Eating for wellness

A new book provides dietary advice on world foods to help diabetes patients from BAME backgrounds,who are four to six times more likely to develop the condition

CREATING AWARENESS: Dr Joan St John and diabetes specialist dietitian Salma Mehar

THE TEAM behind the number one bestselling Carbs & Cals health books have created the first carb awareness guide, targeted specifically at black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

Carbs & Cals World Foods: A Visual Guide To African, Arabic, Caribbean And South Asian Foods For Diabetes Andweight Management by Salma Mehar, Dr Joan St John, Chris Cheyette and Yello Balolia is aiming to improve health outcomes, as it uses the same tried-and-tested visual method pioneered by Carbs & Cals, which has revolutionised carb counting for people with diabetes over the past 10 years.

Launched at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference earlier this year, the book brings much needed guidance to individuals from African, Arabic, Caribbean and South Asian communities, who have a four to six times higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those from white backgrounds, and can develop the condition from a much earlier age.

The resource is also intended to be a tool for healthcare professionals, who have previously had very limited information about the diets of people from BAME communities.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a number of health problems, affecting almost every organ in the body and potentially leading to heart disease, stroke, impaired vision, renal (kidney) failure and amputation of the feet due to nerve damage caused by excessively high levels of blood glucose.

In the UK, there are over half a million people from BAME communities living with diabetes, who have an increased risk of developing these complications.

With an estimated 10 per cent of the entire national healthcare budget being spent on diabetes, the epidemic is a major challenge for the government and the NHS.

However, health experts say that with carefully controlled blood glucose levels, the risks can be greatly reduced.

NUTRITION: Fruit and veg are key to a healthy diet

The book’s co-author and diabetes specialist dietitian Mehar said: “Lifestyle and dietary management is fundamental to the treatment of diabetes.

“Typical diets of BAME communities often contain up to 60 per cent carbohydrates. Helping them understand how carbs impact their blood glucose, and how to alter portion sizes and food choices, is key to taking control of their diet and diabetes.”

Its introduction covers a range of topics that are vital for understanding and managing diabetes, including explanations of blood glucose and diabetes, the amount and type of carbs (and other nutrients) to consume, glycaemic index, culturally relevant food swap ideas and a guide to weight loss.

The common language of pictures avoids misunderstandings of food names, portion sizes and the effect these have on blood sugar.

Co-author Dr St John, a GP with a special interest in diabetes, told The Voice: “The inspiration for writing this book was, and remains, the people living with diabetes that I came into contact with on a day-to-day basis, who were desperately seeking knowledge and information about the nutritional value of traditional African and Caribbean foods.

“Food is such a fundamental part of life and culture, but takes on heightened significance if you are living with, or at risk of developing diabetes, or trying to lose weight. “I believe passionately in enabling people to be able to make informed choices, and so this book is a part of that process.”

She continued: “The highly visual format that we used for this book is good for everyone, as it enables the information and messages about the nutritional value of foods to be quickly and easily identified, by either looking at the figures given for the carbohydrate, calorie or fat content or alternatively, looking at the unique blood glucose icon that we used in the book, that enables people to see the effect that the carbohydrate content of the food, or its portion size, may have on the blood glucose level.

“It is my sincere hope is that firstly, the book will provide the comprehensive information that people from Africa and the Caribbean, people from BAME communities and people who eat traditional food from Africa and the Caribbean need to access about the nutritional value of traditional foods eaten by the communities.

“Secondly, I hope that this will empower people to be able to make informed food choices about which traditional foods to eat, the portion sizes of the foods they might choose to achieve their goals, and that the book will also give ideas about possible healthier traditional foods or portion sizes.

“Finally, I hope that the book raises awareness about the foods we have highlighted, for healthcare professionals who have lacked resources to enable them to fully understand and advise on traditional foods eaten by people from Africa or the Caribbean.”

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