Month: June 2016


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Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon

By: Ashleigh Smith

Date: May 2016


Cinnamon is one of those ingredients that has been around for centuries. It is a well-known spice that has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It is a spice that is made from the inner bark of trees called Cinnamomum. There are two main types of cinnamon; Cinnamomum zeylanicum and Cinnamon cassia. Cinnamonum cassia is the most common variety today and generally what we refer to as cinnamon. Each varietal has a different chemical composition explaining their differences in pharmacological effects. The main ingredients that give cinnamon its beneficial effects include vital oils and other derivatives, such as cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, and cinnamate. Cinnamaldehyde, is the key ingredient that gives cinnamon its flavour and smell but also its medicinal properties.


Blood glucose control & improved insulin sensitivity

This is one of the most researched benefits of cinnamon. When searching on google, there are numerous articles that state studies that show the beneficial effect of cinnamon, however if you dig a little deeper and look at research from journals and evidence based nutrition organisations, these effects are hard to prove. There has been some evidence to show that cinnamon bark extracts may be useful in the control of blood glucose, as it slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract. In a paper on Cinnamon and Health by Gruenwald et al (2010), they reviewed evidence that when cinnamon was ingested at a dose of < 1.5 g they found no statistically significant blood glucose control. However when subjects consumed 3 to 6 g, more positive effects were found.

Medagama (2015) conducted a review of clinical trials and found an improvement in glycaemic control was seen in patients who received cinnamon as the sole therapy for diabetes, those with pre-diabetes (IFG or IGT) and in those with high pre-treatment HbA1c. They also concluded that more long term studies need to be done in those as evidence is inconclusive.

Leach et al (2012) conducted a systematic review on all studies up until 2012 that assessed cinnamon intake, all species, in type 1 and type 2 diabetics. After assessing 577 participants, from 10 randomised control trials, they concluded that “there is insufficient evidence to support the use of cinnamon in type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus”. This view is supported by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and PEN (Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition). This being said, one teaspoon of cinnamon powder weighs approximately 1.5 g, so including 2 -3 tsp. of cinnamon in your diet wouldn’t be too difficult and could be used as a potential add-on therapy when managing type 2 diabetes. 1,2,4,5,8

Anti-bacterial & anti-fungal properties

Another one of cinnamon’s health benefits includes its ability to help fight various kinds of infection. It has been reported that cinnamon oils have natural antimicrobial effects against different bacteria, fungus and yeast species.1  They also found that when cinnamon oil was combined with clove oil, this effect was further enhanced.4

Antioxidant properties

When looking at the antioxidant properties of cinnamon, it was concluded in a comparative study among 26 spices, that cinnamon showed the highest antioxidant activity.1,2,9 When an extract of C. Cassia was compared to the natural antioxidant vitamin E, results in animal studies proved that cinnamon had better antioxidant properties 9 Most of the studies done on cinnamon’s antioxidant activity were done on animals but these trials show promise.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Several studies on medicinal plants and their components have indicated that cinnamon has various anti-inflammatory activities within the body.  This anti-inflammatory effect has been shown with an extract of C. Cassia.1, 4, 5

Cholesterol- and Lipid-Lowering properties

This effect was proven in one study by Khan et al (2003). They demonstrated in their study that the intake of 1, 3 or 6 g of cinnamon per day for 40 days, followed by a 20 day wash out period, reduced serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Animal studies within this field show the same reduction in total cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL levels. 1,2,11

Anticancer properties

Research in animal studies show that cinnamon may have some protective effects against cancer. It is said to act by reducing the growth of cancer cells as well as the formation of blood vessels within tumours.1,2,5 As most of this research was done in animals, it is unclear if it has the same effect in humans.

Neuroregenerative properties

It has been suggested that a compound extracted from cinnamon appears to stop the build-up of a protein called tau in the brain, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.1,2, 5,9 All of the articles on this quote the same paper, therefore more research needs to be conducted on this topic.

From the information above it seems that cinnamon is one of those superfoods that has a multitude of benefits. What is clear from all these studies is that the medicinal properties were dependent on a few factors. This included the varietal of cinnamon used, which part of the plant was used e.g. bark, leaves or buds as well as the extraction process used. The majority of the studies were conducted on animals therefore can we truly say it will have the same effect in humans. The question is, how do we know that the cinnamon we are buying from the shops has all these beneficial properties and compounds that were extracted and found to be beneficial. This being said there is no harm in adding a few teaspoons of cinnamon every day? Health benefits or not, cinnamon tastes delicious and is a great way to flavour your food without adding sugar or salt.

FUTURELIFE® Smart Oats is available in four flavours of which one is Apple Cinnamon. You could also add some cinnamon to a delicious FUTURELIFE® smoothie such as the Apple Crunch Smoothie seen below, which can be found on the FUTURELIFE® website. Visit to see more.



