India is seeing a boom in diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is one of the leading public health issues that we face. While our ethnicity, genetic predisposition, makes us more vulnerable to diabetes, the cause for this is our life style . Urbanization, long working hours, stress, sleep deprivation, increased intake of processed food and lack of physical activity are the main reasons. Preventing and controlling diabetes needs a disciplined and consistent effort. Diet plays an important role in the prevention and control of diabetes, in addition spices and some foods have been found to support lowering of blood sugars, improving glucose metabolism, and also improve lipids, enhance antioxidant capacity and capillary functions, giving protection against heart diseases to.
If we look at the modifiable risk factors for diabetes:
- Weight: Obesity/ overweight, high waist to hip ratio, increases your risk of diabetes.
- Physical Activity: Lack of activity increases the risk of insulin resistance and obesity, which in turn increase the risk of diabetes
- Keeping the blood pressure under control will help with better diabetes management and prevention of onset.
- Cholesterol: Low HDL(good cholesterol) and high triglycerides increase the risk of T2DM.
- Smoking increases the risk of a number of health problems especially diabetes.
- Alcohol: over indulgence in alcohol has a detrimental effect on the pancreas , where it leads to inflammation and on the liver which it can damage.
- Lifestyle: Poor food choices, stress, and lack of sleep are very important contributing factors for early onset and management of blood sugar levels.
All these are easily manageable with making the right choices. Regular screening, regular doctor visit, taking your treatment as per your doctors advise, following a healthy diet and good lifestyle is the way.
1.Cinnamon: is a common spice found in all our kitchens. It has been researched for its effect on controlling blood sugars extensively. In a study published by American diabetes association Cinnamon when taken in 1. 3 or 6 gms was found to reduce blood glucose by 18-29% and also reduced triglycerides (23-30%), LDL(7-27%), Cholesterol (12-26%) which means that it not only controls the blood sugars but also the risk factors associated with T2DM. In another meta-analysis published in Annals of family medicine also established the same outcomes. This affect may be because cinnamon improves uptake of glucose by the cells, improves insulin resistance by improving the cell receptor activity and increasing insulin production.
How to consume: Powder whole cinnamon and add 1, 3 or 6 gms and it can be consumed with water. Start with 1 gm and if you are comfortable 3 gms can be taken for 2-3 months
2.Fenugreek or Methi Seeds: This has been long used for diabetes control in India. Fenugreek is an ancient medicinal herb used for decades by traditional Indian medicine. Fenugreek seeds as research has shown increases insulin sensitivity in the cells, stimulate insulin production and enhance carbohydrate metabolism. Fenugreek seeds also lower triglycerides, cholesterol (TC), and LDL-C. A compound, sapogenins, present in them is shown to increase the cholesterol excretion through bile.
How to consume: 10 gms soaked overnight and consumed along with the water. Powdered fenugreek powder can also be used. 1teaspoon twice daily. It can be added to dahi, or sprinkled on the chapati
3.Karela/ Bitter Melon: A bitter vegetable that has been consumed for diabetes control for a long time. This effect is because of the active compounds present in Karela , namely charanti,, which lowers blood sugars,vicine and a compound that is similar to insulin- polypeptide-p. Another compound, lectin works by supressing appetite and reducing blood sugar levels.
How to consume: The entire vegetable is found to be effective, so it can be cooked and 2 medium pcs eaten daily. It can be grated or juiced and consumed but in the raw form it may cause indigestion.
I have chosen these three as they are easily available and have some good research to back these claims. However, the first line of treatment has to be decided by your doctor, these are not alternatives to medicine but must be taken alongside. Also, a balanced meal, in the right quantity and right time along with physical activity is important. These are a part of the whole , and not a magic bullet which replaces good lifestyle practises.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.