Things can be confusing when it comes to grains for diabetes. That’s because some grains are treated like the holy grail and other grains are pretty much banned for a diabetics diet.
Why grains are an especially big topic in diabetes discussions
The reason why grains for diabetes is such a hot topic is the frequency at which they are consumed. They are pretty omnipresent, in all meals and snacks. Rotis and bread, or cereal for breakfast; rotis and/or rice with accompaniments for both lunch and dinner; isn’t that how it goes for most Indian households? Parathas and puris or dosas and idlis every now and then….? Because grains are a component of every meal, it is extremely significant for diabetics and their caregivers to understand the implications of grains for diabetes control.
Not all grains are bad
A lot of people think that grains are a big no-no for diabetics, across the board. However this cannot be further from the truth. Some grains come with a vast buffet of health benefits including the ability to maintain optimal blood sugar levels.
The rule, refined grains = bad for diabetes; whole grains = good for diabetes, might be easy to remember but it is not quite as easy for a lot of people to differentiate between refined grains and whole grains.
For example rice, cereal, white bread and pasta come under refined grains or to-be-avoided grains for diabetes control, whereas whole grains are the versions of grain where the bran and germ are present, giving it the fibre needed for it to not send your blood sugar shooting up. That makes them good grains for diabetes control.
Why some grains are bad for you
Whole grains contain three parts: bran, germ and endosperm. The first two contain fibre, protein and carbs whereas the last contains only a small amount of nutrients. That amount of carbs, without the fibre and protein to promote an appropriate pace breakdown and absorption results in overly quick digestion and eventually in a blood sugar spike.
Why some grains are good for you
The relationship between some grains and glycemic index is what makes them good for you. Whole grains generally have a low glycemic index, or a weak ability to impact your blood sugar. They are what you call good carbs because they come with protein and fibre which paces your digestion.
Benefits of whole grains
Whole grains promote healthy digestion, lower blood cholesterol and lower both blood pressure wind blood sugar. So yes, it does make sense to put some time and effort into learning how to differentiate between the two grain families. This will help you consume the right grains for diabetes control and indeed control over any of these ailments.
Moreover, whole grains can also lower your risk of getting type 1 or type 2 diabetes and therefore it might be a good idea to eat these super grains for diabetes control, even if you do not have diabetes. A lot of people also say that they make for more wholesome and tasty meals, although opinion is divided on the tasty bit.
How to differentiate between the two types of grains
- Grains that are whole and come with all the bran and fibre (and therefore have a less clean and yes, less refined look are will typically be whole grains.
- Rice that has colour is usually the preferred option to white rice. Go for brown, black or purple rice instead.
- The way grains are cut also matters – choose steel cut oats over oatmeal, for example.
- The colour and appearance of items might be misleading and therefore it is always advisable to turn the package around and read the ingredients and dietary information carefully. In most countries, it is legal to “advertise” your product however you want on the front of a packet, but nutritional and dietary information has to be 100% honest.
Examples of whole grains
To make in convenient for diabetics in India to zero in on the healthy grains for diabetics, here is a handy list:
- Ragi, also known as millet
- Sabudana, that is called Pearl sago in English (although you won’t be alone if you have never heard anyone call it that)
- Dalia/Lapsi or broken wheat
In addition, flour or noodles made of buckwheat, over refined wheat flour is a good choice.
Ushering in whole grain
Households with family members suffering from diabetes can consider switching whole grain flour for ragi if not for everyone, then at least for the diabetes patient. However, keep in mind that refined grains are no good for anyone (hence the name ‘empty carbs’) and solidarity with your diabetic family member will go a long way for their health and everyone else’s.
Alternatively, if you already have a cook coming over, you can always experiment with working other whole grains into a healthy carb component.
Given the huge popularity of kitchen antics amidst the ongoing pandemic, you can even attempt to bake your own whole grain bread at home and show of your DIY baking skills on social media.
Switching white rice for brown rice is no big feat, especially in India where it is easily available. Go for black rice and purple rice when a change is desired.
When baking at home, switch refined white flour with whole wheat flour and include a bit of buckwheat flour.
Grains are a delicious and wholesome part of our diet and need not be eliminated. In fact grains should be included in a diabetic diet, so long as they are the right grains.