Feature Articles: Food Fitness and Health
The Scoop on Sugar and Carbohydrates
Karma Metzgar, C.F.C.S.
Northwest Regional Director
Diabetics often have frequent questions about how to adapt a recipe so it’s “sugar-free” or a host inquires about diabetic-friendly foods. While at one time sugar and sweets were discouraged, those foods in moderation, are now acceptable.
The “in” word is carbohydrates or carbs for short. Each
diabetic has their specific menu plan to follow and their
balance of carbs, fats and proteins to eat-regularly. So, instead of counting teaspoons of sugar (pre 1994 era) for
a diabetic menu plan, now we count carbohydrates and every
person’s amount is different depending on their lifestyle,
health style, and medication. It is extremely important to
follow your doctor and dietitian’s prescription for your diet. To a diabetic, is doesn’t make any
difference if the carbs are from sugar or found in food, carbs are carbs.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source, powering
everything from jogging, to breathing, and digesting
food. Glucose is the main form of carbohydrate used
for energy. Because it circulates in the blood stream, it’s
often called blood sugar.
Your body doesn’t turn all of its blood sugar into energy at
the same time. As blood sugar levels rise above normal, insulin
(a hormone from your pancreas) signals your liver, muscles, and
other cells to store the extra enery. Some gets stored in the muscles
and liver. Some
glucose may also be converted to body fat if you consume more
calories than your body needs.
When blood sugar levels drop below normal, another hormone
works to keep blood sugar levels within a normal range between
meals. Once glucose is back in your bloodstream, it’s again
ready to fuel your body cells.
Whether from sugar or complex carbohydrates, like starchy
foods, one gram of carbohydrate fuels your body with the same
amount of energy: four calories per gram. Other energy sources
are protein with four calories per gram and fat with nine
calories per gram.
In addition to counting carbs, include these tips into your
eating and lifestyle habits. These habits are for everybody!
- Eat three meals a day
- Fill up on “free foods” such as lettuce, celery, broth,
- Avoid high consumption of fruit juices because they are mostly carbs.
- Include beans in your meals at least
twice a week.
- Eat a high fiber cereal that contains 6 grams of fiber per
serving for breakfast; avoid those cereals that are high in
- Avoid adding sugar to beverages or cereal.
- Try a vegetarian entrée for supper.
- Be physically active on most days of the week.
These few tips are a part of a fact sheet on Help for Type II
Diabetes: A Dietary Guide by Candance Gabel, MS, RD, LD,
Associate State Nutrition Specialist with the University of
Missouri Extension Family Nutrition Education Program.
Information was adapted from the Prevention and Therapeutic Nutrition Handbook.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009