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Role of nutrition in the life of a diabetic

Dr Rekha Sharma, President and Director, Nutrition and Dietetics, Diabetes Foundation (India) shares an exclusive article with us about the role of nutrition in the life of people suffering from diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus is a syndrome of multiple aetiologies characterized by chronic hyperglycaemia with disturbances of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism, resulting from defects in insulin secretion, insulin action or both. Nutrition and exercise play an important role in the management of Diabetes, however there is no such thing as a Diabetic diet, it is a healthy eating practice, with feeding at regular intervals. There are 4 main goals in the nutritional management of a diabetic as suggested by Dr.Rekha Sharma, President and Director, Nutrition and Dietetics, Diabetes Foundation (India).

Provide adequate calories for achieving and maintaining a reasonable body weight, normal growth, and development.

Daily Energy requirement or calories are planned and individualised according to one s age, sex, weight, height (Body mass Index), physical activity, exercise regimen, nature of diabetes and eating pattern along with cultural factors and work schedule. It is imperative to achieve an ideal body weight for adults and proper growth for children.

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Improve overall health through healthy food choices

  • The foods need to be low in Glycemic Index , that is have a low blood glucose response. Good to use whole grain cereals like oats, whole wheat porridge, whole grams and pulses, whole wheat bread etc ,to incorporate fiber in the diet .
  • For flour, supplement wheat with whole channaand do not sieve flour (wheat and channa 4;1 ratio) .Bajra , Jowar or Jau roti can be used intermittently ,as they have a lower Glycemic Index
  • Mix rice with whole grams or pulses in a ratio of 1:1
  • Consume fresh salads with non fat dressings like lemon and vinegar
  • Consume at least 4-5 servings of fresh vegetables and fruits/day
  • Take fruits as a dessert and avoid sweets and other rich cream-based dishes
  • Cooking medium to be restricted to 10-15 g/day. Use olive - Pomace /canola/ rice bran / soy /mustard oil. Use blended oils or alternate oils
  • Almonds and walnuts are good sources of antioxidants (7-8 pieces=1teaspoon of oil)
  • Use omega 3 rich foods like flax /chia seeds, walnuts, fish etc.
  • Restrict all refined carbohydrates like sugar, juice, jams, honey, jaggery , chocolate; root vegetables like potato, colocasia; maida preparations like white bread, biscuits, plain boiled rice, sago, noodles, macaroni, etc .
  • Avoid whole milk and use low fat / skimmed milk for tea, coffee, curds and paneer.
  • Avoid the use of processed cheese and use cottage cheese / Paneer or low fat cheese
  • Do not skip meals and divide your daily calories in to 5-6 small meals/day

Achieve and maintain optimal blood pressure and blood lipid levels.

Restrict salt in your diet if the blood pressure is high. Avoid all preserved foods like piclels, papads , sauces , chutnies , etc. In case triglycerides are high, reduce refined carbohydrates like white bread , maida , juices , reduce total fats , avoid alcohol and avoid smoking. Follow the healthy eating tips given above.

Address individual nutrition needs, incorporating personal and cultural preferences

Compliance of a diet is most important. It is important to share a family meal with reasonable healthy eating modifications, for long term benefits, based on the home eating patterns. Imposed diets away from the cultural and home pattern generally fail in compliance on long term basis.

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