The truth about sugar and diabetes

First, we need to clear up a common misconception: sugar does not cause diabetes. In someone without diabetes, when glucose enters the blood stream, insulin is released to help move that glucose, or sugar, into the body's cells.

"In type 2 diabetes, cells are insensitive, or 'resistant' to insulin, and glucose is left stranded in the blood stream causing a rise in blood sugar readings," says Toby Smithson, RD, CDE, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and founder of It's this high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) that defines diabetes and makes it a serious condition.

Sugar: the food in the black hat

Sugar usually gets the bad guy label when it comes to diabetes. The outcast to be avoided at all costs. In reality, managing your intake of all the carbohydrates you consume, including sugar, is the key to keeping blood sugar levels and diabetes in check.

"Knowing how much carbohydrate is in a food is necessary in managing blood sugar levels," notes Smithson.

That means not only tracking your sugar intake, but also your intake of other foods that contain carbohydrates such as grains, fruits, milk and yogurt, and starchy veggies (e.g. beans, corn, and potatoes). The fiber in whole grains and fruits, and the protein in milk helps slow sugar absorption. These types of foods also contain essential nutrients, making them solid choices for your eating plan.

Diabetes and sugar: Moderation is important

The trick to being able to enjoy a sweet treat while keeping your diabetes under control is to figure out the best fit for sugar into eating plan. Smithson reminds, "Moderation is the key, and sweet foods with some added nutritional benefit are best."

Here are four tips for working sugar into your eating plan:

  1. Serving size and frequency. Moderation not only means the right serving portion but the number of times you consume sugar as well. Instead of eating a big bowl of ice cream each night, consider having a single scoop of low-sugar ice cream a couple of times per week.
  2. Eat your treat with a meal. In addition, eating your sweet treat with a meal instead of alone can help slow the body's absorption of the sugar.
  3. Talk to your dietitian or diabetes educator. Find out how much carbohydrates you should be eating over the course of the day, or at each meal and snack.
  4. Use nutrition labels. These labels tell you how much carbohydrates are in one serving. Knowing how much you should be eating and how much is in various foods can help you plan meals and snacks appropriately.

Smithson encourages, "Take medication as prescribed, exercise regularly, eat a generally healthy diet and manage carbohydrates, and go ahead and have a sweet treat once in a while as an excellent reward."

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Robin Patsel says:

20 January 2013 at 4:17 am

I have been diabetic for a long time now no matter how many classestook or how many time I talk with the Dr. did anything they say make any sence to me..till I just read this articleit cleared up so much for me it msde sence I tood what you are saying and look forto more from this site

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