Eat More Unrefined Foods
The diabetic—as well as most of the rest of us—should eat more natural fiber. Fiber reduces the amount of fat and sugar traveling in the bloodstream. It also helps to prevent constipation.
In some parts of the world, however, eating a high-fiber diet has become somewhat of a fad. Breakfast cereal companies produce corn bran, oat bran, and other bran cereals. Advertising proclaims the great benefits of bran. Did you know that some foods even contain sawdust—wood fiber—to give a higher fiber content!
That is not what is meant by a good high-fiber diet! Natural foods, just as they were created, contain the proper kinds and amounts of fiber for good health. Therefore, the more natural our diet, the better it is for us.
Vegetables and fruits all have a good supply of fiber. Don’t peel apples and other fruit with edible skins—you will lose the valuable fiber and other vitamins or minerals which are in or just under the peels. Neither should you strain or sieve cooked fruits or vegetables—first of all, you will lose the fiber; secondly your foods will be overcooked before they are soft enough to put through the sieve.
Whole, unrefined grains such as wheat, corn, and oats also have a good amount of fiber. In many countries, white bread has become a sign of prosperity. Unfortunately, however, the refining process removes not only fiber but also valuable vitamins and minerals. Whole wheat flour or whole grain bread is much more healthful and nutritious than white flour or white bread.
Beans, lentils, split peas, and the other legumes are excellent sources of fiber, while they are low in fat. On the other hand, meats and other animal proteins are very high-fat foods with very little fiber.
There is one more benefit to eating foods which have a large amount of fiber—they make you feel full more quickly with fewer calories. For this reason, they are useful both to the diabetic who needs to lose weight and to the insulin-dependent diabetic who must restrict his calories.
Many of the vegetables are even considered “free foods”, meaning that the diabetic may eat all he wants of them either raw or steamed. (Frying or using fats such as salad dressing naturally adds calories which will have to be counted.) Some of the free foods include lettuce, green leafy vegetables, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, pepper, spring onions, white radish, cucumbers and tomatoes. Herbs and spices may also be used freely to add flavor.
One word of caution regarding the seasoning of foods. Salt, monosodium glutamate, soy sauce, and other salty flavorings do add to the taste of foods, but they also contribute to high blood pressure. The diabetic, especially with his higher risk of heart and kidney disease, should use salt and these other seasonings cautiously.
Avoid Alcoholic Drinks
Alcohol is very high in calories—seven calories per gram of alcohol—so it is fattening by itself. What’s worse, it appears that alcohol also encourages the body to store more fat. There is also the danger of a delayed hypoglycemic reaction several hours after drinking alcohol. The best plan is to avoid alcoholic drinks.
There are many alternatives for us to drink. Water is free, healthful, and freely allowed for the diabetic. If you want more flavor, some of the drinks which may be considered “free foods” for the diabetic include unsweetened Chinese tea, unsweetened lime or lemon juice, mineral water, unsweetened barley water, or clear soups.
Fruit and vegetable juices are also good drinks, but because of the calories they contain, they will have to be considered as part of the day’s calorie and carbohydrate allowance.
Cigarettes aren’t food, so what does smoking have to do with meal planning? More than you may think. Smoking, in addition to narrowing the blood vessels, also increases the amount of fats traveling in the bloodstream. And those fats can be more than just troublesome—they can be deadly!
Sugar and You
When my firstborn child—a son—was born in southern Asia, it was cause for great celebration. And the accepted way to show our happiness was to distribute many, many kilograms of a very sugary sweet called luddoo to all our friends, colleagues, and even the students in the school where my husband and I both taught.
By the time our youngest child was born, several of our former students had become our colleagues. Recalling the earlier celebration, they jokingly pressured my husband to show his joy in a tangible way—with more sweets! So, while the school cafeteria put on a special meal for staff and students, my husband hired the town’s best candymaker to set up production right on campus. By the end of the day, my husband had distributed 80 kgs. of sweet-sweet jellabie candies. Today, the mere thought of it pricks my conscience!
Why is it that sweets and candies are a symbol of love, affection, appreciation, and all those nice feelings? Yet those same sweet goodies have such un-sweet results.
Did you know that sugar can lower your resistance to infection and disease? Even for the nondiabetic, sugar can spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E. But for the diabetic, sugar can spell disaster!
Normally, the germ-killing white blood cells, called phagocytes, are like an efficient army of soldiers ready to attack any invading germs. When we eat sugar—or when the diabetic has a poorly-controlled blood sugar level—the white blood cells become inefficient and can no longer destroy as many germs as they should. Look at this:
Teaspoons of sugar Number of germs
eaten at one time destroyed by each
white blood cell
But who ever eats 24 teaspoons of sugar at one time! Or even 12, you wonder? Well, many of us claim not to like desserts which are too sweet. Yet we eat an inordinate amount of sugar per day. And you might just be surprised at how much hidden sugar there is in many of the common foods. Here are a few examples:
Ice cream, 1 scoop 4
Donut or chocolate éclair, 1 piece 6-8
Chocolate milk, 250 ml. 8
Average tin of soft drink 8-10
Jelly, jam or marmalade, 2 tbsp 10
Fruit pie, 1 piece 10
Apple pie, 1 piece, with ice cream 14
Chocolate cake with icing 10-15
Chocolate candy bar, 100 g. (6 oz.) 10
Banana split 20-24
In addition to decreasing resistance to disease and infection, sugar also contributes to overweight and obesity. Many of the foods which have a lot of sugar also have a large amount of fat. And sugar plus fat equals a higher blood cholesterol level, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
We all know that sugar causes tooth decay. Our dentists have tried to tell us that for many years already.
