Can California Raisins be Superhero support for type II diabetes management?

By Rick Miller, Clinical and Sports Dietitian, Harley Street, London

Diabetes is a lifelong condition where blood glucose levels are too high and it is categorised into two ‘types’, Type 1 and Type 2. Starting with type 1, we don’t know the exact cause but the condition appears to start when the immune cells of the body attack the organ that releases a hormone to control blood glucose levels, called insulin.

We need insulin to live and without it, the glucose released from our food simply cannot get into our cells – in effect, starving them of energy. So, people with type 1 diabetes or #typeonesies, need to administer insulin from the day they are diagnosed alongside their food and drink to make sure their blood glucose levels stay stable.

People with type 2 diabetes have a different problem in that their insulin doesn’t work properly, despite still producing some from their pancreas. This causes their blood glucose levels to rise and eventually it can tire the pancreas out leading to needing insulin too. Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of diabetes, approximately 90% of people with Diabetes have type 2.

According to Diabetes UK, World Diabetes Day is celebrated on November 14th as it marks the birthday of the man who co-discovered insulin, Dr Frederick Banting. Dr Banting’s work alongside Dr Charles Best amounted to successfully extracting insulin in 1921, earned him a Nobel Prize for their work. As you can imagine, this totally revolutionised diabetes care for millions of people across the world.

Diet plays a crucial role

There are different ways to managing both types of diabetes and often there are huge amount of lifestyle changes that a person faces when they are diagnosed. However, whatever route is taken making the right food choices is a huge factor to keeping blood glucose levels stable. Eating healthier is a hallmark of improving diabetes management, eating regular meals, plenty of fruit and vegetables to boost fibre intake and eating less saturated fat, sugar and salt. Did you know that one serving of California Raisins provides a portion of your fruit for the day and 1.6g of fibre? To read more about California Raisins, fibre and their role in good health have a look at this article.

In the long term, controlling blood glucose, watching your cholesterol and other blood fats, keeping an eye on blood pressure and maintaining a healthy weight for your height helps to reduce the risk of diabetes complications, such as coronary heart disease and stroke.

The amount of carbohydrates eaten has the biggest effect on blood glucose levels and so eating the right types as well as the portion size is crucial to help manage diabetes long term. Those with diabetes who have to administer insulin or other blood glucose regulating medication will have to be mindful of carbohydrate counting; but for those not in this position, choosing better sources of carbohydrates including wholegrainspulsesfruits, vegetables and some dairy foods in line with the UK healthy eating guidelines is a good start.

Glycaemic Index

One way some people with diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, also find it useful to help to manage blood glucose is to understand glycaemic Index (GI) when choosing your carbohydrate containing foods.

The GI Scale is a measure of the blood glucose response to a foods that contain carbohydrates and dietary sugars as we digest them. The scale goes from 0 to 100 and the foods higher up the scale are those that raise blood glucose levels rapidly (GI score greater than 70).

As rule of thumb, high GI foods tend to be more refined or have added sugar. Foods such as: white rice, white bread, cakes, biscuits, sweets, sugary cereals and fizzy drinks all tend to have a very high GI. These foods may be needed for those with diabetes who experience a hypoglycaemic episode (low blood glucose readings) in an emergency; but for day to day healthier eating opting for medium and low GI foods is the way forwards.

Foods with a medium score (GI between 55-70) raise blood glucose only an average amount foods such as: ripe bananas, wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholemeal bread, traditionally dried fruit (e.g. California Raisins) and oatcakes all have a medium GI.

Finally, those on the low end of the scale (GI score less than or equal to 55) have the slowest energy release. Foods such as: sweet potatoes, beans, chickpeas and lentils, porridge, apples, berries, yoghurt, milk and nuts all have a low GI. Opting for foods on the medium to low side of the GI scale may lead to a much slower release of the sugars and help sustain blood glucose levels throughout the day.

You might have been surprised to see raisins in there, because they are naturally sweet! Yet, interestingly, raisins are unique in that they contain an equal balance of the sugars fructose and glucose. As fructose digests slowly the energy release is much more gradual. Several studies in patients with type II diabetes who opted for raisins as a snack had 16-23% lower blood glucose levels after eating them as opposed to other processed snacks (such as biscuits) and over a period of 12 weeks had a 19% lower fasting blood glucose level.

The theme for World Diabetes Day 2018 is superheroes, given the difficulty at times of managing diabetes but eating healthy is right at the heart of making the condition easier to manage. Given their moderate GI for a slower energy release and impact on blood glucose levels, fibre and vitamins, California Raisins might be the superhero addition to your diet for diabetes.

Could a serving of California raisins be a solution? By Rick Miller, Clinical and Sports Dietitian, Harley Street, London

For further details please email info@ukraisins.com


About the Author: 

Rick Miller is a registered Clinical and Sports Dietitian based in Harley Street, London.

You can find out more about Rick at www.rick-miller.co.uk