• What to eat (and avoid) if you have type 2 diabetes. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
“Keep in mind, lots of foods are fine if you’re healthy, but not great if you have raised blood sugars or type 2 diabetes," says Dr Michael Mosley.
By
Yasmin Noone

20 Sep 2021 - 2:43 PM  UPDATED 24 Sep 2021 - 6:45 PM

--- The new landmark series Australia's Health Revolution with Dr Michael Mosley premieres Wednesday 13 October at 7.30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand. Join the conversation #AusHealthRevolution ---

 

You’ve decided to eat healthily and lose weight so you can better manage – or possibly even reverse – type 2 diabetes.

You’re determined but also confused about what that looks like. What foods should you eat to shed unwanted kilos while also being mindful of your blood sugar levels?

For many Australians with type 2 diabetes, dietary confusion is a major barrier that needs to be overcome before they can achieve a healthy life.

Renowned doctor and trusted medical journalist Dr Michael Mosley acknowledges the food struggles facing many living with type 2 diabetes in the new SBS series, Australia’s Health Revolution with Dr Michael Mosley. So, the weight loss expert attempts to answer the question: 'what should people living with type 2 diabetes eat to lose weight?'

“Keep in mind, lots of foods are fine if you’re healthy, but not great if you have raised blood sugars or type 2 diabetes."

During the three-part documentary, Dr Mosley helps eight Australians with type 2 diabetes to gain dietary clarity, lose weight and reverse their condition.

“Keep in mind, lots of foods are fine if you’re healthy but not great if you have raised blood sugars or type 2 diabetes,” Dr Mosley says in the documentary.

That’s why Dr Mosley recommends that people with type 2 diabetes should exercise discretion and select low sugar and low carb foods to eat. This is particularly important when consuming grains and cereals.

“We’ve been taught to pile our plate with starchy foods but it’s the white, refined carbs in this food group that can really make your blood sugars soar,” he says. “If you’re healthy, you can certainly eat starchy foods but if your blood sugars are raised, you might want to cut them down.”

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What kind of vegetables should I eat?

Dr Mosley recommends filling your plate with lots of vegetables instead of loading up on rice, pasta and bread. “Vegetables contain carbs but are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. If we increase [our intake of vegetables], nutrient levels go up and unnecessary processed foods go down.”

Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Joyce Haddad, also advises people with type 2 diabetes to increase the number of vegetables they eat with low-GI selections.

“Cauliflower is one vegetable that’s really versatile so it would be my first vegetable to be recommended,” Haddad, director of A Dietitian’s Mission, tells SBS.

“If you eat 100 grams of cauliflower, you're only getting less than five grams of carbohydrates. Another vegetable that’s great for people with type 2 diabetes to eat is celery: it's a really healthy snack option as it’s only got three grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams.”

Eggplants may also help stabilise your blood sugar levels. The high fibre content of this vegetable can slow the rate of digestion and absorption in the body. A slower absorption rate can keep blood sugar levels steady and prevent spikes.

Studies also suggest that the natural plant compounds found in vegetables like eggplant could reduce sugar absorption and increase insulin secretion. Both of these functions may help lower blood sugar.

“Fruit is great if you’re healthy but if you have weight to lose, then switching to less sugary fruits like apples and berries might be wise.”

What about fruit?

Fruit may be a contentious issue for those living with diabetes, according to Dr Mosley. That’s because not all fruit is created with equal sugar contents.

“Fruit is great if you’re healthy but if you have weight to lose, then switching to less sugary fruits like apples and berries might be wise.”

For example, mangoes are quite high in natural sugars: one average-sized mango contains 45 grams of sugar. To put that in comparison with other fruits, one cup of grapes has 23 grams; a cup of raspberries has five grams; a whole avocado contains 1.33 grams of sugar.

“If you are young and slim so you can get away with it [but] you can’t particularly [consume lots of mangoes] if you have problems with your blood sugar levels.”

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Is meat okay?

Dr Mosley also advises that 20 per cent of a diabetes-friendly diet should consist of high-quality lean protein

Diabetes NSW offers protein guidelines online for people living with type 2 diabetes. It states that lean meat is okay if you consume less than 350 grams per week. But beans and lentils, tofu, and fish and seafood can be eaten more often as they are heart-healthy protein sources. Eggs can be consumed but restricted to under seven per week.

Processed meats should be limited.

Diabetes Australia explains that lean protein foods do not break down into glucose, so they do not directly raise blood glucose levels. However, the organisation states that some protein sources also contain carbohydrates (legumes, yoghurt and lentils) and therefore, may still have an effect on blood glucose levels.

It’s also important to note that people with diabetic nephropathy should exercise caution when eating protein and salt, as these foods are typically restricted.

If in doubt, get support

While it’s not necessary for people with type 2 diabetes to cut foods from their diet entirely for the sole purpose of weight loss, it’s a good idea to be aware of the sugar content of food so you can moderate the quantity consumed accordingly.

Haddad also reminds people with type 2 diabetes to remember that even though there are some general tips common among all healthy diets, a personalised approach that focuses on an individual’s holistic diabetes picture is best.

“Healthy eating shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach,” Haddad explains. “It definitely needs to be personalised.

“…You just have to find the right people to help you on this journey. If you need help, get support from health professionals who will make the process [of dieting and weight loss] easier for you.”

 

This story contains general information only. Consult your doctor or medical professional for advice that is suited to your circumstances. If you need assistance with your diet or for dietary advice, always consult a GP, endocrinologist, diabetes educator or Accredited Practising Dietitian. 

 

Love the story? Follow the author here: Instagram @yasmin_noone.


 

Watch the series trailer.

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