Nutritionist shares top five food swaps to reduce risk of diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can be a 'devastating diagnosis' says expert

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Diabetes is highly influenced by diet – what you eat really can have an impact on blood sugar levels. Take, for example, sugary drinks, which Svanfeldt strongly advises against. One research study, published in Diabetes Care, supports Svanfeldt’s recommendation.

The paper found people who regularly drink up to two sugary drinks per day have a 26 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who rarely consume such drinks.

Instead of a sugary drink, Svanfeldt says water is “preferable” or “sugar-free” options.

Another way to minimise high blood sugar risk is to swap “refined grains to wholegrains”, says Svanfeldt.


Heart UK, the cholesterol charity, explains wholegrain is the seed of a cereal plant.

“They have had very little removed in processing and contain all three parts of the grain, so they contain a wide range of nutrients,” the charity points out.

A wholegrain contains the bran, which is the tough outer case that contains: fibre, folic acid, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

Also included in the wholegrain is the endosperm, which is made up of carbohydrate and protein.

Then there’s the germ, which is nutrient-rich, containing unsaturated fats, B vitamins, vitamin E, selenium and phytonutrients.

Wholegrain examples:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Maize
  • Quinoa
  • Freekah
  • Kamut
  • Sorghum
  • Amaranth
  • Durum wheat
  • Spelt
  • Buckwheat.

Heart UK confirms that eating wholegrain is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Refined grains

Refined grains, on the other hand, have had the bran and germ removed during the processing period, meaning they are less nutritious.

“Foods made of refined grains include white bread, white pasta, white rice and most packaged cakes, biscuits and pastry products,” Heart UK says.

Svanfeldt also suggests “swapping sweetened flavoured yoghurts to plain yogurt” to minimise diabetes risk.

Another tip is to exchange “sweetened cereals to plain oats or plain, unsweetened, muesli”.

Her final food swap to consider is to eat less takeaways and to make more home-cooked meals.

While these nutritional tips are useful in preventing type 2 diabetes, they can also be useful if you already have the condition to bring down high blood sugar levels.

Warnings of high blood sugar levels

The NHS says: “Symptoms of high blood sugar usually come on gradually and may only start when your blood sugar level gets very high.”

Common symptoms of high blood sugar can include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Peeing a lot
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Blurred vision
  • Losing weight.

Eating too much sugary or starchy food, in addition to inactivity, can lead to elevated blood sugar.

Nutritionist Signe Svanfeldt works on behalf of Lifesum, the healthy eating app.

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