South Indian Meal Plan for Diabetes Management.
Table Of Content
We associate diabetes with bad genetics and old- age, but really, diabetes is a chronic, lifestyle driven disease.
Unfortunately, there is no one- food- will- fix- all when it comes to diabetes, but making consistent and sustainable lifestyle changes will help with not only management, but also reversal.
Now when it comes to nutrition alone, you do not have to eat fancy food for diabetes management, Indian cuisine itself can be your medication.
South Indian cuisine, specifically, is considered to be wholesome and nutrient-rich. However, with modernised cooking techniques, we are using more fats, such as oil's and ghee than ever before. We have also moved away from traditional whole grain's such as millets and red rice to white rice and other processed grains. This posses an additional risk for diabetes.
The answer then lies simply going back to our roots and adopting cooking techniques used by our for-fathers. Read the following article to explore the impact of a healthy diet on diabetes and the correct way to include South Indian food for diabetes management, or even reversal.
The Rise of Diabetes in South India.
Diabetes is now emerging as a pandemic. As per one surveys, it has been estimated that by 2025; over 300 million adults will suffer from diabetes. Among this statistic, India and China alone are expected to make up for one-third of the diabetic population.
A lot of factors come into play when we talk about diabetes diagnosis. For instance, in India, the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes has been seen to increase among migrant workers. The environmental and lifestyle impacts caused due to industrialisation and migration to urban settings from their rural counterparts; may be responsible for this rising epidemic.
Further, the increase in obesity due to physical inactivity in urban stages and consumption of high-dairy/fat/sugar diets are a few of the major contributing factors. Here is more about the sudden rise of diabetes in India:
When we see the graph for India alone, people who were reported with diabetes increased from 26 million in 1990 to 65 million in 2016.
In the early 1970s, the percentage of people who were found to be diabetic in urban India was a mere 2.1%, this figure has risen and now ranges between 12-16%.
When we talk about the prevalence of diabetes within the geographical zones of the Indian subcontinent, the recent study conducted by the National Urban Diabetes Survey; shows that South India has the highest number of diabetes patients - 13.5% in Chennai, 12.4% in Bangalore and 16.6% in Hyderabad.
Further, as per data driven by the Health Ministry, every fourth person living in the urban slums of Chennai is suffering from diabetes, this figure is three times higher than the national average of 7% approx.
Although the current metrics suggest a much lower percentage among the rural population, this figure is also on the rise.
The concerning part lies in the fact that South Indians develop diabetes at a very young age (45 years) and this is an alarming facet all over the world.
Research links the consumption of saturated fats from meat and sugar rich diets to the main cause of this rising epidemic.
Besides nutritional changes, lifestyle modifications, such as:
- Introducing foods to improve gut health.
- Practicing Sunlight Exposure
- Avoiding heavy meals late at night etc
are of monumental importance. Watch this video for more information:
What South Indian foods could be the culprit?
We are aware that obesity increases our risk of developing diabetes, but to stop this we have to go to its source. Let's explore specific food's that might be contributing to your disease.
Animal protein has been linked as being the leading cause for diabetes. Excess consumption of animal products makes it harder for our body to breakdown glucose, since saturated fats from animal's clogs our cells.
A 2013 meta-analysis research; that understudied about 17,000 people for 12 years; found out that those groups who consumed only 50 gms of meat every day, which is about a quarter of a chicken breast; had an 8% increased risk of developing diabetes.
Why is meat consumption so strongly linked with diabetes?
There could be several reasons -
- It can be the saturated and trans fat which is naturally present in meat,
- The cholesterol in animal's, which is converted to saturated fats in the body.
- or the heme iron which induces oxidative stress/ crippling your blood vessels.
- Further, the study also shows that the presence of AEGs in animal protein could be the cause.
AGE's are glycotoxins present in meat especially fried/broiled/roasted meat, increases inflammation in the body. Basically, keeping your body chronically sick.
Meat is so toxic, that even after eating just one serving of animals, the body immediately shows signs of insulin resistance.
So the next time you want to reach out for that Hydrabadi Biriyani, think again.
It is a fact that increased levels of cholesterol put you at a closer risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
One study that found a strong link between LDL cholesterol and diabetes is "Association of Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and HbA1c Levels With Incident Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis" by Zheng, J. et al. (2018) published in JAMA Cardiology.
