Sugar and spice, not very nice

Sugar and spice, not very nice
On World Diabetes day, a nutritionist dispels the myth that keeping sweets at arm’s length is adequate abstinence when tackling the disease.

Thirty one-year-old Pragya Mathur calls herself a changed woman, after having battled high sugar levels last year. Her brother and mother were diabetic too, yet, that didn’t prepare her for her own battle with the disease -she had little to no information on how to steady her high sugar levels. Although she was careful to not have sugar in any form, she continued eating pickles, papad and several other savoury items in liberal quantities. She hadn’t reduced her intake of bread, rice and deep fried foods either, and thus her sugar levels remained high. It was only later that she learnt that such savoury snacks, once consumed, get converted into sugar in the body and she hastily rectified her diet. In retrospect, Mathur blames the popular mis conception that diabetes is “only about sugar” for the unhealthy diet. “I was so paranoid about sugar that I did not even eat fruits. But I thought it was okay to eat baked savoury items and I piled on the carbs,” she remembers. Mathur, however, is not alone.Sukhada Bhatte-Paralkar, a certified diabetes educator and nutritionist, says, “Even today, the term `shakkar ki bimari’ is very prevalent and it can be misleading in a big way.”

Today is World Diabetes Day and according to several reports, India is the diabetes capital of the world -a recent study even predicted that India will have 100 million diabetic patients by 2030. If left untreated, diabetes can prove fatal by leading to complications like renal failure, neuropathy and cardiac arrest.

Experts point out that diet plays a major role in controlling diabetes. “I often tell my patients that living with diabetes is no different from living a normal, healthy, life. No food is completely good or bad. Too much of something good is also bad and one needs to be aware of the ingredients she consumes,” adds Bhatte-Paralkar. If you are diabetic, here is a checklist of foods you must avoid.


We often tend to assuage our guilt of eating out by ordering a tandoori roti instead of a naan, or by eating brown rice instead of white. But that doesn’t give you the license to binge eat, caution experts. “Even if you do substitute a naan or white rice with what are considered to be healthier options, it doesn’t mean that you can eat as much as you like. It’s important to keep the overall carbohydrate content of a meal in check, for, that will go a long way in achieving long term glycemic control,” explains Bhatte-Paralkar.


Gravies served at many restaurants have a cashew nut and butter cream base, which are not good for diabetics. “Cashews and lots of butter can push one’s lipid profile off the charts and make one susceptible to heart disease. Order for dry preparations like kebabs or ask for the gravy to be served on the side,” says Bhatte-Paralkar.


Savoury snacks such as puffs, patties and croissants should be strictly avoided by diabetics. “They are a rich source of trans fat. No matter what biscuit you eat, they all contain trans fat and are also high in sodium,” points out Bhatte-Paralkar.


The next time you dig into that bowl of nachos on movie night, think again. “Most movie halls serve nachos as a snack. They are also a popular accompaniment to alcohol. But these are fried and loaded with sodium. Foods that are high in sodium may negatively affect one’s blood pressure. A diabetic patient must control his blood pressure to prevent heart disease,” explains BhatteParalkar, adding that apart from the unhealthy salt content, nachos have zero nutritional value.


When eating out, avoid pasta for they are loaded with carbohydrates.

“When consumed in large portions, carbohydrates can alter one’s post prandial sugars dangerously (or one’s blood sugar after a meal).

Remember, food portions served at restaurants are large, so opt for a salad, fish or chicken, which will keep the carb overload at bay,” says Bhatte- Paralkar