... with small meals and regular snacking on low GI foods.

The fast pace of life today is in huge contrast from the olden times. Life has changed and so has our lifestyle. In this rush of managing everything, one often forgets to manage the most important thing: health. Diabetes is one example of the bad consequences of a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle.

Not surprisingly such problems were much lower in the olden days and a recent study from Sweden's Lund University ascribes this to the dietary patterns current in those days, as good nutrition plays a significant role in managing diabetes. Early man, the study says, fed on a “Paleolithic diet”, which included lean meat and fish, root vegetables, fruits, nuts and generally a no-salt and low-fat food.

Dietary intervention

The Lund University study is significant because it points to the sort of dietary interventions we ought to make to prevent diabetes in modern times. Certain small but sustainable lifestyle changes help keep diabetes at bay. Healthy eating is the mantra for healthy living. It has been proved beyond doubt that a balanced diet along with regular exercise and prescribed medication helps a diabetic keep his blood sugar in control and stay healthy.

In managing blood sugar levels, managing fluctuations is of great concern. Being aware of GI food is a bonus as diabetics can assess food on the basis of its GI value and thereby prevent their blood glucose levels from peaking inordinately.

GI (Glycemic Index) is a revolution brewing in the nutritional and preventive healthcare segment. Simply put, GI is a scientifically proven way of ranking carbohydrates in foods. It is a numerical system that tells you how fast a particular food triggers a rise in your blood sugar levels. Foods containing carbohydrates that break down rapidly (simple carbohydrates) have a high GI and will cause a rapid rise in blood sugar while foods containing carbohydrates that break down slowly (complex carbohydrates) have a low GI and bring about a much slower rise in the blood sugar levels.

Therefore, people with diabetes should consume small meals and snack regularly on foods that have low GI value (foods rich in complex carbohydrates, protein and with extra dietary fibre) instead of opting for three large meals a day. Three large meals a day can cause too much sugar to release instantly and may lead to extreme swings in blood sugar levels.

Why fibres are good

Dietary fibres are divided into two categories: soluble and insoluble. These fibres, particularly soluble fibres like beta glucan in oats, help lower lipid levels. Beta glucan also slows down the absorption of sugar in blood and keeps blood sugar levels from rising rapidly. It has been observed that, in comparison with other grains like wheat, oats reduce cholesterol levels more effectively.

Obviously one needs to avoid snacks with high cholesterol and high trans fat as this is known to contribute to heart problems associated with diabetes. People with diabetes should snack regularly on low GI foods. Customised oats- and ragi-based snacks made especially for people with diabetes are now available. Always check the GI content (mentioned on the pack) before buying.

Eating well is one of life's pleasures and it is actually possible to eat healthy and well if you make the right choices. A blend of healthy eating and regular physical activity plays a pivotal role in managing blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Quick tips

Snacking at regular intervals helps manage extreme swings in blood sugar levels

Rich sources of complex carbohydrates and extra dietary fibre include oats, ragi, legumes, grains, brown rice etc

Always check the GI content (mentioned on the pack) of the food before buying.

Remember, it is not enough to eat healthy. Regular physical activity is a must in a healthy lifestyle

The writer is a Hyderabad-based Dietician

Keywords: diabetesfibre foods

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