When my clients come to me for support with their health issues there is usually more than one thing going on. Many people, whether diabetic or not, have been told by their GP that they have high cholesterol and as October is National Cholesterol Month, let's talk about it.
Cholesterol occurs naturally in the body and is essential for the building of cell walls, the production of a variety of steroid-based hormones and it helps to digest dietary fats via bile production. So some cholesterol is essential and our liver makes most of what we need. The liver packages up cholesterol into parcels, called lipoproteins, to be transported in the blood.
There are two main types of lipoproteins: Low density lipoproteins (LDL) which deliver cholesterol from the liver to the cells where it is needed and high density lipoproteins (HDL) which take cholesterol back to the liver. To help avoid the complications of cardiovascular disease, getting the balance of LDL and HDL right is key.
Avoiding cholesterol in food has been found to have very little effect on the levels in blood, instead reducing saturated fat and increasing fibre through eating lots of veg has been shown to improve cholesterol levels and the balance of LDL and HDL. Having sufficient vitamin D (everyone needs to supplement vitamin D through the winter months) and eating oily fish, nuts and seeds for omega-3 oils is also great for heart health. Because alcohol and cholesterol are both processed in the liver, keeping within the recommended limit of 14 units of alcohol a week will allow the liver to perform its cholesterol function properly.
Luckily, the way to help achieve healthy cholesterol is similar to how to manage type 2 diabetes. So you can be healthy all round!
If you could avoid dying early, losing your sight, having a stroke, heart attack or kidney failure would you want to? I’m guessing that no-one wants these things to happen to them but according to research by Diabetes UK (https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/1-10-adults-living-diabetes-2030) these complications from diabetes will be much more common in the coming years. By 2030 as many as 5.5 million people in the UK will have diabetes, with over 10 million more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and facing these devastating potential consequences.
If you want to avoid being someone who faces these risks, either now or in the future, there is plenty you can do now to help prevent them. Achieving a healthy weight for you, being active, managing stress and eating the right foods (think protein and veggies whilst reducing the cakes and fizzy drinks) can all help to reduce the risks.
If you want to know more, download my free ebook which has some fabulous information to help you or book a chat with me to see how we could work together to improve your health. It's never too early or too late to get better control of your health and reduce your risks of these consequences of diabetes: get in touch now using the button at the top of the page.
As the weather has turned more autumnal this last week I’m looking forward to having nourishing home-made soup for lunch to fill me up and keep me warm. There’s lots of lovely autumn veg to choose from to use for soup and it's a great way to get a couple of portions of veg into your day at lunchtime.
My favourite soup is this basic recipe which you can amend to suit your tastes and what is in season. Don’t forget that adding herbs and spices to your cooking increases the nutritional value as well as making them super tasty.
I make a big batch of this that keeps in the fridge for a few days (and freezes well) making easy lunches at home or taken in a flask for school or office lunches.
Dice a large onion and 2 sticks of celery and soften in a little oil. Add crushed garlic, grated ginger or chopped chilli (or all three!). Add a combination of chopped vegetables: my autumn favourites are butternut squash and sweet potato. Add barely enough boiling water or hot stock to cover the veg. Simmer for around 20 minutes or until tender.
Add a drained tin of butter beans for added protein and then whizz together with a stick blender. I like my soup to be quite thick but if you prefer a thinner soup then add a little more water/stock. You might also like to add some shredded cooked chicken to up the protein content.
Garnish with chopped herbs (coriander, parsley and chives work well), sprinkle with pumpkin seeds or swirl in some chilli oil or full fat yogurt to serve. Feel free to make it your own by varying the veg and flavourings and get some warming goodness into your lunchtime.
PS. If you are short on time, use pre-chopped veg. Most supermarket do a range of fresh and frozen pre-chopped onion, sweet potato, leeks, butternut squash, carrots, garlic etc that makes this super-speedy to prepare.
