What to eat to avoid diabetes

Eat brown rice rather than white rice in order to help avoid diabetes.

With one in nine Singaporeans suffering from diabetes, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently described Singapore as “almost world champion” among developed countries in diabetes prevalence. The proportion of sufferers in Singapore is second only to the United States, which has the highest rate of diabetes among all developed countries.

In his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (20 August), PM Lee urged Singaporeans to choose healthier foods such as yong tau foo and sliced fish soup, and eat less to combat diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as type 2 diabetes or simply diabetes, is a chronic illness characterised by a high level of sugar or glucose in the blood. Blood sugar builds up when your body either doesn’t make enough of the hormone insulin which helps in the regulation of sugar, or is unable to properly use the insulin it produces (insulin resistance).

Diabetes is a lifestyle disease that occurs more frequently in individuals over the age of 40, particularly those who are overweight and physically inactive. It can be prevented if you maintain a healthy weight, have a balanced and nutritious diet and get sufficient physical exercise.

“You can easily consume a lot of sugar in soft drinks, food with added sugar, and it is hidden in a wide variety of processed foods. The sugar in these foods is absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly and causes a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Over time, this leads to difficulty in maintaining normal blood sugar and predisposes to diabetes,” says Dr Joan Khoo, Chief and Senior Consultantin the Department of Endocrinology at Changi General Hospital.

If diabetes is not managed well, it can lead to complications such as blindness, nerve damage, kidney failure, heart disease and limb amputation.

To avoid diabetes, choose these foods and beverages:

  • Whole grains, instead of refined grains – e.g. brown rice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, quinoa
  • Poultry and fish, instead of red meat and processed meat
  • Low-fat dairy products, instead of full-fat
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Legumes, beans
  • Water, unsweetened tea/coffee, instead of sugary drinks

In the Nurses’ Health Studies in the United States, researchers found that a higher consumption of coffee, whole grains, fruits and nuts was associated with a lower risk of diabetes. Regular consumption of refined grains, red meats and processed meats, and sugar-sweetened beverages including fruits juices was associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes.

To reduce your risk of developing diabetes you should also moderate your alcohol consumption and avoid smoking.

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