Diabetes develops when your body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin. Normally, when we eat foods rich in carbohydrates (starches), they are broken down into simple sugar and taken into our cells for energy. Insulin takes the sugar into our cells, so when our body does not produce enough insulin, the sugar from foods remains in our blood-stream and causes high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia).

There are two different types of Diabetes

  1. Type 1 Diabetics need to take insulin, follow a healthy diet and exercise to manage their Diabetes.
  2. Type 2 Diabetics can control their Diabetes with exercise and a healthy diet, and often need to take medication.

You may not know you have diabetes as some symptoms may not be obvious or severe. General warning signs are:

  • Constant thirst
  • Constant tiredness or   fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained itchiness of the skin
  • Blurring of eyesight
  • Dizziness
  • Slow healing of cuts and bruises
  • Tingling or numbness of hands and feet
  • What do I do if I have these symptoms?
  • Many pharmacies do blood sugar testing. If your blood sugar is high, they will refer you to a doctor.

By eating a healthy diet you can help to control your Diabetes. Do not cut out any foods completely. Rather include balanced amounts of all types of foods.

Basic dietary guidelines:

  • Do not miss meals. Have 3 small meals during the day, with small snacks in between.
  • Enjoy a variety of foods daily.
  • Make starchy foods part of most meals. . Include starches that have a low glycaemic index (meaning that they do not raise the blood sugar too quickly) such as rye bread, wholewheat seed loaf, bran cereal, sweet or baby potatoes, durum wheat pasta.
  • Use fat sparingly; choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats - use lower fat spreads; do not deep-fry foods; use a limited amount of vegetable oil for cooking; limit fats such as mayonnaise and avoid creamy sauces.
  • Include some avocados and seeds or nuts as these provide roughage, vitamins, minerals and essential oils.
  • • Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs could be eaten daily -  Enjoy lower fat proteins such as skinless chicken; grilled/ baked/steamed fish; ostrich fillets; extra lean minced beef and lean beef or pork cuts; boiled or poached eggs. Other great proteins to include are tuna in brine, pilchards and sardines.
  • • Eat dry beans, split-peas, lentils and soya regularly. . These provide protein and are an excellent source of roughage. Baked beans on toast is an excellent choice for a meal. Add lentils and beans into meat and chicken dishes, and soups.
  • Have milk, mass or yoghurt every day. Use fat-free milk and fat-free cottage cheese.  There are many low fat cheeses and fat-free or low fat yoghurts available to include in your diet.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day (at least 5).
  • Try a variety of different colours of vegetables and salads, e.g. green beans and corn/spinach and butternut/ peas and raw carrot sticks/ green salad and beetroot salad. Eat 2 - 3 fruits a day, e.g. apples, oranges, peaches, pears, kiwi fruit, berries. Avoid fruit juice unless you are exercising.
  • Avoid sugar in tea/coffee and sugar- rich cold drinks and/or ''sports drinks'' unless undergoing a strenuous exercise programme.
  • Not all foods that include sugar have to be avoided. A good principle is to avoid the food if sugar is amongst the first 3 ingredients on the ingredient listing.
  • Use salt and food that is high in salt sparingly as Diabetics may be more prone to developing High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). Use herbs, fresh garlic and ginger, lemon juice, etc. to add flavour to foods.
  • Small amounts of alcohol can be included but must always be controlled - consult your Doctor first. Always have with a meal, never on an empty stomach.
  • Use artificial sweeteners sparingly.
  • Be active  - Walking and any planned exercise are great ways to help control your blood sugar. Have a small snack before you exercise, especially if you are a Type 1 Diabetic.

Glycaemic Index

This is the rate at which carbohydrates (CHO's) are absorbed into the blood. Some CHO's will be absorbed very quickly (e.g. most breads and mashed potato) and some more slowly (e.g. sweet potato and rye bread). The more slowly absorbed CHO's (LOW GI) are preferable, as they do not result in a very quick rise in blood sugar levels. This does not mean you can eat large amounts of these foods! Only a few foods have been labelled as LOW GI, so rather get the information from your Dietitian, or send us a question under ''Ask the Dietitian''.

These guidelines are the basics, so it is important to see a Registered Dietitian who can work out an eating plan to suit your lifestyle and specific medical needs. 

More on Glycaemic Index (GI)

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided by the SPAR Group Ltd for general information purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.