Watching Your Sweet Side

In the not so distant past consuming too much fat was considered the main catalyst to the decline of one's health. However, in recent years medics and researchers alike have taken a bit of a u turn and have deflected the focus off fat and are now declaring war on sugar, blaming it for a host of health problems and highlighting it's part in the current obesity crisis. In general, the over-consumption of anything will never do us any favours, but a poor diet and the over indulgence of sugar has long been the number one risk factor for developing diabetes. The most common form of diabetes is Type 2, and this develops when the body does not produce sufficient insulin to function properly. Insulin is a hormone which helps with the breakdown of sugars and carries them from the bloodstream into the cells. If continuous over consumption of sugar occurs, we put our insulin supply under severe pressure and leave ourselves at risk of developing diabetes. 

As well as regular exercise, establishing and maintaining a healthy diet can be the most beneficial way to avoid or control Type 2 diabetes. Cutting down on sugar can drastically improve our health, while also aid in encouraging a healthy weight. Even without having a major risk of developing diabetes, we all need to be aware of hidden sugars in our foods.We know that biscuits or cakes are laden down with sugars, so we can consciously choose how much of these we eat. However, it's the hidden sugar in our food which is the real problem. Many of our everyday foods, such as yogurts, breakfast cereals and sauces, are overloaded with sugar. While food products that are marketed as the 'healthy' or 'low fat' option quite often are high in sugar or salt, or both. The World Health Organisation recommends that as adults we should consume no more than 50g or 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, which for some experts is still too much. Wholesome foods are the best choice when trying to avoid excess sugars in the diet. The glycemic index (GI) was first developed to help people with diabetes choose foods that maintain a steady blood sugar level. Foods with a low glycemic index, should be prominent in all of our diets, as they release their energy slowly and help us to avoid sugar highs. Beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, oats, leafy greens, unsalted nuts and seeds, are all among these wholesome, low GI foods. Whenever possible, we should incorporate these foods into our diet. They help to maintain a consistent blood sugar and encourage fullness, which in turn can aid in steering us away from those sugar-laden foods.

Cheesy Beany Stuffed Potatoes

Beans are a great addition to the diet as they are high in fibre, high in protein and are rich in vitamins and minerals. They also happen to be the perfect choice for a low sugar diet, as they rate impressively low on the glycemic index. These stuffed potatoes are packed with flavour and are best served with a simple green salad.

4 small-medium sized sweet potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
1x400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
100g butter beans, from a tin, drained and rinsed
100g kidney beans, from a tin, drained and rinsed
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Handful of basil leaves, plus a few extra to serve
50g cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C /Gas Mark 5.
  2. Pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork. Place on baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil, once hot add the onions. Gently sauté, stirring regularly for 5 minutes. Add the yellow pepper and garlic. Stir to combine and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, balsamic, butter beans and kidney beans. Season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper. Tear in the basil. Stir to combine. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.
  5. Take the cooked potatoes from the oven. Carefully, diagonally split in half, and scoop out most of the flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork and add to the cooked bean mixture. Stir to combine.
  6. Fill the centre of the scooped out potatoes with the cooked bean and sweet potato mixture. Top with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. Return to the oven for 5-7 minutes, for the cheese to melt. Serve with a few fresh basil leaves on top.

    Excerpt from my Home Nurse column, printed in Irish Country Living, 8th October 2015.