Preventing the nasty complications of type 2 diabetes is a subject really close to my heart. I couldn’t imagine losing my sight through diabetes and being unable to read, drive, cycle or make my craft projects. This is why I’m so passionate about helping people make the changes needed to avoid conditions such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic maculopathy and diabetic macular oedema which can lead to a variety of problems including blurred vision, blank patches and even permanent sight loss.
The good news is that prevention of these conditions depend on a number of factors, many of which can be controlled:
Firstly, get regular eye tests which will help detect any problems before they fully develop allowing time for treatment.
Secondly, if you smoke, give up now! Smoking increases the risk of nerve damage as well as kidney and cardiovascular diseases. It also makes it much more difficult to manage conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Thirdly, take a critical look at your diet and other lifestyle habits:
Do you eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruit a day?
Do you eat oily fish every week?
Do you minimise the amount of sugar you eat, including in drinks, cakes, biscuits?
Do you incorporate movement within your day, maybe walking, swimming or dancing?
Are you above your ideal weight, maybe you've always had a few extra pounds or maybe ‘middle age spread’ has caught up with you?
If you aren’t sure how to take these steps, I can help you find a way through the confusion and get you motivated. Let's get together for a chat to get you on track to better health and help to protect your sight for the years to come.
This week I am so pleased to be able to share my second conversation with Lynne Reedman of DUET diabetes. We talk about non-food ways of managing type 2 diabetes including stress, sleep, movement, self care and planning - things that are important for all of us whether we have diabetes or not. So make yourself comfortable and settle back to watch.
If you haven't already watched our first conversation about food and drink then you can find it here
Have a great weekend!
Organic September sees the promotion of organic food for a variety of reasons: better animal welfare, reduced carbon emissions from farming and better biodiversity to name a few. But I want to talk about the use of pesticides on the food we eat and how they can impact type 2 diabetes.
The liver is an amazing organ that processes substances such as drugs (whether prescription or recreational), alcohol and pesticides to remove them from the body. It also performs other tasks such as helping to digest fats through the production of bile and maintaining blood sugar levels by storing or releasing glucose into the blood as needed. There is research that shows that pesticides can interfere with these processes used to balance energy by the liver and can ultimately lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
So where possible try to include organic produce, which have far fewer pesticides, in your diet to give your liver a bit of a break. Going fully organic can be expensive so it can help to work out where it’s worth paying a bit more. Pesticide Action Network UK publishes a ‘Dirty Dozen' and a ‘Clean Fifteen’ which has assessed the best and worst produce for pesticide residue. In summary, pesticide residue is higher in citrus fruits and strawberries and lowest in beetroot, corn on the cob and mushrooms. Check out the list to see where to focus your shopping this Organic September. Have a tasty time.
It's time to get ready to go back to school with new uniforms, pencil cases and PE kits. But now, more so than ever, the back to school routine (or back to work or simply being out and about for that matter) should include thinking about supporting the immune system.
As discussed in a previous post (30 July) Vitamin D is crucial to the immune system. As we move towards the half of the year with less sun and shorter days we can’t rely on getting our Vitamin D from sunshine. Instead a supplement is recommended as it can be difficult for anyone to get the required amount from food alone.
Other important immune system support comes from Vitamin C which is found in vegetables and fruit, especially berries, green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale, peppers and citrus fruits. This water-soluble vitamin can be destroyed by cooking so it’s best to eat these foods raw. But if you don’t fancy them raw it's better to eat them lightly cooked than not eat them at all!
Other important nutrients include zinc and selenium. Zinc is found in red meat, shellfish, legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeas, nuts and seeds. Selenium is found in a variety of meats including chicken and turkey, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, cottage cheese and fish including tuna, sardines and salmon.
So by eating a variety of foods you can help to support your immune system (and the kids') to help avoid the usual coughs and colds as well as Covid. It won't necessarily get them to school on time though - that I will leave to you!
