Diabetes-Friendly Snacks by Shaun Tan

 

1. What is Diabetes? 

We all know that diabetes is about “blood sugar”. So what has “blood sugar” got to do with “carbohydrates”?

The mechanism itself isn’t complicated at all. Carbohydrates are broken down to sugar. Sugar than goes into our blood. To move from our blood to muscles for their use as fuel, we need a “key” to open the doors to our muscles.

This “key” is known as insulin, which may be insufficient or not be working properly. Sugar than cannot move on from our blood to muscles so easily. This is how high blood sugar comes about.

 

 

2. Identifying the Key Nutrients

CARBOHYDRATE

  • Too much carbohydrate taken in one meal/snack and our blood sugar may get too high. If blood sugar is too high, this can lead to increased urination or increased risk of stroke and heart conditions.
  • Too little carbohydrate taken in one meal/snack and our blood sugar may get too low, and we may feel weak from the lack of fuel for our body.

FIBRE 

  • Fibre is another key nutrient which adds bulk to your food, making it go down slower and breaking down carbohydrates to sugar slowly, so it does not rush into your blood too fast.

 

3. Identifying the Right Snack

The key here is to choose snacks that do not contain too much carbohydrate and if possible, contains fibre. Here are a few ideas you may wish to try.

1. Herbal Tea Leaf Eggs

  • Hard boiled eggs do not contain carbohydrates and is a great source of protein, and thus is a favourite among those with diabetes. Herbal tea leafs add a bit of twist in flavour and additional antioxidants as well.
  • Do be wary of egg yolks though. Remember to consume no more than 3-4 egg yolks per day, as the cholesterol can lead to a higher risk of heart conditions, on top of the existing condition of diabetes.

2. Soybean Milk and Tau Huay

  • Not only is the protein quality of soybeans on par with eggs and is cholesterol-free, it is also another carbohydrate-free option.
  • Go for no sugar/syrup where possible, as added sugar can increase blood sugar as well as risk of heart conditions.

3. Chin Chow

  • Dark, crystal-like in appearance with a pleasant texture, and a local favourite in Singapore, Chin Chow (AKA Grass Jelly) contains little carbohydrate.
  • Again, do go easy on the sugar/syrup, as was with the soybean milk and tau huay.

4.  Walnuts

  • Nuts contain little carbohydrates, and come with essential nutrients such as protein, magnesium, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) which can lower the risk of heart conditions.
  • While a handful a day may reduce the risk of heart conditions, do remember that overeating can add to your calories, which nuts are quite high in.

5. Chickpeas with Korma Masala and Olive Oil

  • Chickpeas (AKA Garbanzo beans) are not only beans with protein, fibre, iron, zinc, potassium and folate, all of which are essential nutrients, but also raise blood sugar relatively slow. Be aware that 1 tablespoon of these are around 8g of carbohydrates – about half of what is found in a slice of bread. Soak overnight before draining and mixing it up with a little korma masala and olive oil, and you’ve got yourself a tasty new snack.

6. Apple and Vegetable Slices with Nut Butter

  • Non-starchy vegetables like celery, carrot sticks and capsicum slices are crunchy, eye-catchingly colourful, carbohydrate-free, fibre and antioxidant-rich and go great with some nut butter. 
  • Remember that starchy vegetables like potatoes and pumpkin do contribute to your carbohydrate intake.

  • For your fruit intake (remember that fruit contributes to carbohydrates), try some apple, which I hear goes very nicely with nut butter as well because of the contrasting sweetness it has.

 

7. 3-4 Whole Wheat Crackers with Nut Butter

  • While whole wheat crackers do contain carbohydrates, don’t forget that they also contain fibre and vitamin B-group. Vitamin B-group is essential for proper metabolism within our bodies.
  • Metabolism refers collectively to the different processes our body goes through, including the conversion of food to nutrients and energy.

8. Popcorn

Yes, surprisingly, popcorn is a wholegrain! Who knew?

  • Try it with some cinnamon. Although research is ongoing as to whether it can help with diabetes control, cinnamon smells great and is calming to our senses.
  • Grind some kale with a little lemon juice, grapeseed oil and sea salt for an entirely different flavour as well as a boost in iron, vitamin c and healthier fats.
  • Give it an Indian cuisine variation with some chilli powder, tumeric and curry leaves. Tumeric has gained some popularity for anti-inflammatory properties as well.
  • Or for vegans, try some nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute. Nutritional yeast is also a source of vitamin B12 (needed for DNA and red blood cells making) and high quality protein.

Shaun Tan

Nutritionist @Zenxin Singapore

Working with a variety of products helps him to keep up and continuously innovate new nutrition strategies, it’s give him an opportunity to increase his knowledge and ability to make it realistic and correct recommendations to customers. 

 

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