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How Fiber and Whole Grains Can Reduce Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

India is currently home to 77 million, the second-largest number of adults with diabetes worldwide.

Published
Diabetes
3 min read
India is currently home to 77 million, the second-largest number of adults with diabetes worldwide.
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Are you the kind with a sweet tooth but think twice before indulging in that delicious Diwali delicacy because of Diabetes? Well, you are not alone.

India is currently home to 77 million, the second-largest number of adults with diabetes worldwide.

Diabetes remains one of the major public health problems globally – its prevalence in adults is estimated to reach 578 million by 2030, from 463 million in 2019. This situation makes it imperative to develop ways to prevent, or at least delay the emerging epidemic of diabetes apart from treating it and its complications.

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Lifestyle factors including diet and physical activity are the cornerstone of ‘type 2 diabetes mellitus’ (T2DM) management. Results of extensive research conducted over the past two decades have shown that prevention or (at least delay) of T2DM is possible by lifestyle modification.

Isn’t that good news? In fact, several studies indicate that simply including enough fiber and whole grain in your daily diet can significantly reduce the risk for T2DM.

How Dietary Fiber & Whole Grains Affect Blood Glucose?

Higher intakes of cereal fiber can reduce the risk of T2DM by 33%.
Higher intakes of cereal fiber can reduce the risk of T2DM by 33%.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Dietary fiber helps in trapping sugars in the digestive system, which means they enter the blood slowly, helping to control blood glucose levels. Cereal fiber, in particular, is known to improve insulin sensitivity, which means that the body uses blood glucose more effectively and efficiently.

Higher intakes of cereal fiber can reduce the risk of T2DM by 33%.

Apart from dietary fiber, whole grains have some beneficial components (i.e., phenolic compounds, phytosterols, betaine, and carotenoids) that can help lower the body’s level of inflammation – strongly linked to the development and progression of T2DM.

Further, getting plenty of dietary fiber from whole grain foods such as breakfast cereals, oatmeal, brown rice, added bran, and wheat germ helps decrease the risk of T2DM, as per a recently published review in British Medical Journal, 2020.

How Much Should You Eat?

An intake of 40 g/day (2000 Kcal) of dietary fiber is recommended. Aim to get a balance of fibers from whole grain cereals & millets, pulses & legumes, vegetables, fruits (preferably with skin), nuts, etc. (ICMR – NIN guidelines; ICMR Guidelines for Management of Type 2 Diabetes 2018).

Consult your doctor/dietician who helps you figure out what eating plan makes the most sense for you and your treatment goals.

How Do You Boost Your Fiber Intake?

Eat more of pulses and legumes - whole, puréed, in chili, like hummus, in salads or and soups.
Eat more of pulses and legumes - whole, puréed, in chili, like hummus, in salads or and soups.
(Photo: iStockphoto)
  • Begin your day with a balanced breakfast which includes a bowl of high fiber, whole grain breakfast cereal with milk/yogurt or porridge made with oats/ barley. Top it up with nuts like almonds, walnuts, or seeds like pumpkin, sesame, flax, etc.
  • Eat chapatti made of whole wheat or combination flour (made of whole jowar, bajra, ragi, amaranth, etc.)
  • Eat more of pulses and legumes - whole, puréed, in chili, like hummus, in salads or and soups
  • Prefer whole fruits to juices. Juices lack fiber
  • Read Nutrition Labels on packaged foods – Choose foods that are ‘high’ in (provides at least 6g/100g) or are a ‘source’ of (provides at least 3g/100g) fiber.

Remember to increase your consumption of fiber gradually to give your digestive tract time to adapt, and don’t forget to stay well hydrated all day to ensure that the fiber can do its job properly.

Bottom Line:

Scientific evidence demonstrates that fiber as a nutrient is too vital to ignore. Ensure to meet the recommended levels for optimum health.

(Sweety Das is a Nutritionist at Kellogg India)

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