National Nutrition Week: Low carb diet to manage diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic and complicated disease, but maintaining healthy range of blood sugar levels can greatly reduce the risk of complications. Management of blood sugar levels in a healthy range involves multi-pronged approach including taking care of diet, exercise, water intake, sleep hygiene, stress levels and overall lifestyle. In the National Nutrition Week, let’s talk about managing nutrition to manage diabetes. And that cannot be done without understanding carbohydrates first.

“Most often, carbohydrates are among the foods that we start avoiding in case we see high sugar levels. We start considering carbs as an enemy, which is definitely not the case. Carbohydrates provide energy to our body thus sparing proteins and fats which are then utilised for their respective biological functions. Carbohydrates regulate blood glucose level which is the primary need for cellular metabolism. This macronutrient in diet provides dietary fibers essential for our long term health. They are an integral part of a healthy balanced diet and before we begin to avoid them, we need to know the types of carbohydrates and their effects on blood sugar levels,” said Geetika Patni, lifestyle expert from GOQii Smart Healthcare.

Simple carbs are those which are easily broken down and absorbed in the body, they lead to a sudden increase in the sugar levels and subsequent “crash” making us more hungrier after consumption.

Complex carbs are absorbed slowly in the blood stream and so lead to a gradual increase in blood sugar levels, eventually maintaining stable levels, and keeping us full for long.

Complete elimination of carbohydrates is not recommended when the goal is to manage blood sugar levels; rather we can shift to a diet which provides right proportion of complex carbs. Starch and fibers are the types of complex carbs, and the examples will include whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.

How to incorporate complex carbs in your diabetic diet?

*Replace refined wheat flour rotis with multigrain or oats rotis.
*Replace white rice with brown rice.
*You can also replace brown rice with Dalia or Quinoa, whenever possible.
*Eat cooled down cooked white rice instead of hot rice.
*Replace fruit juice with a whole fruit.
*Consume at least 1 portion of fruits a day – preferably apple, papaya, guava, pears, cherries or berries
* Add vegetables in each and every meal in variety of ways- try stuffing roti with grated carrot/grated bottlegourd
* Replace potato with sweet potato.
*Include salads in at least 1 meal a day-preferably one whole carrot and one whole cucumber.
*Add boiled beans, sprouts, boiled pulses, nuts or mixed seeds to the salads.
* Lastly, add barley, beans or sweet potatoes in vegetable soups.

If you are a diabetic, there are many foods that you must avoid, and some that you absolutely must consume. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

How to reduce simple carbs consumption?

* Avoid bread, pasta, cornflakes and all packaged food including breakfast cereals-read the ingredient label carefully and choose a product with fiber serving>5gms
* Avoid sweetened sugary beverages –sodas, flavored coffee etc; replace with unsweetened buttermilk or plain water
* Avoid sweetened yoghurt, artificially flavored sauces and dressings-go for home made curds, green chutney.
* Avoid chocolates, cookies, bakery products-replace with unsweetened ‘mukhwas’
* Avoid French fries and packaged snacks-try for home made khakras and vegetable air-fried crisps.
* Avoid artificial sweeteners.

For people with diabetes, following a low carb diet with a predominant proportion of complex carbs in daily menu can lead to significant balance in blood sugar levels.

Please also know the amount of carbohydrates requirement in diabetes depends on other factors such as – medications, exercise, body size, age, and sex. Hence speak to your doctor or nutritionist before implementing any suggestion.

In the end, it is not just keeping a check on your carbs, but an overall lifestyle modification that really counts. Along with your daily nutrition intake, it is really important to follow an exercise regimen, to manage stress and to cut down any unwanted habits of smoking or alcohol. Sleep well and live healthy!

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