What traditional Indian medicine teaches about eating well with diabetes

August 02, 2022

4 minutes of reading


Font: Interviews at Healio

Disclosures: Kharod does not report relevant financial disclosures. Weiner reports that he is serving as a consultant to Insulet.

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susan weiner

Paul Kharod

Susan Weiner, MS, RDN, CDCES, FADCES, talk to Paul Kharod, MS, DR, LDN, about the ancient system of medical knowledge known as Ayurveda and what it can reveal about living with diabetes.

Weiner: What is Ayurveda and how does it apply to Indian cuisine??

Ayurveda can improve diet in people with diabetes
The ancient system of medical knowledge Ayurveda teaches that all illness begins in the gut and that food is medicine, and traditional foods cooked with Ayurvedic principles tend to be healthy.

Kharod: Ayurveda is an ancient medical system dating back more than 5,000 years. Ayur means “life” and vage means “knowledge”. Thus, Ayurveda is the knowledge of how to live a healthy and happy life. According to Ayurveda, health is not the absence of disease. Ayurveda focuses on the preservation of a healthy body and the prevention of disease. Ayurveda principles focus on each person’s unique constitution and aim to achieve balance of mind, body and spirit in a personalized approach.

The main tenet of Ayurveda is that all disease begins in the gut, and Hippocrates may have learned this from Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, all diseases occur due to dysfunction of agnithe digestive fire that helps with the metabolism and digestion of food, maintains the natural intestinal flora by killing foreign bacteria and toxins, and supports the growth of healthy bacteria.

Ayurveda classifies three dosha as substances that flow or circulate within the body, bringing diseases due to excess or deficiency. The doshas exhibit the characteristics of the elements they are made of. All diseases are caused by an imbalance of the doshas, ​​and the imbalance is caused by improper diet and leading an unhealthy lifestyle.

The food itself is the medicine. Our physical composition is a combination of five essential elements present in the universe: ether, air, fire, water and earth. According to Ayurveda, six flavors originate from these five elements: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. We need each of these six flavors in our daily diet. Indian cuisine is richly flavored with these six flavors to aid in optimal digestion.

Ayurveda also classifies foods as heating or cooling the body. There are rules about food combinations and what foods should or should not be eaten at the same meal. Dietary goals change with the seasons and according to the stages of the life cycle. The goal is to restore the balance of natural energies; digest food well; build strong cells and tissues, including our immune cells; have a regular and complete elimination; keep your senses sharp; achieve peace of mind; and keep a clear thought.

WEiner: What are your best culinary tips for people living with diabetes when eating traditional Indian food?

Kharod: Traditional foods cooked with Ayurvedic principles tend to be healthy and easy to digest. However, not everyone eats that way. Indian food can also be unhealthy, especially when prepared with excess oils and heavy creams. If meals are not properly balanced, they can be high in simple starches.

I use the plate method to talk about portion control. My first tip is to increase the amount and variety of non-starchy vegetables. Second, swap simple starches and flours for intact whole grains. I encourage the use of plant-based proteins, such as legumes, nuts and seeds. Another tip is to reduce salt, sugar, and fat in your diet.

Weiner: What should someone keep in mind when adopting a plant-based diet?

Kharod: There is a huge misconception that vegetarians only eat vegetables. People trying to adopt a plant-based diet may consume inadequate calories and nutrients if they only eat salads, or they may gain excess calories if they eat veggie burgers and mock chicken nuggets. A plant-based diet should always revolve around plants. Eat real foods that grow like plants: whole grains, beans and lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Limit packaged processed foods, especially imitation meats. It is important to eat balanced meals that are colorful and rich in nutrients.

Weiner: How can a person with diabetes reduce carbohydrate intake while eating traditional Indian meals?

Kharod: Eating for diabetes isn’t just about cutting carbs, it’s also about cutting back on sugars and simple starches. Research shows that a high-fat diet can also have a negative effect on insulin resistance. The timing of meals, the spacing of meals and the balance of the plate are also important. It is important to focus on fiber and not just carbohydrates. Foods that are high in healthy carbohydrates and fiber include all intact whole grains, beans, peas, and lentils. Traditional recipes that use flours can be modified to use intact whole grains. I offer recipes and information on how traditional foods can be modified to be lower in carbohydrates and higher in fiber.

Weiner: What are some tTips for incorporating spices into meals?

Kharod: Spices are incorrectly confused with the term “picante”, which means spicy. This is not true. Only varieties of peppers are hot. Most other spices have unique flavors. Indian food cannot be cooked without spices. In fact, all foods should be cooked with spices and herbs, as they are not just for flavor. All spices have anti-inflammatory healing properties and are made up of an impressive list of phytonutrients, essential oils, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that are vital for good health.

Get familiar with the variety of spices and start using them. Add cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg to oatmeal and even coffee. Add turmeric and ginger to soups and stir-fries. Use cumin-flavored black beans in your tacos. As you start to use them, you will feel more comfortable to experiment. In the meantime, trust the recipes.

Weiner: Where can people with diabetes learn more about indian cuisine?

Kharod: Physicians should refer their patients to a registered dietitian who specializes in Indian cuisine and/or plant-based diets who can consider the person’s overall health and prescribe an individualized nutrition plan. Information on consumer websites may not be accurate or may make recommendations for people with diabetes without regard to comorbid heart or kidney disease.

For more information:

Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist practicing in Raleigh/Cary, North Carolina. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Susan Weiner, MS, RDN, CDN, CDCES, FADCES, is co-author of The Complete Diabetes Organizer Y Diabetes: 365 tips to live well. She is the owner of Susan Weiner Nutrition PLLC and is the endocrine today Editor of the Diabetes in real life column. You can reach her at [email protected]; Twitter: @susangweiner.

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