What foods are good for diabetes type 2?
One man’s problem is another man’s business. True to this adage, the clutches that modern lifestyle conditions such as diabetes have over us have paved ground for the mushrooming of several health and food-related businesses. These fads come and go, making it difficult to identify genuine ones from the rest. People suffering from these conditions are willing to give almost all of these a try and end up getting disappointed when they don’t see the desired results in their health or well-being.
Oats, green tea, newer varieties of breakfast cereals, herbal powders and medicines are some of these that are tried and tested not just by the ones suffering the medical conditions but also by people who want to take the road to good health. Our ancestors or even family members belonging to the older generation however did not allow these conditions to take control of their lives. What could have changed in between? What have we done to fall prey to these medical monsters?
The answer is a no brainer. We have made huge compromises on our food habits and physical activity. A chat with our grandmother would help us make the revelation that there are indeed several forgotten recipes and foods that were not only a treat to our taste buds but were also full of goodness and health. Comfort and convenience have driven us to choose processed foods, which have short and long term effects on the body and health. This combined with sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise invites lifestyle conditions to become an integral part of our lives.
Diabetes Type 2 & Diet
One of the biggest challenges in managing diabetes type 2 – (the condition in which the body is unable to use insulin hormone to digest glucose from the sugar) is, always having to watch what we eat in order to manage the condition. There is a stark increase in the blood sugar level upon eating even a small quantity of food. While there is no cure for this condition, regular physical activity and controlled eating patterns can help in management of the condition.
So what combination of food works well for people with diabetes? In general, it is important to watch out for foods that have a high level of carbohydrates as they are easily broken down to glucose, which is difficult for the insulin-resistant body to convert to energy. Among the other nutrients, there are good ones and bad ones that we need to be aware of while planning our meals:
Good: Fish and sea food make for good sources of protein as they are low in saturated fat. For vegetarians, different kinds of beans and nuts are a good option.
Bad: Processed meat that contain high amounts of fat and sodium are a big no-no as they have effects on the heart and the blood pressure
Good: Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, cauliflower, carrorts work well. Apart from being low in carbohydrates, these vegetables are also a good source of fiber.
Bad: There are certain high-carbohydrate vegetables too, which need to be taken in moderation. These include peas, potatoes and corn.
Good: Whole wheat grains are the best choice. These include brown rice, whole grain breads. Apart from being fibrous, these also contain essential vitamins and minerals.
Bad: Refined flour which processed foods such as white breads, cookies, pastries etc are rich in, should be avoided. White rice which is a staple diet in many Asian countries also falls within this category.
Good: Naturally occurring fats, such as monounsaturated fats found in almonds, avocados or polyunsaturated fats found in sunflower seeds are good for the health of the heart.
Bad: Refined oils that most of the junk foods are cooked in, cheese, and butter contain saturated fats are high calorie foods which are best avoided.
Good: Fresh fruits taken in moderation are good for the health as they are a rich source of dietary fiber and can also curb your craving for sugar.
Bad: Stay away from canned fruits which are preserved with tons of sugar or even fruit juices that are prepared using lot of sugar and do not have the nutrients of the whole fruit.
The growing popularity of Brown Rice as superfood
Rice is one of the most popular grains and a staple food in Mexican and Asian cuisines. There are however different forms of this wonder grain each created through variety of processes and each differing in its effects on our health. One type of rice that is a very basic form of rice, that has been used, relished, forgotten, and is now regaining its importance in the context of lifestyle conditions such as diabetes type 2, owing to his health benefits, is brown rice. Any form of rice, long-grain or short-grain can be had in the brown form.
Let’s first look at what brown rice is and how it is different from the regular, more popular version of white rice. Brown rice is nothing but whole grain rice. Imagine a grain of rice. Before being processed, it has four layers. First is the outermost layer known as husk. Then come the inner layers bran and germ and finally the endosperm.
Brown rice is produced by just removing the outermost layer, the husk. White rice is produced by removing further two layers, the bran and the germ, leaving behind the endosperm. Important thing to be noted here is that both brown rice and white rice have the similar amounts of calories and carbohydrates. However, what makes brown rice superior to the white variety? Here are a number of reasons:
- Helps to reduce weight: As brown rice is produced by merely removing the husk, the additional layers that white rice lacks, contributes to high fiber. Brown rice is also rich in lecithin. These ensure that the bowels are evacuated before it is converted to carbohydrates. Indeed a natural method to keep a check on weight gain, isn’t it?
