Everything you put in your body stimulates a response from various organs – and whatever you eat or drink either supports or burdens these organs.


The pancreas is particularly sensitive. Its job is to produce Insulin and regulate blood glucose in response to all your dietary choices. It functions 24 hours a day and will continue to do so – if you take care of it.

If you’ve been diagnosed as prediabetic or with Type 2 diabetes, your pancreas is usually functioning at around 60% and it will continue to deteriorate unless you take control of your diet.

But this doesn’t mean your life has to become boring. Zhan Otto, a top dietician, dispels some myths and shares her insights on the healthy way forward.

Myth 1: Diabetic meals are “different” or “special” and should only be prepared for diabetics.

Nutrition truth: not at all.

Dietary practices that result in blood glucose control and a regulated insulin response are universal and regarded as best practice nutrition for all.

How does this work?

Choosing a variety of natural, unprocessed, fibrous, freshly prepared foods such as raw and cooked vegetables, fresh fruit, seeds, nuts, legumes, whole grains and lean or low fat quality protein and dairy options, will ensure the best blood glucose and insulin response.

Meal examples:

A portion of chicken breast or thigh without skin cooked in olive oil at moderate heat accompanied by spinach, peas, carrots and herbs.

avocado and low-fat cottage cheese.

full-fat milk, crushed almonds and chopped apple with skin.

What about quantities?

Growing children and very active adults in the family may need larger portions than a diabetic person who is less active or who needs to lose weight. Individualised guidance from a registered dietitian is essential in this regard.

Myth 2: Diabetic meals are boring and non-diabetic meals always look ‘nicer’.

Nutrition Truth: Not at all.

Taste, variety, interesting meals, sufficient quantities, colour and texture can be incorporated into all meals, whether for the non-diabetic or diabetic.

Many healthy taste ingredients exist in nature. For example: herbs such as rosemary, thyme and oregano; lemon; olive oil; black pepper; wholegrain mustard; cayenne pepper; avocado; turmeric; spices such as smoked paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander, chipotle and Moroccan spice; dry roasted seeds and nuts; and low salt soya sauce. Tinned tomato products are also excellent for flavouring and colouring meals.

Meal examples:

Cocktail tomatoes, sliced avo, roasted sesame seeds, chickpeas, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Italian herbs, lite mayonnaise mixed with plain yoghurt, black pepper and provitas.

Peas, chopped onion, red peppers and served with seeded rolls, mustard, sliced beetroot, cos lettuce and snap peas.

Moroccan spice, lemon and olive oil, served with boiled baby beetroot, marinated in red wine vinegar with mint, and corn on the cob.

General advice

The vitamin, mineral, water and fibre content of natural foods all contribute to a slow release of glucose and nutrients to the bloodstream, providing a sustained sense of energy and satiety with a gentle effect on the pancreas’ function.

the following in every meal:

Real “plant foods”, such as salad and/or vegetables;

Some “good” oil, such as avocado or olive oil;

Lean protein or low-fat dairy, such as lean beef** or low-fat cottage cheese;

A small starch or higher carbohydrate option, such as chickpeas, brown rice or baby potatoes with the skins

Note: For a vegan person, the legumes (chickpeas / lentils / kidney beans / tofu) are classified as natural best protein- contributing plant foods and may be used instead of **

ALL these legumes are particularly effective in regulating blood glucose and should be included in everyone’s diet, diabetic and non-diabetic, as often as possible.

One portion of fresh fruit to snack on, or a small handful of unsalted nuts, or a glass of low-fat milk or raw veggie sticks.