Diabetes Foods: Top 5 Tips

In Singapore, approximately 10 per cent of the population aged 18 to 69 suffers from diabetes, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH). This makes diabetes the second most common chronic medical condition in the country.

Diabetes is a serious chronic metabolic disorder characterised by excess glucose (sugar) in the blood. This occurs either because your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or cannot use it properly. Without insulin’s action, cells are unable to absorb and utilise glucose effectively. Harmful glucose levels can then build up in your blood.

Type 2 diabetes (also known as diabetes mellitus) tends to be more frequent in people over the age of 40. Those who are overweight and physically inactive are also at a higher risk.

“The good news is that people with diabetes do not need to go on a special diet. They just need to modify their diet, rather than overhaul it,” says Ms Kala Adaikan, Principal Dietitian, Department of Dietetics, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Diet tips for people with diabetes

1. Know your carbohydrates

As simple carbohydrates (sugary foods), such as glucose and fructose, can cause a surge in blood sugar levels, consume them in moderation. Instead, consume more complex carbohydrates (starches) such as wholemeal bread, rice and noodles. They provide more sustainable energy levels and are better for appetite control.

However, just because carbohydrates affect your blood sugar levels doesn’t mean that they should be taken completely out of your diet. In fact, carbohydrates should provide up to half your energy needs and thus remain a crucial part of any healthy meal plan.

You could even enjoy a small piece of cake or some other treat on special occasions. A dietitian will be able to teach you carbohydrate counting techniques and substitution methods to enable you to enjoy the occasional treat.

2. Take fruit in moderation

Although fruits provide vitam​ins, minerals and fibre, they also contain sugar (simple carbohydrates) and so should be consumed in moderation. The recommended amount is two servings daily, preferably not at the same meal.

3. Make sure you eat enough fibre

Vegetables, especially leafy ones, are an excellent source of fibre, which helps slow down the body’s absorption of glucose. This reduces spikes in your blood sugar levels after you eat. Other sources of fibre are beans, whole grains and brown rice. Do note however that these also count as carbohydrates.

4. Distribute your carbohydr​ate intake evenly

Having regular meals is key to proper diabetes management. Avoid skipping meals as you could risk suffering from hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels). You should try to keep your blood sugar levels as stable as possible.

5. Protein foods that count

Protein-rich foods like chicken and fish do not contain carbohydrates so they will not raise your blood sugar levels. However some foods contain a combination of protein and carbohydrates. For example, dairy products and plant-based protein foods like beans, dhal and lentils, do add to your carbohydrate intake.

However, avoid the temptation to go on a high-protein diet, e.g. Paleo diet (“The Caveman Diet”), in order to cut on carbs. Too much protein can also be detrimental. This is because many protein-rich foods, such as meat, tend to be high in saturated fat. Eating too much of these fats may increase your risk of heart disease.

Protein should account for about 15 to 20 per cent of your daily calorie intake. Staying within this limit will help protect your kidneys.

Read on for more diabetes diet tips.

Ref: R14