Diabetes, a disease that causes definite damage to organs such as the kidneys, liver, eyes, heart, nerves as well as certain functions like sexual abilities and memory, has increased exponentially in Nigerian and other African countries. It is a medical condition in which the way one’s body processes sugar and uses it for fuel has been damaged.
The big change contributing to that is DIET. Busy lives, westernized diet are many culprits. One of the definite ways to EFFECTIVELY manage diabetes is to modify our diet to avoid unreliable blood sugar levels.
Our Nigerian diet can continue to support our combating diabetes and other related diseases. Here are several ways to use diet to combat diabetes.
FRUITS: Yes, eat lots of them. Eat them RAW. Your body needs the fiber that fruit comes with. The orange seller can be your person. Our fruits include oranges, grapefruit, guava, African star apple, (agbalumo), jack fruit, pawpaw, black velvet tamarind (lickie lickie), pineapple and watermelon. Make fruits part of your daily life. Recommendations include up to five servings a day. That one can be hard but hey, try.
SOUPS: Nigerians eat soup, stews of some sort. Stews and soups most often contain a green vegetable – okra, spinach, efo ewuro, tete, pumpkin leaves among others-, a protein – meat, fish, crawfish, bush meat, chicken-, other vegetables –onions, tomatoes, pepper- and oil – palm or groundnut or vegetable. In older times, the ratio of different parts of a soup or stew consisted of predominantly vegetables (green and otherwise) with little protein, oil and salt. Modern times have seen the ratios change to one with minimal vegetable and an abundance of meat, oil and salt. Going back to the old methods will definitely dial back diabetes.
RICE: Rice has become a sign of wealth, and the whiter the better. As I write this, I see sweet Jolloff rice and some fancy fried rice in my mind’s eye and I can actually smell it. Just remember, the whiter the rice, the more processed it is and less fiber and good value…I will not dare tell you not to eat rice oh…but limiting it to ONE HANDFUL at a meal and varying it with bulgur rice and ofada rice will help.
BEANS: Whether plain beans, agoyin beans, beans sustain you. I remember my aunt was diagnosed with diabetes just shy of her 50th birthday. Beans became a prominent part of her diet and her diabetes was well controlled. Beans can give you lots of gas (flatulence). It has been proven that soaking the beans for up to an hour before cooking and eating it often (two to three times a week) will improve the gas. So don’t fear beans oh.
WATER: As it is popularly known, water no get enemy, e no get calories, fat, sugar. Drinking water definitely helps with hydration and promotes fullness. And before you roll your eyes, you can always flavor the water with cucumbers, lemon, lime, mint. Natural juices are definitely the best for you. Commercial juices that come in a box or bottle all have added sugars and lots of syrup. Please tell me the last time orange juice tasted like the orange that sisi on the roadside was selling.
STARCHES: Our starches like ogi, eko, yam, cassava, gari, tuwo all are healthier carbohydrates but reducing their amount will aid in changing your path of destructive diabetes. Committing to eating only ONE HANDFUL of any of them at a meal. Eat more of the stew/soup….will go a long way.
PROCESSED FOODS: If it comes in a box or packet and has unpronounceable ingredients, things like chips, packaged pastas and noodles. These highly processed foods whether they are fortified or not tend to increase your blood sugar contributing to worsening of diabetes. Also processed foods also cause increase in insulin resistance which will make insulin work harder.
1. Make a commitment to eat more fruits and vegetables in every meal. Less meat, oil and starches and definitely NO PROCESSED foods will go a long way in reducing the need for diabetes.
2. LIMIT rice and other starches to ONE HANDFUL.
3. Eating three square meals and making lunch your biggest meal.
4. Encourage your friends to do the same. Success in changing ways of eating is more when friends and family are involved. We all need to live healthy.
5. It will save your life as well as your organs, your kidneys, your heart, your sexual function. Less dependence on doctors.
6. Get help, go to websites like 9jafoodie.com for their program lose it Nigeria program.
Written by Dr. LOLA O, Attending physician in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and expert in wellness.
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