This year on World Health Day (April 7), the focus is on curbing diabetes, a chronic disease that has affected around 350 million people across the globe. If you think that it is just excess sugar that leads to diabetes, please understand it is not as sweet and simple as that. Who and when one gets diabetes is dependent on multiple factors: lifestyle, weight (those overweight are more prone), activity level (sedentary vs active), genetics, stress (yes, it predisposes a person to diabetes) and of course eating habits – all play a role. Too many factors to monitor and control?
Well, the good news is that even if your numbers are beginning to get wonky (you have pre diabetes that is borderline diabetes where blood glucose is higher than normal but lower than the diabetes range) or are worried about a strong family history, you can still cut the risk of getting diabetes and even return to normal blood glucose levels simply by changing what you are plating. Yes food, right food actually has that power. And trust me it is better to prevent getting diabetes, than try and manage it later (there is no cure; you know that right!)
6 basic eating rules to prevent diabetes are: more fibre, less fat, cutting down red meat, having more vegetables and fruits, opting for whole grains, and keeping alcohol in check.
10 food strategies that work:
1. Begin your day with a bit of cinnamon. A component hydroxychalcone in this spice helps keep the fasting glucose in control, so it is a good preventive tool. All you need is a pinch everyday (say in your cup of tea or sprinkled on your cereal).
2. In the list of spices that help clove comes close second, so incorporating it in daily cooking is s good idea.
3. Research is clear that daily consumption of dairy, particularly milk, cheese and yoghurt can help keep diabetes away. Want to try something exciting? Try this blend: 1 cup yoghurt with 1 cup cut pineapple. Or churn 1 banana with a bit of ginger and honey with 1 cup milk or yoghurt.
4. Score some vitamin C daily (choose from amla, citrus fruits, guava etc), as research is clear that those with most vitamin C in their bodies have the lowest incidence of diabetes.
5. Incorporate lots of slow-burning, low glycemic index vegetables in your diet. Make sure you eat a serving in all three main meals.
6. If you are a fish eater than get in DHA, a type of omega 3 found in mackerel, salmon and tuna; helps keep inflammation in the body down, so diabetes away.
7. If your palate is adventures also try out some seaweeds (kombu, nori, hijiki and wakame) as they are loaded with minerals, protein and healing compounds that help keep a lid on diabetes.
8. Munch on walnuts. Brain food, heart food and now research says it is diabetes protective as well. Good fats and magnesium do the deed. And according to a study by Harvard researchers published in the Journal of Nutrition, all you need are about 4 halves a day to get this protection. Not difficult at all.
9. Apples help. Quercetin and other flavonoids found in the fruit inhibit carbohydrate-digesting enzymes like alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase and slow down their digestion. Plus pectin, a soluble fibre found in it helps blunt blood sugar swings, and thus keeps insulin in check, and diabetes away.
10. End the day with turmeric. It is not called golden spice without a reason; helps keep inflammation down. So a little bit with warm milk before sleeping is a good idea.
Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan