How Does Food Affect Blood Sugar Levels
Many factors, including exercise, stress, and illness, affect your blood sugar levels. That said, one of the largest factors is what you eat.
Of the three macronutrients carbs, protein, and fat carbs have the greatest effect on blood sugar. Thats because your body breaks down carbs into sugar, which enters your bloodstream.
This occurs with all digestible carbs, including refined sources like chips and cookies as well as whole, unprocessed sources like fruits and vegetables.
When people with diabetes eat foods high in carbs, their blood sugar levels can surge. High carb intake typically requires high doses of insulin or diabetes medication to manage blood sugar.
Given that people with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin, they need to inject insulin several times a day, regardless of what they eat. However, eating fewer carbs can significantly reduce their mealtime insulin dosage.
Your body breaks down certain carbs into sugar, which enters your bloodstream. People with diabetes who eat a lot of carbs require insulin or diabetes medication to keep their blood sugar from rising too much.
Natural Vs Added Sugar
Sugars are carbohydrates, and they’re the body’s preferred source of energy. There are many types of sugars. Fructose and glucose are two simple sugars that are well-known. Sucrose, which is table sugar, consists of equal parts fructose and glucose, making it a disaccharide. Lactose, the sugar that naturally occurs in milk, is made up of equal parts glucose and galactose. When you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into glucose, which is used for energy.
Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and dairy contain natural sugars. Fructose, glucose and lactose are inherently part of these foods. No processing has been done to add sugar. Sugar also occurs naturally in sugarcane and sugar beets in the form of sucrose. However, these are processed to make white sugar, which can then be added to processed foods or to drinks like coffee, in which cases it’s considered added sugar. High fructose corn syrup is another sugar that can be made from corn. While sucrose is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, HFCS is usually 55% fructose and 45% glucose and is added to many processed foods, making it an added sugar.
Honey, maple syrup and agave are natural sugars-they come from plants-but when added to foods, they are considered added sugar. Sugar can also be processed and added to foods under various names including invert sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, molasses, brown sugar, brown rice syrup and more .
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Added Sugars Vs Natural Sugars Big Difference
Its very important to make the distinction between added sugars and sugars that occur naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables.
These foods contain water, fiber, and various micronutrients. Naturally occurring sugars are absolutely fine, but the same does not apply to added sugar.
Added sugar is the main ingredient in candy and abundant in many processed foods, such as soft drinks and baked products.
The most common added sugars are regular table sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
To optimize your health, do your best to avoid foods that contain added sugars. Even the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from added sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories per day .
Also, remember that added sugars can also include natural sugars. For instance, if you add honey to your oatmeal, your oatmeal contains added sugar from a natural source.
Sugar thats added to processed foods is much more harmful to your health than the natural sugar in whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
- Men: 150 calories per day
- Women: 100 calories per day
To put that into perspective, one 12-ounce can of Coke contains 140 calories from sugar, while a regular-sized Snickers bar contains 120 calories from sugar.
In contrast, the US dietary guidelines advise people to limit their intake to less than 10% of their daily calorie intake. For a person eating 2,000 calories per day, this would equal 50 grams of sugar, or about 12.5 teaspoons .
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How Much Sugar Is Recommended
In recent years the recommendation for total grams of added sugar had been lowered the World Health Organization used to say that no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from it, and then they lowered it down to 5%. For most women, that means about 25 grams of sugar per day, which equals 6 teaspoons.
Although Im actually a big fan of fruits and veggies and whole grains and all that jazz, I do love me some baked goods. However, I am not a soda-drinker, and I dont eat sweetened yogurts, so I thought keeping my intake to 25 grams or less per day would be pretty easy.
How To Reduce Sugar Intake:
Look at what youre drinking.
Beverages like soda, juice, and sports drinks make up the largest percentage of the added sugar we consume. This means that cutting back on the number or size of sweetened beverages that you drink can dramatically lower your intake of added sugar. To do that, follow these tips from Christina Liew-Newville, M.S., R.D., L.D., F.A.N.D., dietetic technician program director and coordinator/assistant professor of dietetics at Tarrant County College in Arlington, Texas:
- Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and curb sugar cravings. When you need a flavor kick, add lemon, lime, or ginger.
- Opt for milk, vegetable juice, or unsweetened tea when you have the option.
- Eat balanced meals, exercise regularly, and prioritize sleep to reduce your need for sugar-laden energy drinks.
