Healthy Diet for Diabetics
Article contributed by Dr Abhishek Kumar. BAMS, Diploma in Panchakarma
In Ayurveda, Diabetes mellitus is known as Madhumeha and there are two ways it manifests: excess Vata Dosha and subsequent tissue depletion (dhatukshya). This is one way diabetes develops. Obstruction of the channels (srotas) because of excess Kapha Dosha and fatty tissue (Kapha Meda Avarana) is another cause of diabetes.
Both these causes increase Vata Dosha which may manifest over time as diabetes mellitus.
What can you do? What should you eat?
A proper diet can be an effective medicine as approximately 50% of new diabetes cases can be controlled by diet alone.
Distribution of calories as per nutrients
- Carbohydrate + MUFA: 60 to 70% of total calories
- PUFA: 10%
- Proteins: 15 to 20%
- A diabetic patient should not eat a very heavy meal. Lunch should be the heaviest meal of the day, dinner the lightest.
1. Eat whole grains.
Whole grains can effectively regulate the glycemic response, increase insulin sensitivity, improve pancreatic function and increase insulin secretion. Whole wheat pasta and bread, brown rice, oatmeal, corn, millet, barley and rye are all good options. According to Ayurveda, barley (Jau) is the best grain for managing diabetes.
2. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
Regular and conscious consumption of fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables in diabetic patients can lead to improved glycemic control, reduced HbA1c and triglyceride levels, an enhanced antioxidant defence system and a decreased risk of diabetic complications.
Avoid high glycemic index fruits like watermelon, pineapple and fruit juices.
3. Cook with Spices.
Fresh, high-quality spices have beneficial physiological effects. Most spices incorporate bitter, pungent and astringent tastes because of which they balance sugar levels and improve the digestive fire – a low digestive fire can also cause diabetes.
Fenugreek seeds, garlic, turmeric, cumin seeds, ginger, onions, mustard, curry leaves, cinnamon and coriander have all been reported to possess potential anti-diabetic properties.
4. Prefer legumes.
Legumes have a low glycemic index and are high in fibre and phytochemicals. This makes them a functional food for diabetic patients. The hypoglycemic effect of beans has been reported as being similar to that of anti-diabetic drugs.
5. Enjoy nuts and seeds.
Almonds, pistachios, walnuts are commonly used with diabetics. Nuts and seeds do not have a very high glycemic index because of which they can be taken as a healthy snack.
Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are filled with good fats like omega 3 fatty acids, protein, and fibre that work together to keep blood sugar low and stave off heart disease.
6. Recommended oils and fats.
According to Ayurveda, mustard oil and cow ghee are the best. Olive, coconut, avocado, sesame and sunflower oils, and light peanut butter can also be used in moderation.
7. Avoid alcohol.
Consuming alcohol is not recommended for diabetics as alcohol is high in calories and toxic the liver.
Drink a minimum of 3 to 4 litres of water daily. Less water intake can lead to urinary tract and other infections.
Myths and facts
1. Can diabetics drink 2 to 3 cups of tea or coffee with milk and sugar every day?
No. It has been proven that milk increases insulin resistance and sugar increases blood sugar levels. Tea and coffee also cause acidity and inflammation which increases insulin resistance even more.
2. Can diabetics take rice and rice products like white rice, poha, idli, dosa?
No, they cannot. The glycemic index of the above mentioned products is high which increases blood sugar levels.
3. Can diabetics eat seasonal fruits like mango, banana, watermelon, dates?
No. These fruits have a high glycemic index. A diabetic should favour low glycemic index fruits like apple, berries, jamun, etc.
4. Is diabetes reversible?
Yes! Diabetes is a metabolic disease, so it can definitely be reversed by following a proper diet, lifestyle and Ayurvedic medicine recommendations.
5. Is walking the best exercise for diabetics?
Walking only involves a few muscles of the body. So along with walking, a diabetic should practise yoga postures and weight training. This will help a diabetic use more muscles of the body which will in turn help peripheral absorption of sugar and lymphatic circulation.