Archive for the ‘Diabetes’ Category

Ingredient spotlight: tomatoes

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

The humble tomato has been at the centre of a whirlwind of scientific activity for several years, mainly because of its high lycopene content. Lycopene, a carotenoid compound which is found in relatively few foods, gives tomatoes their deep red colour and is a potent antioxidant which can protect cells and DNA from free-radical damage. Significantly, cooked tomato products are even higher in lycopene than the raw fruit – 100g of canned tomato paste, for example, contains an astonishing 28,764mcg, which is more than any other food tested so far.


The latest research shows that the higher the levels of lycopene in the bloodstream the lower is the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, including rectal, pancreatic and ovarian. In one study eating lycopene-rich foods such as tomatoes was found to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer by up to 50 per cent, while another study showed that low levels of lycopene increased the risk of developing colorectal adenomas (a precursor for most colorectal cancers) by 230%.


Raw tomatoes are also a good source of lutein, which is important for eye health.  100g of tomatoes, which is about one small tomato, provides:


• 7.5% of our daily requirement for folate, which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering blood levels of homocysteine. (NB it also protects a developing foetus from neural tube defects such as spina bifida)

• 7% for fibre.  Diets high in fibre can prevent heart disease, as well as constipation and colon diseases such as diverticulitis and cancer

• 7% for potassium which lowers blood pressure, reducing the risk of strokes in the long term

• 32% for vitamin C a powerful antioxidant which prevents oxidation of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol – a process that enables LDL to stick to artery walls, where it can eventually cause blockages, resulting in strokes, angina and heart attacks. 


Diabetics and people with insulin resistance could benefit from eating tomatoes. They are high in chromium which is important for regulating blood sugar levels – people with type 2 diabetes, for example, have lower blood levels of chromium than those without the condition.




In the News: Eating on the run increases diabetes and heart disease risk

Monday, September 1st, 2008

A new study shows that skipping meals and eating on the go could increase your risk of fat around the middle, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.


The research from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute revealed that irregular eating has damaging effects even if a person’s diet is fairly healthy. The team studied 3,607 women and men aged 60 and tested them for signs of metabolic syndrome – a term doctors use to describe a cluster of factors that increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. The research revealed that skipping meals increases the risk of insulin resistance – an early warning sign for diabetes – by up to 60 per cent. This can damage circulation and raise the risk of heart disease. The message of all this is clear: Keep your meal and snack times regular and consistent,  sit down when you eat and take your time. 

Ingredient Spotlight: Cinnamon

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Cinnamon is a type of herb which is used as a culinary spice.  It is from the laurel family and is native to Sri Lanka and South India.  Its distinctive flavour comes from an aromatic essential oil which makes up just 0.5-1% of the spice. 


Cinnamon has been known for centuries and is even mentioned in the Bible.   The bark is used as a spice and is found in both sweet and savoury cooking as well as in drinks such as tea, cocoa and liqueurs.  In the Middle East it is often used in savoury dishes but in the States it is often combined with sugar and used on pancakes or in apple dishes. 


It has been suggested that cinnamon is helpful for a number of health problems including flatulence, heartburn, nausea, toothache and bad breath.  It is thought to have antibacterial properties and so might help with E coli and helicobacter pylori.  More recently it has had some publicity with regards to lowering cholesterol and the management of blood sugar and insulin resistance. 

One study in Diabetes Care in 2003 showed that cinnamon used on a daily basis could help to reduce glucose, total cholesterol and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.  It seems to help lower glucose levels in Type 2 diabetes as it improves the transport of glucose into the cells.  Cinnamon is also thermogenic which means that it helps to burn off fat.