Low Calorie High Fiber Diet In Managing Diabetes Diabetes/Heart Health
Diabetes Management: Low-Cal, High-Fiber Diet Approach
AUGUST 21, 2023

Low Calorie High Fiber Diet In Managing Diabetes

Calorie? Fiber? What are they?

People in the age group 30’s and above must have heard their doctors or gym trainers telling them “burn your calories.” And if you are diabetic, it is quite likely that you must have also heard “take more dietary fiber.” But how many of us are really aware of what these terms are?

A calorie is a unit of energy and in a nutritional sense, the food we take – fats, proteins, carbohydrates or sugars are sources of calories. For our cells, the brain and the entire body to function properly, these calories are needed in an adequate amount. In excess, it causes troubles and that’s why shedding the extra calories is important.

Coming to dietary fiber, it is also known as roughage or bulk. Now, do not be misled by such terms, they are called so just because they are parts of plant food that cannot be digested or absorbed by our body. But they play important roles in maintaining bowel health, achieving healthy body weight and most importantly, controlling lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. There are 2 types of dietary fibers:

  • Soluble Fiber:this type dissolves in water to form a gel-like material and is abundantly found in oats, barley, beans, citrus fruits, etc. In the context of diabetes, this type is more relevant as they help control glucose levels in the blood.
  • Insoluble Fiber: this type does not dissolve in water; it helps increase the stool bulk and promotes smooth bowel movements while not getting themselves absorbed or digested. Whole wheat flour, wheat bran, corn, kidney beans, etc. are the best examples.

What modern-day researches say?

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is one of the most prevalent lifestyle disorders all over the world. It is a chronic condition caused due to insufficient production of insulin by the beta cells of the pancreas or inefficiency of the body cells to effectively utilize the insulin produced. Diet and lifestyle have major roles in preventing and managing the condition effectively. Among the researchers, one such interesting topic is the effect of low-calorie high fiber diet in managing diabetes.

There was a time when insulin was not invented as therapy and then, the treatment was mainly focused on reducing the carbohydrate intake (Carbohydrates are broken down to glucose and to effectively utilize this glucose by the body cells, insulin is necessary. A fault in this mechanism results in high blood sugar levels, resulting in diabetes). Incidentally, this carbohydrate reduction coincided with a reduction in the intake of calories also. Excess fat in the pancreas hampers the production of insulin by the beta cells. The low-calorie diet helps in weight loss and getting rid of this excess pancreatic fat, which in turn triggers the beta cells to produce normal levels of insulin in response to glucose.

So, it is evident that the intake of carbohydrates or high-calorie diet has a negative effect on blood glucose levels. But taking the nutritional aspects and a balanced diet into consideration, we cannot completely avoid it too. Researchers say the smartness lies in choosing the right type of carbohydrates – like, fiber-rich complex carbohydrates which are digested more slowly, thus preventing the over-production of insulin.  Evidence shows that a high-fiber diet, especially cereals and whole grains, considerably reduces the risk of cardio-metabolic diseases like cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and obesity. High fiber foods are filling, most have a lower glycemic index and thus helps control your appetite and have less effect on blood glucose levels.

What Ayurveda says...

Diabetes is generally correlated to Prameha in Ayurveda and most of the Ayurveda physicians consider Madhumeha (a classification of Prameha itself) as Diabetes, based on the similarity in causes, pathogenesis, clinical features and prognosis.

Acharya Susrutha classifies Prameha mainly into 2 types:

  • Sahaja prameha– that is congenital or hereditary. They are usually Krisha (lean). This may be best correlated to Type 1 diabetes mellitus.
  • Apathyanimittaja prameha– this type develops due to improper diet and lifestyle. They are sthoola (obese), glutton, unctuous and resorted to sedentary habits and sleep. This may very well be correlated to Type 2 diabetes, which is more prevalent globally.

So, here we are considering the second type, which is the sthoola pramehi (Type 2 diabetes mellitus) and the dietary management mentioned for the same in Ayurveda. There are some important diet-related causes mentioned for Madhumeha in Ayurveda and let us evaluate how it leads to diabetes.

  • Adhyashana– intake of food without digestion of previously taken food. This increases the risk of obesity and metabolic diseases like diabetes.
  • Madhura rasa and gudavikara– excessive intake of sweet substances and jaggery based food items that leads to an increase in blood glucose levels.
  • Medhovardhaka ahara– high-calorie diet
  • Kaphakara ahara– excessive intake of Kapha dosha promoting food which in turn causes excess body weight and increases the risk of diabetes.

So, when considering a diet for a diabetic individual, Ayurveda gives emphasis to food items that are difficult to digest and have less nutritive value (Guru Apatharpana chikitsa). Needless to say, this goes hand-in-hand with the concept of low-calorie high fiber diet we mentioned earlier.

