Tamil Diet For Diabetes Management
Table Of Content
Type 2 and pre-diabetes can very well be managed or even completely reversed. Modifications in lifestyle combined with nutritional changes can boost insulin sensitivity and prevent diabetes-related comorbidities, which in some patients has led to a drop in the use of insulin injections for good.
Diabetes management calls for very specific lifestyle and nutritional changes that work towards increasing your cells sensitivity towards insulin and healing the body. We will discuss the same below.
The growing rate of diabetes in India and Tamil Nadu:
With a diabetic population of 72.9 million people as of 2017, India has been deemed the diabetic capital of the world. When we talk about Type 1 diabetes alone, India has seen a steep increase from 3% to 5% according to a 2015 research.
The current statistics for the diabetes population in India is expected to rise to over 134 million by 2045 and the reason for this is the increasing prevalence of obesity. Obesity is a huge causative factor for diabetes.
In 2016 Tamil Nadu was considered to have the highest prevalence of diabetes among other states. As per recent data from the National Family Health Survey, diabetes in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu has increased from 3% to 8% and in the urban areas it rose from 6% to almost 14% in the last two decades.
- The dramatic transition from a traditional to a modern lifestyle and the consumption of western influenced diets rich in saturated fats, animal products, and dairy in the urban population may have contributed to the rise.
- On the other hand, the rural population of Tamil Nadu has very limited access to good nutrition, proper living conditions, and healthcare, these can be contributing factors to the rising epidemic.
There are several long-term complications associated with diabetes. You could have problems with your eyesight, the body becomes susceptible to infections, nerve damage in the limbs which may require amputation, kidney damage, and a weekend immunity system.
Diabetes patients also have a hard time controlling their blood pressure and cholesterol levels which makes them vulnerable to heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
What Parts of a Tamil Diet are Responsible for Diabetes?
We are far from eating a traditional tamil style oota today. Whole, unprocessed grains and vegetables formed the center stage of every meal back in the 1900s, but the consumption of vegetables has only decreased every since. Everything from our cooking techniques, cooking styles and the quality of ingredients used has taken a 360 turn.
Let's look as some specific dishes that could be responsible for our failing health today:
Animal products have been associated with being a causative factor for diabetes for various reasons. For one, the saturated fats in meat is converted into cholesterol in the body. These cholesterol blobs further occupy muscle cells and make it harder for the body to breakdown glucose.
Further, studies show the presence of particles called AEGs in cooked meat. AGE's are inflammatory in nature and keep your body sick and immunity low.
Bangdyache Hooman, Chettinad Chicken, Chicken 65, or Prawn Ghee Roast maybe a few reasons for your rising sugar levels.
White rice is one of the most popular foods found in Tamil Nadu and other south Indian cuisines. Starting from Idly, Dosa, Thayir Saddam, Puliyondharai, Thakkali Saddam and so many other famous dishes in the Tamilian culture use rice as a staple.
Now I do want to clarify here, it is not the rice that is the problem, but, rather, the use of processed grains. Rice, in its whole, unpolished form is actually good for diabetes management as it is high in B vitamins and fiber. But once the rice has been polished and undergoes processing, you lose a lot of the nutrients along with that, thus, leaving you with simple, easy to digest sugars.
The other problem with rice is that it forms a center stage of your plate when it should be just one of the food groups.
Ideally, 50% of your plate must be filled with raw foods. The remaining must be equal parts in pulses and whole grains. As long as unprocessed rice is one part of your plate, there is no harm in eating rice for diabetes management.
Jaggery is unprocessed cane sugar that is used as sweeteners or sugar alternatives in a lot of Indian Dishes. When we talk about the use of Tamil Nadu alone; we see the use of jaggery in dishes like Sankara Pongal, Ashoka Halwa, Rava laddoos and so much more.
While jaggery is enriched with some micronutrients, it is nearly not as nutritionally dense as we think it is. Jaggery has a very high GI value of 84.4; this is higher than the GI value of white sugar itself (65).
Jaggery is liberally used as a sugar alternative in many dishes in the name of it being 'healthier' and 'diabetes friendly'. But diabetic patients must stick to using whole fruits and dates as a sweetener instead. These alternatives are rich in fiber at least, making them a slightly healthier choice.
There are exceptional studies that establish the link between LDL cholesterol and diabetes. Patients who supposedly have high cholesterol levels find it difficult to maintain their glucose metabolism.
As a means to reduce LDL levels in the body, people look for several alternatives to cooking oils and put coconut oil on the ‘healthy list’. Now coconut oil rose to popularity because it contains something called MCFA (medium chain fatty acids) VS long chain fatty acids. The MCFA's are slightly better for health.
This however, is a big misconception because despite popular belief that coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides, the amount of MCFAs in coconut oil is only 10%! The rest is longer chained lauric and myristic which is very much responsible to increase cholesterol levels in the body.
Once again, coconut itself is not bad, but overusing oil's is. Hence, it is completely ok to use raw coconut for your Mulakootal curry base or even sauteed greens, but at the same time, it is advisable not to use coconut oil to fry your vegetables if you want to reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol and trigger diabetes.
Here are some herbs that help with Diabetes Management:
Foods To Eliminate on a Tamil Diet for Diabetes Management:
Here are foods to avoid from your traditional cuisine that further help improve your disease.
