Diabetes & sugar

(by Sandi Williams, RD)

Sandra Williams is a certified diabetes educator and registered dietician and holds a Masters of Education Degree in Counselling Psychology.

Is sugar bad for me?
So you have been diagnosed with diabetes. It's a bit of a shock. All of a sudden everyone has advice to give you regarding what you are allowed to eat and what you must avoid. The common answer is avoiding sugar. But is sugar really the culprit in making your blood sugars so high?

The answer is yes and no.

Your body uses sugar (also known as "carbohydrate") for energy. Carbohydrate is the fuel for your muscles and other body functions. So sugar, or carbohydrate, is necessary for life. In fact, your brain only uses sugar for fuel.

Starchy foods, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, bread and corn all convert into sugar. Similarly, fruits and some sweet vegetables and milk also contribute sugar to the diet.

In managing diabetes, the important thing to limit is carbohydrate consumed at one sitting, and to spread it out over the day.

This means that when you have pasta, you don't need bread at the same meal. The combination of the two foods would provide too much sugar and cause high blood sugar.

In fact, you can have sugar, but you need to watch how much you are having at any one time. For example, 1 glass of unsweetened fruit juice is like drinking 6 teaspoons of sugar.

Compare that to 1 teaspoon of sugar in a cup of coffee. You are better off to avoid the fruit juice. You could however, have the 1 teaspoon of sugar in your coffee, providing you only have one cup.

It all comes down to a matter of balance.

For more information on including sugar and carbohydrates in your diet, talk to your dietician.