Benefits of millets in managing or reversing diabetes

Diabetes is a debilitating disease. Here’s the story of a woman who replaced white rice and wheat with millets in her diet, and reversed her diabetes!

Lata Ramaswamy was all of 32 when she was diagnosed with diabetes. But it wasn’t until she was 59, when the retina of her right eye got damaged, that she woke up to the severity of what diabetes can do to one’s health. As a science teacher, Ramaswamy’s curiosity towards diabetes reversal piqued. After scrambling for days and nights, she stumbled upon the wonders of millets.

“Both my parents were diabetic. I knew I had to be careful. But during a regular check up when I was around 32, we found out I had blood pressure issues and after that I was diagnosed with borderline diabetes. Even though I was on medication, it started increasing slowly and steadily with age,” Ramaswamy tells HealthShots.

Apart from the medicines, the only lifestyle change that she made in her routine was including a walk. What changed her mind then?

“I had heard that when you have diabetes for a long time, it will impact one or many parts of your body. I got it on my retina. One day, I found that I was not able to see on my right side without turning my head. I went to the doctor, and I was told my retina was impacted by my diabetes,” she recounts.

That set a fear in her mind.

The diabetes fear

“What is this?” she questioned herself, anticipating the worst for one organ or another next.

“It struck me that this impact of diabetes will keep shifting, and who knows what will be next – the heart, the kidney, or which other place? That’s when I decided I had to bring some major change in life. I went into study mode to find out a solution,” Ramaswamy shares.

After researching, Ramaswamy came across millets. She would burn the midnight oil trying to find out how to inculcate the use of millets in her everyday life to bring a substantial change in her sugar levels. She followed two doctors – Dr BM. Hegde, who was recently conferred the civilian honor Padma Vibushan, and Mysuru’s ‘Millet Doctor’ and scientist, Dr Khadar Valli.

Both experts emphasized on the need to change lifestyle and food habits to see a positive change.

Ramaswamy saw a promising ray of hope in millets. But mind you, it wasn’t jawar, bajra, barley, proso millets or quinoa that she took to. Instead, she went for the 5 Positive Millets.

diabetes and millets
Make millets a part of your diet! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Include these millets in your diet to tackle diabetes

According to Ramaswamy, these 5 positive millets should be a part of your life:

1. Foxtail Millets
2. Little millets
3. Barnyard Millets
4. Kodo millets
5. Browntop millets

Ramaswamy and her husband, who has also been battling diabetes, decided to start their millet journey in June 2020, amidst the pandemic. Determination drove their desire to experiment with recipes of millets day after day. And soon enough, white rice, wheat and all purpose flour made their way out of their kitchen.

Amma’s Miracle Millets

After experimenting on herself for three months, it was in October 2020 that Ramaswamy felt she should not be the only one to benefit from this superfood.

“We weren’t the only ones who were suffering. Headlines like ‘India is the diabetes capital of the world’ tugged at my heart. And I thought, ‘If I have been able to do it, I should not be keeping it to myself’. So that’s when I started Amma’s Miracle Millets,” she shares.

It is a forum where she shares her experiences with diabetes and millets, and also puts out delectable millet recipes and tips for people to use. Taking it one notch up, Ramaswamy has also begun packaged millets and millets dosa batter.

From teaching students science in school to now teaching people about diabetes reversal, Ramaswamy is happy to spread awareness.

“In my mind and my heart, I feel that people should not become dependent only on medicines. People may not know it, but diabetes medicine is also not good for a person in the long run. So, we should try to reduce its intake,” she shares.

Ramaswamy now addresses queries from at least 10 people a day, and even advises her own daughter who has diabetes at the age of 35.

diabetes and millets
Fermented porridge or Ambali is one of the best ways to eat millets. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What are Amma’s top 5 tips to use millets?

1. One has to soak the millets overnight (at least 8 hours) to be used the next day.

2. Don’t eat millets in excess. Around 25 to 30 grams of millets should be sufficient per meal, not more.

3. Include lots of raw, cooked and green vegetables in your diet along with dal. And instead of curd, have buttermilk. This is called a balanced meal.

4. Don’t reuse millets. Make what you can eat in one meal. Don’t reheat or repeat it for a meal.

5. The best way to eat millets is in the form of Ambali or fermented porridge.

Remember, millets may not come out tasty in the first, second or third go, but don’t lose heart or taste!

Nutritionist’s take on millets and diabetes:
After hearing Ramaswamy’s diabetes reversal story, HealthShots reached out to popular nutrition expert Kavita Devgan to ask about the benefits of millets.

“Millets can be great for diabetics,” shared Devgan, specifying 3 types of millets.

Bajra: It works on three fronts – it is rich in magnesium that helps keep the heart healthy, it has lots of potassium which makes it a good vasodilator and helps reduce the overall blood pressure, and its fiber level helps in reducing the bad cholesterol. Magnesium in it also helps control the glucose receptors in the body and keep diabetes at bay.

Ragi: Like barley, ragi too is an ideal food for diabetics and overweight people, as its digestion is slow. Glucose is released from the intestines very slowly into the blood.

Foxtail Millets: Also known as kangini or thinnai, this is loaded with smart carbohydrates, the kind which doesn’t increase the blood sugar levels immediately but slowly releases glucose into the bloodstream.

diabetes and millets
Small changes to your diet and lifestyle can bring a big difference to your sugar levels. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Was the millets diet sustainable?

As people who have had white rice as a staple in their diet, the question was inevitable. But the Ramaswamy couple was determined not to go back to rice.

“That was a big reason for our continued tryst with diabetes. One day, we even thought we were victimising white rice. So, we had it for lunch and dinner. And the next day, our sugar levels had crossed 200,” Ramaswamy shares.

The same happened when they consumed wheat chapati.

As science enthusiasts, they needed proof. And this was proof enough for them that millets were their magic food to beat diabetes.

Now, they make millet atta, and enjoy roti, paratha and puris! The distinct tastes of each of the 5 millets also helps them maintain variety. Besides, Ramaswamy’s culinary skills add a different dimension to millets.

What more was done to manage diabetes apart from millets?

Amma, as Ramaswamy is lovingly called, says small changes brought about a big difference to their lives. She shares:

  • Instead of regular jersey cow milk, we started A2 milk
  • Instead of refined oil, we started using cold pressed oils like mustard oil, sesame oil, coconut oil and peanut oil
  • We stopped consuming white sugar in any form. Sometimes, sweets are made using palm jaggery
  • We removed all plastic items from home, and now we use only steel or sometimes glass.

“When we did these things, we felt the difference within 10 days. And within three weeks, we saw our diabetes count reducing. My Hemoglobin A1C test result was 9 initially, and in three months, I came down to 5.6,” Ramaswamy, who has also lost 14 kg since starting her millet diet, recounts with joy.

So, ladies, are you planning to give millets a try in your eating habits?

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