diabetes?

Diabetes can be a difficult thing to understand but essentially it’s a lack of control of blood sugar*. When sugar is left to circulate in the blood it damages blood vessels and tissues, so we have a hormone called insulin, that comes from the pancreas, to ferret the sugar away into cells or fat storage.

Imagine that insulin holds the key to all our cells’ sugar doors. It goes up to a cell and unlocks the door so the sugar can enter the cell and provide energy.

So you can see that insulin is a key player – and there are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2 where the insulin process goes wrong.

*Blood sugar comes directly from sweet food and drinks but is also the breakdown product of carbohydrates.

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is where your pancreas stops making insulin. So there’s no insulin around to ferret the sugar away. It’s thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction that kills off the pancreatic cells that make insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is where insulin is available but the cells won’t let it unlock their doors to let the sugar in, because they’re kinda fed up with always doing so and they just don’t need that much sugar. That’s why it’s called insulin resistance.

It’s thought that over 90% of cases of type 2 are diet and lifestyle related. Factors in its development include

  • overweight and obesity,
  • lack of activity,
  • over-frequent consumption of sweet foods and refined carbs,
  • excess alcohol,
  • stress,
  • lack of sleep,
  • eating late.

All the classic western behaviours.

Insulin and fat storage

Insulin is what’s called ‘anabolic’, that means it’s a growth hormone. And the growth comes in the form of fat storage. So when we frequently call it out to play, and we’re not using the food or drink we’ve just eaten for energy, it drives fat storage, especially abdominal fat.

Diet for diabetes with a Nuush plan

There are a variety of easy changes you can make to keep diabetes at bay and to manage it or put it into remission when you do have it. We help our clients to reduce snacking, to eat an early dinner then close the kitchen (or to follow our Nourish & Fast plan), to avoid drinking calories in sweet drinks or alcohol, to be active, particularly walking just before or after meals, and to reduce stress and increase sleep. Other factors in the Nuush diet that are anti-type-2 diabetes are its abundance of fibre, vegetables, good proteins and its low proportion of sugary foods and refined carbs.

A Mediterranean-style diet, which is the basis of all Nuush nutrition plans, is a beneficial diet for diabetes because it gives you an abundance of delicious slow-release, whole, foods. The Med diet focuses on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, pulses, olive oil, fermented foods such as Greek yoghurt and kefir, feta and mozzarella as well as some fish and shellfish. There is red meat and poultry but in smaller amounts than the typical western diet.

There are other dietary changes that help too, such as eating your side salad before you tuck into the main meal. Also having protein such as beans or chickpeas, fish or shellfish, Greek yoghurt, eggs, feta cheese or hummus or occasionally some meat or poultry with a meal.

Protein and fibre help to slow the release of sugar into the blood. Having a good gap between meals helps immensely too, it gives your blood sugar and insulin time to settle so that insulin isn’t constantly being called out, making cells resistant to it. When there is a real need to eat between meals it’s better to have a slow-release food such as nuts, tinned fish, hard boiled eggs or Greek yoghurt with a few berries.

It’s not only diet that helps diabetes but the lifestyle context that surrounds it. We help people to weave in more activity each day and to give sleep and stress reduction a priority. It’s a holistic approach that feels natural and good. It’s not a fad regime but a reset to a calmer way of living and eating that nurtures and restores good health.

Avocado, eggs and toast work great in a diet for diabetes.

Prevent type 2 diabetes

Diabetes is a serious condition and results in thousands of amputations every year in the UK, as well as damage to eyesight, and even blindness. It costs the NHS ten billion pounds each year to treat and deal with and Type 2 is heavily on the rise, even amongst young children. It’s in everyone’s interest to prevent and control it as much as possible.

Avoid the myths and fads

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Thank you for reading this article. Please note that while we share a lot of awesome information and research you should be aware our articles are strictly for informational purposes and do not constitute medical advice intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

Cover photo by Pavel Danilyuk.