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Star foods for diabetes: almond, apple, baked bean, berries, broccoli, brown rice, butter bean, cabbage, cashew nut, cauliflower, chickpea, egg yolk, fructose, garlic, kale, kidney bean, lentils, lettuce, low-fat natural yoghurt, oat bran, Oats, orange, peanut, pear, pumpkin seed, rye bread, rye cracker, seafood, sesame seed, soya bean, spirulina, sunflower seed, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta

Diabetes affects around one in 50 people in the UK and as many as one in 20 in the US. It is a chronic condition caused by a deficiency of the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. Insulin plays an important role in metabolism and blood sugar balance in the body. Once your child has eaten, her body gets busy breaking down the food, digesting it and converting it into glucose, which the body can then use to refuel its cells. When the glucose has entered the bloodstream for transportation, insulin controls the amount of glucose in the blood and the rate at which it is absorbed by cells. It acts like a key to the cells: without insulin, the glucose cannot enter the cells at all and the body cannot function.

If your child has diabetes, there is a lack of insulin in the body that causes glucose to build up in the blood instead of being delivered to the cells. This leads to hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar levels), which is a dangerous condition that can lead to many complications including kidney disease, heart disease, eye disorders and nerve damage. Symptoms of diabetes include frequent urinating, frequent infections, unquenchable thirst, weight loss, fatigue, mood swings and irritability. In children, excessive bed-wetting can be another symptom.

There are two types of diabetes. Type I diabetes, also called insulin-dependant diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile onset diabetes, usually starts at an early age and is considered to be an autoimmune disorder. For reasons not yet known, the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Some experts believe that a genetic predisposition to diabetes along with an exposure to a viral infection may trigger the onset of the disease. In addition, there is some evidence that allergy to bovine serum albumin (BSA), a blood protein found in dairy products, may play a part and that this may cause the child's immune system to malfunction and attack the cells of the pancreas. Children and adults with this type of diabetes have to inject daily with insulin and monitor their blood glucose levels carefully.

Type II diabetes, which is also called non-insulin-dependant diabetes mellitus, is more common than Type I. This type of diabetes usually occurs later in life and is associated with obesity. However, obesity is becoming a major problem in children in the developed world and recent research has revealed that increasing numbers of young children are showing the early warning signs of a developing resistance to insulin as a result of being overweight or obese. This insulin resistance is believed to be an early indicator of both types of diabetes but particularly Type II, in which the body produces some insulin but the body tissues have developed a resistance to it. Type II diabetes is controlled through diet and oral insulin tablets.

The diabetes diet
Controlling blood sugar levels is of paramount importance for sufferers of both Type I and Type II diabetes. Diabetics should never miss meals nor over-eat. Eating frequent small meals is the best way to avoid wild fluctuations in blood sugar levels. A child with diabetes, like other children, should eat three meals and two snacks a day. The diet should be low in fat and high in fibre with plenty of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, beans and pulses. Fibre, especially oat bran, helps to reduce blood sugar surges. Diabetics are at a higher risk of heart disease and, as such, should avoid fatty foods such as full-fat dairy products, fatty cuts of meat, fat-laden snacks and fast food. Most protein should come from vegetable sources such as beans, pulses and grains.

Snacks should be made from fruit, wholegrain rye, oat or rice crackers with nut butters, raw vegetables and dips, and low-fat dairy products such as cottage cheese. Sweet and sugary foods along with refined foods such as white flour, white rice, white pasta and white sugar should be used sparingly and are best avoided.

Exercise also has an important part to play in diabetes control. Studies have shown that regular exercise increases insulin sensitivity and can therefore reduce the number of injections required. It also reduces cholesterol and tryglyceride (blood fat) levels and helps with weight loss in overweight diabetics.


Extracted from Immunity Foods for Healthy Kids by Lucy Burney, text 2004, published by Duncan Baird Publishers, London.


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