David Unwin reveals his mouth-watering recipes to help fight diabetes (2024)

By Dr David Unwin For The Daily Mail 00:45 23 Sep 2019, updated 14:11 24 Sep 2019

If youare struggling with excess weight or type 2 diabetes, this low-carb plan — part of the Mail’s Good Health for Life series — should put you back in control of your health.

Here, Dr David Unwin — the NHS GP behind the plan — explains how it works, while chef and food writer Katie Caldesi reveals some exclusive low-carb recipes.

The word ‘diet’ makes us think of denial — and hunger. But as those who switch to low-carb discover, this is far from their experience.


On Saturday, I told the story of my patient, Roy Almond, who ‘reversed’ his type 2 diabetes — or, more accurately, put it into drug-free remission (meaning he no longer needed medication) — just four months after he’d gone low-carb.

Roy, who’s 74, and his wife Pat were delighted, particularly as he’s also lost 3st. And Roy’s blood pressure readings are now better than they’ve been for years, despite coming off his blood pressure medication.

And he’s done it without going hungry — or wanting sugar. He used to have a sweet tooth, but says he’s ‘amazed’ by how little he’s hankered after cakes or biscuits.

‘The strange thing is I just don’t crave food like I used to; I’m not so hungry any more,’ he says.

How is that possible? Going low-carb boils down to giving up table sugar completely, as you might expect.

But also cutting back on starchy carbs, such as cornflakes, muesli, bread, spaghetti and crackers, because the body breaks all these down into sugar.

The starchy carbs you cut out are replaced with green vegetables, fish, meat, as well as eggs, nuts, full-fat dairy such as cream, cheese and yoghurt, and healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil or even butter. And these are very filling!

Roy is now my 66th patient who’s achieved type 2 diabetes remission using the low-carb approach.

I first told Mail readers about the incredible results that can be achieved this way earlier this year. Since then, I’ve shown that type 2 diabetes is not the only condition low-carb can help with.


In August, two eminent colleagues and I published a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that found significant numbers of my patients have not only reversed their type 2 diabetes, but they were able to come off their blood pressure medication, too.

And the message about low-carb is spreading. A set of tables I produced showing the surprising degree to which starchy carbs, such as bread, can affect blood sugar levels has been officially endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the healthcare watchdog, as a useful resource for people with type 2 diabetes.

Low-carb is something of a grass roots revolution, spread via social media thanks to those with type 2 diabetes. And in many cases, doctors are learning about the low-carb diet from their patients.

In fact, that is exactly how I first came across the approach back in 2012.

A patient amazed me by coming into the practice having lost stones in weight.

When we did her blood tests, to my astonishment they showed she’d put her type 2 diabetes into remission.

I was fascinated to learn she was part of an online community, the low-carb forum on diabetes.co.uk.

There were 40,000 people helping each other with their condition, quite outside of the NHS (there are now 308,000 in the forum).

To understand how shocked I was by this, in the previous 26 years as a GP I hadn’t come across a single case of type 2 diabetes remission. I had no idea it was even possible.


My experience was that for most people, this was a chronic, deteriorating condition and often, over time, the only answer was to add more drugs. But my patient and the low-carb forum set me thinking.

The truth was, although I advised my patients with type 2 diabetes to avoid table sugar, biscuits and sweets, I had completely forgotten that starchy carbs such as rice, potatoes, bread and breakfast cereals are all digested down into lots of sugar.

Indeed, the starch molecule is actually made up of glucose, the very sugar that people with type 2 diabetes struggle to deal with. Someone recently described this to me as ‘starch is lots of molecules of glucose holding hands’.

Before long, I had 18 patients switching to a low-carb diet — and to learn more, I went low-carb with them.

It was amazingly straightforward. As an example, instead of a curry with rice, I’d put the meat and sauce on green veg.

Still feeling guilty about never having previously mentioned it, I explored how I could explain the ‘sugariness’ of starchy foods to my patients — which is how my tables now used by NICE, came about.

They are based on the glycaemic index, which many of you will know compares the ‘sugariness’ of different foods with pure glucose.

A more sophisticated measure is the glycaemic load of the food, which looks at the ‘sugariness’ of a portion of that food and how it affects blood sugar compared with pure sugar.