½ cup skim milk
½ cup low fat vanilla yoghurt
1 small apple, peeled, core removed and chopped
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Cinnamon to taste
40g (3 heaped tablespoons) Original flavour FUTURELIFE® Crunch


Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend together on full power until smooth. Serve and enjoy.


Serves 1 – meal
Serves 2 – snack



  1. Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant
  3. Leech –;jsessionid=AEEE7F7D451ABA170D1B330D0BC61A58.d02t04. Accessed 29 September 2015.
  4. Health benefits of herbs and spices: the past, the present, the future
  5. Cinnamon and Health
  7. Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes
  8. The glycaemic outcomes of Cinnamon, a review of the experimental evidence and clinical trials.
  9. Antioxidant activity of Cinnamomum cassia.
  10. Cinnamon extract inhibits tau aggregation associated with Alzheimer’s disease in vitro
  11. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes

Reading food labels

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Reading labels 101

By: Ashleigh Smith

Date: 15th December 2015

I don’t know about you but before I learnt how to read labels I would stand in the shop with one product in each hand trying to decipher the tiny letters and numbers written on the back or side. Food labels can sometimes be misleading with health claims, flashy packaging or confusing messages leaving you very confused as to if it’s classified as a healthy option. On the other hand, food labels can provide you with a great deal of information about that product and once you know how to read them you will feel so empowered.

Key points to look at:

  • Ingredients list
  • Typical Nutritional Information
  • Energy
  • Carbs
  • Fat
  • Salt

There are a few things you should look for on a food label, the first is the Ingredients list. This gives you an idea of what is in the product.  The first few ingredients listed makes up the largest portion of the food. Therefore if you look at our FUTURELIFE® HIGH ENERGY Smart Food you will see the first ingredient is Smart Maize TM Whole maize flour. Be weary of products where one of the first ingredients listed is sugar or something different to what the product is saying it is.

Now we go to the actual table, this is known as the Typical Nutritional Information. This is where the quantities of nutrients found in that food are listed and often where people start to get confused. The nutritional information is usually listed in 2 columns; the first is the quantities of nutrients per 100g or per 100ml (liquid) as well as per serving size, this is usually stipulated by manufacturers. Some products might only have the nutritional value listed per 100 g (or 100 ml) and not per serving size. This is when it can get tricky; you will have to determine the nutritional value by calculating it according to the weight of the product. For example if you are looking at one of our FUTURELIFE® High Protein Smartbars, which weighs 50g, to work out the nutritional per serving you will have to divide the per 100g value in half. At FUTURELIFE® we have made it simple for you, all our products are listed per 100g (or per 100ml) as well as per serving. Most products that are sold in South Africa contain both per 100 g and serving information and those who don’t will be obliged to as part of the new labelling laws.

The first nutrient listed is Energy and in South Africa it is usually listed in kilojoules (kJ). However in certain products, usually from overseas, energy is also listed in calories (cal) or even kilocalories (kcal), this can become quite confusing. The abbreviations ‘cal’ and ‘kCal’ actually have different scientific meanings but food manufacturers often use them interchangeably, therefore 70kCal or 70cal is the same and represents 70 calories. If you come across a product that is in calories, it can be converted to kJ using this easy calculation. 1 kJ is equal to 4.2kCal, therefore 500kJ converted to calories is 119 calories (500 kJ / 4.2) and to go from calories to kJ you multiply by 4.2 (119 kCal / cal x 4.2 = 500 kJ).  Now that we have an energy value what does it mean? Energy values for meals should be around 300kCal /1260 kJ to 500 kCal / 2100 kJ calories depending on your gender, exercise level and health goals.

The next nutrient to look at is Carbohydrates and it is listed in the label as ‘Glycaemic carbohydrate’. This is the total carbohydrates that your body uses for energy and includes sugar. The total sugar value listed under glycaemic carbohydrate is added sugar (sucrose) as well as naturally occurring sugars in the form of lactose (milk sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) etc. There are numerous names for sugar such as Sucrose, Agave nectar, Caramel, Coconut sugar, Molasses sugar, Honey and the list goes on. Sugars that occur naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and carbohydrates that are high in fibre are okay. It’s the sugars that are removed from their original source and added to foods that you need to be weary of. A small amount of added sugar (less than 10 % of Total Energy or about 6 teaspoons per day) can form part of a healthy balanced lifestyle especially in those who exercise. Sugar is often added to many of our foods such as pasta sauces, condiments, yoghurt, confectionary and drinks etc. therefore the total number of tsp can be reached very quickly. That’s not even counting the sugar added to your tea or coffee. An easy way to quantify the sugar content in a food product is to calculate the number of teaspoons keeping in mind that there is 5 g of sugar in 1 tsp. of sugar. Let’s do an example; FUTURELIFE® Smart Drink has a total sugar content of 10.4 g (mostly naturally occurring from milk) per 250ml, therefore

10.4g / 5 g = 2.08 therefore

2 teaspoons of sugar.