Simple sugars are found in processed grains like white rice VS brown rice and white bread VS brown bread. The method of processing the grains, takes away the nutrients of the grain, leaving you with easy to breakdown sugar molecules.
The outer fibrous layer of the grains, that is destroyed during processing, not only provides you with nutrients, but also slows the glucose spike we experience after a meal.
Besides processed grains, simple sugars are also found in sweetened beverages like Coke and Pepsi, protein powders, canned juices and added spoonful's of sugar in tea/ coffee. In 2016, researchers found a correlation between type 2 diabetes and dietary patterns of understudies who highly consumed sweetened beverages.
Your body needs sugar. In fact complex sugars are what is termed as 'essential nutrient'. But the choice of your sugar intake is important to consider.
For example, whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains and pulses contain natural sugars which are very good for the body and because they have a high fiber content, they do not lead to worsening of your diabetes symptoms.
What you need to avoid are sweetened snacks - thaen mittai/payasam/kolukattai etc. Processed or refined sugar and its products, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, etc. are problematic.
Artificial sweeteners are often told to be safe for diabetic patients but they may still impact blood glucose levels or worsen gut health in the longer run. Hence it is advisable to steer clear of all artificial sugar and its alternatives as possible.
Animal Fats and Saturated Fats.
Insulin resistance is the major cause of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. This has been strongly linked to the building fat toxicity of the body which is predominantly caused because of the fat we consume.
Not every type of fat is the same, animal fat- which includes trans and saturated fats, when compared to plant fat has a larger role to play when it comes to fat-induced insulin resistance.
Fat cells accumulate in our muscle tissue where they are stored under the name of intra- myocellular fats. These make it hard for the insulin in the body to do its job, thus, leading to resistance.
The solution is simple, avoid consuming animal fat sources such as eggs, ghee, paneer, curds, meat etc.
Within as little as three weeks on a relatively low fat diet, you see your bodies ability to breakdown sugar improves.
There is a strong reasoning behind why the American Diabetes Association recommends a lower intake of dietary fat to keep diabetes at bay.
Insulin, the hormone responsible to help you breakdown sugars, is made in the pancreas. Thus, maintaining optimal pancreatic health is very importance if diabetes symptom reversal is your main goal.
Now dairy consumption has been associated with the direct death of pancreatic cells through a process called molecular mimicry.
Basically, what this means is, on consuming dairy, the body goes in a fight mode, releasing antibodies to excrete the dairy protein we consume. Dairy milk is for calf's, and not human consumption. When human's consume dairy milk, the body identifies the dairy protein as a foreign invader and releases an attack to kill it.
It is in this crossfire that the pancreas take a hit and almost like a war causality, the pancreatic cells are destroyed.
Switch to non- dairy alternatives instead like soy milk, cashew milk, coconut milk. almond milk etc. Non- dairy cheese, curd, buttermilk etc are also easily available.
Suggested Lifestyle changes for Diabetes Management.
With years of research and having the privilege of working with thousands of clients globally, I have curated 12 very specific lifestyle changes that best help with diabetes management. Let's look at a few of them. For the full list, join this program:
Switch to a whole-food plant-based diet.
Keeping away from animal products and switching to a more sustainable whole food plant-based diet can significantly help reduce HbA1C levels in the body.
- One study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that a plant-based diet improved glycemic control and reduced cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
The study participants who followed a plant-based diet for 12 weeks not only improved their HbA1C levels, but overall cholesterol too! A plant- based diet is naturally free of dietary cholesterol and does not require portion or calorie control, making it a sustainable option to participants.
- Another study conducted by the Physicians Committee of Responsible Medication found that a low-fat, vegan diet was more effective in improving glycemic control than a conventional diabetes diet suggested by the American Diabetes Association itself in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
The study participants who followed a low-fat, vegan diet for 22 weeks showed greater reductions in HbA1c levels and fasting glucose levels compared to those who followed a conventional diabetes diet.
Plants are rich in complex carbs and fiber, both of which help reduce intra- myocellular fats and heal the body from within. Plants are also the only source of anti- oxidants and anti- inflammation agents, making them superfoods that fast forward your healing journey.
Like any other addiction, dairy consumption can also be an addiction.
Let us consider cheese as an example. Studies show that when our bodies digest cheese, it releases something called casomorphins which bind to dopamine receptors in our brain. Dopamine is our bodies ‘feel good’ hormone and this reaction is something similar to what we get when we drink alcohol, do drugs, or even smoke.
Now the dairy industry has done a good job in developing and selling a product that will never cease to be popular, but it is not solving the rising health epidemics in the world.
Today every one in three adults has obesity and almost 86 million people are pre-diabetic. Half of all cardiometabolic deaths are linked to stroke, heart attacks, and diabetes caused due to poor diet. Maybe it is time that we switch that cheese dip with something healthier.
Try TRE (time-restricted eating).
We are constantly eating from eyes open to eyes close. When do we even have the time to repair and restore? Our ancestors did not eat after it was dark outside and would only resume eating a few laborious hours after sunrise.
One crucial lifestyle change I suggest my clients follow is to stay within a time restricted eating window. Here is a closer looks:
Eating only during an eight to twelve-hour window and fasting for the remaining twelve to sixteen hours of the day helps the body repair and reset.
TRE has been proven to have a lot of health benefits for the body. TRE works best when you eat as per your body’s natural biological clock, aka the circadian rhythm.Here are a few studies talking about the benefits of TRE:
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