For example, a banana will affect your blood sugar to the same extent as consuming 16g of pure glucose. The problem was my patients had no idea what 16g of glucose looked like.


So I came up with a new idea, and with the help of someone who really understood dietary carbohydrates and particularly sugars — Dr Geoffrey Livesey, fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine — we devised a way of showing patients, in a simple visual way, how foods affected blood sugar levels

In the case of the banana, the 16g of glucose are equivalent to 5.7 tsp of sugar. So eating a banana (or nearly 6 tsp of table sugar) is much the same in terms of what happens to your blood sugar levels.

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I remember our first calculation that revealed eating a medium-sized baked potato would affect your blood sugar to the same extent as 9 tsp of actual sugar. Even I was astonished!

We produced seven tables of foods and their effect on blood sugar levels, from fruits to cereals. Our work was published in The Journal of Insulin Resistance in 2016.

The low-carb approach is not just about weight loss and type 2 diabetes. After starting with the first 18 patients in 2013, we found unexpected improvements in liver function, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Significant numbers of my patients were able to come off their blood pressure medication.

I, too, benefited. Thanks to my low-carb diet, my previously high blood pressure of 160/90 went down to normal, 130/80.

Read tomorrow’s pullout to find out more about this effect.

Note: If you are taking medication or are worried about your health, consult your GP before embarking on a change in diet.


Focaccia with olives, tomatoes and thyme

This recipe works well with so many toppings, just use your imagination. Serve focaccia with soups, salads, fish or roast meats.

Serves 8

Per serving: Carbohydrates, 2.3g; protein, 11g; fat, 22g; fibre, 4.6g; calories, 263

For the dough

  • 75g golden flaxseed, ground
  • 50g mozzarella brine or water
  • 125g ball mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp salt For the topping
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 12 pitted black olives, halved
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 6 sprigs of thyme
  • Flaked salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6. Line a tray with baking parchment and brush with oil.

Mix the dough ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined or give it a quick whizz in a food processor.

The flaxseed will absorb the moisture and thicken it in minutes. Use one hand to gather the dough into a ball, leaving the bowl clean.

Wet your hands and flatten the dough into an oval shape on the baking tray to a thickness of just over 1 cm all over.

Toss the onions in 1 tbsp of oil in a small bowl and scatter over the focaccia. Press in the tomatoes, cut side up, and scatter over the olives, herbs, salt flakes and black pepper.

Finish with the remaining oil and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden-brown, and the onions are starting to caramelise.

Pizza quattro stagioni

Easier and quicker to make than wheat dough, this requires no rising time and the base contains a fraction of the carbohydrates of a traditional pizza.

After the pizza bases have been initially cooked, they can be cooled, wrapped and kept in the fridge for 3 days, or frozen for 3 months. Defrost before use.

Topping ideas are endless for the 4 flavours of quattro stagioni but I have given a few suggestions below.


Don’t be tempted by ready-grated mozzarella — some brands contain potato starch making it higher in carbohydrates and taking longer to melt.

Makes 2 pizzas around 24cm across.

Serves 4

Per serving (half a pizza): Carbohydrates, 4.3g; protein, 29g; fat, 48g; fibre, 9.9g; calories, 584

For the dough

  • 75g golden flaxseed, ground
  • 50g mozzarella brine or water
  • 125g ball mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

For the tomato sauce

  • 200g tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano, dried
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the toppings

  • 4 slices salami
  • 8 black or green olives, stones removed
  • 25g mushrooms
  • ¼ chilli, finely sliced
  • 125g ball mozzarella, drained
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Small handful of rocket leaves
  • 2 slices prosciutto
  • Handful basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6. Line two baking trays with baking parchment and brush them with oil.

Mix the ingredients for the dough together with a large spoon in a mixing bowl until thoroughly combined or give it a quick whizz in a food processor.

The flaxseed will absorb the moisture and thicken it in minutes. Use one hand to gather the dough into a ball leaving the bowl clean.

Divide the dough into two and place one mound of dough on each tray. Press and shape each half with wet hands into a pizza base just under 1cm deep and approximately 24cm across.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or just until the dough feels firm to the touch but hasn’t become darker.

Meanwhile, blend the ingredients together for the sauce in a mixing bowl. Remove the trays from the oven and increase the temperature to 220c. Loosen the pizzas from the tray just to make sure they will lift off the paper but leave them in place.

