Artificial Sweeteners

As a blogger, I get sent press releases regularly. Most of the time, they’re irrelevant (I got a lot of financial information because a media directory had mistakenly classified me as a financial journalist) but I get the odd one that reflects my interests and what I write about.

Recently, the subject line Artificial Sweeteners linked to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and metabolic dysfunction caught my eye. Our book and blog contain recipes that use artificial sweeteners. The internet abounds with blogs and posts that say ‘no’, but offer up little in the way of compelling evidence.

Anyone remember the Gulf War syndrome caused by diet coke conspiracy theory? (The authorities later dismissed consumption of overheated aspartame as a cause.) which offers an independent, objective and unbiased assessment of nutrition and supplements, provides this recent exploration of artificial sweeteners and their effects.

The press release I received came from the Medisys Health Group in Canada. As they say, sensationalist headlines about sweeteners aren’t new. The average Canadian consumes 88 pounds of sugar from all sources a year – more than four times the daily recommended sugar limit from the World Health Organization.

If excessive, long-term consumption of sugar leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, cancer and more, are artificial sweeteners the answer?

I don’t use them in my cooking, but I get a dose of sweeteners daily thanks to my love of soft drinks; Diet Coke, mainly, but also squashes, diet tonic and chewing gum. These are all sweetened with what are called non-nutritive sweeteners (such as saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame and sucralose).

As the press release notes, health implications for them are inconclusive and overall, the ones available on the market are considered safe for regular or occasional consumption. Where the press release says we should be cautious is that they don’t retrain the taste buds, and then can make naturally sweet foods like fruit taste less appealing. There is some research that suggests that artificial sweeteners can increase blood sugar levels and trigger the insulin response*.

The Medisys Group recommends you limit or avoid artificial sweeteners, and focus on whole, unprocessed foods instead, a stance we support at the Diabetes Diet.

MY FEELINGS – I get the sugar retraining aspect, though many of the recipes in our book and on our blog do taste a lot less sweet than their sugary equivalents. The research doesn’t yet convince me that I need to give up diet drinks (though the plastic argument could and should win me over).

As for using it in recipes, sugar is by far the most harmful substance to people with diabetes. If making cakes, puddings and biscuits with artificial sweeteners and low-carb ingredients keeps you away from it, is that not the best solution? We promote low-carb, not primarily as a way of losing weight but of keeping blood sugars steady and therefore making diabetes easier to manage.

Read the full release, including a breakdown of the research into metabolism, sweeteners and losing weight etc., here. You can also read the Diet Doctor’s analysis of sweeteners and which ones have the least impact on your blood sugar control, here.

*I’ve never experienced this as a result of drinking diet sodas. 

The Plunge

diabetes dietHello fellow and female diabetics, and the friends who support us. This week, I’d like to talk about The Plunge.

If you are on insulin or other blood glucose-lowering medications, you’ll know The Plunge. It’s where your blood sugar drops at an alarmingly rapid rate usually because of insulin or other medicines. It feels very unpleasant.

What’s it like? Explaining diabetes feelings to non-diabetics is tricky, and it needs a lot of imagination. You search your vocabulary and powers of observation for ways to describe it and still come up short. Metaphors work the best, but they are still hard to think up.

The Plunge works well for me because it signifies a roller-coaster. There you are at the top; then suddenly, you’re heading to the bottom at super-fast speed.

Signs of fast-dropping blood sugars include tiredness, a lot of yawning, shakiness and confusion. They are also all symptoms of hypos.

One of the reasons we promote The Diabetes Diet (low-carb eating) is that it makes The Plunge easier to avoid. This is because you won’t need to take as much fast-acting insulin with your meals. Using fast-acting insulin can be a be a bit like picking up a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It isn’t subtle stuff, that’s for sure.

This isn’t a guarantee. Sometimes, you’ll need extra insulin to cover unexpected high blood sugar levels, and The Plunge may result.

But overall, using lower levels of insulin to cover meals means steadier blood sugar levels overall. Dips up and down are far less dramatic and therefore don’t feel as yucky. (This is a technical term.)

How do you experience The Plunge, and can you think up better ways to describe than I can?

Paperback Copy of the Diabetes Diet

If you’d like a paperback copy of The Diabetes Diet, you can now buy one via CreateSpace on Amazon. The e-book version has been there since 2014, but we know many people prefer to hold something solid when they are reading. It’s a lot easier to work from a book when you’re making recipes, for example.

diabetes diet
The Diabetes Diet is now available in paperback and e-book.

The Diabetes Diet by Dr Katharine Morrison and Emma Baird explores what people affected with type one diabetes and type two diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity need to do to get mastery over their blood sugar control, metabolism and weight.

The scientific reasoning behind the low carbohydrate dietary approach is fully referenced and made easy by menu plans and low-carb recipes. You will be introduced to information and case studies that help you decide what level of blood sugar control, carbohydrate restriction and monitoring is most appropriate for your individual needs.

