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Sabudana for Diabetes – Can You Add to Your Diet?

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Sabudana, also known as tapioca pearl or sago, is a starch derived from tapioca roots. Its neutral taste makes it a popular ingredient for thickening liquids, soups, and sauces. Additionally, it adds texture to the bread, cakes, and other baked goods. 

Sabudana can be cooked by roasting, boiling, or fermenting. Despite being a non-cereal carbohydrate, it is highly nutritious. As per USDA, it contains calcium and energy-stimulating compounds. However, sabudana is high in carbs. Hence, people with diabetes looking for a healthy meal should avoid it.

Since diabetes causes blood sugar levels to fluctuate, patients must modify their diet and lifestyle to manage their condition. That is because either their body may not produce enough insulin to regulate the blood sugar, or their cells may be unable to respond to the insulin the pancreas produces. Thus, this could lead to further health complications.

Diabetic patients must be aware of and steer clear of foods that cause elevated blood sugar levels. For example, it is well known that processed carbohydrates are bad for diabetes. Yet, they still have the option of consuming sabudana, but only in moderation.

Sabudana and Diabetes: The Connection

For those with diabetes, eating sabudana can be risky because of its high carbohydrate content. The starch in sabudana is quickly converted to sugar, leading to a spike in blood sugar levels. While this does not mean that it is entirely off-limits, people with diabetes should be extra cautious when consuming foods high in carbohydrates. Moreover, they may need to adjust their insulin dosage accordingly. 

Studies show that sabudana has a high glycemic index (GI). Therefore, it might harm individuals with diabetes by sharply raising blood glucose levels. So, it is necessary to consume it in moderation. The glycemic index of sabudana is 67. So if you consume excess sabudana, it will spike the sugar level. In an ideal situation, diabetic patients should eat foods with a lower glycemic index.

Can Diabetics Eat Sabudana?

Found in many Indian dishes, Sabudana is a popular choice for religious fasts. Although people with diabetes can incorporate sabudana into their meal plans, it is wise to be mindful of portion size and how it will impact overall carbohydrate intake. 

Research has shown that resistant starch in food can lower the risk of colon cancer. Sabudana is high in resistant starch. Additionally, it can help prevent constipation and help manage weight. In addition, Sabudana’s high fibre content prevents hunger pangs and cravings, making it easier to resist unhealthy snacks. However, it is essential to note that diabetic patients should not overeat sabudana.

Consult with a HealthifyMe coach if you consider incorporating sabudana into your diet. They can help you evaluate your glycated haemoglobin levels and determine the amount of sabudana you can safely consume.

The HealthifyMe Note

Diabetes patients can enjoy sabudana even while following a low-carb diet, but moderation is key. Eating sabudana in moderation will only slightly raise blood sugar levels. It is best to pair sabudana with low-calorie, high-fibre vegetables and good-quality protein like some dal or low-fat curd. Doing so will increase the total fibre intake and help maintain blood sugar stability. Fibre slows down glucose absorption, thus avoiding drastic changes in blood sugar levels.

Glycemic Index of Sabudana

The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly food affects blood sugar levels. High GI foods are absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream and can lead to a significant spike in blood sugar. In contrast, low GI foods digest slower, resulting in a more minor and gradual increase in blood sugar. 

The GI is rated on a scale of 0 to 100, with pure glucose having a score of 100. Foods with a GI of 70 or higher are considered high, those with a GI of 56 to 69 are considered medium, and those with a GI of 55 or lower are considered low.

Sabudana, also known as tapioca pearls, is a carbohydrate derived from the starch of the cassava root. It is widely consumed in India and other countries around the world. Research has shown that the glycemic index (GI) of sabudana is between 60 and 70, which is considered medium to high.

The HealthifyMe Note

It is crucial to consider more than just the Glycemic Index of food when determining how it will affect blood sugar levels. Serving size, other nutrients in the food (like fibre, fat and protein), and the preparation impact how quickly it digests and affects blood sugar levels. Consequently, when selecting food, it is essential to look at its overall nutritional content instead of only considering its GI.

HealthifyPro Tips to Consume Sabudana for People with Diabetes

For those with diabetes, it is best to avoid sabudana as much as possible, but if you decide to have it on occasion, make sure to take precautions.

People with diabetes should only eat sabudana for breakfast or lunch as it is high in calories and takes longer to digest. However, it is crucial to be aware that it is not nutritionally dense, as it contains limited amounts of protein, iron and calcium. Therefore, if you plan to eat it, make sure that you exercise afterwards to burn off any additional energy and avoid eating it for dinner. 

Here are some tips for people with diabetes who want to include sabudana in their diet:

Monitor Portion Sizes

If you have diabetes, it is essential to be mindful of your carbohydrate intake. A ¼ cup of sabudana contains 20 grams of carbohydrates, which is relatively high. Therefore, you should be cautious about how much sabudana you consume. Additionally, to avoid detrimental effects, complement it with other nutrients.

