I've had occasion to travel to a few places over the past six weeks or so. It's been a while since my family set foot out of town on a long journey and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We came back refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to take on the world once again. It did help that things went so smoothly and according to plan, and there were hardly any problems to plague us.
The month of November has been set aside to embrace diabetes and November 14th is celebrated every year as World Diabetes Day. This time around, I've missed posting something on this day but I'm making up for it today. Travel with my family has opened my eyes to the problems diabetics face when they are on the go, with no home cooked meals ready at hand. Diabetes is striking the younger age group with alarming frequency now. Travel is an important part of life. It is hard to expect diabetics to stay put at home all the time and subsist on home meals alone when they are still active in their professional lives. Also, as quality of life and finances improve, people in the older age group too are more mobile and eager to see the world around them. No longer does the diagnosis of diabetes, in the young and the old alike, stop them from reaching beyond themselves to experience life ljust as any other person.
Food service across our country, when away from home, is definitely not diabetic friendly. Indian food is notoriously rich and heavy in fats and carbohydrates. Light food options like dosas and idlis too have carbohydrates, the quality and GI of which is not really in our control. Typically these light foods are served with potatoes and coconut chutneys that are just the food types that a diabetic must go easy on. Raitas in the north are sweetened and creamy. Breads, Indian and otherwise, are more or less made of maida (white refined flour), and often steeped in ghee and oils. Fast food include burgers and pizzas that are not particularly healthy even for a normal person. If you visit major cities, a look inside one of those mighty malls tells a sweet story -- the food courts are filled to capacity with a large variety of fast food joints, and there are chocolate and sugar candy outlets with colorful tempting arrays that let off a cloyingly sweet aroma as you walk by them. Mouthwatering. None of which my family can touch.
Of course, one could argue that occasional travel for short duration should not really affect the overall blood glucose maintenance. One can always exercise it off. This is not true. My family and I did a lot of walking and physical exertion through most days which were certainly beneficial. But if this is followed by a meal that is rich in fat and high glycemic to boot, it only confuses the body, causes rapid rise and equally rapid fall in glucose levels, and is detrimental in the long run.
I've read that the Diabetes Atlas, published by tye IDF (International Diabetes Federation), has predicted that diabetes prevalence will increase dramatically in India and China, these being heavily populated countries with rapid development and improving lifestyles. It expects there to be around 70 million people in India to suffer from diabetes by 2025, and that is not so far off, another 15 years. Considering that India's total population in 2008 was around 1.1 billion (wikipedia), a figure of about 70 million diabetics in a little over a decade and a half is not a small figure! Something enough to make you sit up and take notice. Processed food, irregular meals, and increasingly sedentary lifestyle, not to say hereditary factors only compound the issue. For more on the Diabetes Atlas survey, click here.
The problem with diabetes is more than just high blood sugar levels that need to be monitored frequently. High glucose in the blood leads to more complications during the course of this disorder, eventually affecting most major organs of the body. An active lifestyle coupled with food that is hardly processed as in the old days would've delayed the onset of the disease considerably, but now physical exertion has become just that ... an exertion. Exercise is now something to be always conscious of ... as an uncle of ours once joked, drive from office to spend an hour at the gym.
Indians are natural foodies. The number of food blogs authored by Indians alone should show what love our countryfolks have for edible things. This blog too has witnessed more traffic than any of the other blogs of mine. With India expected to hold the highest diabetic population figure in the world, it is becoming imperative that all food services in the country not only fall under regulation, but also put out some diabetic-friendly meals for travellers like us who cannot cook their own food and also cannot subsist on the current restaurant fares. Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part since I cannot see much change in the near future at least.
Whole-grain jowar dosa is a recipe I made on my own, couple of years ago. I'd been trying to find ways to reduce white rice in our diet at the time and I personalized the regular fermented dosa batter to suit our needs. After considerable research, I'd come to the conclusion that jowar can be a nutritious substitute to rice for diabetics. I mean the whole grain and not the polished jowar flour, since the polished atta is stripped of the fibre content. Jowar is said to be good for those with wheat allergies and celiac disease since it is gluten free. So an occasional use of whole jowar can be of benefit in my opinion, though the GI and GL seem to be higher than wheat.
To make this, I simply replace a portion of the rice with whole jowar. I soak the jowar overnight, usually about 12 to 15 hours. The other ingredients are soaked the next morning for about four to six hours. The proportions used are 1.5 cups of whole jowar, half a cup of dosa rice and one cup of brown basmati rice. In addition, I soak about half a cup of urad dal and one spoon of methi/fenugreek seeds. Grind all of these together to form a smooth batter, add requisite salt and keep this covered in a pot in a warm corner of the kitchen. The batter will rise in six to ten hours depending on the room temperature. It is then ready to use.
To make the dosa, heat up a flat griddle and grease it lightly with a drop of oil. Take a ladleful of the batter and pour it gently in the center of the griddle. Then spread the batter in concentric circles, from the center outwards, so that it forms a thin sheet on the pan. Cover this for a minute or so till it turns a golden brown color and then peel it from the pan with a spatula.
Serve hot with chutney of choice and sambar.
For variation, chopped onions, coriander leaves, grated carrot and other vegetables may be added to enhance the flavor of the dosa.
The current World Diabetes Day theme across the world for the years 2009 to 2013 is Diabetes Education and Prevention. I dedicate my whole blog, and this recipe in particular, to this endeavor.