Diet & Lifestyle for Diabetes Patients
Due to the increase in sedentary lifestyle and bad dietary habits, nowadays the trend of lifestyle disorders is becoming common these days. One of the major Lifestyle disorders is Diabetes. The correlation of Diabetes in Ayurveda is made with Prameha, particularly Madhumeha. Acharya had mentioned the various Nidana i.e. causative factors or risk factors responsible for the disease which fits perfectly in modern scenario.
In above quoted shloka describe both of the bad dietary & physical activities that are responsible factors for the disease discussed later on in this article under Apathya Aahar - vihar. For instance, here the word Asyasukham means the taste of mouth, in todays' scenario one correlates it with the various junk foods, packed food items available & oily, fried, spicy unhygienic foods which are otherwise tasty but are harmful for health. So let's discuss what to eat and what to avoid for a diabetic patient along with an ideal diet chart for the patient and few lifestyle modifications for making their life medicine free, healthy & happy.
Diabetes is a term used when there is excess amount of sugar in the blood, e.g. a person living in a particular area has his fasting blood sugar 110 mg/dl which is considered normal for him. If he takes some unhealthy diet or follow sedentary lifestyle then after few months his fasting sugar is 200 mg/dl, but the body is still showing no symptom of it, then it is still considered normal for him as the body had managed that much of sugar level, he must have to avoid those causes so he can reverse back the increased level of sugar in blood. But the problem arises when the person starts taking those meals or keeps on following that type of lifestyle, his blood sugar will keep on increasing & finally he will end up having multiple organ related damages & symptoms.
Diabetes mellitus is of two types i.e. Type 1 and Type 2. Diabetes mellitus Type 1 patients have no production of insulin at all (Insulin are the hormones that control blood sugar level) whereas type 2 patients have reduced production or decreased utilization of insulin in the body.
Insulin is a hormone that is secreted from beta cells of the pancreas that act as a messenger of glucose between the blood & cell membrane to facilitate the transport of glucose inside the cell and thus checking the blood sugar level.
Pancreas is one of the unique organ of the body that has an ability to regenerate. Thus if due to any cause the production of insulin is decreased or even stopped, if the proper nutrition is provided with proper guidance then it can itself restore its functions & bring back the person to its normal & proper health without the use of any medicine. So, if you are diabetic or even on insulin you just have to give proper nutrition to your body and thus giving your pancreas extra time & favorable conditions to regenerate & restore its functions.
Let's discuss some dos & don'ts which a diabetic patient should follow to get better therapeutic benefit from diet & lifestyle modification.
Pathya - Apathya (Dos & Don'ts)
The dietary habits/ foods that must be included in diabetic patient's diet plan are:
Try to consume them in raw, or in boiled form. If one wants to cook the vegetable, then must use the pure mustard oil or cow's ghee. Do not use any refined oils or ghee. Use of two raw tomatoes for consumption is recommended. Other vegetables such as radish, carrot, cucumber, onion, cabbage, cauliflower can be used in raw form as salad. Also use of spinach, various gourds, pumpkin, and other leafy vegetables as cooked food or in juice form as Smoothie.
Herbal smoothie prepared from green leaves is the best thing that is likely to be introduced in a diabetic patient's diet plan. This herbal smoothie is considered as Health Sanjeevani. Smoothie is an herbal juice made up of major leaves and minor leaves. Major leaves include Palak/baathu/chollai (Green leafy vegetables species like spinach) mooli ke patte (leaves of radish), chukandar ke patte (leaves of beetroot), etc. Minor leaves include Curry patta (leaves of Murraya koenigii), dhaniya (coriander leaves), pudina (mint leaves), tulsi (Basil leaves) etc.
Any one of the Major leave (e.g. spinach) is selected and then 8-10 leaves of spinach is to be added and all the minor edible leaves can be mixed in it, along with some fruit such as peach or apple, chia seeds, dalchini (a spice) and Saindhav lavan (pink salt) is added according to taste and then this whole mixture is grinded to get a good flavored healthy Smoothie. This smoothie must be consumed during morning hours preferably after 2 hours of breakfast and before noon. Pumpkin juice or Coconut water can also be consumed instead of this Smoothie, if the person doesn't feel it comfortable to drink daily. Coconut is considered as any time food and it is the natural source of minerals.
These juices are to be consumed very slowly, i.e., 1 glass of Smoothie/coconut/pumpkin juice is likely to be drunk in ½ hour.
Fruits are a great source of nutrition. There is a misconception that Diabetic patients should avoid the sweetened fruits but the patient with diabetic issues must include fruits in his/her daily diet regimen. As the fruits contain a high amount of fructose which will take time to digest and is a more efficient & long lasting source of energy for the patient than glucose. The patient can use fruit mixture as breakfast. Any favorable and seasonal fruits according to the place where he/ she lives is the best suited for him/her. Fruits can be consumed raw by peeling off or can be consumed in a juice form which is freshly prepared. Avoid packed fruit juices as it contains preservatives.
Use of dry fruits is highly recommended to these patients. Some of the dry fruits include Cashew nut, almonds, walnut, resins etc. These dry fruits must be soaked in water for some time & are peeled off before use. The soaking time varies from fruit to fruit, such as Almonds need about 8 hours, Anjeer needs about 1\2 hours or soaking, Cashew nuts must be soaked for about 2 hours, and resins could be soaked overnight. These are such food items which can be carried by the patient with them the whole day within a tiffin box as an emergency source of energy and are highly rich in carbohydrates i.e., whenever the patient feels hungry he/she can use these.
Diabetic Patients must take herbal tea once or twice a day according to his Prakriti. The tea ingredients include coarse powder of coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, basil leaves, chia seeds, cardamom, etc. Take approximately ½ teaspoon for 3 glasses of water and boil it until it remains 1\6th i.e. ½ glass (approx. 80-100 mL), add some amount of honey or jaggery for taste. Avoid adding milk/sugar to it.
Millets are the oldest known foods to humans & possibly the first cereal grains to be used by human beings. Millets are small round in shape grains which belong to the grass family (Poaceae). These are the group of highly variable small seeded grasses widely grown around the world as cereal crops for human food. There are multiple benefits of Millets over other commonly used grains (wheat, rice, etc.).
- Power house of nutrition
- Enough fibrous diet, as it contains both soluble as well as insoluble fiber content. The soluble fibrous part helps in slow release of glucose in blood and the insoluble fibrous part prevents constipation.
- Low Glycemic index (prevents/useful in obesity, hypertension, diabetes & other diseases)
- When regularly consumed- they detoxify blood.
- Easily digestible
- Rich source of Magnesium which promotes insulin levels.
- Contains lignin which prevents cancers.
- Gluten free diet.
Millets particularly “Siri Dhanyalu” the term coined by Dr. Khadar Valli (The Millet Man) for Positive grains that includes five millets namely Foxtail Millet, Kodo Millet, Barnyard Millet, Little Millet and Brown top Millet. All of these five millets are having health promoting & disease curing properties. Out of which Kodo Millet, Barnyard Millets and Brown Top millet are highly recommended in diabetic patients’ diets.
Method of introducing Millets in one's diet:
Diabetic patients must use any one of the three above mentioned millets in daily meals instead of wheat or rice. Use the same millet for two consecutive days and then shift to the next useful millets in the list for next two consecutive days and then follow the same pattern repeatedly. For instance, if you are using a Kodo Millet for two days then, you must shift to a bran yard or brown top millet for the next two days. This process is required to get full therapeutic effects of these millets.
Also, the starting of millets in diet must be done in the form of Khameer/Ambli i.e., the fermented product of the concerned millet. To make Khammer/ Ambli take 1 glass of millet (barnyard/brown top/ kodo millet) and grind it to make a coarse powder of it then cook it in an open flask preferably in an earthen pot or in a steel flask. Allow the grains to cook fully. Then, transfer the prepared millet in an earthen pot and keep it as it is for about 4-5 days by covering the pot head with a cloth. Allow it to ferment well and once it is fermented it will look like curd. One could introduce this khammer directly in a patient's diet instead of grains such as wheat, rice. This Ambli has a very rich nutritious value as it contains a high value of probiotics which are very much essential for one's digestion & health. After using this for about 3-7 days one could shift to regular use of flour or as grains in food as discussed above in this article.
Pulses must be included in daily diet routine as soup, dish, any product cooked from it. Moong daal (Vigna radiata) is the pulse of choice. One could even use this pulse on a daily basis. Other pulses that can be consumed include masoor daal (Lens culinaris).
Use of self-made vegan curd should be promoted instead of conventionally used dairy curd. It can be made with peanut & rice.
Use of Saindhav lavan is highly recommended instead of white salt that is commonly available due to its many therapeutic properties.
The dietary habits/foods that must be avoided in diabetic patient's diet plan are:
- Milk & other dairy products.
- Non-vegetarian diets.
- Excess use of rice, wheat.
- Use of heavy natured pulses such as Mash, Rajmah etc. should be avoided on a daily basis.
- Refined oil, ghee
- White Sugar, white salt.
- Tea, coffee & other non-alcoholic or alcoholic beverages.
- Bakery items, cold stored items.
- Items stored in plastic jars/cans/glass/ plate or any packed food items.
- Avoid using various modern chemical based medicines including antibiotics, antibiotics, antihypertensive, immune suppressing drugs & steroid medicines for a longer duration of time.
Ideal Diet Plan/Lifestyle Modifications For Diabetic Patient
The patient must take adequate balanced food at adequate times to fulfil the demands of the body. Here's an ideal diet plan for diabetic patient:
Start your morning by waking up early in the morning (before sunrise) -- Brahma muhurat jagran.
Eat Dry Fruits (Just After Waking Up)
- Quantity- body weight of the person (in kg) = Dry fruits (in grams) (For example - a person whose weight is 80 kg has to take 80 grams of dry fruits)
- Caution- Use after soaking and peeling off.
Nowadays, due to workload or too busy schedule, people are forgetting to take care of their mental health and such disturbances are becoming further causes of many disorders. Pranayama (Breathing exercises) are the best way to keep our mind calm and thus promote our body to heal faster & efficiently. Pranayama must be done on daily basis by the diabetic patients are: Kapaal Bhati (best exercise for intestines), Sheetali pranayama (helps in keeping mind relax), Agnisaar (good exercise for better digestion), Naadi shodhan pranayama i.e. Anulom vilom (best breathing exercise helps in relaxing mind, also effective in various respiratory disturbances).
- Timings: One must do each pranayama for about 4-5 minutes.
- Cautions: Pranayam has to be done slowly and preferably in an open place such as a garden.
Morning 7 AM
Drink coconut water or lukewarm water mixing tulsi (basil leaves) and ginger in it.
- Quantity- approx. 500-600 ml, 3-5 fresh basil leaves and one small piece of ginger.
- Caution- Drink slowly.
Morning 7:30 AM - Breakfast
Take fruit salad. Fruit salad may include any seasonal fruit that is available e.g. Pomegranate, Papaya, Mango, Banana or any other seasonal fruits.
- Quantity- Person's body weight (in kg) X 10 = Weight of fruit salad (in grams).
- Alternative: If the person is unwilling to take the whole breakfast of fruit salad, then he/she could use 50% of any daal based preparation + 50% fruit salad.
- Daal (pulses) must be soaked overnight before use.
- Fruit salad must contain only fruits (vegetables should not to be added)
- Can use Saindhav salt as per taste.
10:45 AM - Morning Snacks
Take a big glass of smoothie. (Procedure of making it is already described earlier)
- Quantity: approx. 500 mL
- Caution: Drink it slowly. Take about ½ hour to finish the drink.
11 AM - Some Outdoor Activities
Outdoor activities may include outdoor games that will help in keeping the physical body fit and also the mind free from stress. The person can also perform some Yoga asanas to keep mind and body healthy. Also, there are some asanas, good for stimulating pancreas and promoting its effective functioning. Some of them are:
- Gomukh asana
- Bhujang asana
- Chakra asana
- Mayur asana
- Dhanur asana
- Paschimottan asana
- Kukkut asana
- Matsendriya asana
These asanas should be followed by 5 minutes of savasana (relaxing pose) for the better effect, which simply means to have a 5 minutes rest after each Asana. Apart from these yoga asana vajrasana is the asana that must be done after meals.
- Timings- 5-10 minutes will be sufficient for each yoga asana.
- Asana must be done slowly & without any jerky movements.
- Person must do only 3-4 asanas per day.
- Asana must be started after warm up of the body for about 5-10 minutes.
- At least 1 hour of Sunlight exposure is must for the patient.
1 PM - Lunch (Lunch Must Be Divided Into 4 Parts)
- Salad- (25% of total meal) Salad must include seasonal edibles such as cucumber, radish, carrot, beet root, lemon, tomato, green onions, Singhada etc.
- Vegetable- (25% of total meal) any seasonal vegetable.
- Pulses- (25% of total meal) can be used in soup or in prepared form.
- Grains preferably millets (25% of total meal)
Quantity: According to the diet of a person.
- Use salad as a meal starter and consume the salad full before meal, i.e. start the main course of the meal just after you finished eating the salad.
- Do not mix salad with meals.
5 PM - Evening Snacks
Any fruit such as watermelon, papaya, fig balls, etc. with drinks such as coconut milk or wheat grain milk, etc.
6 PM - Outdoor Activity
This includes a 1-2 km brisk walk in the garden or in open fresh air. Also, one can perform the activities listed above in the article.
7 PM - Dinner
Dinner pattern should be the same as the pattern mentioned in Lunch in this article.
Person Must Go To Bed Before 10 PM
A good quality sleep is very much necessary for the proper functioning of body & stress-free life. Avoid sleeping in day hours.
This is the ideal daily regimen to be followed by the patient to get a better benefit and recover from the ailment naturally.
आरोग्यं भोजनाधीनं (Kaashyap Samhita, khil Sthana, 5/9)
As this quote means that health depends on our food. Ayurveda is basically a life science that is mainly focused on keeping a person healthy. Thus, by following the above mentioned diet plan and lifestyle modifications, one can easily get rid of Diabetic problems and the various modern medications that have life threatening side-effects when they are taken for a longer duration of time. So, it's better to switch to a healthy Lifestyle and get rid of this lifestyle disorder.