Top each one with half the tomato sauce leaving a finger-width border around the edge. Add the toppings you like in quarters around the pizza.


We have left one quarter plain, one topped with salami and olives, another with rocket after cooking, and the last quarter with sliced mushrooms and chilli. Tear the mozzarella over the pizzas.

Drizzle over the olive oil. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the mozzarella is bubbling and the crust becomes crisp and browned.

Top any areas you like with rocket, prosciutto and basil. Remove from the oven and serve straight away.

Cheese and Marmite seeded rolls

The Marmite flavour is subtle in these rolls and gives a background savoury warmth rather than a heavy yeasty taste.

Try them warm and spread with butter, cream cheese or peanut butter. Fibre-rich psyllium husk helps bind the dough; it is available at health food shops and online.

However, it should be a fine powder and will measure differently if still coarse; pulse in a food processor for a few minutes to break it down.

Makes 6

Per roll: Carbohydrates, 1.5g; protein, 12g; fat, 13g; fibre, 9.3g; calories, 191

  • 2 tsp Marmite
  • 150g hot water
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 3 tbsp finely ground psyllium husk powder (20g)
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • ¼ tsp fine salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin or other seeds

Heat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6. Dissolve the Marmite with the very hot water in a jug. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Add the egg and stir briefly. Add the Marmite water and quickly stir together with a large metal spoon. You can mix everything in a food processor.

The dough will look wet to begin with but the psyllium will get to work and soak up the liquid, so do leave it for about 10 minutes.

Use your hands to shape it into 6 evenly sized balls. Lay these on a greased baking tray and flatten lightly to about 7cm.


Slightly wet the tops of the rolls with your fingers and a little water then pile the cheese and seeds on the top and bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until the cheese has melted and they feel firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a metal rack. The rolls will keep for around four days in a sealed container or in a bag in the fridge.

Pumpkin soup with paneer and seeds

Serves 6

Per serving: Carbohydrates, 12g; protein, 14g; fat, 26g; fibre, 3.2g; calories, 338

  • 1 large onion, approx. 250g, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 25g salted butter
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes, to taste
  • 1.2kg pumpkin
  • 1.5l hot stock or water
  • 4 tbsp cream
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 200g paneer, in 2cm chunks
  • 40g pumpkin seeds

Fry the onion and garlic in the butter and oil in a large saucepan over a low heat until soft, which will take about 15 minutes.

Stir in the curry powder and chilli and let them cook for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, peel the pumpkin and cut into 3cm chunks.

Add the pumpkin to the pan and stir through. Add the stock and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Use a stick blender or put the soup into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

Pour the soup back into the pan and heat through. Add the cream, taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Dry-fry the cumin seeds for a minute or two until you can smell them.

Tip onto a plate then dry-fry the paneer and pumpkin seeds together with seasoning until lightly browned.

Once browned and the pumpkin seeds have split open tip them onto the plate with the seeds. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and top with the paneer and seed mix.


Caraway and walnut mountain rolls

Makes 6

Per roll: Carbohydrates, 1.8g; protein,15g; fat, 26g; fibre, 6.8g; calories, 314

  • 75g ground flaxseed
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100g walnuts, chopped
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 125g ball mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 50g mozzarella brine from the bag or water
  • 3 eggs, beaten

Heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4. Use a large metal spoon to mix the dry ingredients together; stir in mozzarella, brine and add the eggs.

Cover the dough and leave at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6, and using lightly wetted hands roll each piece into a ball.

Put them onto the baking tray and bake for 17 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack before slicing and filling.

Red Thai chicken curry soup

Taste your paste! Some red Thai curry pastes are hot, others are salty, so do test the soup and add seasoning accordingly.

It is so quick to whip up, is warming on a chilly night and it’s also good to take to work. Either use leftover cooked chicken or poach the breasts in salted boiling water for 12 to 15 minutes until cooked through and the juices are clear and not pink.

We have replaced the traditional rice noodles with konjac noodles, also known as shirataki, that are made from the konjac root and have 1.8g carbohydrates per 100g, whereas rice noodles contain 82g per 100g.

Serves 6

Per serving: Carbohydrates, 9.3g; protein, 22g; fat, 20g; fibre, 1.7g; calories, 317

  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • Thumb of ginger, grated
  • 6 tbsp red Thai curry paste
  • Juice of two limes
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 400g can coconut milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cooked chicken breasts, forked into shreds
  • 400g konjac noodles, drained weight
  • Fresh herbs to decorate such as coriander, Thai or normal basil, thinly sliced spring onions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion for around 10 minutes over a medium heat until soft, but don’t let it take any colour.


Now add the garlic and the ginger and stir through for a couple of minutes.

Stir in the curry paste and cook for around 5 minutes more. Add the lime juice, stock, coconut milk and black pepper and bring to the boil.

Taste the soup and adjust the flavours accordingly. Add the chicken and noodles and bring back to the boil. Serve straight away in warm bowls scattered with herbs and sliced spring onions.

The cooled soup will last for up to 2 days in the fridge and will reheat easily.

Mushroom soup

Serves 6

Per serving: Carbohydrates, 5.2g; protein, 3.4g; fat, 11g; fibre, 1.6g; calories, 140

  • 15g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1.5l hot water or stock
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 50g butter
  • 500g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • A handful of sage
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp double cream

Soak the porcini in half of the water. Meanwhile fry the leek and garlic in half the butter.

Add the chestnut mushrooms, some of the sage leaves, and season. Fry for 10 minutes until the water from the mushrooms has evaporated.

Add the porcini. Strain the mushroom water and pour this into the pan. Bring to the boil. Blend, then return soup to the heat.

Heat the remaining butter in a frying pan and when it begins to foam, fry the smaller sage leaves until crisp and the butter is lightly browned.

Serve with a swirl of thick cream and brown butter in each bowl, with a few sage leaves and a twist of black pepper on top.

Surprising foods that raise your blood sugar

Given the part that sugar plays in type 2 diabetes, obesity and tooth decay, it’s common sense to avoid foods that contain it. But this is not as simple as it sounds.


7 rules of low-carb

Use these simple rules to help you stick to your low-carb targets.

1. Reduce or eliminate your intake of sugar and high-carb foods. These include breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, rice, crackers, oats, cakes, sweets and sugary drinks.

2. At every meal, load up with non-starchy and salad vegetables such as kale, broccoli, or peppers to help you feel full.

3. Eat good fats. Include oily fish, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado and animal fats; they’re good for your metabolism and help you feel full.

4. Pick fruit that is low in sugar, such as berries and apples.

5. Eat some form of protein in every meal. It’s essential for all your body’s repair mechanisms.

6. Stop snacking. Fasting between meals and overnight helps improve your body’s response to insulin.

7. Drink two litres of water a day.


Firstly, there are many different types of sugar.

This is often used by manufacturers to disguise the sugar content in their products, and confuses the consumer, who may not understand that, for example, the sucrose, glucose, corn syrup, maltose and dextrose on an ingredients list are all forms of sugar (handy tip: many end in -ose).

Secondly, sugar is also ‘hidden’ in starchy carbohydrates such as rice, cereals or brown bread.

These are made of lots of glucose molecules joined together, but the process of digestion breaks these starches back down into smaller glucose molecules, which, when absorbed, put our blood sugar levels up by surprisingly large amounts.

This can be seen in the chart (right), which I’ve devised to help my patients understand how foods might affect their blood sugar levels compared to a teaspoon of sugar.


This is not the same as saying the food has this number of teaspoons of sugar, but shows you the equivalent effect on blood sugar levels.

Many people are amazed to learn that a small bowl of rice can raise your blood sugar up to the same extent as 10 tsp of table sugar, for example.

Or that 100g (about three slices) of brown bread has the impact of more than 10 tsp of sugar; and a 200ml glass of pure apple juice, 8 tsp of sugar.

That’s important information if you have type 2 diabetes or are struggling with your weight.

Note: Always consult your GP before starting a new diet plan, particularly if you are taking any prescribed medication.

Recipes by Katie Caldesi. For more low-carb recipes, see The Diabetes Weight-Loss Cookbook, by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi, published by Kyle Books at £20.

To order a copy for £16 (offer valid until October 7, 2019, p&p free), visit mailshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640.

David Unwin reveals his mouth-watering recipes to help fight diabetes (2024)


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