Diabetes tip: No need to give up white rice completely!

by | Nov 9, 2021 | Endocrinology

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White rice is deeply entrenched in many Asian cultures, some for thousands of years. This is especially so in Singaporean culture and in its offerings of the main Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines.

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As such, and due to its prevalence in local diets, white rice has been singled out as one of the top likely candidates (along with white bread and potato) for contributing to the rise of diabetes in Singapore. Diabetes brings on a host of serious medical conditions such as blindness, kidney failure or feet problems. Accordingly, Singapore declared war on diabetes in 2016.


However, avoiding the intake of white rice in Singapore may not be as easy as it seems. Particularly in social gatherings and situations. For example, if you are a house guest enjoying dinner with your local host, it may be impolite to request for anything other than the served white rice there.

Furthermore, to some traditional Asian hosts, the rice portion of the meal symbolizes the ‘heart’ of the meal. Hence, not eating the white rice served can be read as a subtle insult. In other words, to show appreciation for the food, you may be ‘forced’ to eat some token white rice.

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The best strategy in such a situation is to humbly and softly request for less rice on your plate when the host is dishing out rice. And you may make up for it by eating more vegetables instead!


Brown rice and basmati rice are the two other rice types more commonly available in coffeeshops, hawker centres and foodcourts.

Today, several stalls offer brown rice and vegetarian briyani basmati rice as good alternatives to white rice. By simply choosing either brown rice or basmati rice over white rice, you will cut down on your intake of refined carbohydrates and switch to more whole grains. Even so, be sure to ask for small portions of these rice types so as to reduce overall calorie intake.

This article has been verified medically by Dr Matthew Tan Zhen-Wei, an endocrinologist at Dr Matthew Tan Diabetes and Endocrine Care in Farrer Park Hospital (Singapore).

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