Children, adolescents, women needing contraception or planning a pregnancy, drivers, keep fit enthusiasts, and those with emotional problems or co-morbidities will find advice in this book for them. We also help those new to exercise fit it into their lives.

In the Diabetes Diet, doctors, nurses and dieticians will learn about the dietary approach endorsed by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the Nutrition and Metabolism Society but which is not yet taught in most NHS diabetes clinics or by the American Diabetes Association.

The complexities of insulin management for optimal insulin to meal matching is covered in depth and other medications used in diabetes are discussed. Many people think that a sensible and scientifically accurate approach to blood sugar management is long overdue for diabetics including Ron Raab, ex vice president of the International Diabetes Federation, who has contributed his story about how this way of eating and low-carb recipes have helped him manage diabetes in this book.

This book can help those with type 1 diabetes AND type 2 diabetes. It won’t cure diabetes, but it will make living with the condition so much easier.

Diabetes Resolutions for 2018

diabetes dietHave you made yourself big promises this year? It’s tempting to say, “Well, 2018 is THE year I eat low-carb ALL THE TIME and achieve near-normal HbA1c results every time I get my levels checked…”

I decided on some small goals this year. And when I’m finished, it’s your job to add your own super small goal to the comments – the more modest and dafter the better! As any goal-setter knows, wee ones are achievable and sustainable.

  1. Change the needle on my blood lancer more frequently. There is a video on YouTube where a young type 1 confesses to changing hers infrequently. I’m the same. (Blushes deep red – like, weeks can go by…)
  2. Inject mindfully. When you’ve had diabetes for 35 years, you do injections automatically to some extent. I won’t be the only person who sits down to a meal and can’t remember if the medication has been taken or not. Pump users don’t get this, as their device will tell them. You can also get pens that tell you too. In the meantime, FULL ATTENTION INJECTIONS only*.
  3. Stop going on about my steps. See my earlier post on this. Is there anything duller than the step bore?
  4. Tell people in the gym I have diabetes. Ahem, I don’t bother ‘fessing up when the instructors ask if anyone has anything wrong with them as I hate drawing attention to myself. But it’s irresponsible of me.
  5. Stop reading articles about the ‘potential’ cure for diabetes. Whatever stage this is at, it’s a long way off. I’ll pay attention when it’s the headline article on BBC News at Ten.
  6. Book in for a pedicure. Tenuous, I know, but we diabetics are supposed to take extra care of our feet so an hour of having them rubbed, descaled and anointed with unctuous cream counts, right?
  7. Stop thinking having diabetes makes people fabulous. My example here is James Norton. Before November 2017 I was already in love with James. Then, I found out he’s a type 1 diabetic and my heart imploded. Oh sod it, that’s not a resolution. Clearly, diabetes makes you AMAZING.
  8. Turn down s**t I don’t want to do and use the diabetic excuse. I’ve had 35 years of not using it, so it’s about time I took advantage.


*I joke about this, but there’s a serious side of course. Inject yourself twice accidentally, and you’re at serious risk of hypoglycaemia.

Plant-Based – Does it Just Mean Vegan?

diabetes diet by Emma Baird
Avocado, mushrooms, bacon and salad – plant-based, hmm?

Happy New Year from all of us at the Diabetes Diet. Here’s wishing you health and happiness in 2018.

Anyone with an interest in health and fitness can’t have missed noticing the current furore around veganism. Proponents tout it as THE ethical and environmental way to eat, and it is very fashionable. Your local supermarket has probably vastly increased its vegan offerings (or the labelling of such foods anyway) and you’ll notice many restaurants and take-away chains have jumped on the bandwagon too.

There are even those who argue a vegan diet is helpful for diabetes, such as Dr Neal Barnard who promotes a vegan, fat-free way of eating as the way to reverse diabetes.

I don’t dispute veganism as an ethical choice. As far as environmental factors go, you could point out that wide-spread veganism would increase the production of mono-crops, a process that depletes the soil and cause issues. The recent over-consumption of coconut oil and avocados in the west has caused enormous problems in their countries of origin.

Health Benefits

When it comes to health, the bonuses of veganism often occur because people shift from a diet of highly processed foods and little fruit and veg to a way of eating that is plant-based. The health benefits may not come from ditching meat, fish and dairy per se, but more from vastly increasing how much fruit and veg they eat and getting rid of processed foods which are hard to find on a vegan diet*.

Let’s argue semantics here. I eat a plant-based diet. The bulk of the food on my plate is plants, nuts, some lentils and pulses and the odd wholegrain.

I just happen to eat meat, fish, eggs and dairy too. Yesterday, I ate scrambled eggs and chopped tomatoes for breakfast, an avocado, mushroom and bacon salad for lunch, and for dinner I had tomato, onion and barley stew with some haddock and steamed broccoli. I ate some peanuts for a snack.

