5 Simple Diet Changes To Reduce Diabetes Risk
Singaporeans love to eat. Eating is enjoyable but overindulging and being careless about your diet can bring on detrimental effects to your health. Obesity, diabetes and many diet-related issues often arise when we are not mindful of the seemingly harmless food we eat.
Diabetes is a chronic condition where an individual’s blood sugar level is too high. This results from the body’s inability to break down glucose (sugar) into energy due to the lack of, or poor functioning, of the hormone insulin. However, diabetes is more than just having too much sugar in your blood – it also affects other parts of the body such as the eyes, kidneys, heart, nerves, blood vessels, and feet!
In Singapore, 1 in 9 adults suffer from diabetes and the number will continue to grow if people are not careful about their diets! Let us speak to nutritionist Charlotte de Drouas to find out some tips and tricks to a healthier diet!
Many of the food and drinks present in our modern diet are high in sugars, most of which are added sugars. You can easily reduce your sugar intake by going siew-dai or kosong while ordering local drinks, or simply limit the consumption of soft drinks. Also, if you think fruit juice is the guiltless alternative, check if any sugar syrup is actually added! Other than drinks, you can also spot some “sugar traps” in your meals especially breakfast. Avoid cereals or spreads that are laden with sugar and sugar-coated or cream-filled biscuits. These are not only high in sugar, but also high in saturated fats!
“Keep the skin on when eating fruits as this provides more fibre which slows down the release of sugars from the fruit.”
Choose Whole Grains
The bottom line in choosing whole grains over refined polished grains is all about their fibre content. Simply put, all grains start out as whole grains, made up of 3 parts: the endosperm, germ, and bran. It is through processing that some of these whole grains become refined grains. Milling a whole grain strips off the germ and bran (components rich in fibre and antioxidants), leaving behind the endosperm that is rich in carbohydrates. Refined grain products include white breads, white rice, rice noodles (e.g. kway teow, bee hoon), pastas, most cookies, biscuits, crackers and some breakfast cereals. When it comes to carbohydrates, consume more whole grains to benefit from the nutrients in these grains such as fibre, B vitamins, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. The high fibre content of whole grain products also keeps those hunger pangs at bay.
EAT: brown rice, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal bread, chapatti, oats, brown rice vermicelli/bee hoon, soba (buckwheat noodles)
“Many individuals find brown rice too hard and hence unpalatable. In fact, this is because many are not cooking it the right way! Brown rice requires more water to cook. The ideal ratio for brown rice to water is recommended at: 1:2.5. Try it and see yourself enjoying brown rice!”
Up Your Fibre Intake
Fibre not only makes your time in the toilet easier but it also slows down the rate at which sugar is released into your blood, preventing spikes in your blood sugar levels. Research has shown that it also improves blood cholesterol levels and heart health. Additionally, if you are looking at losing that extra pound, taking in more fibre will help as it keeps you fuller for longer!
EAT: fruits skin on, green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, chye sim, bak choy), legumes (e.g. lentils, beans, chick peas), seeds, rolled oats
Eat Good Fats
If you don’t already know, there are basically two kinds of fats in our food. ‘Good fats’ (unsaturated fats) promote heart health through improving blood cholesterol levels, while ‘bad fats’ (saturated fats and trans-fats) can clot up your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health complications.
Saturated fats are found in products such as butter, cream, and animal fat, and should be consumed less often. Additionally, avoid hydrogenated oils that can be commonly found in fried food and commercially baked and packed goods, some coffee creamers and processed snacks too. Hence, try to consume more foods containing unsaturated fats such as oily fish, avocado, nuts (unsalted!) and vegetable oils. These good fats also have anti-inflammatory properties!
EAT: oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines), avocado, olive oil, canola oil, nuts. When eating meats, go for lean cuts and remove the skin. When cooking at home, use lesser oil, or try baking or steaming instead.
Take Your Meals Regularly
What your grandmother has been nagging about has some science behind it. Having irregular mealtimes causes your blood sugar levels to fluctuate, and eating every 4-5 hours can help in avoiding this. By sticking to a regular routine, your body will not send hunger pangs erratically which can lead to overeating and mood swings for most people.
EAT: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon snack if needed, whilst following the diet-tips above!
- Practice simple math everyday: 2+2! Consume 2 servings of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables daily for a healthy diet.
- Exercising regularly along with a healthy balanced diet will significantly help to reduce your risk of diabetes and help with overall health.
- Always eat mindfully and enjoy every crunch and munch as you nourish your body!
Special thanks to:
Charlotte de Drouas (ANutr)
Singapore Nutrition & Dietetics Association (SNDA)
Association for Nutrition (UK)