Diabetics know to avoid sugar; but are also told to “watch their carbs.”
What is the difference between carbs and sugars? Are there certain carbs and sugars that are better for you than others?
Let’s investigate the difference between the two, as well as, the effects they have on the body and blood sugar.
Whether you consume a food that contains refined sugar, or a food that is a simple carbohydrate, the body receives both in the same way. The pancreas releases insulin in order to move the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells where it can be used for energy.
If there is not a sufficient amount of insulin available, or if the body’s cells are resistant to insulin, the excess sugar remains in the bloodstream. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) occurs when the level of glucose in the blood rises above the normal range.
Eating foods that are high in sugar or simple carbohydrates will raise blood sugar. Also, eating a larger portion, or eating higher calorie foods can negatively affect blood sugar.
High blood sugar can cause you to feel tired, thirsty, and make frequent trips to the restroom. These symptoms can develop within hours or days. If blood sugar remains high for an extended period of time it can damage the heart, the brain, blood vessels and nerves. It could even lead to coma or death.
We all know to be on the lookout for the word “sugar” on nutrition labels and ingredient lists. However, sugar hides inside all sorts of products, sometimes under the guise of a different name. Some other names for sugar are: corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and maltodextrin.
All of these are immediately absorbed into the bloodstream, causing blood sugar to spike.
When the body consumes a simple carbohydrate, it responds the same way as if it had consumed sugar. There is no additional nutrition available to slow the absorption of the resulting sugars into the bloodstream and therefore, blood sugar rises.
The following simple carbohydrates should be avoided:
Baked goods made with white flour (breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, etc.)
Prepared fruit juices/concentrates
These foods have little to no nutritional value and will only cause blood sugar to spike. It is true however, that everyone gets a sweet tooth now and then. Check out these tips for overcoming your next sugar craving!
There are other carbohydrates (known as complex carbs) that have less of an impact on blood sugar.
Complex carbohydrates are converted into sugar more slowly, giving the body a better chance to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.
Complex carbohydrates to enjoy are:
Whole grain breads
Legumes (beans, lentils, peas)
The best way to enjoy carbs is in combination with foods that will help to slow their absorption even more. If the complex carbohydrate is paired with fiber, protein, or fat, it is absorbed even more slowly and blood sugar will remain more stable.
For example, instead of a plain piece of toast for breakfast, try a slice of toasted whole wheat bread topped with a slice of gruyere cheese, an egg and a few slices of avocado. (If you’re feeling spicy, add some Sriracha!) Instead of a bowl of cereal, enjoy a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries or sliced apple and sprinkled with cinnamon. (Yes, *cinnamon is great for diabetics!)
Being diagnosed with high blood sugar does not mean that you can never again enjoy the foods you love. You can enjoy them in different ways, with even the slightest changes making a positive impact on your blood sugar and overall health!