Sugar Balance & Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the hormone insulin, created in the pancreas does not work as it’s naturally supposed to because blood glucose (sugar) levels in the blood keep rising, which in turn releases more insulin. This can eventually tire the pancreas out, meaning the body makes less and less insulin. This causes even higher blood sugar levels resulting in the need for medication. Pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes is reversible however using diet and lifestyle changes.


When we eat, the body breaks down carbohydrate from food and drink and turns it into glucose (energy). The insulin released from the pancreas allows the glucose in the blood to enter cells to fuel our bodies.

The maximum recommended daily amount of sugar (absorbed from food) for adults is 30g – which works out at just seven teaspoons a day. A tablespoon of ketchup contains around one teaspoon of sugar, a chocolate biscuit has up to two, and a small serving of baked beans almost three. A 175ml serving of wine will contain between one and two teaspoons of sugar.

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in our bodies either quickly or slowly. Fast releasing carbohydrates will give an instant surge of energy, above what it should be. This is commonly known as a ‘sugar spike’. Your body reacts by rapidly bringing it back down to lower than it should be, known as an energy dip or slump. This is often experienced after a meal or sugary drink has been consumed.

When your body has this ‘slump’, your body reacts by telling you it needs more energy (it releases cortisol the stress hormone) bringing on sugar cravings. Often this is illustrated in our choices for morning and afternoon snacks and drinks and how caffeine becomes part of the problem as to increase energy levels, tea, coffee and caffeinated soft drinks are consumed throughout the day.

This sessaw of hormone release within the body, together with the sugary and caffeinated foods can cause headaches, tiredness, cravings, weight gain, irritability, poor concentration and brain fog – all the symptoms recognised in Type 2 diabetes.



Generally processed, white and yellow fried, breaded & battered foods. A lot of these foods have hidden sugars in them as they are not normally associated with typical confectionary
COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES (sugar balance) We should get most of our energy from complex carbohydrates. They are often high in fibre. Fibre helps to slow the ‘fast’ reaction of glucose in the blood stream.
Also known as: simple sugars, free sugars, fast releasing carbs/sugars, high GI (means high on the Glycaemic Index). Also known as: complex sugars, slow releasing carbs/sugars, Low GI (means low on the Glycaemic Index), non-starchy fruits & veg, ‘roughage’
White bread, pasta and rice. Tea cakes, crumpets, scones, crackers – anything white & ‘bready’ Brown bread, pasta and rice. High fibre crackers like rye crackers
Natural sugars in fruit juice, honey, jams, marmalades Whole fruit
Mash potatoes, chips, crisps – when a potato has been ‘processed’ in some way New potatoes (skin helps to slow the release of carbs in the body). Potatoes are generally ‘starchy’ so moderation is needed.
Processed foods, cereals, sauces, condiments, noodles (have hidden sugars) Whole foods such as nuts, pulses, seeds, rolled oats
Savoury pastries such as sausage rolls, pies, scotch eggs etc. Sweet potatoes
Cakes, biscuits, sweets, pastries Wholegrain cereals are a better choice but still be mindful of the sugar content.
Alcohol: beer, wine
Fizzy soft drinks – ‘no sugar’ option contain non-nutritional sweeteners (chemicals) which are also not good for the body



Simple carbohydrates are often listed on nutrition labels as ‘carbohydrates (of which sugars)’. This includes added sugars and the natural sugars found in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose).

* Hidden sugar foods tend to be high in saturated fat & salt:

  • Savoury pastries such as sausage rolls + high in saturated fat
  • Processed sauces + high in salt
  • Crisps + high in saturated fat

More about Free Sugars
Sugar is found naturally in fruit, vegetables (fructose) and dairy foods (lactose).

Free sugars are also any sugars added to food or drinks which include sugars in biscuits, chocolate, flavoured yoghurts, breakfast cereals, processed foods and fizzy drinks.

Sugars in honey, syrups (such as maple, agave and golden), and unsweetened fruit juices, vegetable juices and smoothies. The sugars in these foods occur naturally but still count as free sugars. The ‘of which sugars’ figure on a label describes the total amount of sugars from all sources – plus those from milk, and those from fruit and vegetables.

Ingredient lists
They always start with the biggest ingredient first. So, if sugar or syrup is listed in the first few ingredients, the product you’re buying will contain a high proportion of sugar.

The traffic light system for ‘front of pack’ labelling, while still voluntary, has been around for a while now and is an easy way to check at a glance how healthy a food is.

The labels show how many calories are in the food or drink and they are also colour coded to show whether the food is low (green), medium (amber) or high (red) in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt.

The information on the front of the pack also tells you how the portion of the food contributes to the Reference Intake (RI) of an adult. Try to choose foods with more greens and ambers and fewer reds.

If the traffic lights aren’t available, check the ‘per 100g’ column on the ‘back of pack’ nutritional label and check the weight of the food you are buying to help you make the decision.

  • red = high (more than 22.5g of sugar per 100g or more than 27g per portion)
  • amber = medium (more than 5g but less than or equal to 22.5g of sugar per 100g)
  • green = low (less than or equal to 5g of sugar per 100g)



  • Reduced-fat foods – many actually contain more sugar as food manufactures add sugar to compensate for the altered taste and texture caused by the fat being removed. Look at the whole food label to be sure.
  • Fat free: has to have no fat, but check the ingredients list for added sugar, which are often used to replace the fat.
  • Sugar free: check the ingredients list for fats which may replace the sugar. Manufactures also add in artificial sweeteners which are non-nutritional and can cause other side effects such as headaches and can change stomach cells to actually absorb more sugar from other foods.
  • Low fat: the product has 3g or less of fat per 100g.
  • Low sugar: has less than 5g of sugar per 100g.
  • No added sugar: although no sugar is added, there may be naturally occurring sugar in the food.
  • Reduced fat or sugar: contains at least 30 per cent less fat or sugar than the standard version of the same product. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy and in some cases the lite/light version of, say, crisps, can contain the same number of calories and fat as the standard version of another brand.
  • Gluten free: These foods are often heavily processed and high in sugar. You don’t need them unless you are diagnosed to be allergic to gluten.
  • So-called healthy foods: It might be a healthy food on the complex carbohydrate list, but if it has been processed, flavoured or packaged it may have lost its’ healthful qualities. Check the ingredients list.



The body naturally slows down the production of insulin in the evening as the body prepares for sleep. Eating in the evening means that the body is less capable of processing the foods and so sugars from food and drink stay in the blood stream longer. This is also how weight is more readily gained from food and drink consumed in the evening (as the body’s metabolism has slowed down). The seesaw effect spoken about earlier carries on all through the night and the body’s natural body clock gets disrupted. At least a two-hour break period from eating to sleeping is recommended.