The best diet for optimal blood sugar control & health
Emma Baird is a type 1 diabetic and a writer with a keen interest in health and nutrition. She is the co-author of The Diabetes Diet and she runs her own blogging/PR business, and writes fiction in her spare time. Most importantly, she is the guardian of one very spoiled cat…
Some party and outdoor recipe ideas for low-carb courtesy of the Nourishing World Blog.
With the Summer Party season about to get underway, I wanted to share some great keto-Friendly Summer recipes. My Daughter and I recently did another round of the 21-Day Detox and found a few new healthy recipe favorites. This Buffalo Wing Sauce is keto friendly, Paleo and Whole30 friendly. My daughter ate this almost every […]
Joyous news, friends… I’ve received approval for funding for the FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system.
Oh, what changes this will bring! Firstly, there’s the ease thing. I often sit down for dinner, realise I’ve still to do a blood test and groan. Now, it will be a matter of seconds. Take out the reader, scan and voila. I’ll also be able to do TONNES of tests, and catch those pesky sugar levels when they misbehave firing to the top or plunging to the bottom.
As a wild optimist at heart, I tell myself my day to day energy levels will also shoot through the roof – diabetes being much easier when you’re not tired all the time because of glucose level misbehaviour.
Before I receive my very own precious reader and prescription for the thingies you stick on your arm, I’ll need to attend an education session. Once that’s done, a letter wings its way to my GP and she starts prescribing the arm thingies. (Note my fine grasp of the technicalities.)
Exercise, as we folks with diabetes are often told, is essential for good management of diabetes. ‘Good’ doesn’t mean easy. The usual disclaimer applies; my experiences are unique to me, but this week’s blog post is inspired by last week’s climb of Ben Lomond.
Ben Lomond is a munro—i.e. a mountain this is higher than 3,000 feet or 914.4 metres. Munro-bagging is the activity where you climb them, stand on the top for a while taking pictures (if it’s not on social media, it never happened, right?) and then telling everyone you know for weeks afterwards.
As Ben Lomond is the munro nearest to where I live, it’s been on my bucket list for ages. My sister in law is a keen walker/hill climber so the two of us set off to tackle the mountain last Monday.
I am fitter than average. My FitBit tells me I’m in the top percentage of people my age and gender when it comes to the VO2 measurement. (If you can explain exactly what this is to me, I’d be grateful.) But climbing a munro? Boy, a different kettle of fish entirely. I didn’t prepare properly and I suffered.
So, here are the lessons I learned…
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Endurance exercise needs far more before-hand and after preparation than short spurts of exercise. I can do half an hour to an hour’s exercise without needing to take extra carbs or adjust my insulin. A mountain is something else entirely.
Stretch, stretch, stretch
Stretch out your calves, quads and glutes thoroughly afterwards. No, do. Mine ached for five days afterwards, particularly my calves which I put down to going up on the balls of my feet as I clambered over the rocks. When I got out of bed on Sunday morning and limped downstairs to the toilet, I went so slowly my FitBit didn’t register the steps.
Eat, you diddy
Eat beforehand. I know, duh. I had food with me but my sister-in-law and I did it first thing so I hadn’t bothered with breakfast.
Test, test, test
Blood sugar at the start – 9.8. One hour in, 13.4. I took half a unit of rapid acting insulin—3.2 half an hour later. In a panic, I shoved in too many jelly babies. At the top I ate a banana and took no insulin. By the time I got to the bottom, my blood sugar had hit the heady heights (appropriate analogy, huh?) of 19. I took too much insulin and by the time I got home, I’d crashed once more.
Oh for the Abbot Free Style Libre, which would have made testing blood sugar levels so much easier and adjustments more likely to be accurate. Some day my star will come and the good people of Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS health board will see fit to prescribe it.
Enjoy the views
Except, this being Scotland, count on getting to the top and seeing nothing thanks to the thick layer of grey cloud that hovers there. Still, twenty metres down and the views were glorious.
