South Asian

Healthy Eating and Diet Tips for South Asians

Asians have a particularly high susceptibility to type 2 diabetes and a healthy diet is one of the main ways in which diabetes can be controlled.

Type 2 diabetes is generally associated with carrying too much body weight, over 85% of people with type 2 are overweight.

Guidelines for a healthy diet

  • Cut down on simple, refined carbohydrates
  • Cut down on eating high calorie and fried foods
  • Choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats
  • Choose less or smaller portions of fatty or carbohydrate heavy foods
  • Include plenty of fresh vegetables and also fruit
  • Reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet
  • Watch the salt content

Cutting down on simple, refined carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates include carbohydrates such as bread, rice and dough based foods with little fibre.

Typically, these will be white bread, white rice and foods made out of white flour.

If you wish to have bread and rice, choose varieties with a much higher amount of fibre as these will be absorbed by the body more slowly and therefore have less impact on blood sugar levels.

Look for ‘ whole grain ’ varieties as these tend to have higher quantities of fibre.

Foods which get turned into blood sugar more slowly are said to have a lower glycaemic index (lower GI).

Sweet foods are always going to problematic for people with diabetes. You may find your blood sugar levels can tolerate the occasional sweet treat but it’s best not to let sweet foods become a regular part of your diet.

Cutting down on high calorie foods

Some of the highest calorie foods are those which combine relatively high amounts of carbohydrate and saturated fat.

Fried foods such as the below tend to be highly calorific:

  • Fried rice
  • Samosas
  • Onion bhajis
  • Masala curries

Dishes using ghee, makhan or cream will also add calories. Naan bread is quite bulky so can also push up the calories.

You may ask yourself what you can eat? Look for lighter foods such as popadoms instead of naan. Curries such as bhuna or tandoori may be slightly better options for curry.

Choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats

Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as nuts, avocados, oily fish and olive oil. Saturated fats are found in butter, cream, yoghurt and meats.

Find ways to choose more of the foods that contain unsaturated fats and less of those containing saturated fat.

Unsaturated fats help to balance your cholesterol levels which is an important part of staying healthy and avoiding heart trouble.

Using olive oil in cooking rather than butter or ghee, for example, can help to reduce the calories as well as being better for your cholesterol.

Having smaller portions

Particularly with foods high in carbohydrate or sugar, having large portions of these can be detrimental to your blood glucose levels. Having smaller portions will help to reduce the number of calories and will give your body more chance to cope with the carbohydrate content

If you’re having food with more fibre (lower GI foods) then this can help your blood sugar levels to cope too.

Smaller portions are also recommended for any of the more fatty or fried food.

Getting plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit

A truly balanced and healthy diet should contain plenty of fresh vegetables.

Not all vegetables are as good for diabetes as each other, and the same goes for fruit. Root vegetables such as potatoes are notorious for pushing blood sugar levels too high for people with diabetes, so if you have potatoes and similar root vegetables, it’s best to keep portions relatively small.

However, many other vegetables are excellent for maintaining good blood glucose levels such as cauliflower, spinach, curry leaves, cabbage, aubergine and bell peppers.

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Ditching the processed foods

Processed foods are increasingly being looked at as a source of blame for the rise in chronic health conditions such as diabetes. One area of concern is over the quality of fats used in processed products. The use of hydrogenated fats, known as trans fats, is starting to be phased out or banned in a number of countries.

Processed foods have also come under criticism for being too easy to digest, meaning they hit our blood sugar more severely, and the amounts of additives they tend to contain.

Try to limit the amount of ready made meals in your diet and check the ingredients list of tins and packaging to avoid the products with the most additives.

Watch the salt

Salt levels are another factor that have had a particular focus lately with salt being believed to be a factor in high blood pressure.

The daily recommendation is to have no more than 6g of salt. One way to reduce the amount of salt you’re eating is to cut down on the amount of salt you may add to cooking, or by not adding any salt at the table.

Agai, processed foods tend to be some of the worst offenders for high salt content, so cutting down on processed foods is recommended for this reason too.

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