Thursday, November 14, 2013

Barley Upma - World Diabetic Day - spreading awareness through food

On this World Diabetic day, Swati asked a few of us bloggers to blog about the disease in an effort to create awareness. Diabetes is a condition of the body when there is excess sugar/glucose in the blood stream. Type 2 diabetes found most commonly in adults is caused when the body either does not create enough insulin or the insulin does not work as intended. This insulin resistance creates a build up of glucose (sugar) in the blood stream impacting the body function and leading to complications with major organs in the system. Bleak as this diagnosis sounds, diabetes is a treatable condition with a combination of well managed diet, regular exercise and medication.

Coming from a South Asian community, most of us are pre-disposed to diabetes. While genetics play a major role in diabetes manifestation, individual life styles contribute greatly to it too. So, you are not spared if your parents or grand parents didn't have the condition, you could be the first one to start the trend as a sedentary lifestyle and obesity can trigger diabetic diagnosis. However, a diabetes diagnosis doesn't have to make life unbearable. 
One thing that helps most is to be consistent and consciously make healthy choices. 

As a kid, I had seen a couple of my relatives eat 'Godhi anna' which is cooked broken wheat instead of the white, fluffy rice the rest of the family enjoyed. It used to be mostly bland and devoid of any frills and many of these people also took daily insulin shots which meant that the diabetes was quite advanced. While every person has unique needs, there are some 'free foods' such as herbs to enhance the flavor, vegetables such as cabbage to add volume which can create miraculously yummy treats without them being 'bad' on your blood sugar. Key to diabetes regulation is to watch for foods that tend to create a spike in the blood sugar. Foods that digest slowly (high in soluble fibers) are considered best in diabetic diet. Your best source of advice should be from your health care professional or physician. With that disclaimer, I do want to share some things that I have learnt over the months now as I journey towards helping a family member keep diabetes regulated. 
While regular exercise helps everybody, it becomes a more essential need in diabetic care. Make sure you add regular exercise to your routine, simple changes like moving around instead of being glued to the chair can be a great first step.

When it comes to diabetic diet one should aim to eliminate or atleast limit the intake of processed foods. Replace your all purpose flours with whole wheat flour, upma rava with broken wheat as simple gestures that go a long way in controlling blood sugar. Sweets do not need to be totally off limits if included as occasional treats. Whole grains, beans, pulses make some of the best vegetarian diabetic friendly choices. Whole grain essentially means grains that have all 3 components - germ, bran and the endosperm (or starchy part). Oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley, cracked wheat, millet are some of the commonly available whole grains. These foods are high in soluble fibers and create a slow release of nutrients and hence does not spike sugar level in the blood. Reduce oily substances and use vegetable/plant based oils whenever possible. Freshly prepared food in place of a can of soup is a very welcome change in diabetic diet. Equally important is to control your portions at every meal and space them so there is no long stretches of starvation to the body. 

Here are some additional websites to go to if you are looking for diabetes related information -
International Diabetes Federation
American Diabetes Association

With that, I have a simple and delicious variety of upma (when you are in doubt or lack creative juices to name a dish, call it Upma and it works just fine :-)) made from Barley. I used some nutrition enhancers like garbanzo beans/chick peas and fresh Kale which is a protein power house. These additions make the dish different and yummy. You can use any other cooked beans or leafy greens instead. I hope this post is not all preachy but has some good take aways if you are looking for diabetic friendly recipes. I can guarantee that all of us at home enjoyed the Barley upma very much. Some of my other diabetic friendly recipes can be found here and here.

Side bar conversation: I was torn by conflicting reports on the inclusion of coconut oil in a diabetic friendly diet, while some reports say the high saturated fat content in coconut oil is a 'no-no' for diabetes, some swear by the lower GI effects of this oil. Again, I am not the expert in the subject, so I leave it to others.  

What do you need to make Barley Upma?
1 cup barley
2&1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo
1 cup fresh kale
1.5 Tsp oil
1 Tsp mustard
2-3 green chilies
1 inch piece ginger
3-4 curry leaves
2 shallots/3 Tblps chopped red onion
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder

How do make Barley Upma?
  • Soak Barley in 4 cups of water overnight.
  • Scrub and rinse barley in the morning, drain the water a couple of times to remove any impurities.
  • Bring 2&1/4 cup water to boil along with a pinch of salt. 
  • When the water starts to boil, add barley and let it come to a boil, keep stirring at this point.
  • Once the bubbles start again, cover and bring the heat to low and cook or 20-25 minutes until water is absorbed and barley is cooked.
  • Switch off and keep it covered for 10 minutes.
  • In another pan, heat oil and add mustard. When mustard seeds pop, add chopped green chilies, ginger and curry leaves and saute for a minute.
  • Add chopped shallots/onion, followed by remaining salt, turmeric powder and saute until onion turns limp.
  • Add chopped kale leaves and continue to saute until they wilt about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the cooked chick peas, cooked barley and give a good mix.
  • Do a taste test, add lemon juice if you like, serve hot.
  • Cooked barley is a little chewy (similar to brown rice texture).
  • Soaking barley reduces the cooking time drastically, you can otherwise cook barley in pressure cooker.
  • Adding salt to the boiling water helps barley absorb some salt and brings out its taste better.
  • Add other cooked vegetables (beans, carrots, peas etc) to enrich this dish.
  • Sprouts & cooked beans make a healthy addition too.


Kannada Cuisine said...

Looks yummy :)

Swathi Iyer said...

Thanks Nagashree for joining me in creating awareness on Diabetes on this world diabetes day. Delicious and healthy recipe,

NamsVeni Pothas said...

very nice write up and healthy recipe on diabetic day

LG said...

Nice post! Barley water maadi amele barli enu madodu anta yochane madta idde. This is a good recipe.

Smitha Kalluraya said...

very innovative one.. do visit me..

Arthy shama said...

That is one healthy upma, barley upma looks too good and apt for our topic

Anonymous said...

very useful really good information thanks for posting such a good information it will hepls the people a lot keep it up , Regards, upma recipe

Chowringhee North Campus said...

Delicious and lovely looking. Wonderfully prepared.*
Restaurant in North Campus