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myanmar food

There is a saying that food is the universal language in bringing people together. And through food, we get to see how well people live. Whether it is holistic eating, dieting, or just to fill our stomachs, though all food is delicious, they are not all created equal in how it affects our health. How do our most beloved foods in Myanmar ranked on the Glycemic Index (A rating of 0 – 100 on how fast it raises your blood glucose)?1, 2, 3, 4

Breakfast

Like any other culture, Myanmar people also enjoy about 3 meals a day, beginning with breakfast. But due to a modern day fast paced lifestyle, we tend to skip breakfast and if we do eat it, it is filled with starchy and high fat items. Typical Myanmar breakfast items like rice porridge, steamed buns with meat, sticky rice, and plain big rice noodle salad (plain nangyi thoke) have a rating of 39 to 87. That rating does not take into account and include what extra side dishes and condiment toppings would add to it and it is already not so suitable for diabetics to be consumed in large servings. Even if an item such as a fried egg has a low GI, it is high in cholesterol so moderate serving size and frequent consumption.1, 2

Lunch

Maybe it is because of urbanization, traditional Myanmar foods never used to be awash with oil and MSG (Monosodium Glutamate). On the Glycemic Index, a typical curry and rice combo rates about 82 at bare minimum. Again, that does not include other side dishes as many Myanmar meals tend to have. Even if generally low GI ingredients (stir fried vegetables or boiled veggies with fish paste sauce) are the main part of the dish, they are known to have high sodium and oil content to make up for taste. Diabetics are at a higher risk of heart disease due to damaged blood vessels, so it is important to also watch the sodium content of the food.1, 2

Dinner

There is actually some wisdom in most seniors eating dinner early or at least by 6:00 pm. Because the later you eat, the more it will not stabilize your blood sugar. If you have ever been invited to a Myanmar dinner, it is just like lunch with rich meat, curry, and other side dishes. Maybe back in our grandparent’s days, they had better nutrient rich choices, but with current refined grains and MSG ladened foods processed with palm oil, though they may rank low on the GI, they still have high cholesterol and raise blood pressure. Since diabetes affects cholesterol balance in the body, you do not want to add to it.1, 2

Smart Choices

Every person’s body works differently, but as a general rule, have a consistent meal time because when you eat matters as much as what you eat. It is not that you cannot eat rice as a diabetic, just choose parboiled or less refined or polished because the more processed it is, the more it will raise blood glucose. Though it may be difficult to find oil that is not palm, reduce the quantity of it when cooking. Because protein does not have high GI, especially during lunch, choose grilled or boiled lean meats and fish over fatty pork or heavy curries. As you are Burmese, if you cannot go without fish paste, do not have it more than 2 to 3 times a week.1, 3

If you need extra help in making up for the nutrients you might have missed in a diabetic restricted diet, nutritional supplements are an option. For example, nutritional supplements from Glucerna have been formulated diabetic specific with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber in every serving to give what they need and keep full longer. Glucerna as a replacement for some meals or as an accompanying item can help you further manage your diabetes.4

References:

  1. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/food-guide-well-known-nutritionist.html
  2. https://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/diet/gi_diet/glycaemic-index-asian-non-western-foods.htm
  3. https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Diabetes/Diabetes-and-Healthy-Eating/Eating-well-with-Diabetes-East-Asian-diets.aspx
  4. https://glucerna.ca/en/products

Supplemental Readings:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405844020301122