Diabetes Major Concern for South Asians

UPDATE: Amandeep’s article also was published in the South Asian Post magazine on October 15th!

Amandeep - magazine - Simple Changes - Diabetes

This is a recent newspaper article from the Asian Pacific Post of September 16th of an interview with Nutrition to You’s Amandeep Sandhu:

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published by asingh on Tue, 09/16/2014 – 17:29

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Diabetes continues to be a major concern for South Asians. But a few simple changes to your diet can help prevent and manage diabetes, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

There are two common types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Both types result in above normal blood glucose levels. Unlike Type 2, Type 1 diabetes is classified as an autoimmune disease because the body’s immune system destroys the insulin producing cells of the pancreas, and taking external insulin is the only way for treatment.

Type 2 diabetes on the other hand, is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by one or both of the following: the inability for the body’s cells to recognize its own insulin (ie. insulin resistance), and a lack of insulin production.

“Although Type 2 is commonly seen in people over the age of 40, we are starting to see it in the younger population as well,” says registered dietitian Amandeep Sandhu who works with Nutrition to You in Surrey. “Factors like older age, obesity, race and ethnicity, and a family history of diabetes can increase your risks of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Amandeep Sandhu discusses how South Asians can help manage and prevent diabetes by making changes to our diet:

What happens if you don’t manage your diabetes?

It is very important to manage blood sugars to prevent complications from diabetes. When blood sugars consistently remain too high, it can result in heart and blood vessel complications resulting in diseases and death. Increased risks for heart disease, blindness, chronic kidney failure, and amputations are side effects of poorly managed blood sugars.

How can we stop or reduce blood sugar levels so we don’t become diabetic?

There are changes people can make to their lifestyle that can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. Healthy eating plays a key role in the prevention of not only diabetes but many diseases. Increasing fruits and vegetables, choosing whole grains more often, and avoiding unhealthy fats are ways to improve blood sugar results.

Just adding 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity 5 days a week will improve blood sugars and assist with weight maintenance. It is also very important to get screened annually for diabetes if you have one or more risk factors for developing diabetes like family history.

How will eating local fruits like BC blueberries help maintain or reduce blood sugar?

The Canada’s Food Guide (CFG) recommends 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day depending on age and gender. Blueberries are not only a great source of antioxidants, which are known to be cancer-fighting agents, but they are also full of vitamins and minerals. Blueberries can help slow the aging process and reduce cell damage that can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and loss of brain function.

A cup of blueberries a day provides 2 servings of fruit according to the food guide, and is a great source of fiber. Fiber is great at stabilizing blood sugars by slowing the digestion of food and in return, resulting in a gradual release of sugars into the blood stream rather than a sharp spike.

 How can we make Punjabi or Indian food more healthier?

The South Asian diet is very delicious, but it can be really high in fats, sodium, and refined carbohydrates. Making small changes to how you cook and choosing healthier ingredients can make meals more nutritious. Choose low fat yogurts instead of cream in curries, switch to tofu from paneer, and use vegetables oils for thurka to reduce fat intake. BC blueberries can be a great addition to a healthy balanced diet too. Add them to oatmeal, cold cereal, plain yogurt, smoothies, or eat them plain.

Where can we find more information about diabetes?

A good starting point is to have a discussion with your family doctor on how to manage your diabetes. The Canadian Diabetes Association website is also a good source of information. If you need more personalized healthy eating education and meal planning in Punjabi or English, contact a registered dietitian. Nutrition to You’s specialized dietitians provide support and education in diabetes in Punjabi and other languages, and can assist in weight management too.

For more information, visit www.nutritiontoyou.com or www.bcblueberry.com