- If none of the above works and you want to treat yourself, buy a smaller bottle than you normally would and dilute it with ice or seltzer.
Look at what youre nibbling.
Life is meant to be enjoyed, not a cage of restriction, says Lauren OConnor, M.S., R.D.N., R.Y.T., owner of Nutri Savvy Health. But it is important to note that added sugars can easily add up throughout the day, so keeping a watchful eye on portion sizes and nutritional labels is key. The trick is to enjoy treats in moderation and use whole foods to replace refined sugars whenever possible. Not sure where to start? Use these tips from OConnor:
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Total Carbs At Each Meal
Sugar, being a carbohydrate, takes up some of your total carb allotment for the day. While your specific carbohydrate needs may vary, generally getting 45 to 60 grams at each meal is a starting point for managing diabetes, the American Diabetes Association suggests. This means that by the end of the day, you should consume roughly 135 to 180 grams of carbohydrates in all. This includes all sugars, both natural and added, as well as starch.
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What Are The Different Types Of Carbs
There are 3 types of carbs:
Sugars and starches raise your blood sugar, but fiber doesnt.
What Cereal Can A Diabetic Eat
According to the American Diabetes Association, rolled oatmeal, steel-cut oatmeal, and oat bran are all low GI foods, with a GI value of 55 or less. Quick oats have a medium GI, with a value of 56-69. Corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, and instant oatmeal are considered high GI foods, with a value of 70 or more.
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What Is The Number 1 Worst Carb
14 Foods to Avoid on a Low- Carb Diet Bread and grains. Bread is a staple food in many cultures. Some fruit. A high intake of fruits and vegetables has consistently been linked to a lower risk of cancer and heart disease . Starchy vegetables. Most diets allow an unlimited intake of low-starch vegetables. Pasta. Cereal. Beer. Sweetened yogurt. Juice.
Another Powerful Ally: Exercise
Dont let perfection be the enemy of better when it comes to taking steps to lower your type 2 diabetes risk. Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to lowering your risk.
Just ask Zaira Ortega, MD, a family medicine physician in East Los Angeles, a community where type 2 diabetes is a pressing health concern. When patients have a family history of diabetes or prediabetes, she says, we tell them that they have the power to change the course of their future health.
Among her simple tips: Switch from drinking juice to eating whole fruit. Instead of eating five tortillas for dinner, cut back to two. Swap white rice for fiber-rich quinoa. And while, Dr. Ortega says, 80 percent of weight loss takes place in the kitchen, exercise plays an important role, too. She tells her patients to aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, five days a week.
In fact, exercise is as powerful as some diabetes medications when it comes to lowering blood sugar. It boosts insulin sensitivity and encourages body cells to absorb blood glucose. While its not always easy to find the time or motivation to exercise, you might want to invite a friend to join you for a brisk walk to help maintain your blood sugar levels and body weight. Both the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association recommend going on a 30-minute walk at least five days per week.
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Calculating Your Daily Allowance
If you don’t have diabetes, the AHA recommends limiting calories from sugar to 10% of your total calories. One gram of sugar equals 4 calories.
For a 2,000-calorie diet, that means you can have up to 50 grams of sugar from all sources per day. It’s worth noting that the World Health Organization recommends an even lower percentage: no more than 5% of total calories from sugar.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to work with your healthcare provider to figure out what’s right for you. Ask what percentage of your total daily calories should come from sugar. This will help you to make adjustments if you are obese and need to cut calories or if you are underweight and need to increase calories.
What If You Want To Lose Weight
“The problem with sugar and weight loss isn’t candy, soda and cookies,” says Megan Kober, RD, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition Addiction. “The problem is juice bars, smoothies made with 2 cups of fruit, acai bowls-these foods that people are loading up on for weight loss and health that have 40, 50, even 60 grams of sugar a pop.”
“Honey, agave, coconut sugar-it’s all sugar,” she says. “It all causes a blood sugar spike. It all causes a rush of insulin to be released. It all puts your body into fat-storage mode.”
Kober’s thoughts on how much sugar to stay under to lose weight? “Are you really going to tally up how much sugar you’re eating all day long, added sugar versus natural sugar? No. I doubt it,” she says. Instead, “Eat one or two servings of fruit every day. Choose berries more often, because they’re high in fiber and lower in sugar than other fruit.” And, she says, “At any single meal, you really shouldn’t be consuming more than 10-15 grams of sugar at once if you want to keep your blood sugar steady and body in a fat-burning zone.”
