I have written an unexpected posting this week.
Thank you, Sarbit, for the question about complex carbohydrates and vegetable choice, which you raised at:
You will find more interactive food charts for diabetics there, too.
I will try to answer your question more fully in this major posting, but as you do not tell me where you live, that makes things harder.
I know Sikhs live all over the world, but India has a seriously magnifying, multiplying problem with diabetes, where it is reaching epidemic levels on a mind-boggling scale (see Reference to this in a New York Times article and others at links below). China also has a tremendous increase in diabetes, and the government there is taking more steps than the Indian government is, so far, to start real change towards Health.
Because of the enormity of this epidemic, especially for wealthy, well-educated, urban Indians, who are likely to have internet access, I will do my best to answer the question as if you are an Indian diabetic, living in India. And, then I hope they will make sure this information will trickle down quickly to those serving less affluent populations, who need helpful information and medical care even more desparately there.
As sobering quote:
From a report from Diabetes Research Centre, M.V. Hospital for Diabetes, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research, Education and Training in Diabetes, Royapuram, Chennai, India
“… Insulin resistance is a characteristic feature of Asian Indians despite low BMI (Body Mass Index) . Asian Indians require higher levels of plasma insulin to maintain normoglycemia; they also have other characteristic features of insulin resistance such as high central adiposity and high percentage body fat in comparison with many other populations. Insulin resistance worsens with small increments in weight and also with lack of physical activity, both of which are encouraged by modern living. “
So, the research that is being done shows that Indians have a predisposition toward acquiring diabetes. No real scientific reason for this has been found in the studies so far, just that it exists. In my opinion, it may well be linked to the fact that:
1) Indians have the largest prevalence of the newest blood-type (Type B), which is only about 500 years old. Their requirements and possibly susceptabilities are different from the vast majority of humans, and although Type B foods are quite wide-ranging and omniverous, their immune systems are more problematical, Dr. D’Adamo finds. Traditional life-styles may or may not incorporate the needed changes for such a wide-ranging biochemical evolution, well yet or even at all. Read more in Dr. D’Adamo’s books. www.dadamo.com
2) Indians picked up some bad, Western dietary habits through the British occupation, so the erosion of their own healthier, traditional ways has been ongoing for a couple of hundred years, and with the explosion of sedentary, high-stress jobs in current India, the triggers are set, just like in the Western countries, but with India’s massive populations, the results will be disastrous.
3) Many of India’s traditional foods and Ayurvedic health practices kept this situation balanced. Western drug companies see BIG new markets, so I worry about the “research” that will be done. I encourage Indians to return to the herbs and treatments Ayurvedic Medicine has used successfully for thousands of years, as well as learning more appropriate diet, as explained below, but not necessarily in the Big Pharmacy Company // Big Medicine view.
___ My first advice is to stay away from sweets and their simple carbohydrates, completely. As I understand it from recent articles, too many Indians are over-indulging in sweets and this is propelling the diabetes epidemic, as well as obesity. Sugar is highly acidic and produces a very pH acidic metabolic environment for your cells. At the end of each day, for Health to happen, you need to try to be neutral pH or alkaline pH. If you are cellulary acidic, then changing diet, proper detoxification, stress reduction / meditation are all helpful.
If you do sweeten something, do not use artificial sweeteners, and do use as unprocessed products as possible e.g. use molasses or jaggery (gur) (and try to buy agave or stevia plants, if you can in Western stores or use the internet).
___ Secondly, as far as complex carbohydrates go, for everyone but especially if vegetarian, then it is not only the simple sugars that you must be aware of; complex carbohydrates are the “starches“.
Dal flours and grain flours (even moreso) are acidic pH foods. Besan will probably be a better choice than atta flour, but both are likely to impact pH opposite to what you need for alkaline, as almost all beans and grains are acidic pH to some degree.
The most alkaline legumes likely to be available in India are: green beans, fresh limas (pavta), the lentil dals, lobhia / chawli (black-eye peas).
Fresh pavta (lima beans) are one of the few alkaline beans, but many people who are Blood Type A may find these not healthy for them, as they can react to the lectins in them
I have little or no information on the pH of sabudana (sago), jowar, bajra or most of India’s vast rice varieties, but Japonica family of rices seem to be alkaline, whereas Basmati seems to be acidic in varying degrees. Some chemists place brown Basmati rice close to neutral pH, but milled rices are not healthy.
Makki Ka Atta (cornmeal) is not recommended as it is quite acidic pH.
___ For vegetarians, beans and dahls are needed for protein, along with nuts. Therefore, use lots of green leafy vegetables to try to “balance” these protein sources, most of which produce acidic pH except for narial (coconut) and badam (almond) which have alkaline pH. Of course, animal foods produce very high acidic pH levels.
Kadju (cashew) and pista (pistachio) nuts are surprisingly very acidic pH food and these nuts along with moonphali (peanuts, really a legume) are not recommended at all. Akhrot (walnut) should be used infrequently. Pine nuts (chilgoza) are OK to use moderately.
___ The amount of the complex carbohydrate starches (grains, beans, rice etc.) at each meal impact blood sugar levels, as well as the time spent in digestion and nutrient absorption to finally produce that meal’s blood-sugar effects.