The results of the study concluded that there is a direct relationship between genetic markers of elevated LDL and type 2 diabetes. Participants susceptible to high levels of cholesterol also have a harder time with glucose metabolism.
Now many people live under the misconception that coconut oil compared to other food groups that increase LDL levels, is significantly healthier because they contain MCTs or medium chain triglycerides. These are shorter chained saturated fats that aren't as bad as the longer ones found in meat and dairy.
However, this is not entirely true because MCT oils only comprise 10% of the coconut oil and the rest are the longer chained fats called lauric and myristic, which is responsible for increasing cholesterol in the body.
A small observation of the population of the Pukapuka island, who consume 87% plant-based foods, supposidly very healthy for cholesterol management, were reported to have cholesterol levels over 200%! This was only because they were eating large quantities of coconuts every day.
Coconut oil is not deemed healthy as per science.
South Indian cuisine is practically incomplete without the use of coconut oil, however, it is time to look for an alternative. The use of small quantities of shredded coconut with your curries is absolutely fine. But you definitely want to avoid frying in coconut oil or using any oil for cooking for that matter.
The consumption of excess coconut oil should be stopped by people who what to reduce their risk of developing high cholesterol and in turn becoming diabetic.
Dairy products are a leading source of saturated fats, especially cow milk which derives 49% of its calories from fat.
It is a fact that saturated fats are directly linked to insulin resistance and high cholesterol levels in the body. Let us give you some more data as to why you must avoid that sweet sugary filter coffee.
An important observation was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1992, that 142 children who were newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes; had the presence of antibodies that are released when we consume cow's milk. These anti- bodies, also end up destroying the pancreas, the very organ responsible to produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps with blood sugar control. Read more here:
Dairy especially milk is usually marketed as the elixir for your body that is responsible for boosting your immunity and providing you with essential nutrients.
However, what a lot of people do not know is that the moment milk enters our bodies and goes through our intestinal walls it triggers something known as molecular mimicry.
Here, the antibodies produced to fight the foreign milk protein in the body, end up attacking your insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, thereby rendering them unfit for producing anymore insulin. Hence, milk can be the major cause of diabetes.
Switch to plant- based alternatives for dairy instead, like making cashew milk, almond milk, oat milk or even rice milk at home for your coffee and tea. Try plant based curds and buttermilk if you must. Most importantly, avoid Ghee! Here is more on that:
Everyone must be mindful of their sugar intake. Somehow, we have labled sugar- alternatives like brown sugar, jaggery, stevia and honey as being healthy.
Jaggery, which is a form of unprocessed cane sugar is one of the most popular sweeteners in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In South India alone, jaggery is used in a lot of traditional dishes like Bisi Bele rice, Rava laddus, Sakkara Pongal, etc.
Jaggery is considered to have high medicinal values including its antioxidant properties, immune health, and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders etc. But we have been oversold on the health benefits of Jaggery.
While it is true that jaggery has slightly more nutrients than table sugar, its far from healthy.
Jaggery has a very high glycemic index value of 84.4 which is higher than the GI of table sugar which is 65. For a diabetic diet which is supposed to include food with low GI levels, consuming jaggery immediately raises the blood sugar which can cause serious health consequences in them.
Further 100g of jaggery contains 9383 calories, which is bound to increase your blood glucose level.
Jaggery is an under processed form of sugar which is usually healthier. It retains iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium and organic jaggery are free of harmful chemicals as well.
Together all these factors combine to make jaggery a healthier alternative to sugar, but its consumption is still not safe for diabetic patients. The nutrients provided by 1 bowl of jaggery can be fulfilled with just 1/2 cup serving of leafy green vegetables, so why raise your blood sugar when you can avoid it?
Lifestyle changes for Reversing Diabetes
Before we dive into nutritional changes, let us discuss lifestyle modifications tips for diabetes management.
A convincing research body has proactively confirmed that patients with a 10-year-long history of type 2 diabetes can reverse it through lifestyle modifications and by adopting certain measures.
Some of these are listed below -
1) Practice TRE (Time-restricted eating)
As per the research published in Diabetologia, time-restricted fasting, or TRE; proved to have shown healthy metabolic effects in adults who have diabetes.
According to the TRE, food intake has to be within a 10-hour window. basically, give yourself a 12- 14 hour break from eating anything. The strategy here is to increase overnight fasting to improve insulin sensitivity and enhance glucose absorption when you eat your meal.
The research on TRE not onyl revealed a reduction in HbA1C values, but also weight loss improved insulin sensitivity and better lipid profile.
