In the not-so-distant future, tucking into Hokkien prawn mee could be a healthier affair for diabetics.
A research centre at Singapore Polytechnic has developed wholegrain yellow noodles made with beta-glucan, a soluble fibre, and rice noodles containing resistant starch, in a project funded by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).
They aim to work with food manufacturers to develop the prototypes into commercial products.
Both noodles have a lower glycemic index, which means the carbohydrates they contain are broken down by the body into glucose at a slower rate. This can be helpful for people with diabetes, as they have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal.
In addition, beta-glucan can lower "bad" cholesterol, of which a high amount can lead to a build-up of cholesterol in the arteries.
It is the first time HPB and the Food Innovation & Resource Centre (FIRC) are collaborating to develop a healthier staple food and offering it to all food manufacturers here, Ms Annie Ling, director of HPB's policy, research and surveillance division, said yesterday at a tasting session.
FIRC provides food manufacturers with technical expertise in product and process development.
The diabetic-friendly noodle project, which started in May, includes research and development, as well as trials which will be completed by the end of the year.
The cost of developing the prototypes is borne by HPB, though Ms Ling declined to provide figures.
Dietician Jaclyn Reutens from Aptima Nutrition and Sports Consultants said these noodles are better for diabetics. "Resistant starch in the noodles gets digested slower and gives the feeling of fullness, so that helps to control the amount that diabetics consume," she said.
Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat, who was at the session yesterday, said other "healthier" food ingredients are being developed.
The Government is working with noodle and cooking oil makers, with "healthier sugars" a next possibility under the Healthier Ingredient Development Scheme which will invest $20 million to support manufacturers in creating healthier staple foods.
Over 400,000 Singaporeans have diabetes, and one in three is likely to get the disease in their lifetime - an issue which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about in his National Day Rally speech this year.