Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Tranquil Way | Should diabetics avoid sweet food?

Published:Tuesday | June 14, 2016 | 6:00 AM

Foods that are sweet normally have significant amounts of sugar in them. Logics indicate that since diabetics have a problem with the control of their blood sugar, they should avoid these foods, right? Not always.

A distinction should be made between sweet and sweetened foods. Foods that are naturally sweet - sweet potato and beet, are high in fibre, which slows down the absorption of sugar.

Also, sugar present in these food need to be broken down before they are absorbed, which further slows down the rate of absorption.

On the other hand, foods that are sweetened do not usually have these features and can send the blood sugar quite quickly.

The appropriate way to assess if a particular food is healthy for a diabetic is by knowing its glycaemic index. The glycaemic index, in a nutshell, is the how high a particular food will send up the blood sugar. The higher the glycaemic index is the more it will send up the blood sugar.

Glucose is given a score of 100. This is quite an interesting assessment because the glycaemic index of some sweet foods is much lower than some foods that are not sweet.

The glycaemic index of most foods can be found online. Diabetics should get into the habit of checking for the foods they eat.

To show how important it is to know the glycaemic index of your foods, here are a few examples.

Yam - 54, Oats - 55, Honey - 55, Green bananas - 38, Ripe banana - 51, Sweet potato (boiled) - 46, Whole-wheat flour - 71, White flour - 73, Cane sugar - 65, Pumpkin - 75, Dasheen - 75, Cassava - 94, Irish potato - 71, Mango - 56.

I suspect some of us may be surprised by some of those numbers. Just because a food is sweet doesn't mean it will send up your blood sugar. On the other hand, foods that are sweetened are usually flour-based so this may be double trouble.

One may ask about artificial sweeteners. They will not send your blood sugar but they can cause a shift in the intestinal bacteria that will make one more likely to become diabetic! Keep in mind they are recommended for diabetics.

What this information is telling us that we need to take a fresh look at how we recommend foods for diabetics.