Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic hormonal disorder. It is caused when the hormone “insulin” produced by the pancreas starts playing truant in the body. The two major forms of diabetes are type 1(previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes) and type 2 (previously called non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus(NIDDM) or maturity-onset diabetes). Both diabetes type 1 and type 2 share one central feature- elevated blood sugar (glucose) levels due to absolute or relative insufficiencies of insulin.
Diet in combination with insulin doses or with oral hypoglycemic drugs plays a significant role in controlling diabetes. Although eating right is important, it does not mean that one has to give up sweets entirely. Being advised the diabetic diet is nothing to be afraid of. It is neither a torture nor a nightmare; it can be a pleasure as well as an innovative journey.
Diabetes also brings an additional burden of making a person prone to comorbidities and health complications like obesity, blood pressure, inflammation, eye disease, stroke risk etc. Hence, most people are put on medications and asked to make lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise.
Making dietary tweaks, although super helpful can sometimes be the most difficult to make. It is especially considered that Indian diabetic patients can face a hard time cutting out basic staples from their diet since most diabetic diets are focussed on western foods and other fad options.
But the question remains- can a good diabetic meal plan be devised out of Indian foods?
The glycaemic index or GI helps us understand the impact of a food on blood sugar levels and by how much it raises this level. A high GI food is one that raises blood sugar levels more, while those with medium or low GI does not alter the blood sugar as markedly. The reading ranges from 0 to 100. Foods that raise blood sugar rapidly are given a higher number, for example the glycaemic index of white bread is 75. Apple, on the other hand, has a GI of 28. Protein foods like Greek style yogurt has a GI of 11 and peanuts have a GI of 7. Those having diabetes can therefore choose low GI foods.
Glycemic Index Values: The GI values can be broken down into three ranges. Remember that a low GI is a food that won’t raise your blood sugar as much as a food with a medium or high GI.
Low GI: 55 or less, Medium GI: 56 to 69 and High GI: 70 to 100
For example, rice milk (a processed food without any fiber) has a high GI of 86, while brown rice (plenty of fiber) has a medium GI of 66.
People with diabetes are generally encouraged to eat food with high fibre and protein. This is because both these foods are low in GI. Research finds when people with diabetes consume high fibre foods; such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that also provide vitamins and minerals; their blood sugar and blood lipid levels can be well within control.
Protein rich foods provide energy and help in muscle repair without raising the blood sugar much meaning less requirement of insulin. Consuming dairy & plant-based protein foods along with meat & fleshy foods can help this cause.
A lot of staple Indian foods, such as chapatis and rice may be high on carbs and sugar, but it’s a big misconception that Indian foods cannot help sustain a healthy lifestyle. It’s absolutely wrong to dismiss off other foods as equally unhealthy.
If you go looking, there are a lot of superfoods that help stabilize mismanaged blood sugar levels and also garner a lot of health benefits.
For one, a healthy diet plan should include more fibre-rich foods, proteins and good quality carbs. Any foods which can easily spike up blood sugar levels, such as refined flour, processed sugar, packaged foods and fruits and vegetables rich in the glycemic index are best refrained from.
An individual suffering from uncontrolled blood sugar levels ideally needs to eat more of foods that release energy and sugar slowly, aid in easier elimination of toxins and keep inflammation at bay.
The good thing is that there are a lot of vegetarian and non-vegetarian diabetes-friendly foods which can be had.
While avoiding ‘meetha’ is definitely a good option to consider, one must also have nutritious foods which are low on sugar, especially the ones which have a low glycemic index should be included in plenty.
We have carved out a sample week-long diet plan which can help you keep your blood sugar levels.
How to start your day?
Diabetic patients should avoid having tea/coffee first thing in the morning since it can increase cortisol levels and destabilize sugar readings as well. Instead, a good option to consider would be to have a refreshing, detoxing concoction of warm water, had with basic functional foods like fenugreek seeds/ cumin/ amla, along with a handful of soaked nuts.
A lot of foods like fennel, fenugreek seeds and cumin have long been trusted on as digestive aids and also help control blood sugar levels, instead of spiking them easy. Herbal teas or soothing drinks can also be had, once in a while.
The easiest way to make a detoxifying tea for the mornings is to boil a spoonful of your functional food in water (a glass). Strain and enjoy slowly.
Breakfast: Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day and it’s important to have something that gives you good energy to carry on with the day. Skipping breakfast is not an advisable option.
If you are looking for options, there are plenty of delicacies you can try. Daliya, steel-cut oatmeal, smoothies, vegetable stuffed chapatis, or a big bowl of fresh fruits can be had.
Boiled eggs are also a good option to have. If you are a non-vegetarian, salmon or chicken breast can be had.
Instead of opting for starchy flours which can spike insulin levels, consider switching to ragi idlis/ dosas/ chillas/ wholegrain wheat bread.
However, do remember, some people can be sensitive to whole grains and develop bloating or flatulence.
Healthier options like chivda/ poha/ upma can also be had.
As for dairy sources, 1-2 glasses of milk can be easily had in a day. While most people believe milk to be naturally sweet, having moderated quantities of fortified milk (with the fat layer removed ) won’t spike your sugar level.
Do remember to opt for healthy sources of fat when you are cooking. Dairy products like cheese/ butter, which can also be often processed are best had minimally.
Mid-meal snack: If you feel hungry or feel your sugar levels dipping, have healthy snacks nearby. Simply opting for a low glycemic index food, or nuts and seeds can fill your cravings and control sugar readings.
Lunch: For the afternoon, ensure that you have your meals on time and do not delay it. A good plate should include a big serving of nutritious veggies (which would be rich in micronutrients, fiber and ideally, low on calories), along with a serving of daal. Most pulses and legumes which we have on an everyday basis are low on the glycemic index and packed with nutrients. Some daals like mung dal are in fact, a rich source of protein too.
Non-vegetarians can also opt for steamed/grilled meats or seafood as well. A bowl of curd/ raita or a glass of buttermilk can also be had regularly. Just be careful to not add additional sugar to it.
If you are a chapati eater, a healthy switch to make is to replace regular wheat rotis with nutritious ones. Ragi, barley, jowar rotis taste yummy and fill you up with nutrition. 1-2 chapatis are good to be had. Just ensure that the serving size of veggies/dal is slightly higher.
As for rice, there’s another myth we need to clear. Diabetic patients need not completely stop eating white rice. You can consider moderating your quantities or switch to options like brown rice or quinoa, which again, are packed with nutritive properties and do not spike blood sugar levels.
Mid-meal snack: In the evening time, roasted chana/ bajra chivda/ yoghurt/ or simply a bowl of fruits make for a good evening snack. Stay away from processed variants like chips, namkeens or biscuits which can often contain hidden sources of sugar and unhealthy fats.
Tea/coffee can be had through the day, made in low-fat milk. Try having them without sugar and instead, add in additional spices. Jaggery or gud is also a healthy alternative to sugar, but weighs slightly higher on the calorie count, and best consumed in low quantities.
The number of caffeinated drinks in a day shouldn’t exceed 2-3 in a day.
Dinner: The last meal for the day should be ideally had 2-3 hours before dinner. Some people also prefer having something low-carb and filling. Low-fat options like grilled paneer/ tofu/ chicken/fish or soya dishes can also be had.
For dinnertime, there are plenty of options to consider. If you want, you can keep your dinners similar to lunch or go for something easier and filling, such as soup or salad bowls.