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Flour-power: Seven alternative varieties of flour for managing diabetes
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Flour-power: Seven alternative varieties of flour for managing diabetes

Healthier varieties of flour containing high fibre content and complex carbohydrates can prevent spikes in blood sugar levels and provide satiety, say experts
People with diabetes should opt for healthier varieties of flour that contain high fibre content and complex carbohydrates
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K/Happiest Health

People with diabetes are often faced with a dilemma when it comes to having that extra roti or additional serving of rice. According to experts, while people with diabetes (having controlled blood sugar levels) can consume carbohydrates in moderation, they should ideally opt for diabetes-friendly flours that contain complex and healthy carbohydrates.

Diabetologist Dr Ashwitha Shruti Dass says she observed better blood glucose levels in people with diabetes who replaced regular rice or wheat with diabetes-friendly flour options. According to Mumbai-based nutritionist Nidhi Joshi, some alternative forms of flour can play a significant role in preventing cardiovascular conditions and early onset of diabetes along with maintaining a healthy bodyweight and managing inflammation of the gut. However, she cautions that not all forms of flour will suit everyone, and they can start by trying one at a time.

In addition, people with diabetes should consult their dietitian to figure out which diabetes-friendly flour works best for them, as it may require monitoring their blood sugar levels after consumption and tweaking their diet accordingly.

Alternative flours for people with diabetes

According to experts, some alternative forms of flour that people with diabetes can incorporate into their diet include:

1. Jackfruit flour: Jackfruit flour is rich in fibre and doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels like those containing simple carbs and starch. Bengaluru-based dietitian Nidhi Nigam says jackfruit flour is beneficial for people with diabetes as it contains something called resistance starch, which does not break down into sugar. “The resistance starch is good because it feeds one’s gut microbiome, thereby adding to the good gut flora,” explains Nigam.

According to a research article published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes who were given green jackfruit flour (replacing rice or wheat) had a significantly higher reduction in glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), fasting plasma glucose (FPG), and postprandial plasma glucose (PPG) levels.

Joshi suggests blending jackfruit flour with chickpea flour for making healthier chapatis. One can even add some greens like spinach or fenugreek leaves to it. Other alternative flours (like jowar flour or oats flour) can also be added to jackfruit flour to make healthy food preparations.

2. Pearl millet or bajra flour: Bajra – which is rich in minerals (like magnesium, zinc and phosphorus) and essential amino acids – is also gluten-free and very easy to digest. “Bajra rotis are a great alternative to wheat rotis for people with diabetes who have a gluten allergy,” explains Joshi.

3. Finger millet or ragi flour: The fibrous, calcium-rich flour made from this millet can help manage diabetes. However, kneading the gluten-free dough can be tricky as it might disintegrate.

Nigam suggests that for making a perfect dough out of ragi, the hack is to boil water and add two drops of oil and a little bit of salt while the water is bubbling. Next, the ragi flour should be added, and everything should be stirred and mixed. “Allow it to cool down, and your dough is ready to make rotis,” says Nigam.

However, Joshi cautions that some of her clients who had ragi rotis for dinner observed a high fasting blood glucose level the next day. “Hence, it is best to consult a dietitian before opting for this flour, as it can cause a spike in blood sugar levels in some people,” she says.

4. Amaranth or rajgira flour:  Amaranth — a gluten-free pseudo-grain that has all the essential amino acids — is ideal for managing blood sugar levels. “Any food that contains all the amino acids has a complete protein profile,” explains Nigam, adding that the fibre content of amaranth helps lower blood sugar levels and provides satiety.

She suggests that puffed amaranth can be a great snacking option for people with diabetes. In addition, healthy laddoos or chikkis (brittle) can also be made from it for some sweet indulgence. “It can also be consumed as a breakfast cereal instead of the sugar-coated ones available in the market,” says Nigam.

5. Quinoa flour: Like amaranth, quinoa is another millet that has a complete protein profile because of the essential amino acids present in it. While quinoa is a great alternative to rice, it can also be made into a protein-rich, gluten-free flour. “It has a high fibre content that keeps one full for a longer period, thereby aiding weight management,” says Joshi.

6. Buckwheat flour: Buckwheat is a great source of complex carbohydrates that take longer to break down. Nigam explains that buckwheat flour or kuttu ka aata is traditionally used in the northern part of India to prepare pooris (a deep-fried bread), pakodas (fritters) and halwas (a sweet dish) after fasting. It can also be used to make healthy rotis or cheelas by grating and mixing some finely chopped vegetables with the flour.

7. Jowar flour: Jowar or sorghum is yet another millet that works wonders in managing diabetes and is an ideal option to be made into a fibre-rich, gluten-free flour. “It has a moderate glycemic index and a higher protein content than wheat,” explains Nigam. It is a cold potency food, making it ideal to be consumed during the summer. According to a study published in the journal Nutrition Research, consumption of whole sorghum recipes was associated with significantly lower plasma glucose levels in people with diabetes.

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