That’s a plant-based diet, isn’t it?

Plant-based Taken to Mean Veganism

For whatever reason, plant-based is now taken to mean veganism. Perhaps someone somewhere thought plant-based sounded nicer than veganism, or they wanted distance from the term, which in the past might have had negative connotations.

Just as Dr Barnard puts forward an argument for veganism as a way of treating diabetes, so do we with low-carb eating. The global diabetes community,, runs an award-winning digital health intervention for people with type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity. It was developed using the feedback and opinions of more than 100,000 people who reported good results from low-carb. Like our approach to diabetes, the site’s website promotes lots of vegetables. Plant-based again, right?

If ethical concerns still bother you (as they do me), there are steps you can take.

  • Buy your eggs from the Farmers’ Market where they are likely to be free-range and organic.
  • Buy meat that has an RSPCA stamp on it, or again from the Farmers’ Market where animals are more likely to have been raised and slaughtered in a better way.
  • Eat dairy sparingly, and again choose organic options, preferably from local producers.
  • Investigate where your fish comes from and how it is farmed.
  • Base some of your meals around egg-free Quorn products and tofu.

Here’s to a plant-based 2018! And if you’d like to start a low-carb diet, check out our book – available in e-book and paperback on Amazon.

*Though the food industry is now doing its best to up its production of vegan junk food.

The Pulse of Life!

Diabetes and how you cope with it is an ongoing exploration. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with pulses such as lentils, and beans (kidney and butter) and even (shock, horror) whole grains such as barley.

I find their effect on my blood sugar minimal, and I love the variety they add to my diet. I was vegetarian for a long time, and lentils were a favourite food – lentil curries, patties and stews, all delicious.

Keto proponents don’t approve of lentils and beans because such diets promote extremely low carb intakes as sub 50g, but if you aim for a more moderate carbohydrate intake, such as 90-150g a day, you can easily add in pulses and beans. Remember too, that they have a high fibre content and you’ll probably be able to subtract that from the carbohydrate total when you work out how much insulin you need to cover a meal.

Apart from adding variety to my diet, I’ve also gone back to pulses and beans because of their fibre content. A lot of nutritional research these days points towards the importance of fibre, and it’s difficult to get much fibre on an extremely low-carb diet.

My body seems like the pulses and beans, and my blood sugar results confirm this. If your diet opens up and allows you more variety, this is always a good thing.

So, to celebrate here’s my recipe for hummus. Hummus is high in fibre and relatively low-carb. Used as a dip or sauce, you’ll only be adding minimal carbs to your diet.

Now, one thing I tried with this is the peeling the skins off thing. I’d read about this online, that if you want velvety-smooth hummus, you need to peel the chickpeas. U-huh. I wouldn’t do this every time as it’s possibly the most tedious job in the world, but for a special occasion, absolutely. You get beautifully smooth hummus.

Velvety-Smooth Hummus

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

·         1 x 400g tin chickpeas (save two tablespoons of the water)

·         Juice of one lemon

·         1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

·         2 heaped tablespoons tahini

·         Salt to taste

Drain the chickpeas, reserving two tablespoons of the water. Peel the skins off. The easiest way to do this is to pinch each chickpea between your thumb and finger, and it should pop out of its skin. Do this above a bowl and be prepared for a few to ping across the room.

Pop into a food processor, along with the garlic and reserved water and whizz for a minute or so. You can also use a stick blender, but this is the less messy method.

Add the lemon juice and tahini and whizz again, for a couple of minutes, so you get a smooth, creamy texture.

Add salt to taste – about ½ to one teaspoon.

Use as a dip, spread on your favourite low-carb bread. It’s also lovely spread on lamb steaks.

Total carbs – 24g, minus 11g for the fibre.



Diabetes Diet Book – Updated & Given a Make-over

We’ve been doing a little work in the background here at the Diabetes Diet. We decided to go for a print version via CreateSpace, and we’ve updated our book and uploaded it onto Kindle.

This is the new cover. What do you think?

diabetes diet
The Diabetes Diet is now on Amazon.

The Diabetes Diet explores what people affected with type one diabetes and type two diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity need to do to get mastery over their blood sugars, metabolism and weight.

The scientific reasoning behind the low carbohydrate dietary approach is fully referenced and made easy by menu plans and low-carb recipes. You will be introduced to information and case studies that help you decide what level of blood sugar control, carbohydrate restriction and monitoring is most appropriate for your individual needs.

This book can help those with type 1 diabetes AND type 2 diabetes. It won’t cure diabetes, but it will make living with the condition so much easier.

The print version is going though some final checks, but should be ready in a few weeks’ time and we’ll update you.

You can buy the Diabetes Diet on here, and here.