Most Indians claim they are ‘veggies’ but that’s the one thing that is missing from our diet. A review of the eating patterns of people across India published in the British Journal of Nutrition in August (‘South Asian diets and insulin resistance’, A. Misra, L. Khurana, S. Isharwal and S. Bhardwaj), reported that contrary to perception, fruit and vegetables were largely missing from South Asian diets.
Several studies show that low fibre in urban diets in north India (8.6 gm of fibre per day), West Bengal (5.7 gm per day) and urban poor in north India (men, 8.5 gm per day; women, 4.1 gm per day) leads to insulin resistance. The recommended daily amount for adults is 18 gm a day.
Insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic stage which signals that the body is having problems processing glucose from the food you eat for energy. If ignored and not treated, most people with the condition develop diabetes over time.
The benefits of a high fibre diet are plenty. Higher intakes of vegetables and fruit lower the risk of the metabolic syndrome, a term used to describe a cluster of metabolic disorders that includes insulin resistance, trunkal obesity, hypertension, high triglycerides (a type of blood fat) and bad cholesterol, and low good cholesterol. Metabolic syndrome increases the risks of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
“Our paper reviewed data on nutrient intake, insulin resistance and heart risk factors in Asian Indians and South Asians and we found that several dietary imbalances have been reported consistently over the years. Indians don’t have enough of heart protecting fibre, good fats such as monounsaturated fatty acids found in mustard, olive and sunflower oils, nuts and seeds, and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (Pufa) found in fish oils,” says lead researcher Dr Anoop Misra.
Apart from the fish-based diets in coastal areas, not only were most diets deficit in good oils but also full of foods that messed up metabolism: vanaspati and coconut oil loaded with saturated fat, carbohydrates and trans fatty acids (found in processed foods).
“These nutrient imbalances cause insulin resistance, dyslipidaemia and sub-clinical inflammation in South Asians, specifically in children and young adults,” says Misra. The study also notes that four helpings of fish in a week or dietary supplementation with omega-3 Pufa found in fish and fish oils improves lipid (blood fats) profile.
Though a precursor of diabetes, insulin-resistance does not necessarily mean that you will develop diabetes. Watching what you eat and getting a bit of exercise can help you stay disease-free throughout life. Thing to do is hit the salad bar and treadmill or jogging track at the first signs of weight gain, bigger waistline, high triglycerides, and the darkening of the skin around the eyes and the nape of the neck.