Singapore

Discipline, dietary choices crucial

Each week, before the Cabinet ministers get down to the business of Government, they gather for lunch.

Brown rice is always on the menu of this PreCab lunch. The ministers agreed to having the healthier, nutty-tasting grain a few years ago on the suggestion of then Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

"But only very, very recently, I found out that some ministers don't like brown rice. So when we come to PreCab lunch, they don't have rice, and they go home and they eat white rice for dinner," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday to laughter.

The example illustrates how it can be difficult to switch to healthier options, he said, adding: "As a compromise, I am thinking of trying white rice mixed with brown rice. It's not quite as healthy, but it's better tasting than all-brown rice and it's healthier than all-white rice."

Brown rice, which is unpolished and has its bran layer and germ intact, is packed with nutrients such as zinc and iron. It is higher in fibre, which slows glucose absorption by the body.

Starchy white rice, on the other hand, with its high glycaemic index, can overload bodies with blood sugar and heighten the risk of diabetes.

Mr Lee said: "White rice may not taste sweet, but the effect is almost like eating sugar, and when you eat white rice, your blood sugar will shoot up."

He quipped that he needed to hold "another serious Cabinet discussion" on what to serve at the PreCab lunches.

Mr Lee related this anecdote at the National Day Rally to underline the importance of choosing healthier eating options as one way for Singaporeans to combat diabetes.

Fighting the disease is a major policy goal of the Government. The key is to be disciplined and make the right dietary choices, said Mr Lee.

"For diabetes, genes play a part, but your choices make a difference," he said.

Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to choose healthier dishes such as fish soup, if they eat out, or healthier options offered by hawkers, with less oil, sugar and salt. "And if you do cook at home, make small changes, like replacing white rice with brown or mixed grain rice," he said. 
- THE STRAITS TIMES

FOR MORE, READ THE STRAITS TIMES TODAY

Lee Hsien LoongNATIONAL DAY RALLYdiabetes