Diabetes is Australia’s fastest growing chronic health problem and accounts for 10% of all deaths in Australia. In 2008, total number of Australians with diagnosed diabetes was 1.015 million people, but it is thought to affect far more with 1 in every 5 people with diabetes undiagnosed.
There is strong epidemiological evidence from around the world to suggest that eating a variety of whole grain foods is beneficial in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes – this relationship is a consistent conclusion in systematic reviews. Whole grain and high fibre foods are ideal carbohydrate foods to help manage or reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Good quality carbohydrates for improved blood glucose control
Carbohydrate is an important energy source for our body. When we eat carbohydrate foods our blood glucose levels rise depending on the amount of carbohydrate we eat, the type of carbohydrate foods we choose and our body’s ability to control blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes develops when our body is no longer able to control blood glucose levels within the normal range. So it’s very important for people to manage diabetes or reduce their risk of developing diabetes by choosing good quality carbohydrate foods, eating regular meals and spreading carbohydrate foods out evenly during the day. Good quality carbohydrates include whole grains and high fibre grain foods, including breads, breakfast cereals, pasta, rice and crispbreads, provide essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and protective components like fibres and phytonutrients (i.e. antioxidants).
Have you heard of Glycemic Index (GI)?
Low GI carbohydrate foods help to improve blood glucose control as these foods are absorbed more slowly than high GI foods and so cause smaller rises in blood glucose levels overtime. While low GI is useful when choosing carbohydrate foods it is not necessary to eat ONLY low GI foods. To lower the overall GI of your diet aim to eat at least one low GI carbohydrate-containing food at each meal and base your snacks on low GI foods. For example, eating your breakfast cereal with low GI foods like milk, yoghurt, bran or fruit helps to lower the overall GI of the breakfast. Choosing whole grains, high fibre grain foods and legumes more often also helps to lower the overall GI of your diet. When considering the GI of foods it’s also important to ensure the foods you choose are low in saturated fat, low to moderate in sodium and high in fibre.
A word on refined grains
Make at least half your grain foods whole grain or high fibre, but you can still include white rice, pasta, lower fibre breakfast cereals or white bread once a day as part of a balanced diet.12 Choosing appropriate portions is important where possible (see meal tips and swap it ideas as a guide) and make your refined grain food choices low GI such as, low GI rice, basmati rice, sourdough bread or pasta.
Managing blood glucose levels
- Enjoy grain foods 3 – 4 times each day, choosing at least half as whole grain and high fibre grain foods.
- Aim to eat legumes at least 2 – 3 times each week.
- Aim to eat at least one low GI carbohydrate food at meals and base your snacks on low GI foods.
- Eat according to your energy needs and enjoy foods from each of the key food groups including a variety of grain foods, legumes, vegetables, fruits, reduced fat dairy, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.
- Maintain a regular portion-controlled eating pattern while spreading your carbohydrate intake out over the day.
To download our factsheet on diabetes, click here.