Forget the much advertised cornflake or the humble roti and rice -- they can kill. Workday menus of Indians living in big cities are being redefined by the fear of proliferating diabetes brought on by stress and poor diet, say leading lifestyle doctors and diabeticians.
With India expected to be home to 80 percent of the world's diabetic population by 2025, the buzzword is "low glycemic load foods". The glycemic index or GI is a measure of the effects of carbohydrate on blood sugar level.
Studies have proved that people who eat low-glycemic food over several years are less prone to type 2 diabetes and coronary heart diseases than those who love their morning platter of "parantha, poori and roti (Indian breads)" - the high glycemic delights.
"The meals should be kept free of flour, cornflakes, wheat and rice," Gaurav Sharma, a diabetologist, sports medicine and lifestyle doctor told IANS. They can kill with excess starch and gluten allergy, the newest wheat allergen on the pantry shelf which can aggravate the condition of diabetics.
"An ideal anti-diabetic breakfast, the most important meal of the day, should be a combination of eggs - fried, poached or scrambled in extra-virgin olive oil - accompanied by a tomato or mint dip followed by herbal or jasmine tea," he added.
Eggs do not increase cholesterol; the popular perception of eggs as a potential source of cholesterol is a myth, said the doctor who has treated several top sportspersons including Kapil Dev.
Sharma, who has been practising lifestyle medicine for the last two decades, has designed several anti-diabetes diet plans.
"Every Indian family with or without a history of diabetes must use at least three different varieties of cooking oils rich in the essential Omega-3 fatty acids, which help production of natural insulin," the doctor said.
"They can be olive oil, mustard oil, clarified butter, coconut oil or flaxseed oil," he added.
Breakfast is ideally followed by a light snack of nuts and tea after two-three hours. Three hours on, lunch should be a spartan affair.
"Eat at least two platters of curried vegetables cooked in Omega 3 rich oil, a portion of 'paneer' or cottage cheese cooked in a light gravy of spices and tomatoes, chicken or mutton, the amount of which should not exceed the size of the palm for it corresponds to the size of the stomach," Sharma recommended.
According to the National Institute of Nutrition, "the shift from traditional to modern foods, changing cooking practices, increased intake of processed ready-to-eat foods, intensive marketing of junk food and health beverages have affected people's perceptions to food as well as their dietary behaviour".
A study by the institute said: "The irrational preference for energy dense foods and those with high sugar and salt content pose a serious health risk."
Said nutrition expert Divya Sanglikar of Desidieter, a nutrition group: "The traditional Indian palette has always been considered healthy, second to Mediterranean food."
"But the fast-paced lifestyle and the boom in the food processing industry has been responsible for making people nutritionally lazy. Well-balanced 'thalis' (platters) are being replaced by takeaways and two-minute noodles, increasing the threat of diabetes and related complications," she added.
Diabetes-India.com, one of the oldest and the biggest online platforms campaigning for a diabetes-free life, advises that "traditional Indian diets with slight modifications are close to what is considered an ideal low diabetes diet".
"The basic advice is to avoid sugared foods," it prescribes.
The carbohydrate level should remain around 60-70 percent of the total calorie intake by a diabetes patient, while proteins should make up 12-18 percent of the total calories.
The portion of fats is best confined to 20-25 percent of the total calories, the Diabetes-India diet plan says.
The diabetes picture in the country is grim, said Sharma, quoting a new study conducted by an organisation in Chennai this year.
It revealed that Ernakulam topped the list of diabetes-ravaged cities with an incidence of 19.5 percent, followed by Thiruvananthapuram with 17.5 percent, Chennai 13.5
percent, Bangalore 13.5 percent and Delhi 10.5 percent.
According to global statistics, one person dies every 10 seconds of diabetes-related illnesses and two new diabetes cases are identified every 10 seconds.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)