In the last year when prices of essential commodities went through the roof, B. Parvati’s blood pressure and blood sugar counts went soaring. Unrelated, she had been diagnosed with both hypertension and diabetes and was prescribed small,  healthy meals.

 “Healthy? With vegetables selling the prices of horses and elephants? Impossible on our family income of Rs. 10,000 per month. As it is there are so many medicines to buy,” Parvathi says in righteous indignation that tails off into a sigh. Many others, less articulate perhaps, are in the same boat as Parvati, turning somersaults every month, to stretch the income to meet all expenses.

 The prices of vegetables, specially, has increased manifold in the last year or so, though the price has been on an upward trend for years now. When onion prices hit the roof and were rightfully turned into a joke, other prices crept up less dramatically, but steadily enough, making a trip to the vegetable market a veritable nightmare for most middle class people. But especially so for people with diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, who have been strictly told to follow a ‘healthy’ diet, or pay for it with their health.

 “In an ideal meal, a ‘healthy’ meal, you would have a small portion of rice. The bulk of the plate would consist of vegetables, and a good quantity of legumes, or lean meat or egg white for non vegetarians (for protein),” says Thangamani, dietician, Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialties Centre. While it makes sense for every one to decorate their plates this way, these are written rules on the diet chart of every patient.

 V.Balaji, of Dr. Balaji’s Diabetes Care Centre, says, vegetables are a big source of fibre, and putting more of them on your plate essentially means cutting down on carbohydrates. “Lesser the carbs, the better for your patient,” he says. G.Padma, a resident of Anna Nagar West Extension, is clear that she understands this principle, but pleads helplessness. "We sometimes have to manage with chips or pickles instead of vegetables, and I buy only veggies that cost less.”

 V.Mohan of MVDSC says besides the indirect benefit of reducing consumption of carbs, vegetables have a lot of fibres, nutrients, minerals and micro nutrients that are necessary for patients. Mr. Srinivasan, whose wife Anandi is a diabetic, says today one can buy only a portion of the vegetables that they could buy one year ago. “But we need to buy the vegetables, even if we have to buy less,” he adds.

 A.Paneerselvam, of Aruna Diabetes Centre, says reducing the quantities of food and vegetables consumed will soon become a habit, and will have long term implications for patients. Going traditional is the solution, he opines, in terms of bringing millets and vegetables from kitchen gardens back into the pot. However, over the long term, it is absolutely essential for the government to intervene and put in price controls to regulate the prices of vegetables and fruits. Initiatives like Tamil Nadu’s Farm Fresh markets can be replicated elsewhere, he adds.

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