Singapore’s War on Diabetes

food for diabetes singapore

Singapore launched an aggressive war against diabetes to mobilize a national effort and reduce its burden, but many barriers still stand in its way; two pieces of chee cheong fun contain as much sugar as three bowls of rice!

Doing away with Singapore hawker foods completely may not be necessary; but those living with diabetes can make changes to their diet with some recommendations from the Department of Dietetics at Singapore General Hospital:

Avoiding High-Glycaemic Index (GI) Foods

Diabetes is caused by having too much glucose in the blood. Insulin acts as a key that allows glucose into cells where it can be utilized as energy source; when production stops occurring in our bodies, glucose levels rise, leading to various complications and possible health risks.

Carb-rich foods have the power to alter glucose levels. Foods with a lower glycaemic index (GI) tend to be digested, absorbed, and metabolised more slowly resulting in less sudden spikes and drops in blood glucose levels.

Relying solely on Glycaemic Index can be misleading. Many low-GI foods also tend to be high in fat and calories, making it harder to achieve optimal glycaemic control. For example, mamon sponge cake has an extremely low Glycemic Index index score (48) due to the high proportion of butter used in its manufacture.

Staying Active

Exercise is key to maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Exercise helps control weight, use up glucose for energy production and make cells more sensitive to insulin; for those living with diabetes it’s especially crucial that they engage in enough physical activity in order to avoid sudden drops in their blood sugar.

This study utilized data from the Singapore Diabetes Registry (SDR), a large multi-institutional database featuring patients from SingHealth’s cluster, which manages three national specialty centers, four acute hospitals, nine polyclinics and one community hospital. A mixed methods study consisting of cross-sectional surveys and in-depth interviews was employed with results revealing that primary care patients with prediabetes were less likely to comply with physical activity recommendations; environmental modification measures like park connector networks and Active SG credit national programmes should be further promoted alongside policy adjustments so as to promote physical activity among primary care patients.

Avoiding High-Sodium Foods

Diabetes mellitus has become increasingly prevalent in Singapore, becoming an increasing health burden on its residents. If left uncontrolled, diabetes increases risk for both macrovascular and microvascular complications including atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, stroke, lower extremity amputations and neuropathy – creating significant disease burden for its nation’s citizens.

People living with diabetes should also avoid foods high in sodium as this can increase the risk of hypertension – a condition which increases cardiovascular risks such as heart attack and stroke. Aim to consume no more than 2,300mg per day as salt is naturally found in many foods; there may also be healthier alternatives available.

How Can I Reduce Sodium Intake? To lower your sodium consumption, select food labelled with “low salt” or “salt-free”. Also look out for products carrying the Healthier Choice label when shopping; these contain 30 per cent less sodium compared to similar items.

Avoiding High-Fat Foods

Sugar shouldn’t be the only consideration when living with diabetes; food high in saturated and trans fats should also be limited as they can block insulin from getting into cells, thus keeping blood sugar from flowing freely into them.

People living with diabetes should also monitor their sodium consumption as too much sodium can raise blood pressure and raise the risk of heart diseases. Processed foods containing sodium such as luncheon meats, sausages, nuggets, fried chicken wings and egg rolls as well as full cream milk/yogurt/iced tea/soft drinks all contain sodium which could elevate their blood pressure or cause cardiovascular conditions.

When ordering nasi lemak, opt for steamed rice and forgo the sambal chilli which contains saturated fats and sodium. Instead choose side dishes such as petai (boiled cabbage), rendang chicken or boiled egg to make your meal healthier.

Avoiding Deep-Fried Foods

Singapore’s healthcare system is experiencing a rise in diabetes-related cases. Diabetes has both macrovascular and microvascular consequences associated with it, such as retinopathy, kidney disease and stroke.

An essential part of managing diabetes is avoiding high-fat foods, such as butter, ghee, full fat dairy products and cooking oils. Gaining weight due to these sources increases the risk of clogged arteries and heart disease in diabetics.

An important step in effectively managing diabetes is limiting salty food consumption, such as canned, preserved and processed options like salted chips and soups/gravies. Furthermore, deep-fried options like chicken nuggets, fried fish and shrimp, French Fries and Onion Rings should be avoided in favor of healthier options like Steamed Stew Brais Bake or Grill options which tend to contain lower calories but offer similar nutrition benefits.

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