Afterwards, we realised we’d climbed Ben Lomond on World Naked Hiking Day… sadly, everyone else who climbed it on that day hadn’t got the memo either.
All of which brings me neatly to—can you do endurance exercise when you have type 1 diabetes to deal with? People do. There’s the Novo Nordisk team of cyclists for a start. On the other hand, they’ve got a team of dedicated professionals behind them to help with diet and working out what they take insulin-wise. I’m willing to bet too, that they have access to all the latest gear—the continuous glucose monitoring, the pumps and sophisticated feedback they can interpret to work out how to cope with long bike rides.
Our ascent of Ben Lomond took just over two hours and ten minutes (844 calories on the FitBit), and the descent about an hour and forty minutes. It counts as the hardest fitness challenge I’ve ever undertaken, far more difficult than running a half-marathon.
[Talking of running, we were overtaken by two trail runners at one point. Lordy. In awe.]
I don’t know if I would do it again. I’d rather do short bursts of exercise interspersed throughout the day as I know what I’m doing and how it will affect me. I’m a mesomorph body type too. My body favours that kind of exercise as opposed to the endurance stuff. I can walk long distances and often do, but most of the time that’s on flat ground or its hills do not last more than 45 minutes. Hauling yourself up mountains is hard as heck.
With exercise it is easy to forget that there is a level above which there is no point in doing extra unless you are training for a big event or you’re a professional sports man or woman or athlete. I do Pilates for the flexibility benefits, I walk or run for cardio and otherwise I try to move a little throughout the day. That, I think, is enough for me.
What do you prefer—endurance exercise or doing short, intense bursts of it?
As a one-time vegetarian, I love vegetable or pulse-based curries. I’d choose them over meat-based ones any day. I’m also a fan of tamarind paste—it adds amazing tangy flavour to any curry.
Last week, I made a veggie curry using the left-overs in the fridge and combining them in a rich sauce. Had I been the only one eating it, I would have added cauliflower but my husband hates the stuff and veggie dishes are a hard sell to him so I left it out.
Recipes often specify coconut milk, which is fine if you need a whole tin of it. I keep packets of creamed coconut in my store cupboards (fridge in the summer) as it’s much more versatile. You can use however much you need without waste, and it can be a thickener or made into a cream.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Strictly speaking, you should put the onions in first, fry till translucent, then add the peppers, courgette and carrot, cook for five minutes and add the mushrooms last. I’m too lazy to add the veggies one by one so I threw them all in at once and cooked for about six minutes.
Add the curry powder, tamarind paste and chillies and cook for another minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil. Mix in the creamed coconut and turn down to a simmer. Cook for about five minutes. The creamed coconut will thicken the sauce. Add seasoning to taste.
To make it more of a main meal, You could add some fresh chicken stock to this and turn it into a sauce for chicken thighs or throw in a good handful of cooked prawns and cook for a minute to warm through. Another worthy addition is two or three balls of frozen spinach. Defrost and warm through beforehand, obvs.
Allow about 15-18g of carbs per portion. Serve with naan breads (low-carb version here) or rice for the carb-lovers in your life.
Who was the first person to look at a cauliflower and a bowl of leftover cheese sauce and think—“My goodness, this will be a match made in heaven?”
Whoever he or she was, I’d like to shake them by the hand. If someone said to me, “Okay it’s your last meal on earth, what do you want?”, I’d say, “Cauliflower cheese, please, and don’t stint the cheese.” As it is my last meal, I’d ask them to top it with crispy breadcrumbs and some grilled bacon rashers for crunch.
[Conversation to the side. HUSBAND: Seriously, that’s your last meal? Not steak, or lobster or even a good burger with all the trimmings? Jeez. Who/what did I marry?]
On Friday night, I was at the Tron Theatre (get me) with friends and noticed the bar menu included curried cauliflower cheese. That set the neurons firing. The world’s best dish made even better?
The Tron’s version would have been made the conventional way—a white sauce with milk and flour to thicken it. Low-carb versions use variations of cream and cream cheese to thicken the sauce. Where would the curry bit come in?
One of the ways to cook cauliflower often recommended to those who hate the stuff* is to roast it in the oven with cumin and coriander seeds and chilli. That takes care of the curry bit. Then, if you combine it with a creamy sauce and grated cheese and pop it back in the oven you have the perfect low-carb cauliflower cheese.
You can serve this as an accompaniment to cold meat such as sliced ham or cooked sausages. Or do as I did—serve yourself a super-big portion with a lightly-dressed green salad. Yum.
The best veggie dish in the world made even better
One large whole cauliflower, broken into even-sized florets
One tbsp turmeric
One tbsp rapeseed oil
One tbsp cumin seeds
One tbsp coriander seeds
One tsp black pepper corns
½ tsp chilli flakes (or more…)
250mls double cream
100g grated cheese (extra mature to vintage cheddar is best)**
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Bring a large saucepan of well salted water to the boil, add the turmeric and cook the cauliflower florets for two minutes. Drain well so they are very dry.
Toast the cumin, coriander and pepper in a dry frying pan until the smell of them hits your nose like a sledgehammer and grind to to a powder in a pestle and mortar.
Take a large roasting pan and tip your florets in there. Add the oil and the spices and mix well so the florets are well coated. Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the cream gently in a pan and add the mustard and most of the grated cheese. Blend well.
Remove the cauliflower florets from the oven. Place in an oven-proof serving dish and pour over the cheese sauce. Top with the rest of the grated cheese and put back in the oven for 20 minutes.
Allow about 5-8g carbs per serving
Note—the number of servings depends on the size of cauliflower you started with. Mine was teeny, so my dish made two. If I’d served it as a side dish, three-to four. But we are in glutton territory here. Maybe I pretended the dish above served two and ate the whole lot in one go… no-one else in my household wanted to eat it, after all. Another idea is to prepare the roasted cauliflower as a side dish for any roast meat.
*Didn’t work on my husband. Cauliflower is up there on his list of the Devil’s Foods, along with broccoli, sprouts and blue cheese.
**This is a rough guide. If you choose to double it up, who am I to judge?
A landmark decision this week—the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has decided to back low-carb diets for type 2 diabetics.
Diabetes.co.uk reported the announcement this week. The charity has produced a report, ‘Nutrition Therapy for Adults with Diabetes or Prediabetes: A Consensus Report (Consensus Report)‘, published in the journal Diabetes Care.
Last year, the ADA acknowledged the low-carb approached as beneficial for treating type 2 diabetes. The new report goes further, stating that diabetes-focused nutrition therapy is a crucial part of overall diabetes management.
Previous high-carb recommendations
Previous dietary guidelines have focused on high-carb diets for people with or without diabetes.
The report says: “Reducing overall carbohydrate intake for individuals with diabetes has demonstrated the most evidence for improving glycemia and may be applied In a variety of eating patterns that meet individual needs and requirements.
“For select adults with type 2 diabetes not meeting glycemic targets or where reducing antiglycemic mediations is a priority, reducing overall carbohydrate intake with low- or very low-carbohydrate eating plans is a viable approach.”
The report also says it is important to eat non-starchy vegetables, minimise the intake of added sugars and refined grains, and choosing whole foods instead of highly-processed foods.
As one of the authors of the paper, Dr Laura Saslow from the University of Michigan was also the author of a research paper published last year which revealed that 26 percent of users of Diabetes Digital Media’s Low Carb Programme put their type 2 diabetes into remission after a year. Remission was defined as reducing HbA1c to normal levels while taking no glucose-lowering medications or just metformin.
If you’re a low-carb enthusiast (type 2 diabetes or not), you’ll find lots of recipe ideas on this website and you can also buy our book, The Diabetes Diet as a paperback or e-book on Amazon. The book has recipes, meal plans and suggestions for how to adjust insulin when starting on a low-carb eating plan.