- Cuts risk of colon cancer: Brown rice is a rich source of selenium, a trace mineral that has several benefits to the body. Studies have shown that selenium cuts the risk of colon cancer. It is shown that selenium inhibits proliferation of cancer cells and also repairs of DNA of damaged cells. In addition to this selenium works together with Vitamin E and helps prevent heart disease, decreasing symptoms of asthma, and controlling the effects of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Protects from free radicals: Brown rice is a rich source of manganese, yet another trace mineral, which protects cells from the effects of free radicals that are produced during energy release. Additionally, manganese also provides the body energy by helping in carbohydrate and protein digestion.
- Reduces the effects of cardiovascular conditions: For people, especially women in the post menopausal phase of life, consumption of brown rice often is highly beneficial, as it slows down the deposit of plaque that narrows the blood vessels. It also slows down the narrowing of the diameter of the arteries.
- Reduces cholesterol: Brown rice contains natural oil that lowers the bad cholesterol or the LDL cholesterol. Brown rice grain still holds the bran of the grain that releases the rice bran oil. This is proven to greatly reduce LDL cholesterol.
- Protection against heart disease: Brown rice consists of a phyto-nutrient known as plant lignan. The good bacteria in our intestines convert these plant lignans into mammalian lignans. These lignans are found to be having functions of reducing the risk of breast, other hormone-dependent cancers and other heart diseases.
- Source of magnesium: Magnesium is a wonder mineral that has several positive functions in the body. It is in fact a key nutrient that our body requires to moderate the action of calcium and keeping our nerves and muscles regulated. This further has effects in lowering high blood pressure, reducing effects of asthma and also reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack.
- Prevents gall stones: Some studies have shown that consumption of brown rice can help avoid the development of gall stones.
How does brown rice help in the fight against diabetes type 2?
It is wonderful to take note that brown rice provides so many benefits and helps us lay a healthy foundation for a good life. However, what is left to explore is the effect that this wonder grain has on diabetes. Is brown rice a friend of people suffering from diabetes type 2?
To understand how brown rice helps manage diabetes type 2 better, it is important to understand a little bit of the digestion process. When we consume food, the acids, enzymes and the other processes break down the food into simple elements that can be absorbed by the intestines. Likewise, carbohydrates are broken down to its most elemental form glucose.
Let us now take the case of white rice. White rice as we already know is stripped of its outer layers of germ and bran. When white rice is consumed, it is easily broken down to the elemental form of the carbohydrate – glucose. In diabetics, the insulin that digests the glucose does not act upon it. The body produces more insulin in reaction to this but in vain. As a result, the blood glucose level goes up.
Now, in the case of brown rice, the grain is more fibrous as it has the two outer layers of bran and germ intact. It takes a longer time for the body to break down this carbohydrate into glucose. As a result of this, it takes a longer time for the glucose to reach the blood stream. The body is under lesser stress to digest the glucose. Apart from being fibrous, the magnesium in brown rice is responsible for acting as a co-factor for over 300 enzymes. It has important functions in the body’s secretion of insulin and the use of glucose.
Brown rice is indeed a wonderful food for diabetics to keep their blood glucose levels under check. It in fact comes as a surprise that rice was at one point in time consumed in its healthy whole format. Experts suggest that brown rice went out of fashion as it doesn’t look good or taste as good as white rice. Processing of rice to enhance its taste has led to health problems taking control over our lives. It is indeed high time we start including this brown, nutty, chewy and more superior form of rice to our diet and take the road to good health. A wonderful aspect about eating brown rice is that, it gives us the satiety in just small quantities. By eating just a small portion, we feel full and get the satisfaction of having had a wholesome meal. It is heartening to see that brown rice is starting to move from the shelves of organic food stores to supermarkets, thereby increasing our access to it.
Basic tips on cooking brown rice
As brown rice contains more fiber, it takes little bit more effort in cooking this form of rice. However, worry not, as the effort is indeed simple. Soak the rice in warm or lukewarm water for 45 minutes. Brown rice requires a little lesser amount of water than what is used for cooking white rice. Use the same water that you have used for soaking to cook the rice. The rice can be cooked normally.
Brown rice can be used to make delicious dishes. The rice goes well with several other sides. Some of the common recipes include brown rice salad, fried brown rice, brown rice pie and so on.
It is never too late to switch to healthier forms of the foods that we are presently having. Learning new varieties of recipes with such healthier alternatives makes our culinary experiments interesting. The transformation can be made slowly but steadily. Our body and health stand to get short term and long term benefits. Let us resolve to eat health and stay fit.