Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Common myths about Diabetes among Indians

As a clinical dietitian I have come across several myths that diabetics (along with their friends and relatives) have about the disease and also about the kind/type of food that they can/should eat. Here are a couple of the most common myths:

1) Diabetics should not eat rice: One of the biggest misconceptions is that once a person is detected to be a diabetic he has to stop eating rice. This is not true. Rice can be included in a meal plan for a diabetic. The only thing to keep in mind is to stick to the quantities prescribed by the dietitian. Though brown rice/semi-polished rice is better than white rice due to the fiber present in brown rice, white rice eaten in the prescribed amounts and along with whole pulses (rajma/kidney beans, channa, moong/mung), vegetables and a salad to increase the fiber content of the meal is also fine.

2) I have ‘thoda sa diabetes’ so I don’t really need to take medicines or follow a diet: There is no such thing as ‘little diabetes’ or as they say in Kannada: “swalpa diabetes idhe”. You may be a recently diagnosed diabetic whose sugar levels may have just started to go above the normal level, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take the medication prescribed or follow a diet and exercise. If you choose to ignore the situation thinking that it will ‘go away’ then you are wrong. Once diagnosed you need to follow whatever the doctor and the dietitian have prescribed to avoid the complications associated with Diabetes.
3) I have diabetes so I must not eat fruits, as fruits are sweet: This again is a very common myth among diabetics. All fruits can be eaten by a diabetic but in different quantities/portion sizes depending on the carbohydrate content in them. Some fruits have more carbohydrates, so you may be asked to eat a lesser amount than the others. Your dietitian will be able to guide you based on the total carbohydrates that your doctor has prescribed for you.

4) I drink ‘karela/bittergourd’ juice every morning and also eat methi sprouts and ‘kala jamun(the fruit), so I can reduce the dosage of my medication: Though these are known to reduce/keep the blood sugars under control in Ayurveda, don’t try to reduce your medication on your own without first discussing it with your doctor.

5) I’m on insulin so I don’t need to be careful of what I eat. I can eat whatever I want and simply increase my insulin dosage when I eat sweets: Even if you are on insulin, you still have to follow a diet and most important- eat on time! Tampering with your insulin dosage can be very dangerous-you could go into a coma due to very low blood sugars (hypoglycemia) if the insulin you took is too much.

6) I’m eating ‘diabetic rice/atta’ and ‘diabetic rusk’ and still my sugars are not under control: These are mostly clever marketing gimmicks. Just because a label says ‘healthy’ or ‘high –fiber’ or ‘low-fat’ or ‘good for diabetics’ doesn’t mean that you can eat as much as you want and expect your sugars to be under control. Even if the manufacturer’s claims are true, how much you eat (portion sizes) is also important to keep your sugars in check.
These are just some of the myths that I have come across during my years counseling diabetic patients in Bangalore. With India on the verge of becoming the ‘diabetes capital of the world’ people will come across many more. The best thing to do if you or anyone you know has a doubt/query, is to ask your Doctor/dietitian/ health care provider and get it cleared out instead of believing what may not be true.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Eat Healthy This Ramzan

The Muslim Holy month of Ramadan (or ‘Ramzan’ as it is known in India) begins on August 1st this year. Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast during daylight hours. Those who are physically able to are required to fast each day of the entire month, from sunrise to sunset. Eid Al-Fitr, which is expected to be around the 30th of August, marks the end of Ramzan.
Here are some tips for eating healthy during Ramzan:
• During Suhur/Suhoor(pre-dawn meal): try to switch to complex carbohydrates like brown rice(parboiled rice/semi-polished rice), whole wheat breads/atta/pasta as these take time to be digested and hence will keep you feeling full for a longer period of time.
• To avoid acidity: eat foods rich in fiber like vegetables, fruits, whole pulses/legumes. Avoid coffee, spicy and fried foods as these tend to increase the gastric secretion that can irritate the lining of the stomach.
• To avoid weight gain: avoid fried foods like namkeens(chivdas/mixtures/sev/ghatias), samosas, fried chicken, fried fish, sweets, desserts, pastries, chocolates, biryanis(on a daily basis), ghee, butter.
• To avoid dehydration: between Iftar and Suhur, drink loads of water, tender coconut water, lemonade, buttermilk/chaas and also eat fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of water/moisture like watermelon, muskmelon, pineapple, cucumber, all gourds(like bottle gourd, turrai, ash gourd).
• Choose healthy methods of cooking: opt for grilled/baked non-veg instead of fried.
• Instead of high calorie desserts: opt for fresh fruits on a daily basis, these not only have less calories but will also provide you with the all-important fiber and water.
For those who are looking out to eat healthy during Ramzan, here is a sample Indian diet that is balanced and does not go overboard as far as calories are concerned:
Breaking the fast (at sunset): Dates + Water

Iftar(dinner - the meal which ends the day's fast):
Option 1:
Rice +Gajar Methi sabzi +Masoor Dal+ Tandoori chicken+ Cucumber and tomato salad+ Buttermilk/chaas
Bedtime: Skimmed milk
Option 2:
Baingan bhartha +Channa Masala +Grilled chicken kabab +Mixed veg raita
Bedtime: Buttermilk
Option 3:
Fish curry +Cabbage and peas sabzi + Chickpea salad with peppers &tomatoes
Bedtime: Ragi malt

Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)
Option 1:
Veg Daliya Khichidi
Kadi + Stir fry mix veggies
+ Grilled chicken + Carrot and mint salad

Option 2:
Brown/semi-polished rice
Beetroot sabzi + Radish sambar + Mixed veg salad

Option 3:
Jowar roti
Bhindi sabzi + Chicken curry+ Mint raita
Tender coconut water

Eating healthy through Ramzan will not only be easy on your stomach but will also make sure that you don’t put on unnecessary weight during the month. Keep the feasting and all the yummy biryanis and kheer’s for Eid-after all, everyone deserves to indulge in some feasting after a month of fasting!