Diabetes is a growing concern in South Africa and around the globe – so Woolworths is hosting dietitian-led store tours during  the week of World Diabetes Day (14 November) to help its customers understand the importance of  good nutrition in managing the symptoms of diabetes.

The tours will take place in Durban on 12 November at the Gateway shopping centre (10:00-12:00); In Johannesburg on 13 November at Cresta (09:00-11:00); and on the 14th November in Cape Town at Tygervalley (09:30-11:30),  Port Elizabeth at Greenacres (10:00-12:00) and Pretoria at Parkview (09:00-11:00).

The tours will help educate customers with diabetes (and their families) on how to make better food choices when they shop at Woolies. Says Woolworths dietitian Cindy Chin: “We receive lots of enquiries from people with diabetes about which Woolies foods are best for them. These informative store tours are very important as they give us the perfect opportunity to answer their questions, and at the same time, dispel many widely-believed myths about living with diabetes.”

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that close to 2 million South African adults, who make up 6.5% of the population, have diabetes. More recently, a national survey published in August 2013 (SANHANES-1, 2013) showed that 9.5 % of the study population has diabetes and 18.4 % is pre-diabetic. 

This is a conservative estimate, as 50%-85% of the population, particularly those living in rural areas, has not been tested and could push that statistic much higher. People with common conditions such as hypertension and obesity are at a greater risk of developing diabetes, so when it comes to preventing and managing the disease’s effects, a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition are essential.

Chin addresses some common myths about diabetes and diet:

Myth 1: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes

It’s more complex than blaming a single cause.  In Type 1 diabetes both genetics and unknown factors are thought to trigger the disease, while Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. The truth is that poor nutrition and an unhealthy diet, which can be high in both kilojoules and sugar, can cause you to become overweight, increasing your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. As part of its Good Food Journey, Woolworths strives to reduce sugar in its products. This is in line with the revised South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines for South Africa, advising that  foods and drinks containing sugar should be used sparingly, and not between meals. Therefore lowering sugar intake is recommended for everyone, including persons with diabetes.

Myth 2: Diabetics can’t eat any sugar or carbohydrate-rich foods

The current trend of “low carb” diets has many people removing almost all carbohydrates from their diets – including whole grains and high fibre grain foods. But leaving these foods out can result in your body not getting all the nutrients that people need for health. Not only do carbohydrates provide fuel for the body, but they also provide fibre and essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals to a daily diet, particularly those from whole grain and high fibre sources.

Controlled intake of all carbohydrate-rich foods is important, and these foods include starches, fruit, legumes and dairy products. It is also known that sugars obtained from fruits, vegetables and dairy products, in the correct quantities, are perfectly acceptable for diabetics. All carbohydrate is converted into glucose – sugary and starchy carbohydrate. And for optimal blood glucose regulation, the total amount of carbohydrate consumed should be controlled.

The dietary guidelines for people with diabetes are very similar to those recommended for everyone else – eating less sugar and fat, more fibre-rich, starchy foods, and more fruit and vegetables, with moderate amounts of lean meat and fish, as well as low fat dairy products.

No more than 5 % of total daily energy requirements should come  from added sugar or table sugar.

Myth 3: People with diabetes should avoid certain fruits

The belief that diabetics should avoid certain fruits, like grapes and bananas, is a common misconception. Like any other food, when consumed in appropriate portions, these fruits can be incorporated into a balanced diet and good blood sugar control can still be achieved. A variety of fruits (in moderation) are suitable food choices for people with diabetes as they are generally high in fibre, low in fat and packed with vitamins and minerals.

Myth 4: Diabetics should eat special diabetic food

Many diabetics believe that foods labelled as ‘suitable for diabetics’ are beneficial or even essential for good health, when in fact many of these products can be high in saturated fat and kilojoules and may still raise blood sugar levels. According to Chin, the key to nutrition for diabetics is to include a wide variety of foods and focus on portion size and balanced meals.







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Numbers are limited so email MTD@woolworths.co.za to book a spot. For more information on managing diabetes and for delicious diabetic-friendly recipes, visit www.woolworths.co.za/healthyliving