OCBC Silver Years

Desserts, Durian, Diet: Busting Diabetes Myths

Diabetes: the D word that often sparks concern about having to manage one’s diet and costing a lot in terms of time and effort to keep it in check. While it is indeed a serious condition that requires a change in lifestyle, it is most definitely not the end of the world. In fact, there are many misconceptions attached to it, some of which you and I might even subscribe to.

Can people with diabetes have sweet treats like durians? Does diabetes only affect overweight people? Today, we will unmask some of them.

Before we talk about the misconceptions, what is diabetes? Starting with insulin, it is the hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. When you eat a meal with carbohydrates, your body then converts the carbohydrates to sugars and insulin will help these sugars enter into your cells so that they can be converted into energy. People with diabetes have higher-than-normal blood glucose level as their body is unable to produce enough insulin or the insulin does not work properly. If it is not taken care of well, it may result in kidney failure, blindness and amputation. And increase your risk of cardiovascular/heart disease.

Now that you are clear about diabetes, let’s move on to the myths!

No. 1: Sugar is the Main Culprit

A common misconception about diabetes is that it is directly caused by sugar. This is however only partly true. A diet that contains high amount of sugar and calories can lead to obesity, thus increasing the risk of getting type 2 diabetes. However, contrary to popular belief, sugar alone is not the only culprit. An overall unhealthy diet comprising of processed foods, lack of produce, fibre, etc., in combination with other lifestyle choices can increase one’s risk of diabetes.

Advice: Moderation is key. Maintain a balanced diet consisting of a variety of wholegrains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Of course, enjoy the sweet treat once in a while, but take care to watch the amount of sugar you have in a day. You could try tips like sharing your dessert with others or opting for an occasional fruit instead of that ‘mandatory’ froyo!

No. 2: Only Overweight People get Diabetes

Anyone can get diabetes, although certain factors increase your risk of getting diabetes. Being overweight is just one of the many risk factors. Others include age, family history and lifestyle.

Advice: You can lower your risk of diabetes by exercising regularly (150 minutes a week for 10 minutes at a time is a good gauge) and eating healthier. If you are underweight or obese, please check with your doctor before exercising.

No. 3: The Diabetes Diet is Bland and Joyless

First and foremost, there is no such thing as a ‘diabetes diet’. So what should a person living with diabetes eat? People living with diabetes should follow a healthy diet just like everyone else. A healthy diet is a balanced diet consisting of a variety of wholegrains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables. However, people living with diabetes are not able to regulate their blood sugar levels as well thus, it is important to have regular meal times and to have smaller but more frequent meals consisting of carbohydrates throughout the day to keep one’s blood sugar levels in check.

A healthy, balanced diet when taken correctly, is one that has variety and has a lot of natural herbs, spices and condiments that are used as seasoning. With the variety and different types of natural seasonings, the taste is wholesome and flavourful and that is definitely contrary to the popular belief that a healthy diet is ‘bland and joyless’. People living with diabetes are still able to enjoy the occasional ‘treat’ food e.g. desserts, and fried food,, as long as their blood sugar levels are controlled and that they watch the amount and frequency of the ‘treat’ food they eat.

Answering the million dollar question: must people with diabetes live a durian-less life? Durian is a fruit that is high in fibre and certain vitamins. Thus, people living with diabetes need to exercise caution (just like everyone else) when enjoying durians as they are also high in carbohydrates and fats. When taken in excess, one’s blood sugar level can definitely be affected, so the golden rule of thumb is to keep to 2 servings of fruits a day. People living with diabetes who have controlled blood sugar levels should keep to 1 serving of durian (2 seeds) at a go.

No. 4: We Can’t Prevent Diabetes

This is not true! Type 2 diabetes, which is the more common form of diabetes, is dependent on many risk factors which include lifestyle choices. To prevent or delay diabetes, we can make lifestyle changes by eating better, moving more, managing stress and lastly to quit smoking. Type 1 diabetes is not preventable, however, only approximately 5% of those with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes.

Source: Health Promotion Board © HealthHub. Reproduced with permission. View orginal source.

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