Updated 13 February 2017

Type 2 diabetes and diet

Diet plays an important role in preventing and controlling type 2 diabetes.

Step 1: Understanding the relationship between food and Type 2 diabetes

A number of risk factors for Type 2 diabetes have been identified. (The dietary links have been indicated in bold).

  • A family history of the disease
  • A lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Older than 40 years

People with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing complications if the following associated factors are present:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • High cholesterol levels
  • A history of heart disease

Step 2: Adopting new healthy habits

  • eat a balanced diet (Low fat, low carbohydrate, high in fruit and vegetables)
  • try and achieve your ideal body weight by means of both diet and exercise
  • avoid large quantities of sugar and highly processed carbohydrates (cakes, pies, pastries, white rice)
  • eat plenty of dietary fibre (brown rice, wholewheat bread, oats, unsifted maize meal, fresh, unpeeled, raw fruits and vegetable, and legumes, such as cooked, dry beans, peas and lentils and meat substitutes made from legumes like soya)
  • cut down on fat intake (eat less butter, margarine, oil and mayonnaise, use nonstick pans and nonstick spray for cooking, avoid all fatty food)
  • eat less salt (use less salt in cooking, replace salt with other herbs and spices, cut out commercial soups and gravies which have a very high salt content, use a salt substitute)
  • get regular moderate exercise (three to four times per week)
  • stop smoking
  • make sure that your blood pressure is under control
  • check your cholesterol levels

Step 3: Understanding the basic principles of a diabetic diet

The dos: (Eat more)

Fresh fruit and vegetables
Dietary fibre

The don'ts: (Cut down on)

Fatty foods
Foods with a high sugar content
Salty foods
Processed carbohydrates like pies and cakes

The reasons for the dos and don’ts

Recent studies have shown that people who eat a high fat and high sugar diet that is low in fibre are predisposed to developing Type 2 diabetes. People with diminished glucose tolerance, which is an early warning sign of diabetes, are far more likely to become diabetic if they eat large amounts of saturated fat. Sticking to a low-fat diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables and whole grains could go a long way towards preventing adult-onset diabetes.


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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