“She’s suffering from sugar”.
Ever heard this remark and wondered what on earth it meant?
Just go into flashback mode to around when you were in the 5th or 6th class at school. Recall how your science lesson taught you that cells in our bodies “burnt calories” for energy and that these calories were got from sugar.
The pancreas produces the hormone Insulin which enables us to utilise sugar for energy. If the pancreas produces insufficient Insulin (Type 1) or the cells do not respond properly to the Insulin produced (Type 2), the result is high levels of sugar in the blood. That’s how you “suffer from sugar” or Diabetes Mellitus.
Diabetes is, thus, a metabolic disease.
The prevention, treatment and control of diabetes depend on maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Overweight is a HUGE no-no.
So, what to eat?
Nutrition and dietetics are two fields that have developed in leaps and bounds these past few decades. There is so much to eat in today’s world that the world lands up eating too much. We need a guiding hand and a knowledgeable head to put us on a proper diet.
The Glycemic Index is a ranking of foods according to their effect on the blood sugar. Foods like bread and refined sugars boost your blood sugar levels quickly. They are higher on the index. Slowly digested carbohydrates like those in whole grains, vegetables, walnuts and almonds, foods with high fibre content and certain kinds of fats are low on the glycemic index.
Prunus Dulcius to the rescue
WHAT is that? That is the scientific name for the almond.
The tree originated in the Middle East and is even mentioned in the Bible. The Hebrew Bible considers the almond to be a symbol of watchfulness and promise.
How about that? When you are watching your diet, this tasty nut promises to keep you healthy.
Pack a healthy punch
Almonds are nutritionally dense. A 100g serving is a rich source of Vitamins and essential minerals notably Vitamin B, folate, magnesium, iron and manganese. Almonds are also a rich source of the “good” omega group fatty acids, oleic acid and linoleic acid.
Replace those empty calories
It has been shown that eating 2 ounces, about 45 almonds, significantly lowers levels of fasting sugar. This is about 340 calories worth of almonds. Doctors recommend that other calorific content in diets should be reduced and that these healthy calories from almonds should replace them. These studies have clearly exhibited that eating almonds directly before eating a starch rich meal resulted in a 30% reduction in post meal glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes.
Pre-diabetes: the wake- up call
Advances in medicine are now sounding the alarm on people who are not yet diabetic but will get there if they do not take care NOW.
Eating almonds will arrest that journey by increasing insulin sensitivity in people with borderline diabetes.
Magnesium content of almonds
100 grams of almonds contain 268 mg of magnesium. Magnesium is essential for normal nerve and muscle function and helps to regulate blood glucose levels .Dietary magnesium reduces the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Scientists have found in recent studies that long time elevated blood sugar levels might result in the loss of magnesium through urine and cause a deficiency of the element. A Harvard University study has found that daily intake of magnesium cuts the risk of developing diabetes by 33%! Including a handful of almonds in your diet will supplement magnesium content.
100 grams of Almonds contain 12 grams of dietary fibre. Fibre rich foods are recommended for diabetics because they slow down the digestive process. The two pronged benefit of this is that fibre gives you the feeling of fullness and delays those hunger pangs, so you eat less: great for weight control.
The other benefit is that fibre controls blood glucose spikes as the slowdown in digestion translates to lower rates of release of sugar into the bloodstream.
A word of caution
Almonds are packed not just with nutrients but also calories. They are incredibly tasty, their nutty flavour being irresistible. Take care not to binge on them. Reduce unhealthy calorie rich foods like white bread to accommodate almonds in your diet. The recommended quantity is about one ounce (28 grams) or 25 almonds per day. One ounce of almonds is packed with 161 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 3 grams of dietary fibre.
Why soak almonds?
The brown peels of almonds contain tannin which inhibits absorption. The peel comes off soaked almonds quite easily. Soaked almonds are not only easier to digest, but aid digestion too. They release the enzyme lipase which aids in digestion of fats.
India- the diabetes capital of the world
Yes, Indians now have this dubious honour. There are 50.9 million suffering from diabetes with the likelihood of this figure going up to 80 million by 2025. This is due to a combination of starch rich foods, sedentary lifestyles and genetic predisposition. How many children actually have playgrounds or the time to play sports every day? On the other hand, globalisation has pushed pizzas and burgers, cakes and pastries on to Indian dining tables. We must change course immediately and adopt healthier lifestyles before it is too late.
How to use almonds, especially diabetics
You can add slivered or chopped skinned almonds to dry oatmeal or muesli for a nutritive breakfast. You can use lightly roasted almonds as a healthy snack to ward off those mid- morning hunger pangs or pair them with your favourite fruit.
Before you groan that Mother Nature has cursed us with diseases like diabetes, just remember that she has also endowed us with the “weapons” to fight them: intellect to understand cause and effect and the goodness of her rich gifts like almonds.