As Malaysians, we are famous for our local sweet delicacies such as ice-kacang, cendol, and a wide variety of ‘kuih-muih’. A high sugar intake is becoming the norm, as flavour and taste have taken precedence over our health.
Have you ever wondered how much sugar is added into your drink at a mamak stall?
Let me tell you, every cup of coffee, tea, or any ice cold drink has at least 5-6 teaspoons of sugar in it. That is easily equivalent to eating a solid meal of 300-400 calories.
A recent study done in 2011 showed that about 15.2 percent (approximately 2.6 million) of adults in Malaysia were diabetic compared to the year 2006 where the number was only 8.6 percent. There is a significant rise in the number of people suffering from diabetes and the number keeps increasing.
The question that we should raise here is - why is there still a rapid increase in the number of people with diabetes mellitus in our country despite all the information available?
What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when there is an abnormally high blood sugar level in your body, caused by the insufficient production of insulin or ineffective insulin production by the pancreas. There are two types of diabetes:
- Type I – You are born with the vulnerability to the disease
- Type II - Results from external factors such as diet and lifestyle
“It’s incorrect to say to say that sugar causes diabetes. The real cause is insufficient or ineffective insulin - the hormone that controls how the body metabolizes sugar. To blame sugar is to put the cart before the horse.”- Dr. Gerald Bernstein, American Diabetes Association.
What are the early symptoms?
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Delayed healing
How do you keep it under control?
1. Curb your psychological hunger
How many times do you grab something to eat when you are not hungry? It’s often influenced by many different reasons such as emotions, moods or even as distractions. Apart from knowing what and how much you are eating, it is also very important to take into account your psychological hunger, also known as the ‘why?’. Take note of these moments and know when to not eat.
2. Recognise diabetes-friendly food
Know what is diabetes-friendly and will not boost your sugar level. Typically, eat more protein such as fish, chicken, legumes and fibre-containing foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Avoid carbonated and sugary drinks.
3. Choose a sport - Move, move and move everyday
It can be any kind of sport, not necessarily a vigorous one. It can be as simple as taking a short walk at the park daily - as long as you’re moving and pumping your heart. Always begin slow and at your own pace.
4. Know the glycemic index (GI) of food
Eat food that does not incite sharp spikes of your blood sugar level ie foods that rank low in the glycemix index. You can usually find the glycemix index details on the packages of food.
Low GI < (55 or less): Oatmeal, pasta, legumes, lentils and whole wheat bread
Medium GI (55-69) : Biscuits, rye, quick oats and etc
High GI (70 or more): White bread, carrots, corn flakes, honey and many others
5. Eat, eat, eat fibre-containing food
Dietary fibre food such as rolled oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread, crackers and pasta provide many benefits to our health. When fibre is digested, it does not get broken down into sugar, unlike refined carbohydrates such as white bread. Hence, it does not influence the blood sugar level in our body.
6. Substitute processed sugars with Stevia
Sugar, honey and other sweeteners spike your blood sugar levels. Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from herbs and safe for diabetics.
7. Make a diabetic diary with meal plans with a professional nutritionist, dietician and doctor
A proper diabetic meal plan will ensure your blood sugar level is always regulated.
8. Control your stress and mood
It is normal to feel stressed, overwhelmed or depreseds at times that may lead to you not sticking to your diet plan. Spend more time on relaxing hobbies such as listening to music, yoga, meditating and gardening. Stress can raise your glucose level.
9. Restrict fat
Fat promotes insulin resistance, and hormones that control the blood sugar level will be affected. This will lead to a spike in your blood sugar level. Therefore, consume low and healthy fat food such salmon and avocado. Avoid trans and saturated fat.
10. Check your blood sugar daily
Make it a daily routine to check your blood glucose level. It is important to keep track of your blood sugar level over time. You do not want the numbers to get too high. High blood sugar can affect your heart, kidney, eyes and other organs.
11. Learn what to do everyday
- Be punctual with your regular medications, and take your medicines for diabetes as prescribed and others even when you are feeling fine.
- Do a thorough check up if there are any cuts, wounds, blisters or swelling as these are susceptible to infections and the healing period will be prolonged. Always keep the wound area clean and change dressings regularly. Immediately seek professional health care treatment if healing period takes too long.
- Take care of dental hygiene. Brush twice a day and floss every day.
- Check your blood pressure regularly.
12. Get a regular check up monthly.
Do not miss your medications or default medical check ups.
I promise you these simple steps will change your life.
- Carper, J (2009) Food-Your Miracle Medicine, Harper Collins.