Sugar- should I or shouldn’t I?
I get this question from people with diabetes and also people who are friends
or relatives of people with diabetes. They’ve asked me, can or should someone
who has diabetes eat sugar. Here’s the deal- there’s only two reasons someone
with diabetes should be eating sugar. Reason number one, sugar is effective in
treating a low blood sugar level, which would be a reading of 70 milligrams per
deciliter or lower or 3.9 millimoles per liter. Low blood sugar is a dangerous
side effect of some diabetes medications, and can be caused by any formulation of
insulin and some oral medications for type 2 diabetes including sulfonylureas
like glimepiride or a glipizide. More on this in a minute. Reason number two –
the only other time a person with diabetes should ever eat sugar is…. when
we want something sweet to eat. Gotcha there didn’t I? Look, managing diabetes
doesn’t have to be torture. Here’s what I do. Two servings of fruit every day at 15
grams carbohydrate per serving…. that’s one of my sweets. This fantastic
dark chocolate at five grams carbohydrate is my dessert at lunch.
These lower calorie ice-cream bars a few times a week, and now and then I’ll share
a decadent dessert at a restaurant. I avoid sugar sweetened drinks, and foods
with added sugar, especially foods like some peanut butters which have
absolutely no reason to contain sugar. Check the food label on that. I use low
calorie sweeteners, I plan sweets into my daily carbohydrate budget, and if my
blood sugar is running high I just skip these snacks. By the way, if you’re buying
into the popular stories that natural sweeteners like honey or agave or raw
sugar is somehow magically better for your
blood sugar levels, sorry. A sugar is a sugar- raw natural or processed. For
treating a low blood sugar I personally go for hard candy, but half a cup of
regular soft drink or juice or three to four glucose tablets are fine too. Avoid
chocolate or other prepared sweets that include fat. Fat slows down the
absorption and a low blood sugar needs fast results. Finally, if you go for candy
make sure it’s not sugar free. The best way to avoid unknowns is to always carry
fast-acting carbohydrates with you for this case of treating a low blood sugar.
Use the rule of 15- consume a fast-acting source of carbohydrate in a portion
equal to fifteen grams of carbs, wait 15 minutes and recheck your blood sugar.
Look, sweets are carbohydrates that can be worked into a healthy meal plan.
Sweets with nutritional value like fruit should be in your eating plan. Desserts
are a great treat but moderation is the key- that’s the bottom line.