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Balancing blood sugar: A guide to preventing diabetes through diet

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Nov 15, 2023 08:52 PM IST

Check out these tips to regulate your blood sugar levels with a balanced diet and help avoid developing diabetes or increase blood sugar level after meals

A balanced diet means eating the right amount of foods from all food groups and it contains an adequate amount of all the nutrients required by the body to grow, remain healthy and be disease-free but eating a balanced diet that keeps your blood sugar levels from fluctuating can be challenging in our daily lives. There are seven essential factors for a balanced diet: carbs, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, minerals and water.

Balancing blood sugar: A guide to preventing diabetes through diet (Shutterstock)
Balancing blood sugar: A guide to preventing diabetes through diet (Shutterstock)

India is just one country where millions of people suffer from the chronic illness known as diabetes, which is characterised by high blood sugar levels that can harm your organs if uncontrolled and involves renal failure, heart disease, stroke and blindness. The good news is that you can prevent diabetes in a number of ways through mindful eating where you can assist, maintain healthy blood sugar levels and lower your chance of developing diabetes by following a few easy dietary modifications.

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In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Srinath Aswathiah, Consultant Diabetologist and Endocrinologist at BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital in Bengaluru, asserted that it is equally important to not deprive ourselves of meals one loves. He said, “We have to understand that lack of carbohydrates could lead to exhaustion and fatigue. A balanced diet should offer around 60% of total calories from carbohydrates, 10-15% from proteins and 20-25% of total calories from fat.”

Stating that diet can play an important role in controlling blood sugars, especially if one has diabetes, he encouraged to understand how our body processes food differently and shared, “Carbohydrates break down into glucose faster than other nutrients. It is therefore ideal to consume right amount of foods with carbohydrates, proteins and fats. This will help to balance sugar levels in ideal range. Foods that are high in protein and fats are advised to maintain healthy diet provided one doesn’t suffer from kidney related health issues. For Vegetarians snack on non-fat Greek yogurt and walnuts for non-vegetarians’ foods like fatty fish like tuna and salmon helps. Snacking on these foods not only maintains blood sugars levels but also help keep blood pressure in check while maintaining a healthy weight. Also, to balance one’s meal non-starchy vegetables like asparagus and green beans adds added benefit. It’s always important to understand that foods that are high in fat like avocados and nuts are great additives for a diet to lower blood sugars.”

He advised, “Foods that need to be avoided are diet with high carbohydrate content which can affect blood sugar and also weight. Keeping a watch on processed foods like potato chips, packaged grains and fast food is vital. Trans fats, found in many processed foods, are also a danger to heart health. This step will help you avoid foods that will spike blood sugar levels. Low-calorie drinks fill you up and balance glucose levels. Examples include citrus fruits, cucumber with mint. These can be taken anytime. Remember that foods high in fat and protein help you curb cravings. Limit starchy and packaged foods for a healthy diet and to consume foods like whole wheat rich fibre and no added sugar.”

Edwina Raj, Head of Services - Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics at Aster CMI Hospital in Bangalore, explained, “Diabetes is a condition when the body either produces insufficient insulin or uses it improperly. This results in a build up of glucose in your blood, which may cause health issues. The two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, the body's immune system specifically targets and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. The most prevalent kind of diabetes is type 2, which is brought on by a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.”

Talking about how diet can help to prevent diabetes, she said, “Maintaining a healthy weight and regulating your blood sugar levels with a balanced diet will help you avoid developing diabetes. You are less likely to have blood sugar rises after meals if you follow a balanced diet. Additionally, you are less likely to put on excess weight, which is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes.”

According to her, following are some helpful suggestions for controlling blood sugar levels in India -

  • Choose Indian cuisine at its best: Include whole grains but in moderation , add lentils, and vegetables which are the main ingredients in many traditional Indian dishes, all of which are beneficial for controlling blood sugar. For instance, roti, dal, and sabzi may be found in an Indian dinner.
  • Utilise spices: Numerous Indian spices, including fenugreek, cinnamon, and turmeric, have been found to reduce blood sugar levels. To benefit, add these spices to your meals.
  • Pay attention to portion sizes: Even while consuming nutritious foods, it's crucial to pay attention to portion proportions. Any food in excess might cause blood sugar levels to rise.
  • Frequently consume meals and snacks: Regular meals and snacks help to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Attempt not to miss meals or going long periods without eating food.

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