Food for Thought

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Should you be eating that, it’s full of sugar?
Feel guilty every time you enjoy something sweet? Do you think having diabetes equals no sugar? Join the club. Not only that, if you have diabetes, you have probably been on the receiving end of an accusing: ‘Should you be eating that, it’s full of sugar?’ Or ‘I thought sugar was to be avoided like the plague.’ It’s not only irritating, it’s outdated (the sugar taboo was based on experiments on dogs in the 1920s). But old habits die hard. And be grateful the Diet Police didn’t grab that lifesaving lolly or sweet drink out of your hands while you were having a hypo.

Photo: Ian Hofstetter

One of the happy spin-offs of glycemic index research has shown that most sugars in foods produce quite moderate blood glucose responses, lower than most starches. Why? Well sugars (including sucrose/table sugar GI 60) are a mixture of molecules, some of which have only a negligible effect on blood glucose levels. Many scientific studies clearly show that a moderate amount of sugar in diabetic diets (for example 30–50 grams or 6–10 teaspoons) does not lead to poor blood glucose control nor weight gain. Keep in mind, however, that this moderate amount includes all sources of refined sugar you consume – white, brown, raw, treacle, golden syrup, soft drinks, desserts, cookies breakfast cereals or a teaspoon of sugar added to a cup of tea or coffee.

When you want a little sweetness in your life, opt for nutritious foods that will provide more than calories – porridge with brown sugar, a dollop of jam on grainy toast, muesli with fruit yoghurt, a scoop of low fat ice-cream with a baked apple. And it’s OK to enjoy a treat occasionally too, such as two or three squares of good quality chocolate.

What does 40 grams of added sugar look like in a healthy diet?
Diabetes dietitian Kaye Foster-Powell shows us what 40 grams of added sugar looks like in a healthy diet for someone with diabetes.





Photos: Scott Dickinson

Nutritional analysis
The total energy content is 1520 calories (6400 kJ) with 22% energy from fat and 55% from carbohydrate. The fat content is 38 grams. The total carbohydrate content is 220 grams with 112 grams from starch and 108 grams from sugars (added plus naturally occurring).