Studies show that a 7% weight loss through eating better and increasing activity can help to prevent diabetes by a whopping 58% in those at high risk! 1 So how can we choose to eat better? Are there superfoods which prevent diabetes? Let’s take a look….
What is a Superfood?
Superfood is a term we hear a lot these days. Sometimes referred to as the powerhouses of nutrition or the next showstopper in the nutrition world. The definition of superfood in the Oxford dictionary is:
“A nutrient- rich food considered especially beneficial for health and well-being”
While the Macmillan dictionary defines superfood as:
“A food that is considered to be very good for your health and that may even help some medical conditions”
However, the truth is, there is no official or legal definition of a superfood. 2
What is the Science Behind Superfoods?
Superfood is a term popularised by the media and used in marketing to promote health claims around certain nutrient-dense foods.
The term superfood is not regulated by any professional body, so there are no specifications for something to be considered a superfood.
Although most superfoods do have some nutritional benefits, it is important to be wary of some to the labels given, as some claims may not be scientifically proven. Do your research beforehand when possible!
Are Superfoods Stealing the Show?
Eating foods full of great nutrients (as many so-called superfoods are) is a good idea. But concerns are often raised about unnecessary focus on consuming individual foods, when we know that the key to a healthy diet is to have a variety of nutritious foods in the right quantities.
For example, one of the recent superfoods to become popular is kale, which we know is good for us! If we were to focus our efforts solely on having more of this, it steals the limelight from other vegetables with great nutrition e.g. cabbage, spinach, carrots, bell peppers, eggplant – all of which contain a variety of different and rather splendid nutrients but are not labelled as “super”.
So What ARE the Best Foods to Prevent Diabetes?
Let’s turn this one around a little, rather than focus on specific superfoods, let’s take a look at a variety of superfood groups which can work together to improve health and help to prevent diabetes:
1. Fruits and Vegetables – High in fibre, water, vitamins and minerals. Foods high in fibre and water can fill you up without adding too many calories to your diet, which is great for weight management.
e.g. apples, blueberries, oranges, pears, strawberries, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, squash.
2. Whole grains and healthy starches – Whole grains contain up to 75% more good nutrition compared to their refined counterparts. They are especially high in fibre which can help you feel full for longer and slow down rises in your blood glucose levels.
e.g. brown rice, wholemeal bread, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat noodles, quinoa, corns, lentils, beans.
3. Healthy proteins and dairy – These are lower in saturated fats than some other processed or red meats. Meaning they can help to improve your body’s ability to use insulin, and are lower in calories which can help with weight loss. Lowering saturated fats will help to keep your heart healthy too.
e.g. eggs, fish, lean meat, nuts, low fat cheese, plain skim/ low fat or non fat milk/ low fat yoghurts
Here are 3 Top Tips on how to Include Superfood Groups into Your Diet
When it comes to meal times, try to imagine your plate split into sections.
Aim for half of your plate to be vegetable based, ¼ healthy proteins and ¼ whole grain carbs. That way you can get your superfood groups in just the right amounts!
2. Home cooking rocks!
Try when possible to prepare more of your meals at home. That way you are in control of both the quality and quantity of superfood groups and can limit the less healthy ingredients. For inspiration, check out some tasty recipes on our blog posts – http://blog.glycoleap.com/category/recipes/
3. Make simple swaps
Small but regular swaps to your diet soon add up when it comes to better health:
|Swap this||To this|
|white rice||brown rice|
|white bread||wholemeal bread|
|white noodles/ pasta||whole wheat noodles/pasta|
|wheat crackers||whole wheat crackers|
|potatoes||sweet potatoes with skin|
|full fat milk||low fat milk|
|fatty meat||chicken, fish, eggs, tofu|
|palm or coconut oil, butter||olive oil|
|Swap this||To this|
|potato chips||small handful of nuts or veggies sticks and hummus|
|chocolate and sweets||fresh fruit serving|
|cakes and biscuits||low fat yoghurt|
|BLT sandwich||nut butter on wholemeal bread|
Is There Anything Else that can Prevent Diabetes?
Preventing diabetes is not just about adding superfoods/ superfood groups to your diet. There are also foods that we need to eat less of.
Sweet foods and drinks: Sugar is classed as empty calories. This means it has no nutritional benefit other than providing us energy. When aiming to lose weight, it is best to limit your intake of these to once in a while.
e.g. cakes, cookies, soda, fruit juice, ice cream.
High saturated fat food and drinks: These are high in calories and can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease if taken regularly.
e.g. full fat milk, 3-in-1 drinks with creamer, processed meats, fatty red meats, butter, deep fried foods, full fat cheese, salad dressings.
- Limit your red meat intake to once or twice a week and check out some of the healthier swaps above.
- Replacing some saturated fats with healthy fats can help to slow digestion of food and keep your heart healthier. But do be wary of your portion size, even healthy fats found in olive oil, avocados, oily fish or nuts contain lots of calories!
Don’t forget to exercise – Aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week to keep you in ship shape when it comes to health. E.g. brisk walking/ biking.
Improve your weight – This is a key factor when it comes to preventing diabetes. A 7% weight loss can have huge benefits if you’re overweight!
The truth is that there are no superfoods that will solve all ailments and health conditions. Preventing diabetes is about looking at your diet as a whole and taking a holistic approach to include physical activity and weight loss too. In other words, choosing an eating plan with a good variety of nutrient-rich foods from different food groups. It’s also about limiting the foods which are known to cause harm.
1. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. Diabetes prevention research group. New England Journal of Medicine 2002. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/neJmoa012512#t=article. Accessed on 16th January 2017.
2. The science behind superfoods: are they really super? European Food Information Council. http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/The-science-behind-superfoods/. Accessed on 16th Jan 2017.