Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disorder that brings the life-long burden of diet and medicinal management. It is the most common diabetes type, leading to increase glucose levels in our blood. The primary energy source in our body is blood glucose, which helps cells and organs to function. Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, facilitates glucose entry into our body cells to be used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, our body doesn’t produce enough insulin or use insulin well, which leads to excess blood glucose levels.
World Health Organization (WHO) statistics show that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) caused 74% of deaths worldwide in 2019, with diabetes accounting for 1.6 million mortalities, making it among the ten leading causes of death globally. India has become the world’s diabetic capital by continuously increasing diabetic patients, with its diabetic population expected to reach 69.9 million by 2025 and 80 million by 2030. According to researchers, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is high in south Asia, like China and India.
Why are Indians more susceptible to type 2 diabetes?
We Indians are more prone to developing type2 diabetes because of a stronger genetic predisposition and a higher chance of insulin resistance. Lifestyle changes, increased fat due to less physical activity, and high-fat or sugary foods contribute to diabetes development.
According to Raji Jayadev, an accredited practicing dietician, compared to Caucasians, Indians living in Australia have a high prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Many experts stated that migrants with a genetic predisposition for type 2 diabetes have higher chances of developing early diabetes due to less time for self-care, consuming calorie-rich processed food, and not eating fruits and vegetables.
How can an Indian diet plan help control type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a life-long problem and poses an extra burden of making people susceptible to various other health complications, such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, eye disease, kidneys problem, nerve-related disorders, and stroke risk. Although Indian foods like rice and chapattis are high in carbs and sugar, other Indian superfoods can help stabilize irregular blood sugar levels. There are lots of delicious Indian food items and spices that can improve blood sugar levels and help maintain them, such as:
- Avoid caffeine as your first drink: Many Indians have a habit of drinking tea or coffee as their first drink, which is a bad habit. They can destabilize blood sugar levels. Therefore instead of tea or coffee, consume detoxifying drinks containing fenugreek seeds, cumin, fennels, or amla with a handful of soaked nuts.
- Avoid extra fats in your diet: many traditional Indian recipes contain cream and fat-containing butter to enhance their tastes. Instead of them, cook food in monounsaturated fats, such as peanut oil and olive oil. You should also include fat-free dairy products in your diet.
- Focus on enhancing the nutrient value of staple: Indians mainly consume chapatti and rice as their main course, which has a high glycemic index. Therefore, addressing them can reduce sudden spikes in blood glucose levels after consumption.
Consume brown rice instead of white rice, as they have a low glycemic index. Add various vegetables, seeds, and nuts to rice to increase fiber contents and nutritional value of food and control sudden blood sugar spikes after meal intake.
Similarly, instead of regular wheat flour, use wholemeal flour containing barley, ragi, and jowar content. These nutrient-rich wholegrain flours make you feel fuller for a longer time and prevent the sudden rise of blood sugar levels after a meal.
You can also have healthy food options, such as poha, upma, quinoa, idli, dosa, chillas, wholegrain wheat bread, boiled eggs, oatmeal, steamed or grilled lean meat, and seafood in your diet.
Consume low-fat milk, fruits, roasted chana, roasted tofu, soups, and salads as snacks instead of chips, namkeen, fried items, or sugary products.
- Add plenty of vegetables and lentils to your diet: You should eat your meal on time. As Indian food is incomplete without daal, ensure you regularly have a bowl full of legumes or pulses. Add a sufficient amount of green leafy vegetables, carrots, capsicum, beans, tomatoes, cabbage, and cauliflower to your meal. They contain plenty of antioxidants and plant-based bioactive compounds that help fight various chronic diseases, including diabetes.
- Include soyabeans in your menu: Soyabeans are rich in protein and unsaturated fat, which have numerous health benefits. Therefore, add soyabean to your diet and enjoy its various benefits.
- Regularly use traditional Indian spices: The spices and condiments commonly used in Indian cooking include cumin, black pepper, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, anise, coriander, jaggery, and cinnamon contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. But the amount we use is less, so the benefits are minimal. You can enhance the effectiveness of these spices and condiments by adding them to your daily beverages, such as buttermilk, tea, and turmeric milk.
You can manage your blood sugar levels by watching your dietary habits and with an active lifestyle.
Dr. K S Brar | Director and Senior Consultant Diabetology | Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi