TYPE 2 diabetes can sometimes feel like an overwhelming condition to manage.
Often keeping on top of the condition comes down to small diet tweaks here and there – including at breakfast.
Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
That’s certainly true for the millions of people with type 2 diabetes in the UK and globally.
Research shows eating a balanced meal in the morning may help to promote more stable blood glucose levels the rest of the day.
And anyone with the common condition will know that keeping blood sugar in the desired range is key to avoid any short or long term problems.
Here we explain some of the best options for the first meal of the day for someone with type 2 diabetes.
Cereal and milk
If you already enjoy a bowl of cereal with milk for breakfast, you’ll be glad to know you’re on the right track.
Scientists found in 2018 that starting the day with a high-protein milk meal could help keep type 2 diabetes at bay, and even help you to lose weight.
A team from the universities of Guelph and Toronto found that having milk with breakfast cereal reduces blood glucose levels more than having water.
And having high-protein milk is even better than the regular stuff.
They found that whey and casein (the two proteins naturally found in milk) slow down digestion and increase feelings of fullness.
Diabetes UK says milk protein “slows down the rate of stomach emptying”.
It recommends that if you have cereal, you switch to a wholegrain, low sugar option.
“When buying cereal, the best thing to do is look at the 'front of pack' label, and try to go for cereal with as many green lights as possible,” the website says.
Wholegrain toast and spread
If you fancy some toast in the morning, just make sure to stick to the wholemeal stuff.
Diabetes UK says: “Switch from white toast to wholegrain versions like seeded batch bread, multi-seed, granary, soya and linseed.
“These are better for your diabetes and digestive health. They're more filling, too.”
You could top it with olive-oil based spreads, avocado or eggs.
And a note of caution – brown bread is not the same as wholemeal bread, so make sure to read the label closely.
Another great way to start the day is with yoghurt – but only of a certain kind.
“Many yogurts are high in free sugar,” Diabetes UK warns.
While sugar, especially the “free” kind that is added to foods, isn’t necessarily the cause of type 2 diabetes, it does contribute to excess weight – which is linked to the condition.
“Being overweight can make it difficult to manage your diabetes and increase your risk of getting serious health problems such as heart disease and stroke in the future,” Diabetes UK says.
“Too much sugar is bad for your teeth too.”
The charity recommends buying unsweetened Greek or natural yogurt, or fromage frais, and sweetening it yourself with fresh fruit.
What about those with type 1 diabetes?
People with type 1 diabetes can be more flexible with their eating.
Both types of diabetes cause too much glucose in the blood stream. But what causes them, and how they are managed, are different.
If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin (the hormone that takes sugar in the blood to cells where it is used).
If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make enough insulin, or the insulin does not work as it should.
Type 1 diabetes patients need to take insulin to control their blood sugar levels, while type 2 diabetes patients need to manage their diet and exercise while sometimes taking medication.
Type 1 diabetics don't need to necessarily watch the food and drinks that they eat – only monitor their blood glucose levels to make sure they are in check.
But as for any adult, type 1 diabetics can make the effort to eat healthy, chosing foods low in sugar, salt and saturated fat.
One thing for type 1 diabetes patients to remember is that without carbohydrate, insulin may cause blood glucose levels to drop too low.
Diabetes UK says: "What do you normally eat? If the answer includes some carbohydrate at each meal then really there is nothing more to consider for now – but try to go with healthier carb options, and be aware of your portion sizes.
"Try and eat five portions of fruit and veg a day by incorporating them at mealtimes, and swap low fibre carbs, such as white bread, white rice and highly-processed cereals, for wholegrain varieties."
Oats are a great choice for some people with type 2 diabetes thanks to having a lower glycemic index.
“Generally, lower GI foods can be useful for managing blood glucose levels,” Diabetes UK says.
But Diabetes.co.uk says: “Some of us with diabetes can handle porridge well, whereas for others it can send blood sugar through the roof.”
Oats also have a good fibre content, which is key for maintaining weight and digestive health, and can protect the heart, which is important because people with type 2 diabetes are prone to heart disease.
They can be made into warm porridge and topped with fresh fruit like raspberries, or made into a cold bircher muesli overnight or added to smoothies.
But it’s important to buy plain, old fashioned oats in a bag, or plain instant oats for porridge, rather than buying those that are flavoured with sugars like honey and golden syrup, Diabetes UK says.
“Increasing the amount of fibre in your diet can help you manage your diabetes,” the charity says.
There are a number of ways you can do this at breakfast.
Add extra fruit and veg to bump up your fibre intake wherever you can, for example berries, dried fruit or half a banana to your cereal, or grilled tomatoes to eggs on toast.
Use nuts or nut butter on top of yoghurt, porridge or into smoothies.
And choose oat-based, bran or wholegrain breakfast cereals, and wholemeal bread.
Fibre is important for everyone’s diet, but certainly so for someone with type 2 diabetes because the condition increases the risk of heart diseases.
Easy swaps to make at breakfast
- Wholegrain bread instead of white
- Mashed banana instead of jam
- Weetabix and Shredded Wheat instead of sugary cereals
- Unsaturated vegetable oils, like sunflower, olive and rapeseed, instead of butter or ghee
- Use wholewheat flour when making rotis and chapattis
- Mudhi or chuda (puffed rice) with vegetables, instead of chudha upma with oil
- Roasted methi paratha instead of aloo paratha
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