Q. I have diabetes - why is it OK for me now to have sugar?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 07 June 2013.
Tagged: carbohydrates, diabetes, diabetes type 2, diets, glycemic index, health, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, low GI, sugar, sweetener

Q. I have diabetes - why is it OK for me now to have sugar?
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The question in full

Q. I've had type 2 diabetes for 15 years. When I was first diagnosed I was told no sugar was permitted and I had to use sweetener. Now why is it now OK for me to have sugar?

A. In recent years, there has been a relaxation of the restriction of sugar for people with diabetes for three main reasons:

  1. Nutritionists are less concerned with sugar and more worried about saturated fat intake and heart problems (understandable given the fact that diabetes increases the likelihood of heart disease by 5 to 6 times more than that of the general population).
  2. Recent research into the Glycaemic Index (GI) has shown that sugar has only a moderate effect on blood sugar levels compared to starchy foods like rice or potatoes, which raise it dramatically. Read up on the Glycaemic Index at their website here.
  3. Something sweet helps people stay on their low-fat food plan eg. a sprinkle of brown sugar makes your breakfast oats taste better as does a little jam on grain toast.

The bottom line is sugar does not have to be avoided completely if you have diabetes, although you don't want to have huge amounts. Sugar still contributes extra kilojoules which make losing excess weight more difficult, but you don't have to use sugar substitutes (sweeteners like aspartame or stevia).

If consumed as part of a meal (like a dessert or jam on toast), sugar is unlikely to push up blood sugars, although sugar on an empty stomach (say a soft drink between meals) will have an effect.

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