Aim to fast from 7 pm to 9 am. Drink only wanter during your fasting window. Warning, you will need to work with an expert in understanding how to tweek your insulin dosage to better help you fast without going into hypoglycaemia.
2) Add Physical Fitness.
Exercising and physical activity are bound to make you healthy, but the same has miraculous benefits for diabetic patients since it allows your body to be more sensitive to insulin.
Physical activity helps lower your risk of heart disease, excessive weight gain, and nerve damage. Better glucose control is really a bonus.
You do not have to indulge in high intense training sessions, but even moderate intensity training sessions done for 30- 40 minutes, a few times a week is enough. This could be playing a sport, swimming, yoga, resistance training etc.
Being active doesn't mean you have to have a gym membership, you can dance, go on a brisk walk, do household chores, or even bicycle, the choice is yours but does consult an expert before you start.
A little caution should be maintained if you are a diabetic patient. Always check your blood glucose before you head out for your workout in case you need a snack. Try to regularly monitor your blood sugar after the workout as well and keep yourself hydrated.
Once again, work with an expert to plan your meals better.
3) Switch to a plant-based diet
The whole point of switching to a healthy plant-based diet is to have a substantially permanent solution to excessive weight gain, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Medically supervised studies that include low calories restrictive diets or liquid diets will lower that body weight but they have a higher probable chance of weight regain and reduced effects.
Studies show that plant-based diets allow you maximum nutrition without calorie restrictions because they focus on the quantity of food rather than the quantity. Despite no portion control or exercise, one study had people who dropped nearly 26 pounds in 6 months by only eating plant-based foods.
Vegans are less prone to organic pollutants like dioxins, PCBs, and DDT, and because of the increased fiber intake, they are also at a lowered risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Just make sure that 80% of what you eat is plants, like lentils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts/ seeds. Avoid oil's, animal products, eggs and dairy products.
4) Make your First Meal Raw.
Did you know that the cooking process has a massive effect on the development of type 2 diabetes and that you can reverse it with a raw food diet?
One study had participants with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, eating raw vegan food for 30 days. By the end of the study, some members were able to completely stay off their diabetes medications putting their diabetes into remission and others saw a huge reduction in the amount of insulin.
There are several studies and observations which provide us with evidence that type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes can be reversed completely, while type 1 diabetes can be very well managed.
A raw vegan diet can help you reduce your blood glucose, increase your sensitivity to insulin, lower your cholesterol and help you say goodbye to your medications.
Now I do not suggest going raw- vegan, but just include one raw meal a day! Before you worry about fruit sugar raising your blood sugar, know that ALL fruits are absolutely ok to consume. Avoid fruit juices, but fiber rich smoothie bowls are only healing to your body.
5) Practice sunlight exposure.
Eating healthy is important but so is eating in moderation. We often tend to overeat, thus, take in excess fatty acids. This can be dangerous for both your cholesterol and in turn your diabetes.
Interestingly, our brain produces a hormone called MSH (melanopsin stimulating hormone), which suppresses our desire to eat. This hormone is effective in controlling our hunger pangs and can be stimulated with direct light/UV rays to the eyes. Hence your morning exposure to the sun can help you suppress appetite.
When you expose yourself to sunlight you also allow your body to make Vitamin D, specifically Vitamin D3, and enable certain receptors in your pancreas thereby supporting its functionality.
There are observational studies that suggest that vitamin D plays a major role in the prevention of cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes.
Aim to spend 20- 25 minutes in the morning sunlight. Practice going for early morning walks, gardening or even earthing, the practice of bear foot walking.
South Indian Meal Plan for Diabetes Reversal
Diabetes Management has to be a customised program. Just like our fingerprint, our sensitivity to glucose to food groups differs from person to person. But a whole- food plant- based approach is the ideal approach for everyone looking to reverse their disease.
As you are making changes to your nutritional plan, work with your doctor to help you tweek your insulin dosage so as to avoid reaching hypoglycemia. A plant- based diet heals fast and most of my clients have to reduce their medication dosage in half within the first 21 days only.
This sample meal plan is only a guide, not medical advice. Work with my team and me, comprising of doctors and nutrition coaches to help curate a meal plan that is customised for you and addresses your individual needs.
Once again, diabetes management is about lifestyle management. Once you bring in consistent and permanent changes to your lifestyle, there really is no going back to the disease.
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