Pair it with Protein and Healthy Fats

The consumption of sabudana can cause a spike in blood sugar levels due to its high carbohydrate content. To help stabilise this, one should pair sabudana with foods that contain protein and healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, or yoghurt. It will slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, helping to keep blood sugar levels balanced.

Choose a Healthy Preparation Method

Sabudana Wada, the Indian delicacy, may seem delicious, but frying adds extra calories and fats to the dish. Instead of frying sabudana in oil, try boiling or roasting it for a healthier preparation. Also, keep an eye on the ingredients that you use.

Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels

Monitoring blood sugar levels is essential in diabetes care, especially when eating foods high in carbohydrates. A Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) is a modern technology that can help with this. The device sticks to your arm and connects to your phone, telling you the immediate effect of any food on your blood sugar. For example, using a CGM, you can precisely measure the impact of one serving of sabudana on your blood sugar levels.

Consult a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist

If you have diabetes and are thinking about incorporating sabudana into your diet, it is advisable to seek expert advice. Consult a healthcare expert, like a certified dietitian or diabetes educator, on how to include it in your meals. A registered nutritionist at HealthifyMe can tell you how much to have and build a nutritious and balanced eating plan.

Sabudana Khichdi Recipe for Diabetes

Diabetic patients can take advantage of sabudana khichadi. However, the high sugar content in sabudana desserts may not suit people with diabetes. In addition, one should always avoid fried sabudana, as it increases the level of unsaturated fats in the blood.

Khichdi is an excellent option for eating sabudana as it is easy to digest. Therefore, it does not worsen indigestion symptoms in those with a weak digestive system. Furthermore, a calorie-dense snack is an excellent source of energy, so those with diabetes may benefit from consuming it before physical activity, such as exercise or a walk. Additionally, due to its high energy content, khichdi can help with weight loss.

Sabudana Khichdi Recipe

Here is a recipe for Indian sabudana khichdi that is suitable for people with diabetes:

Ingredients

  • Sabudana (tapioca pearls): 1 cup
  • Water: 1 cup
  • Capsicum diced: 1 (can opt for spinach/cabbage/green beans/carrot)
  • Peanuts, roasted: ¼ cup
  • Mix sprouts: ½ cup
  • Green chilli, minced: 1
  • Cumin seeds: ½ tsp
  • Mustard seeds: ¼ tsp
  • Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil or ghee: 1 tbsp
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional): 2 tbsp

Instructions

  • Rinse the sabudana in cold water until the water runs clear. 
  • Soak the sabudana in a cup of water for at least 2 hours or until the sabudana is soft and translucent.
  • Heat the oil or ghee in a pan over medium heat. 
  • Add the cumin and mustard seeds, and let them sizzle for a few seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the green chilli and turmeric, and stir for a few seconds. Add chopped veggies and sprouts. Stir fry for 5-7 minutes or until soft.
  • Drain any excess water from the soaked sabudana, and add it to the pan. 
  • Stir to coat the sabudana with the spices.
  • Add the peanuts and salt to taste. Stir to combine everything well.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook the khichdi for 10-15 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the sabudana is cooked and the khichdi is heated through.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Serve the sabudana khichdi hot.

The HealthifyMe Note

Soaking sabudana overnight increases its nutritional content, making it an excellent choice for a diverse meal. To get the most out of sabudana, combine it with vegetables and good-quality protein for a balanced and nutritious meal.

Conclusion

Sabudana is an excellent source of gluten-free carbohydrates that can boost energy. However, if you have diabetes, consuming too much of it could be detrimental to your health. Excessive ingestion of sabudana may lead to hyperglycemia and indigestion. Therefore, anyone who is pregnant, nursing, have uncontrolled diabetes or has thyroid conditions should consult a physician before eating sabudana. The physician can advise modifying insulin and organising meals to maintain blood sugar levels.

Even though sabudana is not a superfood for diabetes, it is still a rich source of immediate energy. Eating it in moderation and serving it alongside fibre-rich vegetables is essential to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

The Supporting Sources

1. U S Department of Agriculture

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169717/nutrients

2. GLYCEMIC INDICES OF DIFFERENT CASSAVA FOOD PRODUCTS | Ogbuji, C.A.1 & David-Chukwu, N.P.2 | Department of Food Science and Technology, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba1 | Department of Hospitality Management Technology, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba2

https://www.idpublications.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Full-Paper-GLYCEMIC-INDICES-OF-DIFFERENT-CASSAVA-FOOD.pdf

3. Newcastle University. “Cancer study: Major preventive effect from resistant starch in people with Lynch syndrome.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2022.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/07/220725203606.htm

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