What Prediabetes Has Taught Food Blogger Kalyan Karmakar

Diabetes Care|Dec.20, 2019

Kalyan Karmakar is an expert on all things food. As a food blogger, accomplished author and columnist, food is pretty much his life. But six months ago, he was diagnosed with a condition that would turn his food-focused world upside down — prediabetes.

How does he manage prediabetes while continuing to live a full life comprised of his many passions, including food? Kalyan shared his new outlook on life and how he prepares food for prediabetics.

What Have You Learnt About Diabetes Since Your Diagnosis?

Before my diagnosis, my knowledge of diabetes and its effects was very limited. Back home in Kolkata, people referred to diabetes as "having sugar," so I always associated it with eating too many sweets. I also thought it had some connection to rice because Bengalis eat a lot of rice. All of my information was vague.

Diabetes was never my focus up until I got diagnosed. Since then, I've really started looking into prediabetes and how it can be managed. I try not to delve into the adverse effects of the condition and how bad it can get because I don't have control on the future. I'm more interested in how I can get better now, so I've researched what grains, meats and vegetables work well for me. It's all a learning process. I'm taking it one day at a time.

How Has Your Diagnosis Shaped the Way You Approach Food?

Food is my passion, and my diagnosis has made me look at it in a way I never have before. I've started experimenting with different flavour dimensions and creating some delicious, yet healthy dishes. I've even started eating lauki and karela — vegetables I never liked before!

Prediabetes has really become a source for a lot of creativity, even in terms of my writing. Before, I was never comfortable being called an influencer, but since my focus has shifted to healthy eating, I'm thrilled to be helping others lead better lives. It makes me happy to see people cook and relish my dishes as much as I do.

How Have Your Eating Habits Changed Post Diagnosis?

I don't see prediabetes as a punishment, so I don't let it keep me from eating good food. I'm just trying to reduce my portions, and eat more vegetables and fish instead of red meat. I'm also trying to cook and eat more at home.

When I do end up indulging at events or on holidays, I try to enjoy the meal in the moment. It's what you do every day that counts, right? Another thing I've started doing is carrying some fruits and nuts with me on-the-go, which has helped me cut down on the junk I eat between meals.

What Interesting Substitutions Have You Made to Your Meals?

I've started experimenting with new ingredients such as hung curd, black rice, red rice, whole wheat kinds of pasta and pesto. I've found that when I make my own hung curd, I can add some beautiful herbs and do away with salt altogether. I also make great basil and rocket leaf pesto without using Parmesan. The pesto has such a great flavour that I even add it to my grilled chicken and fish.

What Are Your Suggestions to Make Food for Prediabetics?

I believe all Indian food is intrinsically healthy. It reflects the natural diet of the region it belongs to and years of experimentation and culture. What people need to do now is adapt the cuisine to their lifestyle today. We can't continue cooking like our grandparents because their lifestyle was very different from ours. There was a lot more physical labour involved back in the day. With our sedentary lifestyles, our food needs a few tweaks to work for us. For one, we can start using a lot less oil. You don't need too much oil to make spices come alive.

I've found that it's best to approach this journey with curiosity rather than dread. Embracing my prediabetes really helped me strengthen my habits and my profession. Today, I take joy in finding alternatives that are as satisfying as the original but do a lot less damage. It's experimentation. And that's what cooking is all about, right?


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