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Primitive man leads the way in Diabetes Nutrition

Although your doctor is unlikely to recommend you begin to eat the same diet as your primitive ancestors, a recent study at  Lund University, Sweden, suggests that this is exactly what Type 2 diabetics should be doing. This unique study into diabetes nutrition was born out of the observation that the population of the Trobriand Islands, as well as that of Papua New Guinea, have a very low incidence of diabetes.

It is thought that the reason these communities do not suffer from diabetes is that they eat a diet which is very similar to that of primitive man. Their meals include fruit, root vegetables, lean meat and fish, and various types of nut. People in Papua New Guinea and the Trobriand Islands do not have access to the dairy products and refined fats that are common in a typical western diet. 

Diabetes nutrition study compares western and ‘Palaeolithic’ diets

To discover the impact of the primitive diet on modern diabetics, a trial was set up involving two groups following specific diabetic meal plans. The first group followed a typical western diet, including what we currently belive to be good foods for diabetics such as low fat dairy products, whole grain cereals and monounsaturated fats like rapeseed oil.

The second group had a diabetic meal plan consisting of lean meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts, and omitting any kind of dairy products, fats, salt and grains. This meal plan aimed to mirror the eating habits of man during the Palaeolithic era.  

Palaeolithic diet has the best diabetic meals

The conclusions of the diabetes nutrition study showed that the group following the Palaeolithic diet experienced a reduced rise in blood sugar level after eating carbohydrates.  The first group, following a western diet, still experienced a rapid rise in blood sugar level when they ate the same form of carbohydrates.  

This is the first study of its kind into diabetes nutrition, and its findings are only in their early stages.  At the moment we still suggest you follow the established advice on the best foods for diabetics, as detailed below.

Recommended food for diabetics and general diabetes nutrition advice

Here are some tips for putting together your diabetic meal plan:

  • Saturated fats are not recommended for diabetics; monounsaturated fats such as olive oil could be used instead.  However, all oils are high in calories and should be used in moderation. Your diabetic meal plan should limit fatty foods such as processed meats, pastry, crisps, chocolate, cakes and full fat dairy products.
  • Starchy foods such as bread, pasta and rice release glucose into your blood stream slowly, and as such are great foods for diabetics.  Base your diabetic meals around these staple foods.
  • Fruit and vegetables should feature in your diabetic meal plan, but be wary of fruit juices which can increase your blood sugar level rapidly.  Fruit juices should not be used to quench thirst, but only as a supplement to water.
  • Limiting the amount of sugar in your diabetic meals will help you to control your blood sugar.  Diabetic chocolates and sweets are available for those who can’t do without, but check the fat and sugar content of these carefully.
  • As well as being aware of good foods for diabetics, you could look at changing the cooking methods you use. Frying and roasting are not recommended, and should be replaced by poaching, baking and steaming. 

Being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes does not mean you are sentenced to a boring diet.  Check out a diabetic cooking magazine for some ideas on creating inspiring diabetic meals within the recommended limits.  As long as you eat healthily and use fats, sugar and low fat dairy products in moderation, you should still be able to enjoy a varied and appetising diet.  


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