Whether the complex carbohydrates are processed faster in your body to cause blood-sugar “spikes” is dependent on there being healthy oils (ghee or coconut oil) and fiber (also known as roughage) in the meal to slow down the complex carbohydrate foods’ blood-sugar effect. You can learn more about the individual Glycemic Index of foods, but they are impacted by the oils, fats and fiber in a meal; you can use this to fine-tune your meals to great advantage. See insulin-reactivity of particular foods at the official research site: www.glycemicindex.com
Vegetables are the healthiest complex-carbohydrates, and you have access to many varieties on the Indian sub-continent that we do not have in the West. Some of them I know from living in Asia and visiting India several times, others I know from those showcased in ethnic markets in the West.
The general guidelines is that they be:
___ not heavy starches
___ have good amounts of fiber
___ be eaten raw when possible and otherwise lightly cooked.
___ Some foods are amazing in their serious impact on diabetics. The karela bitter melon is a vegetable that has definite impact on blood sugar reduction, and is a potent medicine in itself, as is dalchini (cinnamon). Gymnema sylvester is also an important Indian herb for diabetes, but I don’t know its Hindi name. Methi (fenugreek) and kadhi patta (fresh kari leaves) are also used to treat diabetes in some way. Utilize these only in the care of an Ayurvedic vaidya or other holistically knowledgeable physician.
Ayurveda is the “Science of Life”, and is Humanity’s first medical system. It is the basis for all of the major medical systems for the past 5,000 years, including Chinese, Egyptian and Greek (which birthed European medicine).
___ Fruits should be limited, and choose only be the most nutritious as well as ones that aid digestion. Other traditionally-used Ayurvedic fruits e.g. amla (emblica) are also ones to pay attention to. Melon seeds (chor magaz) may be helpful. Kokum looks possible from its herbal references.
We are at a disadvantage here as the ash-tests needed to emulate the burning of the food in our body, as we metabolize it, have not been done on most foods (and especially ethnic, non-European foods) in order to get their real pH information. Dipping litmus paper into a mashed sample to get a pH number is not the correct Chemistry protocol.
For other fruits, it seems wise not to use khubani (apricots) often, as they appear to have acidic pH even though they are nutritious. Kish mish / monuka (raisins) are the same as seem to be too concentrated sugar and make acidic pH in our body. Contrary to what a litmus paper test will tell you, lemons and limes are alkaline in your body, and are very healthful. I do not know how widely available these fruits are in India; grapefruits / pomelos are also alkaline.
___ It is possible that many of the traditional spices may helpfully impact pH, but I don’t have information about many of them. Spices that are thought of as healthy, or which come from plants that have good pH, are likely good candidates. Examples might be: curry powder, til (sesame), podina (mint), adrak (ginger), haldi (turmeric), sowa (dill), ajmud (celery seed), amb halad (zedoary), saunf (fennel), khus khus (poppy seed), subja seeds used in falooda, panch phora and garam masala.
Some LOCAL kala namak (rock salt) may be OK; check with a knowledgeable Ayurvedic physician. Citric acid (limbuphool) is used a lot in India, and citric acid is an important ingredient in the Krebs cycle to produce cellular energy, which is often lacking in diabetics. I do not know if it has the same alkaline pH as fresh lemons do (yes, as I said above, lemons and limes have alkaline pH).
However, jaiphal and javitri (nutmeg and mace) produce acidic pH, along with rai (mustard) or kali mirch (green, pink, white or black peppercorns) and I do not encourage their use.
To make achaar (pickles) use a sirka (vinegar) like apple cider vinegar or a light rice vinegar and balance them out with lots of alkaline foods. These vinegars are the least problematic from a pH point of view.
___ Eating your more traditional diet will likely keep you healthier than starting the “usual” Westernized one, with its factory food and emphasis on poor quality, lots of sugar, too little fresh food and the wrong fats.
___ Eat fresh foods, in their proper growing season.
___ Stay “true” to your Ayurvedic constitutional type – your Prakrti. Each human’s body follows one of 7 constitutional types. Ayurveda is always a personalized, holistic regimen and tries to focus on prevention, as well as cure. Honor Ayurveda’s guidelines for relaxation and exercise choices as some Constitutional types needs lots of physical activity whereas other types need more quiet — both in reflective pursuits and exercise choice (yoga and Pilates might be the best, less rigorous choices along with meditation or quiet time for meditation, arts, poetry or classical music).
And, now to answer your original question more specifically, Sarbit. Here are some vegetables to use because they help maintain a neutral or alkaline tissue pH in your body:
bittermelon (balsam pear), karela
fresh green beans
dasheen (taro root)
most green leafy vegetables, like:
saag (spinach), dahnia sabz (coriander), haak (collards)
sweet potatoes (if you can get them)
leeks and onions (piyaz)
baby peas (matar)
eggplant / aubergine / brinjal/ bhaji
imli (tamarind) – small amounts
white potatoes only if skin is included
pippili long pepper
agar-agar (China grass) for jellies
For beverages 1 – 2 cups (only) of green tea, if your prescription medications allow it.
This is not a complete list of the best alkaline foods that may be available to you. It’s just a start and the best I can do from thousands of miles away, at the moment. Hopefully, you will have access to some of the Western foods that more usually have been studied for their impact on internal pH, but be sure to pay attention to each food’s Glycemic Index. That alone will be useful information to help guide you to Health. Some will surprise you, and do remember there are lots of sugars naturally in milks.
I hope this helps, and if anyone else can contribute to this, please do!
Best to all — Em
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(c)2008 Em http://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com
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