One goal of a diabetic diet is to keep blood sugars within a normal range to prevent diabetic complications. Starch, sugar and fiber are the three types of carbohydrates (carbs) that the body uses for energy and breaks down into glucose, effectively raising blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) does not advocate a low-carb diet, but does recommend monitoring carbohydrate consumption by paying attention to portion sizes, reading food labels and limiting certain carbs more than others.
Grains like wheat, rice and corn are all starchy carbohydrates. The ADA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend choosing whole grains whenever possible. Whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain pasta and bread, popcorn, wild rice and buckwheat are good sources of fiber, which help to regulate blood sugar and manage diabetes in addition to benefiting the heart.
Fruit contains carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. A serving of fruit is one small piece of fruit, half a cup of fresh or frozen fruit or half a cup of 100 percent fruit juice. Canned fruit should be packed in water to eliminate excess sugar and dried or frozen fruit should not contain added sugar. Eating whole fruit is more beneficial than drinking fruit juice because whole fruit contains fiber, according to the NIH.
Vegetables like peas, potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes and pumpkin are high in starch and elevate blood sugar more like a carbohydrate than a vegetable. You can consume starchy vegetables, but pay careful attention to portion sizes.
The ADA recommends consuming dairy products that are low or non-fat and have no added sugar, like plain yogurt and regular milk. Flavored milks and fruit yogurts should be limited; they are high in sugar and carbs which can elevate blood sugar and provide unnecessary calories.
Limit processed foods like candy, snacks, desserts and beverages. They contain a lot of added sugar and carbs that can raise blood sugar. They also tend to be high in calories but low in essential nutrients and when consumed in excess can contribute to obesity and other chronic diseases. The ADA suggests reading food labels and ingredient lists to determine the type and amount of added sugar. Common sugars in processed foods are listed as brown sugar, sugar, molasses, honey, beet sugar, cane sugar, turbinado, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar cane, confectioner’s sugar, powdered sugar, glucose, sucrose and fructose. Sugar-free and artificially-sweetened foods are okay to eat if they are low in carbohydrates; pay attention to labels.
About this Author
Bethany Fong is a registered dietitian and chef from Honolulu, Hawaii. She has produced a variety of health education materials on multiple topics relating to wellness, and worked in many industries, including clinical dietetics, food service management and public health.