The typical American diet continues to be center of attention in discussions on worrisome health conditions in the US like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Turning to the cuisines of countries where these health conditions are not as widespread can be a helpful strategy, but even those diets require scrutiny regarding their health benefits.
Medical professionals remark that although the largely vegetarian Indian diet which are rich in disease fighting spices and ingredients, is healthy in many ways, some aspects of Indians’ dietary habits can exacerbate diabetes.
Some foods that seem to be aligned with diabetic diet guidelines are actually not. One example, is the semolina-based hot breakfast cereal called upma. Often made with suji, a highly refined semolina, upma can adversely affect blood glucose levels. Substituting the processed semolina with a fiber rich whole grain is a much healthier option.
A beloved staple of the Indian diet, refined rice must be eliminated from the diabetic’s diet. Whole grain rice takes some adjustment in cooking time and to the palate, but can be a great substitute for that all-important final course. Fortunately, the rice based crepe, dosa also includes high protein legumes; plus, its typical accompaniment, the lentil and vegetable stew called sambhar, prevents increased blood sugar levels.
Similarly the delicious fruit juices and coconut water Indians love are not suitable for diabetics, as they are major source of spiking blood glucose levels. Diabetics can, though, snack on certain fiber and vitamin rich, health giving fresh fruits as snacks, namely papayas, cherries, Indian gooseberry (amla), blueberries, cherries and citrus fruits. A word of caution: considering that Indian meals are heavy in carbohydrates, even whole, fresh fruit is a poor choice for dessert.
Sweets figure strongly in Indian culture, and are painfully difficult for diabetics to give up. In recent years, diabetic versions of traditional Indian sweets have appeared on the market and in recipe books. Yet, although these treats are made with reduced sugar, their high fat content make them troublesome for diabetes patients, who are at cardiovascular disease. Store-bought sweets may always be risky, so it’s better to prepare diabetic-friendly low sugar treats at home, substituting high fat ingredients with lower fat ones, or better yet tofu-based products.
Indian food, thoughtfully prepared with clear guidelines to control blood glucose levels can be a very healthy and delicious diet choice for diabetics.