Latest news from Big Barn and our producers.

Guest Blog from Dr Ray Winger. BigBarn member Cuisine for Me

With so much in the news about Diabetes here are some important facts and possible solutions, from expert Dr Ray Winger who has developed foods and diet solutions.

According to the latest statistics from Diabetes UK (1) about 6% of the population of UK (more than 1 in 17 people) had diabetes in 2013. They predict it will grow to 5 million by 2025. About 3.2 million people have been diagnosed and an estimated 630,000 have not been diagnosed. Your genetic background (family history), ethnicity (African, African-Caribbean, South Asian descent) can increase your risk of getting Type II diabetes. However, some aspects of our lifestyle and the choices we make can play a critical part in deciding whether, or not, you develop diabetes. It is a preventable disease.
iStock cooked meats XSmallThe most potent lifestyle risk for diabetes is considered to be our weight. The most important steps to take to address overweight issues are exercise (about an hour of moderate intensity exercise a day for 3 days a week), reduce alcohol intake, stop smoking, better blood pressure control and improve your diet. Most of these solutions focus on your own lifestyle choices, but how far can diet go in tackling the prevention of diabetes?

Firstly, calorie control is an obvious tool. Modern food processing has tended to create a culture and consumer expectation for cheap food, whether it be fast foods or food retailers. To make cheap food, processors are forced to look for cost savings and these result in more sugar, fat and water being added to many foods at the expense of protein and balanced nutrition. We tend to do more snacking and grab quick and easy meals to compensate for our busy lifestyles. The combination results in malnutrition – too many calories and too few nutrients. Our bodies search for more nutrients, so we eat more food. It is a viscous cycle.

The key to focusing on calorie control is two-fold. Firstly, increase exercise, as this is exactly what the human body needs to be able to consume sufficient calories necessary to eat the nutrients we need. Secondly, the secret is our diet, meaning all the foods we eat over a prolonged period of time. I will call this ‘food plan’ to clearly separate it from the weight-loss word (dieting). In general, going on a short-term diet may result in weight loss (often just water) but most people return to their original weight once they stop the diet. The key is to refine your normal food plan permanently, so it contains more nutrients and fewer calories. You can still have your treats (chocolate, icecream, fast food) BUT you need to have them in moderation, not as the backbone of your daily food intake. For example, a single biscuit could add between 65 and 100kcal, or a muesli bar 100-170kcal to your daily intake.

A fair deal?

A fair deal?

But calories isn’t the only thing to be worried about when trying to prevent or control diabetes. High blood pressure is a problem too – so things like salt, undesirable fats and a lack of some key nutrients (vitamins and minerals) can play a role. Now this is sounding all too hard. And to make it worse, modern food labelling does not address these issues.

We aren’t going to change our busy lifestyles or the habits of a lifetime, so how do we change our food plans so we continue to enjoy what we love to eat? Well, first off, that goal is actually possible. There’s no such thing as good food and bad food – only good food plans and bad food plans. There is nothing wrong with (most) processed foods, despite what you hear. Most food categories offer the consumer choices (different brands) and that is the key to healthy eating. Look for the better choices for you and reduce the amount and frequency of eating your indulgent treats.

How do we choose our foods from the existing food labels? Well, first off, think about what you would do IF you made this food from scratch in your kitchen. Look at the ingredient list . That is the recipe! Are they using ingredients you would use at home? Learn to recognise the commercial terminology so you don’t get tripped up by some of the additives. For example, sodium bicarbonate and potassium diphosphate combined is actually the baking powder that you would buy to bake a cake. Learn to avoid E numbers (or additives) you don’t like, but not all additives are bad and many we actually use in our cooking at home.

What's in that burger?

What’s in that burger?

The second place to look is the nutrition panel. Where you have a choice, consider choosing those options that have lowest salt, lowest sugar and lowest fat. If you love mayonnaise on your food and you eat a tablespoon in one meal, you can save 130kcal per meal by choosing the low calorie (fat) option. For diabetics, keep an eye on the sugars level. If ‘sugar’ is listed in the ingredient list, then it has been added. However, there is always sugars in foods from carbohydrates and we need them in our diet. The key about the nutrition panel is to compare one food to the next using the ‘per 100g’ column. But always consider the total amount you are going to eat via the serving size column. And do think carefully about YOUR serving size – not what the manufacturer randomly assigns. For example, the typical serving size of breakfast cereals is around 40-45g, whereas I normally consume 60-65g of cereal in the morning. One orange makes about 55ml juice, but the average glass in Europe is about 160ml (13g sugar).

What are the general nutritional needs for preventing diabetes and also controlling it once you are diagnosed? You should reduce saturated fat and trans fats, reduce salt, increase fibre, but remember that you need to eat carbohydrate and sugars regularly during the day. Both hyper- and hypo- blood sugar are bad for diabetics and a non-diabetic still requires 50-70g sugars per day. Its best these are not ‘added’ sugar (which you will find in the ingredient list), or from concentrated sources of sugars (such as fruit juices).

Studies have indicated some key micronutrients might be important, including chromium, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin D, potassium, Vitamin B3 and the antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium, polyphenols, anthocyanins and similar bioactive molecules found in some herbs and spices. There is considerable debate about the use of supplements versus obtaining nutrients naturally from the foods we eat. However, modern diets are considered to lack sufficient quantities of micronutrients – and there is conflicting scientific evidence to support the bioavailability of micronutrients from supplements. It’s an argument that will continue for some time.
Farmer's Market - Vegetables
Recent work in Denmark suggests there is a significant difference in gut microflora (the bacteria that inhabit our gastrointestinal tract) between people with obesity, diabetes and those healthy people of a normal weight. Of fundamental importance is the fact that the true causes of obesity and diabetes are not well understood. There are correlated studies, hypothetical suggestions – including the relationship between calorie intake and obesity – which are not proven and do not show cause and effect. Whatever the causes, they will be numerous and complex.

The scientific evidence relating to healthy eating are all based on food plans, not the individual foods within those plans. It’s OK to eat any individual foods, especially those that you like. But variety is crucial, moderation of the ‘treats’ (high fat, high calorie, high salt, high sugar) is critical and try your best to eat fruits and vegetables, beans and lentils and wholegrain foods where you can, primarily to maximise your fibre and nutrient intake.

So there you have it for more information on Ray’s Menu and special ready meals click here. . Diabetes: facts and stats

Cora E. Lewis, Kathleen M. McTigue, Lora E. Burke, Paul Poirier, Robert H. Eckel, Barbara V. Howard, David B. Allison, Shiriki Kumanyika and F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer (2009) Mortality, Health Outcomes, and Body Mass Index in the Overweight Range: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;119:3263-3271;

Join the BigBarn Local Food Community


Hear about seasonal food, articles about food, interesting food news in your area and offers.

(A postcode will help us give you local news)

Please check at least one option below

List *

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at [email protected]. We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please read our privacy policy. By clicking below, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

No, thank you