Did you know: India is considered as the Diabetes Capital of the World? The number is continuously growing due to the wrong lifestyle yet we are quite relaxed because it gets controlled/managed with medications. We do not get much serious about the disease unless few complications set in (eg. cardiovascular, renal, visual, or neural disorders). Diabetes prevention is what we need to focus on first.
When it comes to a Diabetic Diet, people think it’s all about avoiding table sugar and white rice. Even after avoiding this, many do not see a significant, rather no change in their blood glucose levels. Dietary management in Diabetes is much more complex than just controlling table sugar and White Rice.
Why wait till you become a victim of this? Work on ‘Diabetes prevention’ as soon as possible:
1. Be in your Ideal Body Weight Zone: Insulin is a Fat storage hormone, make every effort to lose those extra kilos in order to control the spikes in blood sugar levels. Excess belly fat causes chronic inflammation which might alter insulin’s action and cause the disease. Obesity, a high waist to hip ratio (excess abdominal fat) is directly linked to Diabetes.
2. Stress Management: Chronic stress has a direct connection again. A high amount of circulating blood Cortisol (one of the stress hormones) demands more comfort foods, increases sugar cravings. Again, we are in that vicious cycle of wrong food choices, weight gain, and lifestyle-related disorders.
Manage it well with whatever it takes: Counselling, regular exercise, reading positive books, spending time with nature, taking enough self-recovery breaks, yoga, meditation, pranayama, etc. to deal with everyday stress.
3. Regular Exercise, Recover and Repeat Most important mantra for Diabetes Prevention. Sitting for long hours, sedentary lifestyle means invitation to many diseases and not just diabetes.
4. Clean Eating: Over-consumption of processed foods, sugar-laden sweets and drinks is related to weight gain and thus related to Diabetes. Clean eating is about cooking from natural ingredients and not from processed ingredients. Stay away from highly processed and junk foods such as a packet of chips, ready to eat noodles, pizza, burgers and so on. Homemade meals with the right ingredients in the right combinations must be preferred at all times.
Diabetes Prevention is easily possible with the above tips. Implement one small change until it becomes a habit and then try a new change. The process must continue.
Is Diabetes reversible with Healthy Habits?: Yes, 100%. It’s a lifestyle-related disease, hence if we make the right lifestyle changes, we will surely experience the magic happening in our blood glucose levels.
Understand the Basics:
Glycemic Load (GL): This talks about how many grams of carbohydrates are present in the meal which affects blood glucose concentration and insulin response. Foods with GL<10 is usually considered good for Diabetes management. GL is probably more important than GI which varies due to many factors.
Glycemic Index (GI): This is about the rate at which glucose gets available to the cells. Every food has its own GI and we should mainly focus on foods or meal combinations with GI <50-55. E.g. GI of Glucose is 100, Boiled Potato is 82 and Apple is 38. Food texture, viscosity, ripeness, food processing, cooking method affects the GI too. For example, Soft rice and ripened banana would have higher GI than Basmati Rice or Raw Banana.
It is recommended to work with a qualified dietitian on a customized diabetic meal plan and learn how to get the GI index down of an overall meal. Adding ghee (or any fat), peanuts, nuts, acid (lemon/vinegar), fiber helps to reduce the Glycemic Index.
Remember the Game of Carb Portions: No matter how healthy and diabetic friendly Carbohydrate you choose with perfect GL and GI, portions are extremely important. Simply limit the consumption of carbs in your meal to control the blood glucose level efficiently.
Here is a brief list of foods to avoid with Diabetes:
1. Highly processed foods: Breakfast cereals (such as corn flakes, granola, Muesli). These easy breakfast options are usually coated with simple sugars such as honey or fructose corn syrup. You may use Rolled Oats, Puffed Rajgeera as a quick breakfast cereal option to be mixed in Cow milk along with fresh fruit and nuts.
2. Sugar-laden drinks: squashes, mock-tails, soft drinks, any flavored drinks, fruit juices.
3. Over-consumption of White Bread White Rice, White Pasta, White Suji, White Poha: Switch to unpolished rice, whole wheat or durum wheat pasta, Ragi or Jowar Suji, Red poha (which is processed from fiber rich red rice)
4. Simple Sugars: White sugar, brown sugar, honey, Jaggery, Molasses. Some of these are definitely healthy but it can spike the blood sugar level if not taken with low GI combinations or if eaten in excess. The moderate use of honey, jaggery is absolutely fine.
The list of foods to avoid with Diabetes can be elaborate but if you follow the main rules of Diabetes prevention even after you are being diagnosed with it, it shall help to manage the disease well.
Final Take-Home Practical Tips: The basics healthy eating for diabetes prevention-
1. Think Herbs: make good use of Methi seeds, Jamun powder, Unsweetened Jamun Juice, and other Indian Home remedies. Our ancestors knew much more than current modern trends and science.
2.Fewer carbs: more proteins and fiber in all the meals and snacks
3. Add variety in grains: switch to low gluten, fiber-rich Emmer wheat variety instead of Sihori, Sharbati or Lokwan, introduce millets, barley, raw banana flour as one of the carbohydrate sources. Do not stick to wheat and rice for all three meals.
4. Do not fast and do not feast: space out your meals and eat smaller portions
5. Cook with less salt: use cold-pressed oils for cooking, avoid sugar or jaggery in cooking
6. Read the Nutrition Label: many foods have hidden sugars even if the packet says no additional sugar. ‘Clean Eating’ is what we need to remind ourselves.
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