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How Do You Know How Much Sugar Is Natural Vs Added In Foods
Right now it’s not easy to tell. But that’s changing in 2020 when the FDA will mandate that food companies add a line for added sugar on the Nutrition Facts panel. Some labels have already adopted this change, so you may see “Includes X grams of added sugar” under “Sugars” on the panel. Therefore, if a food has 10 grams of sugar and says, “includes 8 grams of added sugars” then you know that only 2 grams of sugar in the product are naturally occurring.
Check the ingredients list too. A dried fruit product, for example, may say “mangoes, sugar,” so you know some of the sugar is coming naturally from the mango but the rest is added. If the ingredients list only says, “mangoes,” you know that all the sugar in the dried mangoes is naturally occurring and none has been added.
A good rule of thumb is that fruits, vegetables and plain dairy products all contain natural sugar. Anything else is probably added.
How To Count Carbs For Better Blood Sugar Control
Counting carbs is one of the most important ways people with type 2 diabetes manage blood-sugar levels.
Your doctor may have told you to count carbs or use something called the glycemic index to plan your meals. A healthy diet consists of a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. However, people with type 2 diabetes need to watch carbohydrates carefully. Why? Because when any food that contains carbohydrates is digested, it turns into sugar, which increases your blood-glucose level. Its pretty basic: Eating too many carbs can raise the amount of sugar in your bloodstream and lead to complications. The key for people like you with type 2 diabetes is to eat carbs in limited amounts at each meal and when you snack. Total carbs should make up about 45 to 60 percent of your daily diet if you have type 2 diabetes.
Theres no one diet that works for everyone with type 2 diabetes there are just too many variables: Age, weight, level of physical activity, medications, as well as daily routine and personal preference need to be taken into account. So heres where your diabetes care team comes in: Talk to your dietitian or diabetes educator to determine the right carb-counting number for you so youll be able to provide your body with a steady flow of energy throughout the day, maintain a healthy weight, and manage your blood sugar.
The Basics of Counting Carbs
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Add Extra Activity To Your Daily Routine
If you have been inactive or you are trying a new activity, start slowly, with 5 to 10 minutes a day. Then add a little more time each week. Increase daily activity by spending less time in front of a TV or other screen. Try these simple ways to add physical activities in your life each day:
- Walk around while you talk on the phone or during TV commercials.
- Do chores, such as work in the garden, rake leaves, clean the house, or wash the car.
- Park at the far end of the shopping center parking lot and walk to the store.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Make your family outings active, such as a family bike ride or a walk in a park.
If you are sitting for a long time, such as working at a desk or watching TV, do some light activity for 3 minutes or more every half hour.5 Light activities include
- leg lifts or extensions
What Foods Can I Eat If I Have Diabetes
You may worry that having diabetes means going without foods you enjoy. The good news is that you can still eat your favorite foods, but you might need to eat smaller portions or enjoy them less often. Your health care team will help create a diabetes meal plan for you that meets your needs and likes.
The key to eating with diabetes is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, in the amounts your meal plan outlines.
The food groups are
- nonstarchy: includes broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, and tomatoes
- starchy: includes potatoes, corn, and green peas
Use oils when cooking food instead of butter, cream, shortening, lard, or stick margarine.
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The Best Fruits For Diabetics
In saying fruit can be healthy for diabetics, I am referring to fresh fruit, not canned or processed and not dried fruit, Besser says. Those have a higher sugar content, as the water has been removed, so you tend to eat more volume of dried fruit compared to fresh, and this will cause sugar spikes.
And even among fresh fruits, certain types are best, depending on their sugar and water content, as well as a measurement called the glycemic index .
This scale measures how quickly foods will cause blood sugar levels to rise, with a higher number indicating a more rapid spike in blood sugars, which can be dangerous for diabetics.
Foods with a GI of beneficial than high-GI foods for regulating blood sugar.
The following fruits have a low GI:
- Avocado: 15
These fruits have a higher GI and sugar content:
- Mango: 56
- Grapes: 59
- Watermelon: 76
But GI isnt everything water content also matters. For example, even though watermelon has a high GI, it can still be a relatively safe option because its made up of 92% water.
It is laden with sugar, but due to its high water content, the amount of sugar per serving ends up being reasonable, says Orville Kolterman, MD, chief medical officer at Pendulum, a company that makes products to help control glucose levels.