Diabetes In The Family: Choose A New Way Of Eating

Healthy eating can be a challenge when you are cooking for your family, and if you or someone from the family suffers from diabetes, things could get even more complicated. Making healthy food choices becomes an imperative part of preventing or dealing with diabetes. 

When a family member has diabetes you need to take control of their eating habits. Remember that if there is a family history of diabetes, more than one member can be affected. Healthy eating is one step you and your family can take to lower this risk. Following a healthy meal plan and becoming more active can help your loved one control their weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose. So how do you manage to make sure that not only is your family eating healthy, but also the loved one who has diabetes doesn’t feel singled out when it comes to the daily meals? If you have high-sugar, high-calorie foods around, it makes it difficult for the person with diabetes not to be eating them. The goal is to get your family to unite over a new way of eating. You need foods that can help you maintain balanced blood sugar levels as well as a healthy weight.

The glycaemic index (GI) is a tool you can use to determine how a particular food could impact your or the family member’s blood sugar. Foods that are high on the GI will raise your blood sugar faster. Foods ranked low on the scale are less likely to cause spikes. Foods with high fibre are low on the GI. Foods that are processed, cooked, or canned register high on the GI.

Refined carbohydrates rank high on the GI. These are grain products that digest quickly in your stomach. Examples are white bread, white rice, sodas and readymade juices with high sugar content. Eating more fibre-rich foods, on the other hand, offers several benefits. It helps you feel fuller, longer. Fibre adds bulk to your diet, making bowel movements easier. Fibre-rich foods can make you less likely to overeat and also help you avoid the ‘crash’ that can come from eating a high-sugar food. High-fibre foods include beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables that have an edible skin, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein etc. Make gradual changes and get everyone on board with being healthier.

Diabetes experts have long suspected that one important step in diabetes prevention and management is replacing refined, simple sugars in the diet with more complex sources of whole grains. Wholegrain foods are usually better for managing blood glucose levels because they tend to have a lower GI.

Some studies have shown that healthy diets, rich in wholegrain foods, can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Says a report in ‘The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’, “A diet high in whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Efforts should be made to replace refined-grain with wholegrain foods.” Advises a report from The Harvard School of Public Health, “There is convincing evidence that diets rich in whole grains protect against diabetes, whereas diets rich in refined carbohydrates lead to increased risk.” The report quotes a study, where researchers looked at the whole grain consumption of more than 160,000 subjects whose health and dietary habits were followed for up to 18 years. Those who averaged two to three servings of whole grains a day were 30% less likely to have developed type 2 diabetes than those who rarely ate whole grains. When the researchers combined these results with those of several other large studies, they found that eating extra two servings of whole grains a day decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 21%.

The bran and fibre in whole grains make it more difficult for digestive enzymes to break down the starches into glucose. This leads to lower, slower increases in blood sugar and insulin, and a lower GI. As a result, they stress the body’s insulin-making machinery less, and so may help prevent type 2 diabetes. Whole grains are also rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that may help reduce the risk of diabetes. Studies also suggest that wholegrain foods may be more filling than their refined counterparts, which may help reduce the urge for snacking between meals and help people manage their weight.

“Including whole grains in your meal plan might help improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin, whether you have type 2 diabetes already or are at risk for it,” declared experts at the American Diabetes Association’s 74th annual Scientific Sessions, June 2014. Researchers compared a whole grain diet with one consisting of refined grains—both equal in total carbohydrate—in 14 adults with prediabetes who followed each of the diets for eight weeks at a time. Eating whole grains decreased their resistance to insulin and upped the function of insulin-producing beta cells. They said that eating whole grains, such as oatmeal, instead of refined grains reduces blood glucose and should be part of any strategy to prevent or treat diabetes.

Oats are a diabetes power food because of their fibre content. Research shows that oat lovers can also lower total and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and improve insulin resistance. It also provides a sustained release of glucose into the bloodstream. Saponin, a hormone-like substance found in oats, helps the pancreas regulate the production of insulin. This is how eating oats helps to normalise blood glucose levels in diabetics and can even reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Weight loss is another important aspect of managing diabetes and can even delay the onset of diabetes if a member of your family is pre-diabetic. The soluble fibre in oatmeal can absorb a lot of water. This helps the digestive process and makes one feel full for a longer period, which helps in maintaining a healthy weight. Oats are also a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that is needed in the manufacture of many enzymes. Some of these enzymes play a part in insulin secretion and the body’s use of glucose.

Other than including wholegrain foods, there are a few more things, which can help your family member deal with diabetes:

Drink plenty of water: Water consumption and blood sugar are related to the hormone vasopressin that controls the water level in the body. When our body is dehydrated, vasopressin signals the liver to increase the production of glucose, which in turn increases the glucose level in blood. Drink water generously to keep blood sugar under control.

Eat citrus fruits: Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruit and berries have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This helps in fighting and preventing free radical damage and inflammation, two of the most harmful side effects of type 2 diabetes. Moreover, the naringin and neohesperidin present in citrus fruits increases insulin sensitivity of cells naturally.

Give a thumbs up to green tea: The polyphenols and polysaccharides present in green tea help in reducing blood glucose level effectively by increasing insulin activity. The enzyme amylase converts starch into glucose in our body and the polyphenols reduces the production of amylase, thereby keeping blood sugar level under control. Research shows that people who drink 4 cups of green tea per day are at 16% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who don’t drink green tea.

…And a thumbs down to soda: Soda in any form is extremely harmful for diabetics because it promotes weight gain and reduces the body’s ability of absorbing glucose. It leads to a sudden spike in blood sugar. One glass of soda contains 13-16 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Substitute soda with lemon and mint-infused water.

Add methi or fenugreek seeds to your foods: Type 2 diabetes can also be controlled effectively by using common ingredients in the Indian kitchen – like methi or fenugreek seeds, for instance. Multiple studies have been carried out to investigate the potential anti-diabetic benefits of fenugreek.

These seeds contain fibre and other chemicals that slow digestion and the body’s absorption of carbohydrates and sugar. The seeds may also help to improve the way the body uses sugar and increase the amount of insulin released. A 2009 report in the ‘International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research’ reported that a daily dose of 10 grams of fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water might be helpful in controlling type 2 diabetes. Another study that appears in a 2009 issue of ‘The Journal of Medicinal Food’, suggests that whole-wheat flour dishes with fenugreek flour added in may help to reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes. In the reported study, scientists found that the mixed flour maintained fenugreek’s property of reducing insulin resistance. They concluded that dishes could be prepared with added fenugreek, which would reduce insulin resistance and treat type 2 diabetes. In addition, researchers believe fenugreek seeds may be effective in the treatment of arthritis, high cholesterol, skin problems (wounds, rashes and boils), bronchitis, abscesses, hair loss, constipation, upset stomach, kidney ailments, heartburn, male impotence and other types of sexual dysfunction.

Healthy people are those who live in healthy homes on a healthy diet. You, as a parent, can make conscious nutrition a priority in your home. After all, changing what you eat can transform your life – and that of your family’s.

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