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Desi Diet for Diabetes

May 2005
Desi Diet for Diabetes

By Gita Mehrotra

In talking with people about diabetes at an IPN meeting and the recent Sai Health Fair, I realized the need to address the special dietary needs of Indians eating a vegetarian diet. I learned that many of them eat just dhal and vegetables as a meal thinking they are getting high protein, while others just skip meals thinking they can lose weight by eating less. Others skip medications the day they feel good and adjust their medicine doses depending on whether they are shaky or not. Hearing all this has motivated me to address the special need of nutrition education among Indians.

Having diabetes isn't easy but people with this condition can live full and happy lives. The body is unable to utilize its main source of fuel (glucose) from the food eaten. As a result, sugar accumulates in the blood, overflows into the urine and passes out of the body. Some people with type II diabetes don't make enough insulin. Others make insulin, but their bodies don't respond to it. It is important to think about what and when you eat and how you exercise and when you take your medication.

It is also important to understand how to manage diabetes, as it requires lifestyle changes.

Before starting any program consult with your doctor and learn your dietary requirements. The treatment plan includes balancing the "M & Ms" in your life.


It is important that one eat small, well-balanced meals spaced throughout the day instead of eating three big meals or two meals a day. A balanced diet means you eat the right amounts of food from each of the six food groups every day. Each person with diabetes should have his or her own personal meal plan.

Motion ? Exercise Plan

May lower blood glucose levels. Helps insulin work better. Strengthens heart activity. Improves blood circulation. Lowers cholesterol. May relieve stress. Improves your overall physical condition.

Medication (pills or insulin) ? Take your medication as prescribed and do not skip or adjust dosage without consulting your doctor.

Monitoring ? A way to be sure the treatment plan is working.

Managing ? Learn about diabetes and the power you have to mange your life.

Meditate ? It helps you cope with changes and manage stress.

Understanding Protein

A complete protein is made up of ten essential amino acids. These are provided by food and cannot be manufactured by the body. Animal sources and diary products are complete proteins. Proteins derived from plant sources are incomplete proteins because all ten essential amino acids are not present in them. However, you can make complete proteins when you combine cereals and grains with beans/dhal and legumes.

When you eat any dhal by itself with just vegetables it is not a complete protein or if you eat lemon rice with some vegetable it is not a complete protein. Combining dhal and roti makes it a complete protein. You can add yogurt and nuts to enhance the quality of the protein. Combine green leafy vegetables and nuts; yogurt and green leafy vegetables improve the quality of protein. Paying attention to the combination of food helps one get a good quality protein. Protein is an important nutrient for it provides 4 calories per gram. It builds and repairs tissue, helps growth, keeps bones and teeth strong and helps to stabilize sugar. Eat a good variety of vegetables so you get a good supply of vitamins and minerals. Eat green leafy vegetables and orange and dark vegetables. Reduce your intake of rice and potatoes to three times a week.

Gita Mehrotra���BSc. MBA. has authored several articles. She currently operates a workshop for patients with Diabetes and is in the process of forming a diabetes support group for Indians. Those interested in getting on her mailing list can e-mail her at She may be reached at 770 381 8698 or 404 840 6662.

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