It is essential to watch daily carbohydrate intake along with the daily sugar intake for diabetics. Read on to know how to prevent worsening of diabetes symptoms by following a balanced diet…
If you do not have diabetes, intake of sugar is not the only factor responsible for developing diabetes. A family history, high calorie diet, excessive weight, stressful lifestyle, sedentary lifestyle, etc., are some of the main risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Those who have diabetes, need to watch their sugar intake. For diabetics, sugar and carbohydrates are the main elements in diet that are responsible for abnormal fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Let us first take a look at what is meant by ‘diabetes’.
Type 1 Diabetes: Pancreas releases the hormone insulin which when present in blood, stimulates the blood cells to absorb glucose from blood. Cells convert blood glucose (blood sugar) into energy. If pancreas fail to produce sufficient insulin, the condition is known as type 1 diabetes. The patients are required to take insulin shots regularly.
Type 2 Diabetes: Despite sufficient insulin in blood, when cells do not respond to insulin, the condition is referred to as type 2 diabetes. When cells become immune to insulin, pancreas produces more insulin to remove blood sugar from blood. But the capacity of pancreas to produce insulin is limited. So gradually, a stage is attained when pancreas cannot produce sufficient insulin.
Gestational Diabetes: Women who do not have diabetes can develop diabetes during pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes. Hormonal imbalance and increasing demands placed upon the body lead to gestational diabetes.
These days, more and more small children and young adults are being diagnosed with diabetes. Excessive hunger and thirst, excessive urination, blurred vision, dry skin and mouth, numbness and tingling sensation in extremities, undesired weight loss, excessive tiredness and fatigue, slow healing of wounds, etc. are some of the main symptoms of diabetes. Higher than normal blood sugar level in two consecutive blood tests confirms the diagnosis of diabetes. Abnormal fluctuations (sudden rise and fall in blood sugar levels) can lead to dizziness, low blood pressure and fainting.
Diabetes, if left untreated can lead to damaged blood vessels resulting in glaucoma, heart diseases, kidney diseases, diabetic neuropathy (main cause of lower extremity amputation), gum disease, depression, low immune system and frequent infections.
Sugar Intake for Diabetics
Those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes need to follow a balanced low calorie diet (about 35 calories per kg of one’s own weight) every day. Type 2 diabetes is more common in overweight people. They also need to follow a well-balanced low calorie diet (about 1500-1800 calories daily). If they are leading a sedentary lifestyle, they need to start an exercise program.
I hope it is clear from the above information that food that leads to sudden rise in blood sugar levels should be avoided by diabetics. Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose and energy. Glycemic index of the food helps us know whether the food is digested quickly or slowly; and whether it can raise blood sugar levels suddenly. Higher the glycemic index of the food, quicker will be the rise in blood sugar levels.
As diabetes is a problem related to blood sugar levels, consumption of sugar, a type of carbohydrate, should be restricted to avoid abnormal rise in blood sugar levels. Sugar, consumed in any form, can lead to rise in blood sugar levels. Diabetics are advised to eat fiber rich foods like vegetables and fruits. But while consuming these foods, they need to watch the glycemic index of the food. Refined sugars in candies can lead to sudden rise in blood sugar levels. So diabetics should avoid refined sugar as far as possible.
Simple carbohydrates are quickly digested and hence lead to sudden and serious fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Body takes time to digest complex carbohydrates and they help maintain stable blood glucose levels. Carbs are obtained from vegetables, fruits and starches such as potatoes and rice. Instead of watching sugar in diet, diabetics need to watch carb content and type of carbs in diet.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the recommended daily sugar intake for a healthy man is 36g, for a healthy woman it is 20g and for children it is 12g. Obviously, diabetics need to consume much lesser sugar than the above measurements. One leveled teaspoon of sugar contains 4g carbohydrates. Limiting the intake of sugar is not sufficient to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Diabetics are supposed to lower carbohydrate intake as well. Carbohydrate choices may vary according to one’s own calorie and weight goals. Three to four carbohydrate choices (combination of different carbohydrates) can be consumed by diabetics per meal.
Diabetics can also have one carbohydrate choice (1 carbohydrate choice has 15 grams carbohydrate) as a snack between meals. Thus, diabetics need to spread out their carbohydrate intake over a day. This helps avoid abnormal highs and lows of blood glucose levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics can begin with 45 to 60 g of carbohydrates per meal. Carbohydrates should make up about 50% of the daily calorie intake.
Severity of symptoms of diabetes may vary from person to person. So there doesn’t exist any fixed or recommended sugar intake for diabetics as such. Some may enjoy a treat occasionally but some may not. Those who want to enjoy sweets, should plan in advance. They should calculate the calories and see to it that the daily calorie intake fits into the diet plan. Increase in the intensity of exercise can create a demand for carbs. Then, the person can enjoy a special treat. Diabetics can perform simple exercises like walking, swimming, cycling, etc., every day.
Those who are diagnosed with diabetes at an early stage (slightly higher than normal blood glucose levels) can reverse prediabetes with diet and exercise. They can have normal blood glucose levels again and can lead a healthy life. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you should consult a registered dietitian who can help plan meals and can give an exact idea about the number of carbohydrates in daily diet, according to your weight and blood glucose goals.