The Benefits of a Whole Food Diet and Diabetes

Food provides our minds and bodies with the nourishment it needs to thrive. So what we put in them is important! This article explores the concept of a whole food diet and diabetes, the benefits associated with eating this way, as well as suggestions on how you can incorporate more whole foods into your diet.

fresh fruit and vegetables

Food is such an important aspect of all our lives. Yes, we need it to survive but I know for my family it plays a really large part in creating family time, memories, enjoyment and also a lot of joy. Food can be so much more than simply the nutrition our bodies need.

However, our minds and bodies are amazing machines and as such needs amazing food and nutrition to thrive. This is where a diet rich in whole foods comes in. And this is the fundamental ethos behind Whole Hearty Kitchen.

Read more in this blog to discover more about whole foods, finding your balance and how cooking deliciously easy, hearty meals are all the essence of a Whole Hearty Kitchen.

What is a Whole Hearty Kitchen?

photo of our kitchen at home

So this is my kitchen; which I love and I spend a huge amount of time in. In fact, this really is the WHK headquarters and even now where I sit and type this blog post!

I know it may sound corny, but this space really is the heart of our home. We spend the most amount of time here, together as a family or with friends (when allowed of course!). This sacred space in our home is where I can create, practice and play. However, as lucky as I am to have this amazing area to work in, this isn’t just what a whole hearty kitchen is all about.

It isn’t about what your space looks like, the latest tools, gadgets or food fads. A Whole Hearty Kitchen is:

  • The conscious choices we make around how we eat and enjoy food
  • Finding tasty ways to provide our minds and bodies with the nourishment it needs in order to thrive.
  • Enjoying a balanced diet
  • Eating lots of whole foods

A whole food diet and diabetes management are at the core of whole hearty kitchen. And hopefully, as you read on further you will understand why.

A Whole Food Diet and Diabetes Management

The values listed above definitely evolved as we went on our journey with food since our daughter’s diabetes diagnosis. But I would say that the type 1 diabetes diagnosis has bought around a lot of positives when it comes to the food we enjoy now. It has:

  • introduced a lot more variety in the meals for my vegetarian daughter,
  • it has encouraged all of us to eat a more plant-based diet
  • increased the gluten-free choices for my husband
  • increased the family’s fibre intake
  • allowed me the opportunity to explore different ingredients and ways to create the food we enjoy
  • but also it has really helped us to better manage our daughter’s diabetes on a day-to-day basis

If you would like to read more about our diabetes and food journey then why not check out these other posts:

Moving to a Whole Hearty Kitchen

With a diabetes diagnosis, illness, or food sensitivity, one of the first things we look at is the food we eat. Unfortunately for most of us, we tend to approach this from a perspective of restriction rather than inclusion. I know I certainly did. However, I have since learnt that considering what we could be adding to our diets is a much better approach!

It is so easy to get bogged down in all the latest fads around food. We are fed an unimaginable amount of information (and disinformation) about food. What is good for us, or bad for us; the latest ways to lose weight or eat healthier; detox cleanses, low carb, Keto, no sugar, fasting and it goes on and on.

Now, I am the first to put my hand up that I have been swept along in many of the seemingly convincing arguments for better health and blood glucose management. I am only human after all. However, diabetes has taught me that excluding food groups really wasn’t the way forward for us. And in fact, it just made everyone miserable.

I have learnt that:

  • The inclusion of all food and balance in our choices is key.
  • To achieve balance, no food is off-limits but when, how, what or with, has definitely become part of our consideration.
  • To help with blood glucose management and keep HB1AC in a good range by
    • Moving to a whole food diet with a lower glycemic index
    • Using some alternatives/replacements to reduce the net carbohydrate count

Whole foods have become an essential tool in helping us to eat healthier as well as supporting our daughter’s diabetes care. These foods are the essence of Whole Hearty Kitchen and the recipes shared here.

But What is a whole food diet and how can you start to include more in your diet?

What is a whole food diet?

Whole foods are foods in their purest form. They retain their nutritious and fibrous qualities, meaning that in general they haven’t been processed in any way. So following a whole food diet is about incorporating these foods into every meal you eat.

