Functional foods are foods that have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. Proponents of functional foods say they promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of various diseases.
Today the majority of the population is dealing with lifestyle diseases and diabetes is one of the leading diseases. Many functional foods including native and exotic options are used for controlling diabetes. These are considered beneficial as they lower the levels of blood glucose and also help maintain overall health.
NATIVE FUNCTIONAL FOODS BENEFICIAL FOR DIABETES
1. FENUGREEK SEEDS: Methi seeds and methi leaves are both superfoods for diabetes. They contain fibres and help in slowing the digestion process and thus regulate the absorption of carbohydrates and sugars in the body. They improve glucose tolerance and also lower bad cholesterol levels. Methi seeds can be soaked overnight and the along with the seeds ‘methi ka paani’ can be consumed early morning on empty stomach for good health.
2. JAMUN: Consumption of jamun is known to improve insulin activity and sensitivity. In Ayurveda, jamun is used for treating digestive disorders and jamun seed powder is touted as a great home remedy for controlling high blood sugar levels. Jamun has a low glycaemic index and helps to convert starch into energy keeping your blood sugar levels in check.
3. BITTER GOURD: –Bitter gourd contains active substances that lend anti-diabetic properties. An insulin-like compound known as polypeptide-p helps lower blood sugar levels. The best way to consume it is to have fresh bitter gourd juice early morning on empty stomach. You can add a piece of amla or Indian gooseberry to get you a dose of Vitamin C for stronger immunity.
4. TURMERIC: Turmeric is considered to be a great Ayurvedic superfood for diabetes. It can be an effective herbal way to control blood sugar. It regulates the functions of the pancreas and balances the insulin levels in the body.
5. FLAXSEED: Flaxseeds contain large amounts of an insoluble fibre called lignan. Flaxseeds help in reducing the chances of heart complications and stroke which are common complications in people with diabetes. It also helps lower blood cholesterol levels due to its high omega 3 contents.
6. PUMPKIN SEEDS: Keep a handful of pumpkin seeds with you to fight cravings for fatty and sugary foods. They are rich in iron and unsaturated fats and help in suppressing your appetite. When it comes to snacking, always remember that the key is portion control.
7. TOMATOES: Tomatoes are rich in lycopene. They help reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart complications associated with diabetes. Tomatoes are packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin A and potassium. They are low-carb and also low in calories which make them a superfood for diabetes.
8. GURMAR: Gurmar, also known as gymnema, is native to the tropical forests of southern and central India. The medicinal part of the plant is the leaf, which reduces or eliminates the ability to perceive sweetness. For instance, after eating gurmar, a banana can taste like a bland, overcooked vegetable. This is due to the presence of compounds, known as gymnemic acids, which bind to taste receptors on the tongue. This effect has been known for centuries – the Hindi name gurmar translates as “destroyer of sugar.” Studies have also found these gymnemic acids exhibit anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory activities.
9. BAEL FRUIT OR WOOD APPLE: Bael fruit is rich in laxatives which makes the fruit useful in controlling the blood sugar levels. It promotes pancreas to produces enough amount of insulin by helping in the regeneration of pancreatic cells, which is necessary to control the sugar level in the blood.
10. GUAVA: Guava has a low glycaemic index score and is very rich in dietary fibre that helps in treating constipation which is a common complaint people with diabetes have. Some studies indicate that guava may help slow down sugar absorption in your body. It serves as a great mid-meal snack.
EXOTIC FUNCTIONAL FOODS BENEFICIAL FOR DIABETES
1. ASPARAGUS: Asparagus, a popular vegetable, is said to keep diabetes at bay by helping blood sugar levels stay under control while boosting output of insulin.
2. AVACADO: Rich, creamy, and packed with beneficial monounsaturated fat, avocado slows digestion and helps keep blood sugar from spiking after a meal. A diet high in good fats may even help reverse insulin resistance, which translates to steadier blood sugar long-term. Try putting mashed avocado on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise or on bread instead of butter.
3. BLACK BEANS: Fibre contained in black beans is essential for those with diabetes. It assists in lowering the blood sugar level and also keeps the digestive system healthy. One more thing why black beans are good for diabetic patients is that the healthy or simple carbohydrate that is contained in it is safe for the blood sugar level.
4. BERRIES: Berries are full of fibre and antioxidants. The red and blue varieties also contain natural plant compounds called anthocyanins. Scientists believe these may help lower blood sugar by boosting insulin production.
5. BROCCOLI: Broccoli is filling, fibrous, and full of antioxidants (including a day’s worth of vitamin C in one serving). It’s also rich in chromium, which plays an important role in long-term blood sugar control. If you don’t already love it, either ‘hide’ it in soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles, or sauté it with garlic, soy sauce, and mustard, or dark sesame oil for a taste you’ll fall for.
6. QUINOA: Healthy meal plans for people with diabetes often focus on choosing foods rated at medium to low on the glycaemic index (<55). Quinoa has a glycaemic index of around 53, meaning it won’t cause as dramatic a spike in blood sugar. This is because it contains fibre and protein, both of which slow the digestion process. Unlike other grains, quinoa contains all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. This means that quinoa can be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes since fibre and protein are considered important for keeping blood sugar under control.
7. WHEATGRASS: –Wheatgrass is the sprouted grass of a wheat seed. Chlorophyll in wheatgrass promotes healthy blood sugar levels by helping detoxify the body. A major benefit of taking wheatgrass juice is that it is easily digested and it is high in vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.
8. OATS: Oatmeal is loaded with soluble fibre which, when mixed with water, forms a gel. Just as it sticks to your bowl, it also forms a gummy barrier between the digestive enzymes in your stomach and the starch molecules in your meal. So, it takes longer for your body to convert the carbs you’ve eaten into blood sugar. Don’t like oatmeal in the morning? Buy oat flour and use it as a thickener in stews, casseroles, and soups. Or add ground oatmeal (not the instant kind) to pancake or thalipeeth. You won’t even know it’s there.
9. BRUSSEL SPROUTS: Brussels sprouts are high in fibre, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. Brussels sprouts also contain alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant that’s been researched extensively for its potential effects on blood sugar and insulin.
10. BARLEY:-Choosing this grain instead of white rice can reduce the rise in blood sugar after a meal by almost 70% and keep blood sugar lower and steadier for hours. That’s because the soluble fibre and other compounds in barley dramatically slow the digestion and absorption of the carbohydrate. Even brown rice can’t compare. Add barley to soups, serve it as a side dish, or make it the basis for a stir-fry or casserole. Pearled, hulled, or quick-cooking varieties are all crackling good choices.