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#WhatWeEat: Got Diabetes? Here’s How You Can Manage Your Diet

A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. Our nutritionist brings to you some food strategies to help you cope.

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A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. But the best way to avoid the laundry list of diabetes complications is to arm ourselves with information that can help us manage this lifestyle disorder better. The secret is to eat a healthy, balanced diet and recognise that some foods and drinks have to be taken in moderation. The myths need to be broken and the simple food rules that help those who are battling with this blood sugar disorder need to be understood.

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Begin Your Day With a Bit of Cinnamon

A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. Our nutritionist brings to you some food strategies to help you cope.
Cinnamon helps keep glucose in control.
(Photo: iStock)

A component found in cinnamon, hydroxychalcone 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).

Carbs Are Not the Enemy

A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. Our nutritionist brings to you some food strategies to help you cope.
Carbohydrates are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, breads, Indian bread and dairy products.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Don’t give them up entirely, instead choose them with care. Swap refined grains for whole grains. Wholewheat atta, dalia (cracked wheat), jowar, ragi, bajra and brown rice are better, as they release glucose in blood slowly, and thus help calibrate the insulin response better. Also you don’t have to give up sweets completely. Even diabetics can factor in the odd sweet when they want to eat one.

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The Protein Factor is Very Important Too

A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. Our nutritionist brings to you some food strategies to help you cope.
Pulses, legume, jowar, bajra all offer quality protein. 
(Photo: iStockphoto)

As a rule always combine complex carbohydrates with quality protein as this helps slow down the release of glucose, and also makes the meal more filling. Pulses, legumes, oily fish, chicken, tofu and eggs all help. Mixing flour like jowar, bajra and besan with wholewheat flour or atta to make roti is a good idea.

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Eat Early in the Morning

A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. Our nutritionist brings to you some food strategies to help you cope.
Greek yogurt with fruits and nuts is a great breakfast option.
(Photo: iStock)

I have noticed that most people eat their first meal of the day, the breakfast, a substantial time after waking up and the average time gap between waking up and breakfast is 3 - 3 ½ hour. This long gap can be detrimental for those with diabetes. They should have the breakfast as early as possible as a long gap after the dinner can lead to triggering of the counter regulatory hormones.

In fact a small study done by researchers of Tel Aviv University’s Wolfson Medical Center in Israel has shown that big breakfasts and small dinners might be a healthier way to eat for people with type 2 diabetes.

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Control the Portions

Don’t load up your body with too much food at a time. For those with diabetes, it is always better to have small frequent meals rather than having infrequent large meals. Treat yourself to three main meals with two small snacks in between. Always keep the portions small. Eat just enough cereals and protein - about the size of your palm - one medium-sized egg and two rotis. Fill the rest of the plate with vegetables and green, leafy salad.

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Eat a Rainbow Diet

A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. Our nutritionist brings to you some food strategies to help you cope.
How often have you heard the phrase “Eat a rainbow diet” and just shrugged and moved on?
(Photo: FIT)

Eat as many natural colours as possible from vegetable and fruits, to score enough vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients. All these help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (often a big fallout of chronic diabetes).

  • Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Think of smart ways to consume fruits: sweeten cereals and curd with fruits and have a fruit salad instead of a sugar-laden dessert.
  • Definitely 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 manage diabetes best.
  • Incorporate lots of slow-burning, low glycemic index vegetables (slow release of sugar) like cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, cucumber, spinach, tomatoes etc in your diet. Make sure you eat a serving of these in all three main meals.
  • Its a myth that diabetics should avoid fruit and root vegetables. The truth is that diabetics should eat fruits and root vegetables in moderation with other food to score enough fibre and slow down the rise in blood sugar. But of course whole fruits are preferable to juice. Fresh juice is rich in nutrients but it’s also high in natural sugars which might have an impact on blood sugar levels.
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End the Day With Turmeric

A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. Our nutritionist brings to you some food strategies to help you cope.
Haldi doodh in the night is a good idea.
(Photo: iStock)

It is not called golden spice without a reason and it helps keep inflammation down. So a little bit of turmeric with warm milk before sleeping is a good idea.

(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa))

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