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A Beginner’s Guide To Planning An Indian Diabetic Diet

A Beginner’s Guide To Planning An Indian Diabetic Diet

Indian diet has always been balanced until colonialization. Pick any state’s cuisine. It will have

  1. One part of cereal (Rice, roti, idli, thepla, bhakdi etc.)
  2. One part of the protein (Dal, chole/ rajma, kadhi/ gatta, sambar/ rasam, fish/ chicken/ seafood etc., curd/ raita/ paneer)
  3. One part of vegetables
  4. Salads

This is the healthy plate concept that current Western research says they have derived. 

What went wrong is during colonialization the country was brought to such poverty that we merely started surviving on rice, roti sometimes even rice water. People of that era say they used to eat rice with salt/ potato/ roti with salt/onion etc. Since dairy, pulses, veg, fruits, dried fruits, and non-veg are all expensive.

This made Indians get habituated to eating more carbohydrates. In the current scenario, we have started including the other food groups in our Indian Diet, but the majority of the meal still contains carbohydrates. Now finance is not the problem, but habit is. If you ask anyone what did you eat for lunch they would say roti/ rice/ idli. They do not say roti-sabji-dal—dahi. That happens because the quantity of other food groups is still so less that we cannot count it as food but merely accompaniments. 

Is that the reason for diabetes and high triglycerides among Indians? Yes, that can be attributed to one of the many reasons. 

In the current scenario, another problem is high carbohydrate snacks and so-called health foods that come from ultra-processed foods. This has become a major part of our Indian diet. Ask anyone, what they take for evening snacks, and 90% would say biscuits/bread/Maggie.

Ask grandparents what they used to eat, roti/ murmure/ mungfali/ sattu/ bhuna chana/ chaach if a cow was there in the house. These products are also minimally processed but a lot healthier than ultra-processed foods. I hope I do not need to tell where did biscuits/ Maggie and slices of bread come from.

There is a saying, “Do not eat anything that your grandmom doesn’t recognize as food”. We can manage diabetes very well with these golden words. 

1. Low-carb diet

When we say low-carb diet, one needs to understand low means lower than what we are currently eating. Not lower than our requirements. For some reason humans are extremists. If they are eating they do carbs in excess if they deny they go the other extreme. 

Low carb means 50-55% of energy should come from complex carbohydrates. What are complex carbs:

  1. Whole grains like  Dalia, bajra, jwari, and Multigrain atta- with millets and wheat
  2. Fruits 
  3. Vegetables
  4. Dried fruits

A lot of people love rice, specifically white rice. Do we give that up? Not required, we can increase the fibre content of the meal with rice by adding vegetables, fibre-rich pulses, salads etc. and keep the quantity of rice balanced.

2. Proteins

As discussed, Indian Diet essentially has protein options. We just don’t take them every day now.  Proteins are the building blocks of our body. They are also used as a secondary source of energy in case the carbs are not sufficient. So what do we do?

Take enough carbs or due to the catabolic effect of the chronic disease there will be huge protein losses in the human system. Unnecessary protein losses will damage kidneys.

Take enough proteins so that body can replenish the losses caused by catabolism. 

Do not go to another extreme. Not having enough to have in excess will damage the kidneys.

3. Fats

Doctors will educate you that a diabetic patient is prone to heart conditions. That usually stops us from having fats. Again from one extreme to another is a common mistake. 

We must take less fat, but not lower than a requirement. Though required in less quantity, fat has important functions.

  1. There are essential fatty acids that perform important functions in our body.
  2. Cholesterol, the most ridiculed fat is the one that makes Vit-D by exposure to UV rays of sunlight. 
  3. Hormones are functional cells made of proteins, correct, but few have fat structures attached too. 
  4. Fats form a protective layer around the gut and most cells.
  5. Vitamins A, D, E, and K cannot get absorbed in our system in absence of fat. 

We need to use a balanced amount of non-refined oils/ desi ghee/ dried fruits/ and seeds/ fatty fish/ egg yolk for the same. 

The quantity should be appropriate, but not removed from the diet. 

4. Fibre

Fibre is the complex carbohydrate part of the food. For example, Pectin which is a soluble fibre in fruits is a polysaccharide (carbohydrate).  Hence, we should include more foods from carbohydrate sources that have fibre. 

5. Vitamins & Minerals:

The moment we hear Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants we refer to fruits and vegetables only. 

The reality is these nutrients are there in all food groups. Some B-Complex vitamins are found more in cereals and pulses. Not in fruits and vegetables. 


Hence, the conclusion comes down to a balanced diet. Few more points to consider:

  1. Adequate water intake
  2. Regular meals, no long gaps
  3. No fasting or feasting
  4. Regular physical activity
  5. Sound sleep of 8 hours, if possible 15-30 min nap too in the afternoon. 
  6. Reduce stress with play, music, meditation, and family time. 
  7. Come out of screen addiction

Also Read: 5 Diabetes Diet Secrets That No One Tells You

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