Diet and lifestyle sit at the helm of successful management of Type 2Diabetes (T2D) or Prameha as it is called in Ayurveda. On one hand, unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle are one of the major causes of T2D. On the other hand, their healthy and wholesome counterparts are the most powerful nemesis of this metabolic disorder. It is not surprising that Ayurveda regards healthy diet and lifestyle as the cornerstones of health and wellbeing. Here are five most essential Ayurvedic diet changes that can help you in the management of T2D-
Full of beans
The one taste that helps in dealing with food cravings, weight issues, insulin resistance and high blood sugar of T2D is ‘Kashaya rasa’ or astringent taste. It is the mouth puckering taste that you get after biting into a raw plantain or a persimmon. Almost all beans and lentils are astringent in taste. Beans like mung beans, moth beans, soy beans, lima beans, fava beans, white beans, pinto beans, black eyed peas, kidney beans etc. have prominent astringent taste. They have low glycemic index and are packed with nutrition. Astringent taste helps in balancing Kapha dosha which is imbalanced in Prameha. It also helps in toning our body tissues, especially Fat which loses its tone and vitalityin Prameha. They have complex carbohydrates that help in stabilizing blood sugar levels. They are a good source of dietary fiber and are rich in proteins. Vital trace elements like magnesium, iron and zinc are plentiful in beans and lentils. Beans and lentils are versatile foods and can be paired up with leafy greens, fresh herbs and spices for whipping up tasty yet nutritious meals. People with Vata body type and Vata dominant symptoms in T2D should pair beans and lentils with a drizzle of oil or ghee (Clarified Butter)and Vata pacifying herbs like ginger, garlic, cilantro etc.
Ayurveda advises whole grains and cereals like barley, wheat, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, pearl millet, rye, wild rice, maize etc. for people with T2D. Those few who have lost weight and vitality after developing T2D are especially benefited by nourishing whole grains like rice, oats and wheat. People trying to shed pounds are also greatly benefited by including nutritious cereals like rye, pearl millet, spelt, sorghum, buckwheat etc. in their diet. Whole grains are packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and dietary fiber. Include plenty of 100% whole grain cereals (check for added sugar), whole grain breads, pasta, tortillas and crackers. Read the labels of your whole grain products carefully. Stay clear of those with enriched flours and additives like high fructose corn syrups, sugars etc. added for pumping up the taste. Make sure that the first ingredient on listed on the product is a whole grain.
If you are doing the tight rope walk of balancing calories, trying to lose weight, making peace with your T2D and yet be healthy; open your mind and kitchen to the bitter- astringent vegetables. Ayurveda recommends bitter, astringent vegetables like broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, endives, dandelion greens, arugula and Indian vegetables like bitter gourd, ivy gourd (Tinda in Hindi) fenugreek greens, Drum sticks, drum stick greens (Moringa oleifera) etc. for people with T2D. Bitter taste stimulates digestion and astringent taste helps in improving the metabolism of fat in our body. Together they balance Kapha dosha which is involved in the pathogenesis of diabetes mostly in obese and overweight individuals. They also help in balancing Pitta dosha which is the root cause of inflammation in the digestive tract, leading to common complains like heart burn and hyperacidity. Research studies have shown that including fresh vegetables (and fruits) in diet lowers the risk of T2D. Western Diet which is high in refined grain products, processed meat, sugary drinks and low in red wine, cruciferous vegetables (family of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc.) carries higher risk of facilitating T2D.1 Some of these bitter vegetables e.g. Bitter Gourd, have frank anti-diabetic benefits. Also, Bitter gourd helps in regulating our fat metabolism and helps in weight loss.2 Astringent vegetable ‘Tinda’-ivy gourd (Coccinia grandis) has proven anti-diabetic qualities. It is believed that these vegetables improve the secretion of insulin or other enzymes involved in glucose metabolism there by improving T2D.3 However, individuals with Vata body type and Vata dominant T2D should take bitter-astringent vegetables in moderation, as they tend to aggravate Vata.
Spices are some of the first medicines used by humans. Their multi-faceted personality as food and medicine gives them the status of ‘functional foods’. The importance of spices in the management of T2D is unsurpassed. Common Indian spices and herbs like Turmeric, fenugreek, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, cinnamon, bay leaves, curry leaves, cloves, nutmeg, garlic, onion, ginger and other spices like allspice, basil, sage etc. have anti-diabetic action.4,5 According to Ayurveda, most spices improve appetite and digestion. They are subtle (Sukshma) in nature due to which, they can reach and help in toning the deepest of our body tissues. They also boost metabolism by improving tissue nourishment. Spices are packed with tremendous energy, hence they should be used in very small quantities. Even in T2D diet, spices should be chosen depending on individual body types and overuse should be strictly avoided. Most spices are hot in potency and should be carefully administered in people with Pitta body type.
Ayurveda has put equal and perhaps more emphasis on certain foods that should be avoided and whose consumption should be strictly moderated, especially in case of T2D. Such foods are called ‘Apathya’ or unwholesome in Sanskrit. Some studies have also found that the insulin sensitivity and beta cell functions (insulin secreting cells of pancreas) can be normalized by restricting diet.6 Here is a list of foods that should be avoided or strictly moderated by people with T2D-
- Foods with sweet, sour and salty taste
- Sugarcane juice, jaggery and cane sugar
- Milk and milk products, Yogurt and curd
- Meat and fish (meat from wild games like hare, deer and game birds are wholesome for diabetics)
- Frozen foods
- Sugar laden drinks and fruits juices diet or otherwise
- Fat laden foods, fried foods
Once again, diet and lifestyle must be customized and fine- tuned to compliment the unique body type and energies of every individual as well as the nature of dosha involvement in their T2D.
- Schulze et al, Dietary pattern, inflammation, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in women, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 82, No. 3, 675-684, September 2005
- Qixuan Chen, Laureen L. Y. Chan and Edmund T. S. Li, Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) Reduces Adiposity, Lowers Serum Insulin and Normalizes Glucose Tolerance in Rats Fed a High Fat Diet, J. Nutr. April 1, 2003 vol. 133 no. 4 1088-1093
- Kalpana Platel, Dr. K. Srinivasan, Plant foods in the management of Diabetes mellitus: Vegetables as potential hypoglycaemic agents,Food / Nahrung Volume 41, Issue 2, pages 68–74, 1997
- C. Leigh Broadhurst, Marilyn M. Polansky, and Richard A. Anderson, Insulin-like Biological Activity of Culinary and Medicinal Plant Aqueous Extracts in Vitro, J. Agric. Food Chem., 2000, 48 (3), pp 849–852
- K. Srinivasan, Plant foods in the management of diabetes mellitus: Spices as beneficial antidiabetic food adjuncts, International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition,2005, Vol. 56, No. 6 , Pages 399-414
- E. L. Lim & K. G. Hollingsworth & B. S. Aribisala & M. J. Chen & J. C. Mathers & R. Taylor, Reversal of type 2 diabetes: normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol, Diabetologia, DOI 10.1007/s00125-011-2204