What is Diabetes Mellitus?

  • ​​A condition where the blood sugar level is higher than normal.
  • The amount of sugar in the blood is closely regulated by insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas.​
    1. Food is broken down into glucose in the digestive tract.
    2. Glucose enters the bloodstream.
    3. The pancreas makes little/no insulin or body does not use insulin effectively.
    4. Glucose builds up in the bloodstream.

​​There are Two Types of Diabetes: 

Type 1 Diabetes 

It is a condition when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Usually occurs in children, young adults and occasionally in older people.

Type 2 Diabetes 

It is a condition when the pancreas produces insulin but the body does not use it effectively, also known as insulin resistance. It usually occurs in adulthood, people who are overweight and is hereditary.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 39, find out your risk by taking the Diabetes Risk Assessment.

​​​Why is Good Blood Sugar Control Important? 

Poorly controlled blood sugar level may result in damage to the blood vessels in the heart, eyes (retinopathy), kidneys (nephropathy) and nerves (neuropathy), which may lead to coronary heart disease, blindness​, kidney failure​ and numbness of limbs.

Diabetes Management Tips

1. Lose weight​ if you are overweight

Aim for a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) ranging from 18.5 to 22.9kg/m2 to reduce the risk of heart disease and insulin resistance. 

​​​2. Adopt a well-balanced diet​ which includes a variety of food

​​​3. Eat an appropriate and consistent amount of carbohydrate or starchy food at each meal to help achieve a constant blood sugar level.

What is a carbohydrate?

A nutrient in food which when digested becomes sugar in the blood. This sugar is then used as fuel for the brain and body.


Sugar and Sweets (e.g. syrup, honey,
dessert, sweetened drinks)

Milk & Yoghurt
Beans & Lentils

All fruits
Starchy vegetables (e.g. corn, peas,
tapioca, yam)

Starches (e.g. rice, noodle, bread,
biscuits, potato, oats, chapati, thosai)

​​​4. Have regular meals at similar timing​ each day

  • This provides a regular and constant amount of sugar from the food you eat to reduce fluctuations in your blood sugar level.
  • This is also important for those on medications and/or insulin therapy to allow the action of the medication/insulin to match your food intake, hence preventing hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).​

​​​5. Eat more fibre-rich food

  • Fibre helps to slow down the rate at which sugar is being released into the bloodstream, keeps you full and improves bowel function.
  • Include two servings each of fruit and vegetables​ daily. 
    • 1 serving of fruit = 1 small apple or 1 wedge papaya or 10 grapes (small)
    • 1 serving of vegetables = 100g cooked vegetables (¾ mug) or 150g raw vegetable
  • Include wholegrain products​ in your diet such as wholegrain or whole-meal bread, oats, chapati, brown rice, whole-meal biscuits etc.​

​​​6. Eat less fat or oily food​ especially saturated fat and trans fat

  • Limit intake of saturated fat (butter, lard, ghee and fat/skin on meat) and trans-fat (e.g. fried food, baked goods, shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) as they increase the risk of fat deposit in the blood vessels (atherosclerosis) which may lead to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. 
  • Choose healthier fat sources such as polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat e.g. sunflower oil, canola oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, olive oil.

​​​7. Reduce the intake of salt 

  • ​High salt intake is associated with high blood pressure​, which may lead to an increased risk of developing kidney disease, stroke​ and heart disease. 
  • Add less salt and sauces during cooking. 
  • Limit intake of processed food e.g. fishball, ham, hotdog, salted vegetables, pickles, and canned food. 
  • Cut down on gravies added to rice or noodles. 
  • Spice up your meals with natural herbs and spices such as ginger, garlic, onion, chilli, pepper, lemon, vinegar​.

​8. Active lifestyle 

  • Helps to maintain healthy body weight. 
  • Engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity​ per week e.g. brisk walking, cycling, jogging, swimming, dancing where possible or as advised by your doctor or exercise physiologist.

​9. Take your medications​/insulin as prescribed by your doctor​ 

​​Diabetic Products 

These products are not an essential part of your diet. Many diabetic food products such as “diabetic” chocolates and biscuits are often sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol which may have a laxative effect if consumed in large amounts. Some diabetic products may also be high in fat and hence are not suitable for overweight people with diabetes mellitus. Remember that all these food products may still contain carbohydrates such as flour, milk and fruit. Other forms of sugars such as lactose may also be added as fillers.

​In summary, it is important to do the following to maintain a good blood sugar level: 

  • ​​​Eat a healthy balanced diet​ with appropriate carbohydrate at each meal
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Take your medications/insulin as prescribed by your doctor 

Download Your Guide to Healthy Eating for Managing Diabetes (PDF)

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