Once upon a time (not so very long ago) people with diabetes were advised to avoid sugar. After all, the only available test for the disease looked for sugar in the urine, so sugar must be the problem, right? But we know a whole lot more about how our bodies work now (still not everything) and realize that the body turns all food into blood sugar. That is what cells use for fuel — we don’t have pieces of carrot and crackers going from our blood into our cells — the body converts the food into a form cells can use. Eating lots of sugary foods is not good for anyone — the empty calories crowd out more nutritious choices. But sugar itself is no longer considered the culprit for diabetes.
Here is how the American Diabetes Association answers the question of whether diabetics can eat sugar: “Eating a piece of cake made with sugar will raise your blood glucose level. So will eating corn on the cob, a tomato sandwich, or Lima beans. The truth is that sugar has gotten a bad reputation. People with diabetes can and do eat sugar. In your body, it becomes glucose, but so do the other foods mentioned above. With sugary foods, the rule is moderation. . . . So, don’t pass up a slice of birthday cake. Instead, eat a little less bread or potato, and replace it with the cake.” source of quote
diabetics are concerned with managing the total carbohydrate intake over a day. The sugar-free candy I looked at had 25 grams of carbs per 2 pieces. The regular version had 24 grams. In other words, either version would fit into an eating plan in exactly the same way — there would be no benefit to a diabetic of selecting the sugar-free version.
Some sugar-free foods, such as diet pop, typically have fewer carbs (or no carbs) than their sugared counterparts. And some sugar-free foods, like the candy I examined, or a cake mix I looked at earlier, have as many or even more carbohydrates than the regular version.
Please, don’t perpetuate the outdated notion that “sugar free” is automatically better for diabetics than a regular version of the food. And be careful about making claims that a cookie or a cake is “diabetic.”
Here is another one (Jeanne on her soap box)
I’ve had some glucose count problems and am taking an additional drug. My doctor thought it would also be good for me to see a diabetes educator again, so I had a 2-hour session with that health care professional this morning. She reviewed my very detailed food diaries. She pointed to one meal and said, “This was a good place for you to have the 2 girl scout cookies. Otherwise the meal would have been too light on carbs. Good choice.” Does that surprise you? Managing diabetes is not, not, not about avoiding sugar. It is about controlling carbohydrate intake (from any source) throughout the day (and also managing other elements, too, like meds and exercise).
When someone asks, “Can you make a diabetic cake?” in order to give a meaningful answer we’d have to ask, how much cake are you planning to eat? What else are you eating at the meal? What else will you be eating the rest of the day? Are you having the same, less, or more than usual exercise that day? Do you expect to be under a lot of stress at that point? In short, even a qualified Nutritional Therapist with expertise in diabetes management couldn’t say that a cake is or isn’t “diabetic” without knowing a whole lot more about the situation. How can a cake decorator be expected to make such pronouncements?
I know this has come up many times before, and I am not the only one who gives responses like this. But it is fresh in my mind after this morning’s session, and I thought it worth sharing again.
Diabetes is not similar to a food allergy. There is no one or two or three foods you can avoid and make a “diabetic” product. Diabetes is much too complex for that kind of solution. If someone wants an item without dairy products, or without tree nuts, or without gluten, or without sugar, you can give them a straight-forward yes or no answer. If someone wants a “diabetic” food, be aware that all foods with carbohydrates need to managed (not avoided) within the context of the meal and/or the day.
Also be aware that anyone can call any recipe “diabetic.” That doesn’t mean anything. So just finding a recipe that someone has attached that label to does not address the problem.
Written by Jeanne Gibbs
Wednesday, 25 February 2009 23:50