Can the Ayurvedic diet help control blood glucose levels?

The personalised diet you’ll enjoy as the client of an ayurvedic consultant will help you control your diabetes. However, it needs to be modified by your consultant to eliminate food stuffs that are not compatible with a low-fat, low-sugar diet. 

Vegetable salads … Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

The Ayurveda lays great emphasis on nutrient rich meals for optimum health, ie to keep the three doshas in a state of equilibrium within yourself and between you and your environment.

An individual’s personal diet is based on that person’s own unique dosha. In the Ayurveda, all is personalised.

The most nourishing ayurvedic foods

The most nourishing foods in an Ayurvedic diet include:

Spices … such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger, mint, oregano, rock salt and turmeric

Beans and legumes … that are soaked such as adzuki beans, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, andmung beans

Fermented foods … such as amasi (fermented milk), miso, and yogurt

Fruits … in season, such as apples, dates, figs, grapefruit, guavas, lemon, lime, mandarins, mango, oranges, pears, plums, pomegranate, and tangerine

Grains … that are soaked or spouted including barley, millet, oats, quinoa, and rice

Healthy fats … such as buttermilk, coconut oil, cream, ghee, milk, olive oil, and yogurt

Honey … from bees

Liquids … teas, water, and wine

Meats … such as chicken, deer, fish, goat, pig, rabbit, and turkey

Nuts and seeds … such as almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame, and walnuts

Root vegetables … including butternut, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter melon, and winter squash

Vegetables … that are in season such as asparagus, beets, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, eggplant, fennel root (anise), garlic, green beans, green peas, leeks, okra, onions (cooked), parsnips, pumpkin, radish, rutabaga, spaghetti squash and spinach

Caveat … as you can see, some of these foods, eg healthy fats and honey, are not recommended if you are following the Beating diabetes diet. Indeed some aspects of the ayurvedic diet need to be treated with caution by diabetics.

Depending on your unique dosha, your ayurvedic consultant will advise you which combination of these foods you should concentrate on. He will already know that you are diabetic so he is likely to eliminate any he or she considers harmful for people with that particular condition. His view may not, however, accord with the Beating Diabetes diet.

Key points about an ayurvedic diet

The Ayurveda contains certain broad guidelines on what to eat according to the season.

Winter … as you spend energy keeping warm, your appetite will increase. You need to reduce warm weather foods such as raw vegetables, salads and smoothies, as well as sour, pungent and bitter foods, and ramp up your intake of complex carbs such as cooked grains, soups and stews, and sweet, sour and salty flavoured foods. To boost you immunity, use ghee, spices that warm you up and raw honey.

Things for a diabetic to avoid here are salt and ghee (clarified butter).

Spring … instead of sweet, sour and salty foods, eat bitter, astringent and pungent foods. Emphasize lighter, drier and warmer foods over heavy, fatty foods. Eat only a little meat and fruit but more green plants and keep eating warming spices. Eat smaller portions and increase your exercise.

Summer … is the time to eat naturally sweet foods, and minimize spicy, pungent, sour, salty, astringent dry foods. Consume lighter, cool, moist and less fatty foods. Eat less-hot foods, and go for fresh fruits and vegetables, more freshly made juices, yogurt, smoothies, coconut products, and cooling plants like cucumber, melons and berries.

Again, diabetics should note that coconut products may be very sweet.

Autumn … eat sweet and slightly bitter and astringent foods instead of pungent, sour, salty foods. Find a balance between cooling and hot foods and light and heavy foods. Eat more soups, warming spices, pomegranates and seasonal fruits, as well more bitter, green vegetables and spices.

Dietary instructions for persons with different doshas

In Ayurveda, the optimal diet depends on your dosha and the season. The generic instructions vary from person depending which of the three doshas is predominant in any one person:

Vata persons:

Foods … vata types should concentrate on eating avocado, cooked grains, cooked root vegetables, stewed fruits, nuts, seeds, foods produced using coconut or olive oil, full-fat dairy, ghee, and drink spiced milks and warm beverages … avoid frozen or very cold foods … eat mostly cooked foods, including cooked vegetables and cooked or dried fruit … go for sweet, sour and salty tastes rather than bitter, pungent or astringent tastes … use spices that help warm the body

Liquids … drink warm water or tea … avoid too much juice, drinking too much water

Mealtimes … to help the digestion, they should eat at predictable, regular times … don’t fast or skip meals … space your meals so you digest one meal fully before eating the next … avoid staying up late at night and eating just prior to bed

If you are a predominantly vata person, you will notice that ‘forbidden’ foods are recommended … oil, full-fat dairy, milks and so on.

Pitta persons:

Foods … pitta types should concentrate on eating seasonal cooling fruits and vegetables, beans (except for tempeh), rice, barley, quinoa, oats, kamut, pumpkin seeds, sesame, almonds, organic cane sugar, cilantro, coriander, mint, chicken, turkey, goat, ghee, olive oil, and coconut oil … avoid spicy foods, fried foods, sour foods, tomatoes, yogurt, vinegar, artificial sweeteners and alcoholic drinks … avoid too much spicy or sour foods, instead going for sweet, bitter and astringent foods … spice their food lightly at the most … eat cooled foods rather than very hot foods … not eat very oily foods or anything deep-fried … cook at only a medium heat … avoid eating a lot of raw food

Mealtimes … eat smaller meals during the day instead of two to three big meals … space out meals by a minimum of three hours to avoid heartburn.