Whole foods are:

  • Fruit and Vegetables
    • All types and varieties of
    • Fresh, frozen, canned or dried
  • Wholegrains
    • These are grains that have not had their outer husk removed.
    • Some examples are wholewheat flour, wholewheat bread and pasta, brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa, bulgar, freekeh, buckwheat
  • Nuts and Seeds
    • All types and varieties
    • In their whole form or as spreads
    • Some examples are cashew, hazelnut, almonds, walnuts, flax, poppy, hemp, sesame, sunflower, chia seed,
  • Legumes
    • These are all types of beans, lentils and peas
    • Dried, tinned or ready-prepared packets
    • Some examples are chickpeas, kidney, cannellini, pinto, black, butter beans, tofu is derived from soybean, and all varieties of lentils, peanuts and peas
  • Meat, Fish and Eggs
    • All types and varieties
what is a whole foods diet - food in a fridge

Shopping for whole foods

I know the thought of buying whole foods may lead you to say “I can’t, They are just too expensive” because typically they have been associated with higher costs. And let’s face it in today’s current climate no one has any desire to increase their food bills. However, I want to dispel that myth. Whilst yes some of the foods listed above may carry a higher price tag due to labour-intensive processing costs to get them on our shelves, i.e. some nuts, there are cheaper ways of buying whole foods so you can include a wider range of foods in your diet.

Here are some of my recommendations:

Online

There are some great websites out there that sell whole foods at a more reasonable price than you can sometimes get at the supermarket or in health food stores.

Buy Whole Foods Online is a great UK-based company who are very competitive with its pricing

Amazon have a competitive marketplace where you can find some great deal if you know what you want

Supermarkets

We are lucky to have pretty competitive pricing on our foods in the UK, but unsurprisingly Lidl and Aldi still seem to come out cheaper on some foods. They now both stock a great but still limited range of whole foods from nuts, wholegrain rice cakes, and nut butters which are all significantly cheaper than some of the named brands. It is really worth checking them out.

Both Lidl and Aldi also have a great range of fresh produce that is very competitively priced.

The Benefits of a whole food diet and diabetes management

Whole foods really are great and I genuinely can’t think of any downsides to adding more into your diet. Here is a list of the benefits of a whole food diet and diabetes management:

  • Are easy to substitute in cooking and baking.
  • Can replace sugar, processed flour, and animal fats
  • Legumes are great sauce thickeners.
  • Adding in more whole foods stretches the meals even further
  • Helps us to decrease the number of trans and saturated fat we consume. This is because whole foods are lower in these fats and higher in healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
  • Increases our dietary fibre intake as most whole foods are rich in fibre. These also help us to feel fuller for longer and manage blood sugar levels
  • Naturally increases the nutrients we are giving our minds and bodies, providing the nourishment it needs in order to thrive.

For Diabetes Management

  • Has made carb counting more accurate as I know exactly what’s in our meals.
  • Using a wider range of carb-count-free options helps to reduce the overall carb count in meals
  • A lower overall carb count helps to reduce the error rate for insulin delivery
  • have a low to medium Glycemic Index which helps with a slower and potentially lower rise in blood glucose levels

How can I include more whole foods in my diet?

Now, this is the part where making balanced choices comes in.

Don’t ditch all the processed – I still use processed ingredients and processed foods. Not only are they convenient and save time in the kitchen but, there are many off-the-shelf products which are absolutely brilliant. I just make sure I am aware of the ingredients in them and potentially the impact they can have on blood glucose levels.

Don’t try to make massive changes all in one go – Take it slowly by making small progressive changes instead. strive to achieve a balance between convenience and whole foods to create satisfying, balanced, nutritious, and above all else delicious meals.

Try replacing the processed white carbs with their whole-grain alternatives. Maybe just start with bread and slowly work up to pasta or rice. However, we have found that some of the wholegrains have different insulin requirements and may require less i.e. brown rice pasta. This process requires patience and logging of insulin given against blood glucose levels. So be ready for experimenting and perhaps have to make a few adjustments before you get the right formula.

Include lots of vegetables with every meal – try to make them the star of the show. Try cooking vegetables in different ways from boiling or steaming. Stir fry or roasting brings out lots of different flavours. Try adding stock, herbs and spices.

Check out WHK SIDE RECIPES for some extra inspiration

Try adding a legume – like a tin of beans (not baked beans) or lentils into a dish you always make like a spaghetti bolognese or chilli

Try a sugar alternative – there are lots of sugar replacements widely available which I use in my SWEET TREATS section of WHK

Whole Foods and a Whole Hearty Kitchen

Anyone can create a whole hearty kitchen. Diabetes doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating the foods you love or restrict yourself by cutting out food groups. Adding more whole foods into your diet, making some changes slowly and being open to experimenting will allow you to explore what you like and how you want to eat.

Making some small adjustments and finding your balance can have many positives and in particular, can form part of your overall diabetes care. For some, this could be quite a radical change in eating habits whereas for others it’s tweaking an already balanced diet. However, wherever you are in your food journey,  set realistic goals! You don’t want any changes that you implement to become a fad that you easily pick up and drop. This is about making more of a long-term commitment to yourself (and maybe family) that through the inclusion of whole foods and balance you can provide your mind and body with the nourishment it needs to thrive.

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