Did you know that eating Tamil foods can help prevent and even reverse Type 2 diabetes? Read on for 5 specific tips.
Take a moment to think about how many people you know who have diabetes. Like me, you’ve probably come up with a few. Diabetes in the Tamil and South Asian community is so common today.
Poor eating, inactivity, being overweight or obese and genetics all contribute. Making small changes can have a positive impact. Food, above all, is the most powerful tool in preventing and reversing diabetes.
Unfortunately, a lot of Tamil food today is unhealthy. Many dishes are deep fried in poor quality oils, high in refined ingredients and contain lots of sugar. It's very different than what our parents and grandparents ate. The good news is that returning to nourishing, home cooked Tamil foods can be lifesaving and diabetes-fighting.
First, Some Facts
Type 2 diabetes is the most common and costly chronic disease worldwide. It is caused by the pancreas’ inability to make enough insulin or the body’s inability to properly use the insulin produced. This leads to high blood sugar levels which can damage nerves, organs and blood vessels.
South Asians are two to five times more at risk of diabetes than other ethnic groups. India alone had nearly 50 million people with diabetes in 2010, and is expected to have 87 million by 2030. In Tamil Nadu, 10% of the population has Type 2 Diabetes and high numbers have pre-diabetes. Diabetes may also start at younger ages among South Asians and at lower levels of risk factors like body mass index.
The South Asian diaspora is also affected. They have higher rates of Type 2 diabetes compared with other ethnic groups in their new countries.
5 Ways Tamil Food Can Help Prevent And Reverse Diabetes
Just as poor eating has contributed to high rates of diabetes among Tamils, Tamil foods can in fact help us reverse this. Food is the most powerful tool in the fight against diabetes.
1. Plant-Based Meals
Tamil cuisine has an endless variety of vegetarian and/or plant-based dishes. From okra curry to lentil curry to coconut sambal, Tamil foods are rich in delicious and nutritious plant dishes.
Eating a mainly plant-based diet is associated with better blood sugar balance, heart health and healthy weight. All of these have an impact on diabetes. Check out this interesting video on reversing diabetes with a plant-based diet.
2. Healthy Oils and Fats
Coconut oil, ghee and sesame oil are among the main oils in the Tamil kitchen. They are excellent for heart health, blood sugar balance, healthy cholesterol levels, fat loss and metabolic balance.
Ditch canola oil, corn oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil and other low-quality oils that contribute to weight gain, poor metabolism and inflammation.
3. Return to Whole Foods
In its original form, Tamil cuisine is full of nourishing whole foods. Some examples include lentils, chickpeas, beans, red rice, brown rice, fish, poultry, eggs, honey, fruits and vegetables. These are some of mother nature's most powerful medicinal foods.
For centuries, they have nourished our ancestors. Bringing some of these amazing foods back into our kitchens can be the beginning of the diabetes revolution.
4. Heal With Spices
I don't know a Tamil kitchen that isn't fully stocked with spices of every stripe. Spices are the bedrock of our cuisine for their flavour, subtle or intense tastes and potent nutritional properties.
From turmeric to cumin to ginger, the spices in Tamil cuisine are among the most healing and disease-preventing foods on the planet.
Diabetics would particularly benefit from spices. Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, fenugreek, cumin and chilli powder are some great examples. Benefits include anti-inflammation, healthy cholesterol levels, reduced hypertension and even promoting insulin sensitivity. See the research findings here.
5. Eating Better Sweets
Tamil cuisine is a sugar lovers' paradise. The list of sweets is just as dizzying as the list of spices! Every gathering seems to be as much about eating desserts as it is about seeing one another.
Unfortunately, these desserts are a big culprit in the diabetes epidemic. White sugar, brown sugar (which is white sugar + molasses for colour) and condensed milk are some of the main "X factor" ingredients. They make everything from kesari to ladoo to milk toffee so delicious and addictive.
Eating fewer sweets is the best way to tackle the problem, but of course the harder way. But there's good news! A lot of these unhealthy sugars can be swapped out for better ingredients. Raw honey, Sucanat, raw sugar and maple syrup are some substitutes that can be used in Tamil desserts.
For Tamils and South Asians suffering with diabetes, it doesn't have to be a sentence to live a lower quality of life and eat boring food. Taking control of your food by actually eating real food like wholesome curries, tasty stir fry dishes and delicious desserts can make a big difference. Preventing and reversing diabetes through food is possible, realistic and achievable.
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