To further classify the sugar content of your food (per 100g or 100ml), you can use the table below


(per 100g)


(Healthier option)


(Eat most of the time)


(Eat occasionally)

Sugar 5 g or less 5.1 – 15g More than 15 g

You also need to look at the portion size you are eating at one time as well as if you are eating it with other foods rich in fibre and protein, as this will slow digestion and absorption into the body. Any product that contains more than 6g of fibre per 100g is classified as ‘high in fibre’.

The next nutrient is another controversial nutrient… Fat. The fat content is broken down into total fat, saturated fat, unsaturated fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat) and trans fat. Choose food with labels that show a higher unsaturated fat content rather than saturated or trans fats content. Look out for the words such as ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil’ in the ingredients list as this is another phrase for trans fat. The total fat and saturated fat content of your food product (per 100g) can be rated according to the table below.

It is important to remember that all fats are still high in energy so they should be eaten sparingly.


(per 100g)


(Healthier option)


(Most of the time)


(Eat occasionally)

Total Fat 3 g or less 3.1 – 20 g More than 20 g
Saturated fat 1.5 g or less 1.6 – 5 g More than 5g



(per 100g)


(Eat more often)


(Eat sometimes )


(Avoid or Limit)

Sodium 120mg or less

(300 g Table Salt)

120 – 600 mg More than 600mg

(1.5 g Table salt)

Another nutrient to watch out for is sodium which is listed on the food label as total sodium. Look on the ingredient list for the words ‘salt’ or any ingredient that contains the word ‘sodium’ e.g. MSG, baking soda or baking powder. Other words that describe salty foods are “salted”, “smoked” or “cured”.




The Heart and stroke foundation of South Africa (HSF) have developed a set of criteria to rate the salt content of a product. It was developed as part of their Salt Watch program to reduce the salt intake of South Africans which has been associated with high blood pressure risk.



Look out for the following accredited logos such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, GI foundation of South Africa (GIFSA), Five a day, Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and the Diabetes Association of South Africa. If the products carry any of these logos, they have met stringent guidelines to receive that accreditation and may be trusted.


Now that you have learnt how to read a food label, go to your nearest grocery store or pull out some products in your cupboard and give your new skill some practice. If you have questions chat to your dietician or Woolworths store to see if they offer label tours. For more on our FUTURELIFE® products, visit





  2. Understanding food labels.



Healthy snack ideas for people with diabetes

Healthy snacks ideas for people with Diabetes

By: Ashleigh Smith

Date: 29 January 2016


Not only should we be planning our meals to manage our blood sugar levels but snacks are also a great way to help keep your hunger at bay while adding a nutritious meal to boost energy. Snacking has become a global trend, with the grocery store shelves filling up with an ever expanding number of products. Relying on these snacks can be dangerous as they are thought to be “healthy” but often are high in sugar, calories, unhealthy fats and sodium. Being confident in reading labels and reaching for a wholesome, homemade snack ensures you prevent these rapid changes in blood glucose levels.

When planning your snack, make sure that it consists of a combination of carbohydrate, protein and fat. The snack should be made up of 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates or starchy foods and should be between 100 to 200 calories (420 – 840KJ). The number of snacks and its size is dependent on your meal plan and medication so chat to your dietitian, nurse or doctor for more information on whether you can include snacks.

Remember these top tips when planning your snacks:

  • Watch your portions and know your portion sizes beforehand. If you aren’t sure, use measuring cups and spoons!
  • Remember it’s still important to count the carbohydrates as they contribute to your overall meal plan.
  • Be mindful of unnecessary snacking in front of the computer, TV or while reading. If it falls within your snack time, stock up on healthy options. If you are just bored rather get up, walk around or drink some water or herbal tea.
  • Make sure your snacks contain whole grain carbohydrates and are low Glycaemic index (GI) as they are higher in fibre, can help to lower cholesterol and keep you fuller for longer.

I have tried to make it extremely easy for you to build your own snacks. The food options & quantities listed for each nutrient (carbohydrate, protein and fat) are equal to one exchange or portion of that nutrient.


One carbohydrate exchange (15 g of carbohydrate) is equivalent to 1 of the following foods listed below. Choose 1 to 2 of these starches depending on your meal plan and medication.

