Most diabetics know to avoid sugar. It just makes sense: If your blood sugar is too high, you shouldn’t complicate the situation by eating more of the same.
But sugar in your diet isn’t the only food that will raise your blood glucose level. Carbohydrates and alcohol raise your blood sugar (blood glucose level) almost as fast as eating sugar straight from the bowl. Protein and fat are also converted to energy for the body, but they don’t raise blood sugar as much or as quickly.
Of course, blood sugar is not exactly the same as food sugar. The human body uses glucose as a source of energy. Table sugar is sucrose, fruit sugar is fructose, and milk sugar is lactose. There are also other sugars, but basically these sugars are converted to glucose in the human body.
Not everyone has a sweet tooth, but I certainly do. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that diabetics should avoid eating anything made with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, including: candy, cakes, cookies, ice cream, donuts, marshmallow creme, peanuts Soda, Kool-aid, Sports Drinks, Sweet Tea or Fruit Drinks, Hot Chocolate, Caramel Corn, Sweet Corn, Jello, Pudding, Popsicles, Sherbet, Syrup, Whipped Cream, Cake, Cracker Barrel Chocolate Cake, flan, jello, Nutella, milkshakes, Captain Crunch, etc. If I missed your favorite, please add it to the list.
The following 10 foods should also be avoided.
1. White bread. Processed flour converts to glucose almost as quickly as sugar itself. In fact, white bread ranks about the same as glucose on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a rating based on how quickly a particular food raises blood glucose levels. High is bad, low is good. Both glucose and white bread have a rating of 100. Stone-ground whole wheat bread and whole wheat bread have a much lower glycemic index.
2. White rolls. They look a lot like white bread, don’t they? The delicious bagels also have many more calories than regular bread. Two slices of bread equal about 150 calories, while a good-sized bagel is double that. It’s not that you can’t have bagels, but get a whole grain variety and remember that eating a large bagel is like eating 4 slices of toast.
3. Crackers. If you were the baker, you would realize that white bread, white bagels, and crackers start with white flour. The same goes for standard pretzels. Whole grain crackers and pretzels are best for both diabetics and non-diabetics.
4. White potatoes. Strangely, sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index and raise blood sugar less than white potatoes.
5. White rice. Are you noticing a pattern here? Some diabetic patients choose to avoid anything white.
6. Most breakfast cereals. Unless it’s made with whole grains, breakfast cereal will also be processed like sugar. Even quick oatmeal raises blood sugar. Stone cut oats are much better for you and are now available in standard grocery stores, right next to “regular” oats. However, the stone cut variety takes much longer to cook, easily a half hour or more to soften the grain to the consistency of regular oatmeal.
7. Instant pasta or macaroni mixes. Almost anything “instant” or processed breaks down into sugar more quickly than natural forms.
8. Popcorn. Yes, another white item; however, quantity is the key. A cup of popcorn (without butter) won’t raise your blood sugar much, whereas eating a lot of popcorn at the theater is like eating a few bars of chocolate.
9. Sweet fruit. Especially sweet fruits like watermelon and pineapple contain more fruit sugar than less sweet fruits, but again, quantity is key. A few bites won’t hurt.
10. Alcohol. Not only does it raise your blood sugar level, but it can also affect your judgment regarding your diabetes. It is best to avoid this altogether.
Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD