Desi fibre for the diabetic

By Parvathy R Krishnan
Clinical studies show that lack of fibre in the diet is associated with the etiology of chronic diseases like gall bladder stones, coronary heart disease, diabetic mellitus, obesity, diverticular diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, and even cancer of the colon. In the case of diabetics, the effect of fibre on glycemic control and satiety cannot be stressed enough

Diabetics need the recommended fibre intake of 25 to 30 grams daily, same as that proposed for the general population.

Kinds of fibre
Fibre is of two types – insoluble and soluble. Both kinds are found in the same foods in varying amounts. Some foods are higher in soluble fibre while others have higher insoluble fibre content.

Cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin constitute insoluble fibres. They absorb and hold water in the digestive system, diluting its contents and relieving constipation. Insoluble fibre can be found in wheat bran, whole grains, fruits and mature vegetables, green leafy vegetables. Okra is especially an effective bowel reliever.

Gums and pectin are the soluble fibres which also retain water, cause delayed absorption and bind with other substances in the digestive tract thus lowering postprandial glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides.

Soluble fibre is found in fruits (especially when the skin and seeds are eaten), legumes, vegetables, whole grain cereals, oats, barley, nuts and seeds. Especially good desi foods are common millet, horse gram, cow gram, whole green gram, finger millet (ragi), soybean, breadfruit, cluster beans, sprouted green gram dal (moong), okra, bitter gourd. Fruits high in fibre are gooseberry, custard apple, plums, apple, peaches, pears, guava and strawberry.

Here again the gooey okra and the bitter gourd stand out as effective foods to control blood glucose.

Methi seeds are good source of soluble fibre. Use them generously in your cooking as seasoning or grind them in the idli/dosa batter to lower the glycemic index. Channa dal or besan stands first among legumes in controlling blood sugar. Amongst the desifruits, the humble guava is a winner in reducing cholesterol and blood sugar.

How to get enough fibre in your diet

  • Eat at least one cup of cooked vegetables and 1 cup of raw vegetables in the daily diet.
  • Add besan to whole wheat atta to reinforce the fibre content of the rotis you make.
  • Include one cup of dal, legumes daily.
  • Eat 2 to 3 fruits (especially those mentioned above) depending on your daily caloric need
  • Incorporate 2 tablespoon of nuts/seeds into the daily fat requirement.

Our country is rich in agricultural resources and the variety of local fruits, green leafy and other vegetables. Make use of these by eating a variety in your meals. Each vegetable or fruit will have some special nutrient or fibre to offer that will keep you healthy and satisfied.

Parvathy R Krishnan, a Nutrition & Dietetics expert, is a member of Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India.

Image: Flickr/creativecommons/nataliemaynor