  • 2 ryevitas / whole wheat cracker breads
  • 3 provitas
  • 2 whole wheat rice cakes
  • 1 slice whole wheat, low GI, seed or rye bread
  • ½ whole wheat pita bread
  • ½ cup of fruit salad
  • 1 cup of raw vegetables
  • 1 fruit e.g. small banana, tennis ball size fruit (apple) or 2 golf ball size fruit
  • ¼ cup of muesli (get mindful of sugar in muesli)
  • 2- 3 cups of air-popped, popcorn
  • 1 lite cup a soup (be mindful of sodium content here)


1 protein exchange (7 g of protein) is equivalent to 1 of the following

  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • 30 g of cheese, chicken, meat, fish (fresh, frozen or tinned)
  • 2 canned sardines
  • ½ cup tinned pilchards
  • 1 egg
  • 30 g lean biltong
  • ¼ cup / 2 heaped dessert spoons (Dsp) of low fat cottage cheese


These foods listed below consist on a combination of nutrients

  • 1/3 cup hummus (1 protein & 1 Carbohydrate)
  • 1/3 cup baked beans (1 protein & 1 Carbohydrate)
  • 1 Dsp of peanut butter (low sugar & low salt best option) – 1 protein & 1 fat, therefore just choose a carb
  • 175 ml or ¾ cup of low fat plain yoghurt ( 1 protein & ¾ Carb & 1 fat ) – include less yoghurt & add a fruit


1 fat exchange (5 g of fat) is equivalent to 1 of the following

  • ¼ avocado
  • 2 Tbsp. of seeds
  • 5 olives
  • Small handful of nuts
  • 2 tsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. of low fat soft tub margarine
  • 2 Tbsp. lite mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 Tbsp. regular mayonnaise or dressing

Combine: Using the lists above, I have created some delicious snack combinations made up of 1 carb, 1 protein & 1 fat.

  • 2 whole wheat cracker breads & ¼ cup low fat cottage cheese & sliced tomato & ¼ avocado
  • 3 provita & peanut butter
  • 1 tennis ball size or 2 golf ball size fruit e.g. apple, orange, 2 plums
  • 175 ml of plain low fat yoghurt & 2 Tbsp. of seed or small handful of nuts
  • 100 ml of plain low fat yoghurt & chopped up fruit
  • 1/3 cup of hummus & 1/2 cup of chopped vegetable crudités (carrots, cucumber, celery, cocktail tomatoes, broccoli etc.)
  • 40 g of FUTURELIFE® ZERO or ZERO WITH OATS & 1 Tbsp. chia seeds & 3/4 cup low fat milk (2 carbs, 1 protein & 1 fat)
  • Boiled egg, sliced apple and 2 tsp. of peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp. of chia seeds, 100 ml of low fat yoghurt & ¼ cup berries / fruit
  • 2 – 3 cups of popcorn, 1 small handful of nuts & 30 g lean biltong
  • 50 g of FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Smart Food & 1 cup of low fat milk or water ( 2 carb, 2 protein & 1 fat)
  • 50 g FUTURELIFE Smart Food & 1 cup of low fat milk ( 2 Carbs, 1 protein & 1 fat)
  • FUTURELIFE® High Protein LITE Smartbar (½ carb, 1.5 proteins, ¾ – 1 fat)
  • 1 boiled egg, 5 olives and a fruit

Now make you own!! Remember 1 -2 carbs (depending on your medication & meal plan), 1 protein and 1 fat. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

For more information on our products, recipes and meal plans please visit our website at



  2. University of Cape Town, BSc (Med) (HON) Nutrition & Dietetics, 2012 Exchange list manual







Futurelife Smart Bread

Future life bread 1

FUTURELIFE® Smart Bread is here, the next best thing since sliced bread! An everyday bread to give you and your family more of the nutrients they need, you really can have your bread buttered on both sides. Available in both White and Brown bread options.

For more information on the FUTURELIFE® product
range be sure to visit us at

Recipe books available

Asian Flavors Diabetes Cookbook
Available at:

South African Cookbook for Diabetes and Insulin Resistance 1
Available at:

Suid-Afrikaanse Kookboek vir Diabetes & Insulien Weerstandigheid 1
Beskikbaar by:

Best of Eating for Sustained EnergyAvailable at:

Fast Food for Sustained Energy
Available at:

DIY Fundraising Event Spur June 2016


On Tuesday night the 21st of June 2016 we had a wonderful fundraising event at the Spur in Centurion Mall.  Children and their friends shadowed the waiters and waitresses.  Spur gave Diabetes SA Pretoria a % of their turnover for the day on Tuesday as well as during the evening.  Everyone enjoyed the evening a lot.  The children who shadowed the waiters each received a free burger and soda.  Prizes were also given out.


A very big thank you to Centurion Spur for making this evening possible.