Diabetes is a chronic disease and when left unchecked, it can turn complicated. But the good news is that maintaining a healthy range of blood sugar levels can greatly reduce the risk of diabetes associated complications.
Having said that, management of blood sugar levels in a healthy range involves a lifestyle approach including taking care of diet, exercise, sleep hygiene as well as mental well being. This is not always easy. Also, since diet is one of the contributing factors let’s talk about managing diabetes through nutrition first. And that cannot be done without understanding carbohydrates.
Most often, carbohydrates (sugar, starches and fibres) are among the foods that we start avoiding in case of diagnosis of diabetes. We start considering all carbs as an enemy, but this is definitely not the case. Carbohydrates are a macronutrient that we get from the food we eat and they regulate blood glucose level – that is a primary need for cellular metabolism. Carbohydrates provide energy to our body and this leaves proteins and fats free to be then utilized for their respective biological functions. This macronutrient in diet also provides dietary fibres 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.
Simple carbs are those that are easily broken down and absorbed in the body, they lead to a sudden increase in the blood glucose levels and subsequent “crash” making us hungrier after consumption.
Complex carbs are absorbed slowly in the blood stream and so lead to a gradual increase in blood glucose levels, eventually maintaining stable levels, and keeping us full for long.
So you see, complete elimination of carbohydrates is not required when the goal is to manage blood sugar levels. In fact, the recommendation is to shift to a diet that provides the right proportion of complex carbs. Starch and fibers are types of complex carbs, and examples include beans, lentils, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
How to incorporate Complex Carbs in your diabetic-friendly diet
*Replace refined wheat flour rotis with multigrain, millet or oats rotis
*Replace white rice with brown rice
*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 bottle gourd.
* 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.
How to reduce the consumption of simple carbs
* 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, cold drinks, flavoured coffee; 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 homemade khakras and vegetable air-fried crisps.
* Avoid artificial sweeteners too! They are of no good.
If you are wondering whether this will work – it will! What seem like simple dietary modifications actually hold great power to modify your condition. Mr Deepak Sampat, a GOQii user since 2017 was diagnosed with diabetes when his HbA1c was 9.4 with an Estimated Average Glucose (EAG) of 231.88 and his weight was 84kg. Within three months, his HbA1c was down to 6.2, EAG to 130.44 and weight was 81kg. His goal is now to reduce further the HbA1C to below 6.
“I have been able to achieve this by following dietary modifications from simple to complex carbs and few other lifestyle changes that my coach suggested. I know have salads before my meals and eat multi-grain atta roti. Following other lifestyle changes has helped me overall to be in control and manage my diabetes,” says Sampat. Another user who prefers to remain anonymous, had an initial HbA1C level of 6.8 but then through lifestyle and diet modification reversed his condition into a non-diabetic with an HbA1C of 4.7 in a span of three months.
For people with diabetes, choosing complex carbs over simple carbs is the key! Following a low carb diet with a predominant proportion of complex carbs in the daily menu can lead to significant balance in blood sugar levels. It is equally important to understand that the amount of carbohydrates required by a diabetic depends on other factors too – medication, exercise regimen, body size, age, and sex. So, any dietary recommendation related to regulating carbohydrate consumption should be after you speak with your doctor or nutritionist.
In the end, it is not just keeping a check on your carbs, but an overall lifestyle modification that really matters. 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 consumption. Sleep well and live long!
Article written by Geetika Patni, Lifestyle Expert Coach, GOQii Smart Healthcare.