White rice was the archenemy throughout the past week ever since it was revealed that Asians are more susceptible to diabetes due to the cultural inclination towards the staple food.
As the Health Promotion Board (HPB) chief executive revealed, one mere bowl of rice already contains more than twice the carb content of one can of soda, and this causes a higher blood glucose response. Most of the refined carbohydrates we take in come from two starches enjoyed by us for centuries: rice and noodles. They even made the bold statement of saying that eating rice is worse than consuming sugary drinks. Gasp!
In the aftermath of the report, #TeamRice emerged, fighting against the message that rice is more harmful than soft drinks. Men’s Health Singapore Editor Kelvin Tan argued that it was unfair to compare diabetes statistics against Western countries. Health blogger Ian Tan takes issue with The Straits Times’ infographics, stating that “nowhere on this infographic does it state how deadly sugary drinks are”.
HPB’s message however was not to get Singaporeans to totally stop eating rice — but instead turn to more healthier varieties such as whole grain and brown rice.
But here’s an alternative solution — how about no rice at all? Or noodles, or other starchy foodstuff? What if you could rapidly burn fat at the same time too?
Ladies and gents, allow me to introduce you to the ketogenic diet.
What is a ketogenic diet?
Remember over a decade ago when something called an Atkins Diet was all the rage? They’re pretty similar — you limit your consumption of carbohydrates (rice, bread, noodles, etc) to induce ketosis. While Atkins initially tells you to cut down on carbs before raising it up to your preferred level, Keto basically says low-carbs forever.
Since there’re very little carbs in your diet, your liver adapts to converting fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. Stored body fat turns into fuel — providing a steady stream of energy as fat and protein burn slowly. Compare this to all those times you feel super sleepy after eating a huge chicken rice set meal for lunch — your energy levels crash hard because carbs burn up quick.
How to keto
It’s a high-fat, low-carb diet — fats and oils will form the majority of your daily calorie intake. But only the healthy kind of fats of course; saturated and monounsaturated fats such as butter, avocado, egg yolks and coconut oil. Protein is needed of course, so you just keep on eating all the meats and seafood you want. Keep your vegetables dark and leafy because they’re high in nutrients and low in carbs.
Don’t cheap out on dairy products too — choose full fat everything over low fat or fat free. Coffee and tea are welcome (keep out the sugar though) but water is the most essential. Drink an ungodly amount of water everyday.
Absolute no-no to all grains, even whole meal. No bread, no potatoes, no quinoa, no pasta, no pizza, no cookies, no crackers. Beer is liquid carbs, so say bye to that too (go hard on wine and spirits if you want). No processed food, no artificial sweeteners and surprisingly no tropical fruit such as mangos, bananas, grapes and more because of their substantial carb and sugar.
Getting ketogenic in Singapore
Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty hard to go full keto in Singapore, where rice, noodles and bread form the bulk of our family recipes. You might have to bid adieu to all your nasi goreng and char kway teow — but it still is possible to enjoy local fare without the carbs.
You can go to mixed rice/nasi padang stalls and just order the dishes sans the rice. You can still enjoy your roasted chicken or duck, just ask them to hold the rice. Cold Storage and NTUC Fairprice supermarkets often have roasted meat sections for you to get a pretty satisfying portion of chicken, lamb or pork.
A word of warning though. You are going to feel like complete shit in the first week or so once you enter the low-carb lifestyle. You will be sleepy, you will feel miserable and your brain will fogged up all the time. This is completely normal — your body’s just reacting to the change in diet. Push beyond the keto-flu and you’ll find your weight drastically going down in no time.
What you’ll need
There are a lot more finer details to getting into the keto diet (like plateauing, fat fasting and more) but the internet exists for a reason. Subscribe to the very supportive Keto subreddit for meal ideas and motivation to stick with the diet, keep track of your food intake on the My Fitness Pal app and refer to this printable food guide to see what you can and cannot eat.
Best of all, you’re free from the oppressive clutches of carbohydrates — but be prepared to fend off your relative’s incessant pressure for you to eat some rice. Happy journeys into the #ketolife.