The Sweetness of Life:
A Mind-Body Approach to Preventing and Managing Diabetes
by Sheila Patel, M.D.
Chopra Center Director of Health Programming
Part of truly appreciating our human experience is enjoying the sweetness of life. A perfectly ripe peach. A fresh slice of homemade bread. A scoop of chocolate ice cream. In life’s paradoxical way, however, at the same time that we have greater access to the world’s rich variety of sweet delicacies than ever before, the number of people with difficulties metabolizing sugar in their bloodstream is soaring. This condition, commonly known as diabetes, is reaching epidemic proportions in many countries.
Although medical science has made great advancements in the treatment of acute diseases such as infectious illnesses, trauma, and other life-threatening conditions, we are seeing a dramatic rise in chronic diseases, including diabetes. According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people in the U.S. diagnosed with diabetes rose from 1.5 million in 1958 to 18.8 million in 2010. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, lower limb amputation, and blindness. Data from international studies show that the number of people with diabetes worldwide in 2011 has reached 366 million.
Fortunately, while there is not yet a cure for diabetes, there are interventions and lifestyle changes we can make to affect the course of this disease and prevent complications. The healing system of Ayurveda offers valuable wisdom and guidance that can help us listen to the signals of our body, notice the first signs that we’re getting out of balance, and make the necessary changes to reverse the imbalances.
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Dr. Sheila Patel is a board-certified family physician, Ayurvedic expert, and the Director of Health Programming at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California. At the Chopra Center’s weekly Perfect Health program, she offers mind-body medical consultations and leads classes in meditation, Ayurveda, and mind-body. To learn more, please visit www.chopra.com/perfecthealth or call 760.494.1639.
This Month's Recipe
Vegetable Barley Soup
A traditional barley soup is usually made with beef. In this delicious recipe, vegetables and lentils create a rich flavor and texture without the additional fat. This is also a low-sugar recipe that is suitable for those with diabetes. Don’t let the long list of ingredients intimidate you – most of the ingredients are spices that blend to create a fragrant, tasty soup.
1 teaspoon of ghee or olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds, yellow or brown
1 pinch red chili
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped leeks or onions
1 cup celery, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari
1 cup cooked lentils
½ cup pearled barley, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon allspice
1 cup carrot, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup red or russet potato, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon marjoram
4 to 6 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
3 cups coarsely torn spinach or arugula or both
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to pop briefly in the hot oil. Add the chili flakes, black pepper, leeks, celery, and aminos. Then add the lentils.
Sauté until the leeks are translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the barley and stir until well combined. Add he cumin, coriander, and allspice and continue to sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the barley browns slightly. Stir frequently. Add the carrots, potato, and marjoram. Simmer another 3 minutes. Add some vegetable stock if the mixture gets dry.
When well browned, add 4 cups vegetable stock and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots and potatoes are cooked and the barley is soft. Add the spinach. Add more vegetable stock if necessary as the barley absorb the liquid. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Bon appétit!