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Fibre—A Superfood For Diabetes

June 15, 2021
By Kaveri Karlekar,
Nutritionist

Our planet is loaded with an abundant variety of raw fruits & vegetables. It is a blessing to have such an array of fresh produce available. These vegetables and fruits are a boon to us in the prevention of diseases. When we talk about diseases/disorders, the first one which pops into our minds is Diabetes.

India holds the 2nd rank in terms of the number of people affected with Diabetes Mellitus. According to recent data, the prevalence of Diabetes in the age group 20-79 years is 8.9%. It is estimated to reach by 100 million by 2030.

So, what special care can be taken to prevent getting affected with Diabetes Mellitus? Yes, lifestyle modifications and changes in dietary patterns helps to a great extent.

Fibre inclusion in our daily diet is an old and powerful advice given by many doctors, because it not only controls obesity, but also increases blood glucose levels. Other benefits include reducing bad cholesterol and improving good cholesterol, thereby reducing the chances of heart problems associated issues.

To modify our diet, we need to understand the nature of this disease, the foods to be included, and the importance of tackling this issue.

Let’s start by understanding what is Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar levels over a long period of time. It is divided into 3 types—

Type 1 Diabetes or Insulin Dependent Diabetes—It is an autoimmune disorder where the body cannot produce enough Insulin.

Type 2 Diabetes or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes—Here the body can’t use Insulin efficiently, hence blood sugar levels are raised.

Gestational Diabetes—It is often seen during pregnancy, where the blood sugar levels may increase, but it is a temporary phase.

The early signs and symptoms of this disorder includes—

Excessive thirst

Excessive Urination

Excessive Hunger

Apart from these symptoms, one could experience blurred vision, extreme fatigue, sores that don’t heal, and unexplained weight loss.

Apart from medication to control it, lifestyle modifications and dietary changes can be a game changer.

Dietary Fibre plays a vital role in our diet, especially for diabetics. It helps to alter elevated sugar levels and manage Diabetes. What is dietary fibre? Let’s throw some light on it.

Dietary fibre, or Roughage, is a form of Carbohydrate which is not digested by our body. They are further classified as

Soluble Fibre—Present in oats, lentils, soya, fruits and vegetables

Insoluble Fibre—whole grain cereals, wholegrain bread, skin of some fruits and vegetables

Foods contain both types of fibre, usually rich in one or the other.

Importance of Fibre—

Diabetes can be a precursor to many other diseases like Cardiovascular, Renal and Neuro related issues in the longer run. Studies show that increasing fibre in our diet significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems. Cereals and whole grains are excellent sources of fibre.

Dietary fibre, when ingested, absorbs water and increases bulk in the body, thereby improving digestion. Increasing fibre in the diet has other benefits like managing our weight by improving the satiety levels, thereby controlling our appetite.  Dietary fibre also has a low glycemic index.

It helps to move the food throughout the system, preventing constipation. Since it is absorbed slowly in the body, there is no spike in blood sugar levels.

 

 

How much Fibre should be consumed per day?

Around 18-25 grams of fibre should be taken in the diet. How to spread it throughout the day? We need to choose whole grain varieties and plan our meals around complex forms of carbohydrates with high fibre snacks.

Protein Bars & Fibre Rich foods Available in the Market–

Fibre foods are available in the market in capsule or powder form. Psyllium Husk which is available in powder form, greatly helps to increase the fibre content in the body.

Some foods are sold in the market labelled as Healthy diet foods with added fibre. This could well be a marketing gimmick to increase the sale of the product. However, if we read the label, it is easy to understand that the fibre added to the healthy food may not be as good as the natural fibre present in whole food items. These are marketed as fibre rich foods, but actually impact the blood sugar levels. So, it is always better to make a note of these high fibre content foods and how they impact blood sugar levels.

 

How much is too much fibre?

 

Fibres derived from plants, when consumed, play an important role in the absorption of many nutrients. Some fibres delay or slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, therefore there is less rise in sugar levels post meals. These high fibre foods lower glycosuria and help in Diabetes management.

Recent studies have shown that increasing fibre intake in the diet not only reduces sugar levels, but also improves the Lipid profile by improving Triglyceride levels, and reduces bad cholesterol.

Fruits Rich in Fibres—

All fruits and vegetables are a good source of fibre. Fruits like bananas, mangos and jackfruit have high sugar, so they should be eaten in moderation. Eat the fruits and vegetables in their raw form so as to avail maximum benefits. The outer skin of the fruits is rich in fibre so try to avoid peeling them in fruits which can be eaten with skin. Apple, guava, peach, plum, pear etc., are all good sources of fibre, and can be eaten with the skin.

So, the addition of fibre in our diet gives way to healthy and disease-free living. Remember to add colour to the plate with a variety of fresh, colourful and vibrant fruits and vegetables to keep diseases at bay.

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