Here again are foods that diabetics need to watch out for … nuts, ghee, oils, and so on.

Kapha persons:

Food … kapha types should concentrate on eating low-fat dairy products, light fruits, honey, all beans (except tofu), all grains (especially barley and millet), seasonal vegetables, and spices … not eat lots of sweet, very fat or salty foods … go for pungent, bitter and astringent tasting food instead of sweet, sour and salty food … eat slowly to avoid overeating

Liquids … avoid beverages with too much salt and water.

Again, warnings for diabetics on the Beating Diabetes diet about eating dairy products even if low fat.

The number of times you should eat in a day depends on your dosha. Vata types should eat more often to feel more confident and avoid anxiety. The other two doshas may not need to snack as much as the vata types and can go longer between meals. Kapha types should space out their meals to avoid overeating at just one or two meals.

Overview of the ayurvedic diet

  • Your ayurvedic diet is a personalized diet based on your unique dosha.
  • It promotes a fresh organic local diet that by its nature is seasonal.
  • The diet promoted by the Ayurveda is not focused on disease, ie its purpose is not just to treat symptoms but rather their source and to emphasise their prevention and the quality of your life.
  • An ayurvedic diet is an essential part of a lifestyle that promotes balance and harmony between body and mind. Rather than being used as a short-term fix for your weight, it is to be followed for a lifetime. The unique detailed ayurvedic diet your ayurvedic dietician will prescribe will change as you get older and pass through the different stages of your life.
  • The goal of the Ayurveda if to boost well-being and resilience. It does so by promoting a pure, fresh diet and the adoption of daily and seasonal rituals.
  • The Ayurveda is effective because it limits physical and mental stress which can take a serious toll on your body and quality of life, especially if you are diabetic.

Caution

Ayurvedic diets and herbs are meant to complement other treatments, including the use of Western

medicine as required. Therefore …

  • don’t stop taking your prescribed drugs when you begin an Ayurvedic diet, and
  • ask your doctor whether any herbs you’ll be consuming can interfere with your medicines.

Benefits

An ayurvedic diet is an extremely healthy diet provided diabetics eliminate the ‘forbidden’ foods, those that are high sugar, high fat or high salt. Here are some of the benefits of this diet:

Seasonal foods … their consumption is encouraged. This is important because we need different sources of nourishment at different times of the year. This seasonality in our diet becomes almost automatic as we eat organic and locally grown food.

Highly nutritious … there is no doubt that this diet is highly nutritious as it has been designed to be nutrient-dense. However, a diabetic needs to eliminate the ‘no-no’ foods.

Weight-loss … a study published in 2009 in the US Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, concluded that diets based on the Ayurveda may prove useful in promoting weight-loss.

Glucose levels … according to a study published in 2016 in the Lancet, ayurvedic diets improve insulin sensitivity and have been successful in treating diabetes in India.

Improves digestion … ayurvedic diets contain foods that are nutrient-dense, easily digested and can improve the health of your gut. Its cooking methods makes nutrients easier to digest, so digestive discomfort is relieved.

Improves gastrointestinal system … ayurvedic diets limit the consumption of processed inflammatory foods that can damage the health of the microbiota in your gut. This helps overcome conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhoids, diarrhoea, constipation, acid reflux and hyperacidity. In other words, the efficiency and pleasure of excretion is improved.

Better movement … limiting the consumption of inflammatory foods also improves the functionality and range of movement of your limbs.

Improved fertility … an ayurvedic diet improves you sexuality or reproductive health and so improves your fertility.

Detoxification … an ayurvedic diet enhances detoxification and so generates less anxiety and allows you to enjoy better inner calm.

The main focus of an ayurvedic diet is to limit ‘incompatibles’, ie foods that are not tolerated well. Factors that might cause certain foods to be omitted from an individual’s unique personalised include how the food is processed, the combination of ingredients it contains, the season and so on.

Summary of the Ayurvedic Diet

  • Ayurveda is a natural system of healing wisdom that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. Ayurvedic diets are based on ancient practices that promote a “holistic” balance in body and mind.
  • Ayurvedic diets are personalized and based on your dosha, aka constitution. This determines which types are foods are best suited for your personality, lifestyle and tendencies.
  • Benefits of the Ayurvedic diet include improving gut health, digestion, moods, sleep, fertility and body weight.
  • Foods included in an Ayurvedic diet include spices, healthy fats like coconut or ghee, quality animal products, fermented dairy, seasonal vegetables and fruit, beans, legumes, and nuts.
  • The inclusion in the diet of foodstuffs such as dairy, fats, honey and so on that infringe best practices for beating your diabetes means that diabetics must treat the diet with caution and winnow out the foods that are not suitable for controlling their blood glucose levels.

Author: Paul Kennedy

Paul D Kennedy is a qualified accountant and an international business consultant who used his skills as a researcher to uncover the mysteries of type 2 diabetes and gain control over his health and wellbeing.

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