There are some common food items mentioned by all Acharyas in the treatment of Prameha as Pathyahaara (food items that are conducive). Cereals like Yavam (Barley), Godhuma (whole wheat grain), Thrindhanya (like corn), pulses/lentils like Mudga (green gram), Channa (Bengal gram), etc. are rich in dietary fiber and may be taken by diabetics. It is a known fact that vegetables and fruits are rich in dietary fiber and are good options if you are particularly on a low-calorie diet. Ancient Acharyas astonish us there also, by specifically mentioning vegetables and fruits like Karela (bitter gourd), Methi (Fenugreek), Jambu (Blackberry), Amalaki (gooseberry), etc. as good for diabetics. Regarding the intake of oils, Sarshapa taila (mustard oil) is mentioned as the best and because it contains about 60% monounsaturated fatty acids, it is also good for diabetics who watch out for calorie intake.

It is interesting to note that these are easily available and practical options to include in our daily diet. Apart from these, there are certain impressive recipes too mentioned in classical treatises with these ingredients that can be prepared very easily. Vaatya (barley porridge), Sakthu (roasted corn flour), Aapoopa (pancakes with any mentioned cereals), Yavam soaked in the decoction of Triphala, kept overnight and mixed with honey, etc. are some examples.

Furthermore, Acharya Charaka also emphasizes that people who habitually take roasted barley, dry corn-flour, mudga and amalaki do not suffer from prameha.

Principles for Eating Healthy in Ayurveda

Irrespective of whether you have diabetes or not, Ayurveda has specific recommendations on how to consume food.

  • Eat in a calm and relaxed environment while enjoying your food. Do not eat food when you do not have the appetite or feel angry or stressed. Sit in a comfortable place and relish your food with all your senses.
  • Ayurveda stresses a lot on portion control. Fill only half of your stomach. One-fourth of your stomach should be left for liquids, and the other quarter should be left empty for digestion.
  • Ayurveda emphasizes eating a meal that has a balance of shadrasas or six tastes- Madhura (Sweet), Amla (Sour), Lavana (Salty), Tikta (Bitter), Katu (Pungent), and Kashaya (Astringent). But when you have a health condition like diabetes, reduce sweet, sour, and salty food.

Food Recommendations for Low-Calorie High-Fiber Diet

  • Consume whole grains, lentils, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Consume fruits like bananas, apples, and pears.
  • Instead of eating raw vegetables and salads, lightly steam them so it is easy on your gut.
  • Sprinkle your oatmeal with nuts like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.

People with high Vata dosha should be careful while using a fiber diet, as it may worsen their dosha imbalance. To counter this, you can add a small amount of ghee to your diet.

Ayurvedic herbs and spices for managing diabetes

Ayurvedic herbs and spices

Many traditional herbs can be immensely beneficial in maintaining blood sugar balance.

  • Guduchi- It is no wonder that the revered herb Guduchi is also known as Madhu nashini. It helps reduce oxidative stress and enhance insulin production, improving glucose metabolism. It helps control high blood sugar and its associated complications.
  • Bael- The humble bael fruits are not just a summer coolant. The flavonoids and polyphenols present in bael can improve insulin sensitivity. The low glycemic index of Bael fruit means it is safe for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Apart from this, research has found that taking an aqueous extract of bael leaf daily significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Jamun- Jamun fruits have a low glycemic index, making them suitable for those with diabetes, but apart from this, the seeds of Jamun are also beneficial. Studies have proven that powdered Jamun seeds can reduce blood sugar levels and ease symptoms of diabetes like excessive thirst. Mix one teaspoon of jamun seed powder with water and drink. Kerala Ayurveda Glyimin Plus has a powerful blend of anti-glycemic herbs like Jamun, Amla, Turmeric, and Guduchi that lower blood sugar levels and improve glucose metabolism.
  • Amla- Amla is well known for its sugar-balancing properties. It helps in regulating carbohydrate metabolism. It is also rich in dietary fiber. You can consume one raw amla daily to control your blood sugar.
  • Fenugreek- Fenugreek seeds are high in fiber. Research has shown that it helps lower blood sugar by slowing down digestion. You can soak a teaspoon of methi seeds overnight, strain it, and consume it on an empty stomach the following day.
  • Turmeric- Turmeric, the golden spice, has numerous health benefits. Well known for its immunity-boosting properties, it can also balance blood sugar levels. Consume a glass of Turmeric milk to keep diabetes under control. Kerala Ayurveda Nisakathakadi Kwath Tablet is enriched with turmeric, amla, and other herbs that help to balance your sugar level and associated complications like polyuria and swollen feet.

If you are already under some medications, consult with your doctor before consuming any home remedies, as they can lower your blood sugar.

- Conclusion

Type 2 Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that can be managed effectively with appropriate medicines, diet control, and lifestyle modifications. Many of us have a misconception that it may be controlled with medicines only. But what we tend to forget is that Diabetes can even be prevented if your diet and lifestyle are properly taken care of from the beginning itself. Better late than never. So, prepare yourself for a high fiber low calorie diet, try some innovative ancient recipes and enjoy a healthy long life with Ayurveda.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Apart from medicines, diet plays an important role in managing Diabetes.
  • A high-fibre, low-calorie diet can be extremely beneficial in managing as well as preventing diabetes.
  • Herbs and spices like turmeric, amla, guduchi and jamun can help you balance your blood sugar levels.



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