Should you avoid carbohydrates completely if you have diabetes? Singapore General Hospital's Department of Endocrinology answers this question and more.
Diet for diabetes
Diabetes is a common and serious chronic illness and when poorly controlled, leads to multiple complications.
“Although there are many medications available, nutritional therapy or dietary modification remains paramount to good diabetes control,” says
Dr Daphne Gardner Su-Lyn, Consultant at the
Department of Endocrinology,
Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the
SingHealth group. "Learning to eat regular meals, controlling the amount you eat and making healthy food choices can help you manage your diabetes better and help prevent other health complications."
The best person to advise you on nutrition matters remains a dietitian. Here is some advice from the
Department of Dietetics at SGH.
Should I reduce or even avoid carbohydrates?
"Carbohydrates are foods that give you energy and should be included as part of a healthy meal plan. In fact, they should provide half of your energy needs", says Ms Adaikan. However, not all carbohydrates affect your blood sugar levels the same way. Carbohydrates can be divided into sugars (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates).
Examples of sugars (simple carbohydrates): glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, jams, sweets.
Examples of starches (complex carbohydrates): bread, rice, pasta, noodles, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and peas.
The more refined the carbohydrate, such as sugar, the faster the glucose is released into your bloodstream. This can cause a surge in blood sugar levels, says Ms Adaikan. Thus, you have to watch out for simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates (or starchy foods) release glucose into the bloodstream at a slower rate compared to sugary foods, thus providing more stable and sustainable energy levels. This is better for appetite control.
Should I switch to brown rice?
Brown and white rice contain the same amount of carbohydrates, weight for weight, but brown rice provides more fibre. Fibre can slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, thus improving your blood sugar levels, says Ms Adaikan. Besides brown rice, try to include whole grain breads and high-fibre cereals in your diet, as these contain more helpful fibre too.
Read on for tips on vegetables, protein and more.