Besides all that, sugar calories are what we call “empty calories”. They provide no vitamins, no minerals, nothing more than just plain useless calories.
Misunderstanding About Sugar
There are various misunderstandings about sugar.
*For example, we asked the question earlier, “Does sugar cause diabetes?” Many newspaper or magazine articles you read will tell you that sugar does not cause diabetes. But that is only partially correct because indirectly sugar does contribute to diabetes. The extra calories—18 or 20 calories per teaspoon of sugar—can cause you to become overweight. And overweight often does lead to diabetes. Or if a person has a hereditary tendency toward diabetes, eating too much sugar can bring on diabetes.
Sugar does not mean only the white sugar crystals, or icing sugar for cakes. One diabetes health educator tells her patients that sugar “is anything—except fruit—that tastes sweet in your mouth.”
When you are shopping, check the list of ingredients on food labels. Sugar comes in many forms and with many names, but all are high in calories. Almost all of them should be no-no’s for the diabetic. Sugar by any name is still sugar. Here are just a few of its names:
brown sugar honey fructose
gula Melaka molasses sucrose
rock sugar treacle dextrose
cane sugar sorghum glucose
corn syrup golden syrup lactose
*Did you notice honey on that list? Many people believe that honey is much better for their health than sugar. Honey does have small amounts of vitamins and minerals that sugar lacks, but they are in such small quantities that they are of little value. Honey is still a concentrated form of energy and calories, just like sugar. And it contains a lot of glucose which will make your blood sugar level rise quickly.
Our Creator has actually packaged the sugars perfectly in the fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. They have just the right combination of complex carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. The more that we use foods in as close to their natural state as possible, the healthier we will be.
*Many people apparently think that they can eat sweets then drink a lot of water to wash away the sugar. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.
*There are many diet foods or drinks on the market. These are not the same as the much-less-common diabetic drinks or foods. Many of the diet drinks or other diet foods do have sugar—just a smaller amount—and so a diabetic would have to take these calories into account.
Foods and drinks which use sugar substitutes are also available. We will look at those just now.
Steven Lee enjoys having other diabetics in his family. “You’ve definitely got a lot to talk about,” he says. And when his family gets together for a meal, “Everyone brings over diabetic food. It’s really wonderful! Everything’s cooked in NutraSweet instead of Sugar.”
Steven and many other diabetics find life more enjoyable because they can still enjoy sweet-tasting desserts which have been sweetened with artificial sweeteners. However, these sugar substitutes do not necessarily make it any easier to lose weight or follow a diabetic diet.
In fact, many doctors and dietitians are not at all in favor of the sugar substitutes. These artificial sweets actually encourage a person to keep his sweet tooth, when it is probably better for the diabetic to retrain his taste buds to appreciate the natural flavors of fresh fruit and other good, nutritious foods.
Diabetic foods are generally rather expensive.
Furthermore, the diabetic foods and some of the sugar substitutes may, in reality, have a large number of calories, so they are not “free” foods. For example, diabetic chocolate may not have ordinary sugar, but ti does still have many calories from fat. And if any of the “_ose” sweeteners are used—glucose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, or lactose—these are still forms of sugar with the same number of calories as ordinary white sugar.
“Sugarless”, as you may see on many food or throat lozenge labels, is actually rather misleading. Although they contain no sugar or sucrose, these products may have other sugars such as fructose or sorbitol, which contain just as many calories as sugar. In addition, sorbitol is often dissolved in fat, so foods sweetened with sorbitol may contain more calories than similar foods which have regular sugar as sweetening.
There are several sugar substitutes on the market. Some of the common ones, along with their good and bad points are shown in the tables of pages 200-201.
Happy, Healthy Eating!
Sometimes a diabetic will find that the diet and insulin schedule that the doctor has advised just does not work out well. If the diet doesn’t work, then it’s time to see the doctor again and have some changes made. It may take some time to find just the right diet, exercise program and insulin schedule, but in most cases a good routine can be found.
In all cases, a healthful, nutritious diet is best—and it can be delicious!
Name Calories Advantages Disadvantages
Aspartame No Doesn’t cause Safety has been
(NutraSweet) tooth decay. questioned.
No aftertaste. Loses sweetness
Saccharin No Doesn’t cause Safety has been
tooth decay. Questioned—may
Sweetens food increase risk of
fairly well. cancer. In pregnancy,
it may cross the
placenta from mother
Fructose Yes Doesn’t need May cause tooth
insulin to enter decay. May cause high
the cells. May be triglyceride level in
used in well- blood. Does not
controlled help in weight control
diabetics. because it does
Causes a rapid rise
In blood sugar level.
Acesulfame K No No bitter aftertaste. Gives a different
Doesn’t cause texture to baked
tooth decay. foods.
Can be used in
cooking and baking.
Sorbitol Yes Doesn’t cause May cause
Mannitol, tooth decay. diarrhea.
Xylitol Absorbed into Does not help in
blood stream weight control
more slowly than because it does
glucose. May be contain calories.
used in well-controlled
*Of the various artificial sweeteners available, the American Diabetes Association feels that saccharin and aspartame are the most acceptable, but you should actually consult with your doctor or dietitian before using any of the sugar substitutes.