Getting away from it all can be a great stress buster. Whether that’s a holiday abroad, in the UK or simply losing yourself in a book or music at home you can be improving your health whilst relaxing. In fact, relaxing is one of the best things you can do for your health!
Stress is one of the things that can really throw anyone off course health-wise but especially those with diabetes because of the increase it causes to blood sugar levels. When we are stressed our body gets ready for action by releasing glucose into the blood so it is available for muscles to use to deal with the threat. This response dates back to when the threat to our ancestors was being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger - that energy release was available to either run away or fight off the threat. Today’s stresses might be different but the way your body responds is the same: an increase in blood sugar.
So, if you want to manage your diabetes you need to manage your stress. Take a walk in the countryside and get in touch with nature, read that book or have a soothing bath. Taking time to relax is a real investment in your health that you can’t afford not to do, even if it's just for a few minutes.
And on that note, I am taking some time away. When I come back in September I have the follow up conversation with Lynne Reedman of Duet Diabetes for you. We talk about lifestyle factors that affect diabetes and I can’t wait to share it with you. In the meantime you can find our first conversation, focusing on nutrition, on my 8th June blog.
Until then, take it easy!
So you might think it’s a bit odd for a nutritional therapist to be talking about cookies. But many people with type 2 diabetes see food as their enemy and struggle with what they can and can’t eat. A healthy diet for anyone, including people with type 2 diabetes, should focus on lots of colourful vegetables, high quality protein including two portions of oily fish a week, nuts, seeds, pulses and a small amount of fruit. But everyone needs a treat now and again. The secret is making that treat as kind to your body as possible so that it doesn’t upset blood sugar levels which can cause problems.
This cookie recipe is taken from The Reverse Your Diabetes Cookbook by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi. It uses dates to sweeten with nuts and seeds instead of flour. So it's gluten free as well as containing good fats and fibre from the nuts which help to fill you up - reducing that craving to eat them all in one go!
2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons very hot water
200g peanut butter (or other nut butter)
200g ground almonds
25g ground flaxseeds
2 organic eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
10g at least 70% dark chocolate chopped into 25 small pieces
25 raspberries/blackberries/cherries (pitted)
Soften the dates in the hot water and use a fork to mash to a puree. Add this to a large mixing bowl with all other ingredients (except the chocolate and raspberries) and combine.
Form into 25 walnut sized balls and place onto lined baking trays. Flatten the cookies slightly, make an indent in the top and place a small piece of chocolate topped with a berry/cherry in the indent.
Bake for 10-12 minutes in a pre-heated oven (190oC). Allow to cool on the tray and then store in an airtight container.
Vitamin D is a super important vitamin that is crucial for bone health as it works alongside calcium to strengthen bones. Without an adequate intake of vitamin D there is an increased risk of osteoporosis as we get older leading to possible fractures. Vitamin D is also used within the immune system so during these uncertain times it makes sense to keep up your intake.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which means that having some fat in your diet makes it easier to absorb - a good reason to avoid ‘low-fat’ versions of food which often have lots of sugar instead. Main food sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, and eggs. Many people struggle to meet their vitamin D needs from food, especially anyone who excludes these foods including vegans and vegetarians.
We also get vitamin D from the sun reacting with our exposed skin so during the summer in the UK this is an important source. However, if you are spending more time indoors during the pandemic, cover your skin, use a high factor sunscreen or have darker skin you might not get enough vitamin D from this source either. Which is where supplementation can come in. The UK guidelines are that all people should take 10mcg of vitamin D in the winter but also in the summer if you don’t have enough skin exposure.
Do be careful not to burn in the sun: any sun exposure without protection should be short enough to avoid your skin reddening at all.
Vitamin D is stored in your body so beware of taking large doses as this can cause problems. Vitamin D levels can be tested by your GP or by a nutritional therapist. Contact me to find your level and to receive a programme designed specifically for you to optimise your nutrient intake.