If a food says it’s “diabetic”, does that mean it’s safe for diabetics to consume indiscriminately? Labels can be misleading, and just because a food is low in sugar or simple carbohydrates, doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Here are 5 diabetic foods to avoid – and why.
1. No sugar added ice cream. Ice cream treats that feature the label “no sugar added” are sweetened with what are called alcohol sugars. Whereas it is true that alcohol sugars do not raise the blood sugar as quickly as natural sugars, the number of calories is the same. A small serving of no sugar added ice cream (1/2 cup) is about 100 calories, 50% more than a piece of bread. But a large bowl, say 2 large scoops, could equal 400 calories, or 20-25% of an entire day’s caloric needs. Another drawback is that alcohol sugars sometimes cause diarrhea or loose bowels. For the same reason, no sugar added candies should be avoided except for an occasional treat.
2. Sugar-free soda. While it’s true sugar-free soda will not raise your blood sugar, other ingredients have potentially harmful health effects. Some are high in sodium, and therefore can raise blood pressure, which diabetics certainly don’t need. Many cola drinks are high in caffeine, which contribute to insomnia, anxiety, and sometimes palpitations. The acid level can effect the enamel of your teeth and the caramel coloring has the potential to stain the teeth much like coffee. Whereas an occasional sugar-free soda causes little harm, especially the non-caffeine, low-sodium varieties, many diabetics consume soda as their primary source of liquids. Water is a better choice, or even skim milk.
3. Certain lunch-meats. In order to make lean meats more appealing, manufacturers often add large amounts of salt, especially to ham. The sodium has the potential to raise blood pressure, which is counterproductive in diabetics. The blood pressure goal for diabetics is 5-10 points lower than for non-diabetics. For the same reason, diabetics should avoid other high sodium foods, even if they are low in calories, such as canned chicken soup. Frozen prepared foods are usually high in sodium as well, unless they carry the label “low sodium.”
4. Fat-free pastries. While it’s true some fat-free pastries are a little lower in calories than regular pastries, they are often higher in sugar. Read the label and check the calorie count before purchasing.
5. Sweet fruits. Certain fruits are as high in calories as soda or Kool-Aid. It isn’t that you should avoid them altogether, but portion size is critical. Whereas a cup of watermelon has about the same calories as a cup of orange juice, a large slice of watermelon may have as many calories as a hot fudge sundae. A slice of pineapple won’t hurt you, but eating the whole thing will raise your blood sugar as much as a Big Mac and fries.
Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, M.D.