In a healthy body the food that we eat gets digested and glucose is released into the blood.
Insulin, which the pancreas releases when we eat, leads the circulating glucose to the cells to be used as energy and thus blood sugar lowers back to normal levels.
This process is repeated overtime we eat. But when there is a buildup of sugar in the blood due to malfunctioning of the pancreas then this not only harms the cells that need the glucose for fuel, but also harms the organs and tissues exposed to the high glucose levels.
Over time high blood sugar (uncontrolled diabetes) can lead to serious problems with the blood vessels, heart, nerves, kidneys, mouth, eyes, and feet that because insulin this damages to the blood vessels slowly, without one realizing it, and thus increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Are we doomed?
Now to tackle the epidemic of diabetes sweeping our country first and foremost it is also important to understand why Indians are more prone to diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The risk is higher for us because genetically we have higher levels of hidden - deep belly visceral inflammatory fat.
This belly fat increases our risk for multiple diseases, besides making us prone to insulin resistance.
Further to this mix when we add a high
carbohydrates diet that most Indians usually prefer to eat, the process (and predisposition towards diabetes) gets accelerated manifold.
In fact, vegetarian Indians tend to be even more at risk because of the faulty diet pattern that they tend to favour and follow.
Most vegetarians I know are graineatarians (grain-eaters) rather than true vegetarians.
That is while they don’t eat much fat, and no meat, they instead of eating more vegetables usually end up overloading the body with carbohydrates from the grains.
These excess carbs when metabolised in the body lead to overburdening of the liver, which then skyrockets the triglyceride levels. High triglycerides levels in the body are predominantly carbohydrate driven.
That’s not all, there are other negatives in our lifestyle too…
Most of us are sedentary and do little structured or nonstructured exercise. Hardly anyone gets the daily optimum exercise targets.
Over weight is a common problem, and as one gains weight, our metabolic health goes haywire and the risk increases manifold.
Sleep deficiency is rampant, and sleep deficit is a big, proven risk factor for diabetes.
There’s a really severe vitamin d deficiency epidemic, and low levels of this vitamin the body is a huge risk factor for impaired glucose levels in the body.
Another big negative factor is that for us typically the problem begins in childhood as we tend to (mistakenly) make it our lives task to over feed the new born babies.
This metabolically sets the template for heart disease and diabetes later in adult life.
That is why feeding right in the first few months of childhood is so critical and widespread education needs to be done in this field to break some deep set myths.
7 parameters to Check
To keep diabetes at bay and to keep the sugar numbers in check it is important to keep some numbers happy.
Keep a check on the waist circumference.
Keep the triglycerides as low as possible - less than 100 ideally.
Keep Hdl (good) cholesterol above 40 for men and 50 for women.
Keep your triglycerides / hdl ratio less than 3. When this is high you have a tendency to develop insulin resistance.
Keep the blood pressure tamed.
Keep a check on the fasting blood sugar levels.
Keep a check on the C reactive protein, which is a marker for inflammation in the body.
What you eat is paramount. So it is important to tailor the diet to cut the carbohydrate intake. This can be done effortlessly, minus any stress. You just need to get smart about the process.
Make conscious changes. For example. a salad and a soup instead of the regular roti subzi in one meal can help big time.
Consciously work on reducing the dependence on carbohydrates for all meals. Study and learn which foods deliver higher carbs and cut them to size.
Adopt innovative menu planning. For example use copy cat carbohydrates (cauliflower rice, zucchini pasta) for some meals
Reduce the quantity of carbohydrates intake smartly by adding more vegetables, tofu, nuts etc to rice, pasta, poha, upma, the predominant carbs culprits in our meals.
Add soya or almond flour to the wheat flour
Cook lentils in the same way too - dal palak, lauki dal, rajma chaat. Add vegetables in every dish possible. My simple rule is 50:50. as lentils tend to be high in carbs too
Add more only protein (meat, egg or dairy) and vegetable meals to your daily plans.
Increase activity - 8000 steps per day and you can eat more rice.
Fast walking, slow walking - 20 min - three times a day.
The fact is that we have to model these right eating behaviours so that our children can learn and follow them too; it’s a family legacy to leave. Eventually we will be able to break our high propensity towards diabetes, and bring down the numbers in the country drastically. This needs effort on a war footing.
(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), Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa) and Fix it with foods.)