Geetha G H
Registered dietician, Certified diabetes educator, Exercise sports nutritionist
In Part 2 of our series on ‘Ideal Nutrition & Diet in Diabetes’, Geetha G H answers some more questions on how a healthy diet can help in ‘Winning with Diabetes’. She emphasizes the importance of regular exercise in ensuring a happy, disease-free life and explains why nutritional supplements are not a substitute to eating healthy.
Q: People who do night shifts are often unable to follow a proper routine of breakfast, lunch and dinner. What is your advice for them?
A: A person working late night or in night shift should try should also practice dietary routine just as anybody else. Carbohydrate-rich foods are known to induce sleep because of the release of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that is vital for regulating moods, dreams, appetite etc), whereas eating protein-rich food towards the end of the day makes you more alert. Eating a good combination of carbohydrates with adequate protein in dinner is a good option for somebody who works through the night. In the middle of the night, it is advisable to drink a glass of milk or eat fruits and nuts to satiate hunger pangs. At the end of the night shift, a person can consume a balanced breakfast.
Q: I live a sedentary lifestyle. Can you suggest modifications to my lifestyle and eating habits so that I do not develop diabetes?
A: For a healthy life, one needs to increase movement throughout the day along, especially every half hour along with some planned moderate-intensity aerobic exercise like walking, cycling, jogging, swimming etc throughout the week. Alternate with weight-bearing exercises like strength training, yoga like surya namasakar or exercise with resistance bands. Small household chores, planks and push-ups that use your own body weight are weight-bearing exercises too (calisthenics), which will increase bone weight and muscle mass.
Consume a balanced diet of locally grown, seasonal foods as far as possible. Consume 3-5 cups of vegetables and at least 2 fruits. Hand pounded rice, millets are good choices for whole grains. For vegetarians dals, legumes – pulses like channa, rajma, lobia and steamed sprouts (raw form contain unfavourable microbes) are vital source of protein. A handful of assorted nuts are a satisfying snack. Non – vegetarians can consume whole eggs, oily fish and dressed chicken. Choose healthy fats like extra virgin coconut oil (small quantity), cold pressed sesame oil or mustard oil. Routinely change your oil and cook different dishes in different oils.
- Consume plenty of plain water.
- Get sun exposure at least 2 – 3 times a week between 10. 00 am and 2.00 pm.
- Moderate the use of white rice, maida, sugar and sunflower oil.
- Restrict fast food, baked items and commercial deep fried foods that are high in transfats.
Q: My mother, who is 66-years old, was diagnosed with diabetes a couple of years back. Can you suggest a diet and exercise regimen for her?
A: It is important to eat a balanced diet which has a combination of the various food groups. Along with rice, millets and roti, it is important to eat dal, salad and vegetables. There are some foods which are good for diabetics like oats, barley, bitter gourd, and methi seeds. Black jamun is good for people with diabetes. Latest research suggests apple cider vinegar helps in reducing blood glucose levels. A tablespoon of vinegar over salad is good for diabetics. Similarly chia seeds can be sprinkled on salads too. Roasted flax seed can be stored in an air-tight container in a refrigerator and ground fresh as and when needed to be made into chutney powder. Beans and pulses with skin are recommended over dals.
American Diabetes Association suggests 150 minutes of exercise, which is not more than 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Also, she should do some yoga (weight-bearing) and stretching exercises.
Q: Can nutritional supplements help control diabetes?
A: A supplement is only an adjunct to normal diet. There is no replacement to eating healthy. It is very important that diabetics or any health conscious individual first understand the importance of eating right and then choose nutritional supplements only if there is an absolute requirement. e.g., in treating an existing deficiency in Vitamin B12 or Vitamin D. Diabetics generally have Vitamin D deficiency despite adequate exposure to sunlight. The human body can synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight especially when exposed to the sun’s UV B rays between 10.00 am and 2.00 pm. As adequate Vitamin D is required for effective blood sugar control, supplements can be helpful in bridging that gap. Similarly chromium supplements can help control blood sugars and food craving.
Q: My parents have diabetes. Though I exercise regularly, I am not able to regularly monitor and control my diet. Do I have a risk of developing diabetes?
A: Some lifestyle diseases are genetic. So when parents are suffering from diabetes, children have a higher probability of developing the disease. When you know that you run a risk of developing lifestyle disease, you ought to take preventive care to eat healthy and moderate or restrict junk food, sugar, alcohol, salt. You can also make small changes to your regular diet by opting for hand pounded or any unpolished rice instead of white rice; cut down excessive consumption of tea, coffee and switch to green tea with lime; or opt for limited quantity of brown sugar, honey or stevia over white sugar. When you’re hungry try and eat a combination of fats and proteins. Chana chur, roasted soya (occasionally) and roasted peanuts, roasted Bengal gram along with skin, assorted nuts are good for snacking. Watermelon and pumpkin seeds, seasonal fruits like guava, orange, pear and apple that can be easily carried along should be substituted for samosa, bajji, puffs or chaat.
Q: Exotic foods like avocado and kale are considered good for health, but are sometimes difficult to find. Can you suggest some substitutes for these?
A: The nutrients offered by exotic foods can often be found in locally available seasonal produce. Kiwi can be switched with amla and guava that are plenty in winters, economical and are the richest source of vitamin C. Avocado offers good fat in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). You can get these in nuts like walnuts, almonds, cashew, olives, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, peanuts, til, chia, khus khus & dark green leafy vegetables.
Kale has higher calcium bioavailability due to lower oxalate content. Oxalates reduce calcium absorption. Dairy products on the other hand are the richest source of calcium, but bioavailability of calcium is dairy is very complicated due to nutrient-nutrient interaction and formation of calcium oxalate and calcium phytate. You may opt for broccoli, our Indian cousin cauliflower or any other dark green leafy vegetable that offers the same nutrients as magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin K and more. However the oxalate content of Kale is low and it can be replaced with mustard greens which is also low in oxalate content.
Meal Plan for Diabetics: