Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience.
The world of diabetes has been buzzing with balanced plate meal plans that have managed to control blood sugar levels. But what is a balanced plate meal? And how does it affect blood sugar? Simply put, a balanced plate is a meal plate containing a balance of essential nutrients required by the body.
The trick to getting it right lies in the ratio of macronutrients served on a balanced plate meal. “Half of your plate should be composed of vegetables. A quarter of your plate should be composed of carbohydrate – cereal (whole grains), and the last quarter should be proteins – meat/dals/pulses/legumes,” reveals Dr Pradeep Gadge, a leading Diabetologist Gadge Diabetes Centre.
How a balanced plate meal plan helps
Experts have pointed at how well the Indian meal plate works as a balanced plate meal. Luke Coutinho, Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine – Holistic Nutrition, agrees, and explains, “A meal that is balanced comprises of vegetables (raw + cooked), lentils/ pulses/ legumes, whole grains and a source of probiotic (fermented vegetables, buttermilk or organic milk yoghurt). The ample fibre provided by such a meal is enough to subdue the effects of carbohydrates and make it a slow digesting one. Our simple and traditional Indian meal is a perfect example of such a balanced plate.” Read more about Indian recipes that are perfect for regulating diabetes.
Coutinho breaks down the plate to show how each component contributes to regulating the blood sugar levels:
- When you eat fibre in combination with carbohydrates, fats and proteins, it can delay the rate at which blood glucose enters the bloodstream. The more fibre meals you have, the better your sugar levels.
- A balanced meal reduces the chances of overeating. This assists fat loss. A decrease in even an inch around the waist will considerably improve your condition if you have diabetes.
- Thirdly, a balanced diet has a rippling effect on managing triglycerides, good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, blood pressure. As a result, it heals your metabolic syndrome that is responsible for progressing or causing diabetes.
- Fourthly, diabetes is a nutritional wasting disease. This means that elevated blood sugar levels act as a diuretic and flush out essential vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. Diabetes depletes us of vitamin B complex (B1-B12), vitamin C, D, magnesium, chromium, copper and zinc. The absence of these elements hampers insulin sensitivity. A balanced plate meal helps by replenishing those nutrients.
9 ways to keep the balance
- Eat fruits first thing in the morning. Make it enjoyable by sprinkling nuts and seeds to lower the overall glycaemic index of the meal.
- Aim for a serving of raw vegetables with every meal to ensure your body has enough natural enzymes to maintain an alkaline environment. An acidic body can worsen the health of the pancreas.
- Whole grains like bajra, jowar, barley and buckwheat are rich in fibre and have varying amounts of protein. Millets too make a great addition to the plate.
- A diabetic doesn’t need to fear rice. Enjoy it in small portions with plenty of vegetables and lentils. Whole grains provide trace minerals and B–vitamins.
- Lean protein plays an important role in a balanced plate by delaying the rate at which sugar enters your bloodstream. This helps to prevent sugar spikes. Add protein to your plant-based diet from lentils, pulses, beans, peas, seeds and nuts.
- Nuts and seeds also provide essential fatty acids that help calm any inflammation in the body, manufacture hormones and Vitamin D and stabilise sugar levels.
- Spices and herbs like Srilankan cinnamon (dalchini), fenugreek seeds (methi), turmeric, garlic, curry leaves, aloe vera, cloves and oregano have a positive impact on blood sugar levels.
- Sugar depletes critical electrolytes like potassium, Mg, Ca, Na leading to cellular dehydration. This decreases the energy of cells, leading to insulin insensitivity. Hence it’s important to maintain intake of electrolytes.You can do this by having coconut water, SOLE water, apple cider vinegar, fruits like watermelon or simply lemon water with a pinch of pink salt.
- Probiotics help in the digestion and breakdown of foods. They are also vital for the synthesis of B-12 that helps to metabolise carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Diabetes usually affects immunity, but probiotics help in maintaining it.
(with inputs from Coutinho)
While the benefits of a balanced plate meal are many, stress can mar its advantages. “During periods of stress, our body produces cortisol which is not only a fat storing hormone but also decreases your insulin secretion. This happens because during stress, our body attains a “flight or fight” mode and that demands blood sugar levels to be high so as to provide the body with enough energy to fight or flee. Chronic stress means chronically high blood sugar levels, which means diabetes. Stress also produces a hormone called somatostatin. More somatostatin means less insulin secretion, which means high blood glucose. This works very similar to cortisol – insulin mechanism. Hence, a calm, happy and focused state of mind is a prerequisite for a balanced meal plan to be effective,” says Coutinho.
While you can take the different components of a balanced plate meal separately on a plate as per your palate, there are meals that have combined the components and will give you a balanced meal. Add fruits and buttermilk for a complete meal.
1. Ragi dosa with coriander chutney for breakfast
As compared to rice, maize or wheat, ragi is a healthier option for those suffering from diabetes because it is rich in polyphenols and dietary fibres. So, begin your day with a healthy, easy to prepare ragi dosa.
Video courtesy: YouTube/Healthy Food Kitchen
To balance the plate add a sliced apple or a portion of a seasonal fruit to your breakfast.
2. One pot meal – whole wheat and vegetable khichdi
Steer clear of polished rice by including a whole wheat pot meal in your tiffin. This khichdi is a complete meal as it contains carbohydrates in the form of wheat, proteins from dals and French beans and adequate fat in the form of vegetable oil. The need for micronutrients is fulfilled from carrots and green peas. Complete the meal with a glass of buttermilk.
Video courtesy: YouTube/Tarla Dalal
3. Healthy methi parantha
If you love paranthas you can opt for this complete meal full of nutrients. It includes fenugreek (methi), bitter gourd, wheat, beans, onion and curd.
Video courtesy: YouTube/Grandmothers Secret Recipes
4. Chana, palak and cabbage Tikki for an evening snack
To prevent fluctuations in blood sugar, it is necessary to munch on healthy snacks throughout the day. This recipe includes chickpea which is low on glycemic index spinach, which is rich in magnesium and plays an active role in controlling fluctuating blood sugar and cabbage which reduces blood glucose level and is an effective antioxidant.
Video courtesy: YouTube/MyFoodCourt
5. Stuffed dal parantha
Craving paranthas? Here is another balanced plate meal that combines carbohydrates from wheat, proteins from dal, and fats from vegetable oil to serve a complete meal on your plate.
Video courtesy: YouTube/Health Total
Who says you can’t eat your favourite foods if you have diabetes? Just use some smart tricks to make your favourite dish healthier, and enjoy!
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- Michael Ravensthorpe: Natural News. Cabbage: natural medicine for cancer, diabetes and more: Friday, May 16, 2014