We Diabetes Detectives have a strong preference for fresh, organic, made from scratch food. If we had our way, every diabetic meal would contain "nothing from a tin or a packet," and the simple fact is, it is a lot easier to control your appetite when you eat water-filled, mouthwatering foods.
That being said, the simple reality is not every meal can be plucked out of your backyard garden or bought at your local farmer's market and made from scratch at home. You might be snowed in. You might be flooded in. You might be running short of time or money. Especially since type 2 diabetics tend to be people who have real-life food insecurities, we advocate keeping a stock of food for emergencies of various kinds in your home.
The two important considerations are avoiding a chemical called BPA, and avoiding an excess of carbohydrates.
Why type 2 diabetics need to avoid BPA. BPA, or bisphenol-A, is a nearly universal contaminant of processed food. An important chemical in making shatter-proof plastics and flame-retardant fabrics, BPA is also used in the epoxy "glue" used to seal cans and in the plastics used for most food and beverage containers. The epidemic of type 2 diabetes has been following the introduction of plastic food containers around the world.
BPA disrupts the dopamine system in the brain so that eating food is more pleasurable, especially eats foods high in sugar, fat, and salt. It also makes the body less sensitive to insulin, contributing the problem of insulin resistance. It's more important for children to get foods that are free from BPA, but even if you are a diabetic senior citizen, chances are there are long-term benefits for you in eating foods that are as organic as possible, especially since you have been exposed to so much of it.
How to avoid BPA. Chances are you have been exposed to BPA for many years. It's everywhere. When Vital Foods switched to BPA-containers for tuna fish, for example, they found traces of the chemical came off their workers' gloves. Big food companies like Progresso, the American Soup Makers, and Heinz, the famous makers of ketchup, have experimented with BPA-free containers but won't tell us which products are put in them! In North America, only Eden Foods has switched to chemical-free containers.
So how can you avoid this chemical cause of diabetes?
1. Whenever possible, buy and store food in glass containers. This is especially important for acidic foods, such as orange juice and tomatoes.
2. When you have to buy food that is stored in cans and plastic jars, avoid exposing them to high heat or sunlight.
3. And be sure to take food out of any plastic container before you heat it in the microwave. If you have been steaming vegetables in the bag in which you buy them, just place them in a covered glass container with a tablespoon (15 ml) of water.
Vegetables stored ahead. If you find yourself having to eat from your pantry, you still need your 5 to 9 servings of vegetables a day. The most efficient way to store vegetables for emergency use is to dry them yourself or to buy them dried. Dehydrated vegetables, if they are dried at low heat, not only retain their vitamin and antioxidant content, they concentrate it. Veggie chips and dried fruit contain 10 to 50 times as many vitamins and antioxidants as the fresh version, and they also balance the "acidity" generated by eating high-protein foods.
For their versatility in recipes, many home cooks make a point of having lots of tomatoes on hand. Try to buy jarred tomato sauce or dried tomatoes packed in oil. And for canned veg, make sure the cans are at least stored in a cool, dark place. Have a variety of colors of vegetables on hand, dried, canned, or frozen. Don't forget pickles for flavor. Frozen veggies, as long as you don't cook them in their plastic containers, are relatively safe.
And don't forget, it's possible to can your own foods! ("Canning" involves putting heated food in a sterile glass jar and then sealing the food air-tight in the jar, which happens when the food, jar, and lid, are heated and cooled.) You need to be sure to process them properly (hot water bath or pressure cooker, a tight seal over the product that causes a "pop" while your jars are cooling), but Ball lids, the kind used in North America and much of the rest of the world, are BHA-free.
What about carb foods? Diabetics tend to get an overdose of carbohydrate from emergency or budget-stretching rations. Foods like dried beans and dried whole grains stored in glass jars are safest, and, after the purchase of the glass container, cheapest for your larder. Low-carb Wasa crispbread is tasty and long-lasting, and carbs stored in unsealed, metal cans, such as steel cut oats and crackers, are a great source of emergency food. If you eat rice, consider adding red, black, blue, or wild rice to your stores to add color, flavor, and antioxidants.
We don't recommend you stockpile sugar. We do recommend that you have a small amount of honey on hand, since it has many applications other than just as a sweetener, and we also recommend that you have several tubes of glucose tablets or gels on hand to deal with hypoglycemia. Dried fruit is good source of both quick carbohydrate, which type 2 diabetics sometimes need, and antioxidants.
Protein foods you can store ahead. If you eat meat, frozen meats are fine if you have reliable refrigeration. Dried meat and fish are also a safe option, although it's important to remember that any dried animal product will be loaded with salt. Don't overeat! Try to think beyond the tuna can when choosing your protein foods to stock ahead.
And don't forget the condiments. A variety of condiments and seasonings makes eating from your pantry much more palatable. In addition to olive, sesame, and almond oils, we recommend you have a full complement of herbs and spices as well as mustard, capers, cocoa powder, herbal teas, stevia, ketchup, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and nuts.
Protein foods you can store ahead.