That lifestyle-related diseases have increased in India in the last few years is well known, but studies have also shown the worrying extent of it. A recent study by The Indian Council of Medical Research–India Diabetes published by Lancet revealed that 11·4% of those who participated were diabetic and 15.3% prediabetic. The study estimated that in 2021, 101 million people had diabetes, and the number with prediabetes was 136 million. Prevention of type 2 diabetes using dietary and lifestyle modification can go a long way towards a healthier population.
In light of World Diabetes Day on November 14, here's a look at dietary changes to incorporate into your everyday life. This is good not just for people with prediabetes and diabetes, but for all of us in general.
Low Fat Is A Scam
Throw out low-fat everything. There is no low-fat milk or low-fat coconut milk in nature. When the fat in milk, yogurt, paneer, cheese or coconut milk is reduced by processing, the percentage of carbohydrates goes up. Fat keeps insulin levels (non-diabetics and pre-diabetics) and blood sugar from spiking in diabetics.
Several studies have proven that saturated fats do not increase the risk of heart disease or cholesterol levels in the body. Eat full-fat yogurt. Add full-fat coconut milk to curries. Add a splash of full-fat milk to your tea or coffee. In a recent study, researchers concluded that a higher intake of dairy saturated fat was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Grain Over Flour
Choose grain over flour every single time. You may say that our great-grandparents ate rotis and other dishes made using flour. That is correct. But did you know that the flour they used did not come from a mill or a packet? It was ground at home and that kept the particle size large, the fibre intact and no further processing apart from the grinding process. The smaller the particle size of a grain or flour, the faster it gets broken down to release glucose in the bloodstream. This is not to say do not eat rotis or parathas or dosas. When we combine roti with curries, dals and vegetables, the fibre and protein in the accompaniments keep the blood sugar levels from rising quickly. So learn to pair your foods well.
Choose broken wheat over wheat flour. If you must choose flour, go with a lesser processed version where you know the fibre has not been extracted.
The same logic works for whole fruit over fruit juice.
Healthy Fats For Healthier Meals
Add good quality fats to your meals. Good quality means fats that are closest to their natural form such as ghee, butter, coconut oil, coconut milk, avocado, nuts and seeds. Fats reduce the glycemic index of your plate of food i.e. lead to a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream and therefore a more gradual release of insulin.
Fats also provide satiety making you feel satisfied and full after a meal that you don’t crave desserts or snacks immediately after the meal. The important thing to remember is that the quantity of fat is as important, if not more than the quality of fats, which people tend to obsess over.
Legume Up The Dishes
Stock up a variety of beans and lentils in your pantry. Adding legumes to basic dishes like dry sabzi, raita and rotis fortifies the dish with fibre and protein, both of which stabilize the blood sugar levels, preventing spikes. For example, chana dal in cabbage sabzi, parathas made using leftover urad dal, and cooked rajma in pav bhaji.
Do remember that the larger the size of the legume, the higher the carbohydrate content. Green moong, chana dal, matki, masoor, and urad dal will have lesser carb content as compared to chickpeas, kidney beans or large black chana.
Eat Eggs Whole
There is a very weak correlation between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Studies have shown that if you increase your dietary cholesterol by 100%, there is a 10% increase in total blood cholesterol, out of which some is good cholesterol. There is no study that proves that eating cholesterol increases blood cholesterol. On the contrary, there are several studies that prove that eating cholesterol or saturated fat does not increase blood cholesterol. It has been proven that the more refined carbohydrates in the diet, the worse the cholesterol profile.
Besides, dietary cholesterol is vital for our hormonal well-being as it is an important component used to manufacture oestrogen, testosterone, and vitamin D. If you do eat eggs, then they make a perfect breakfast or anytime meal for people with diabetes.
The order in which you eat your foods makes a powerful impact on your blood sugar. According to the Glucose Goddess method, veggies and plants first, then proteins and fat, and lastly starches and sugars, including fruits.
Starting your meal with fibre-rich veggies or salads is a great way to coat your gut lining so that the foods with more potential to increase your blood sugar lose their sting significantly.
Making simple yet impactful dietary changes can significantly contribute to a healthier and balanced lifestyle, particularly for those with prediabetes or diabetes. Embracing whole foods, incorporating healthy fats, and prioritising fibre-rich options can help stabilise blood sugar levels and promote overall well-being. By choosing natural, unprocessed options and mindful eating habits, we can take positive steps towards preventing and managing type 2 diabetes, ultimately leading to a healthier population. Remember, small changes today can lead to significant health benefits in the long run.