There are many factors that help to control diabetes or to self-manage. Food is only one of them, however, it seems to be the first questions people ask about. Here are the 10 most frequently asked questions about nutrition and diabetes.

  1. Can I eat as many sugar-free cookies as I want without affecting my glucose levels?

    Sugar-free cookies replace sucrose (white table sugar) with sugar alcohol (a carbohydrate). Sugar alcohol will breakdown into sugar a bit more slowly than sucrose – but it still DOES raise glucose levels. Also, the flour in the cookie is a carbohydrate and will breakdown completely into glucose. Therefore, sugar-free cookies may not raise blood glucose levels as high as regular sugar will but they will still affect blood glucose levels so don’t eat the whole box!

  2. How much sodium can I have for the day?

    The recommended amount of sodium per day is 1500 – 2000 mg. A low sodium food has 140 mg per serving. High sodium levels are contained in any foods that are processed or prepared. Look at your carton of cereal or milk and you may be surprised. The highest sodium foods are in cold cuts, cheese, canned items like soup and olives and pickles.

  3. When I look at a food label I see that protein is listed in grams yet I think of protein in terms of ounces – ex: a 6 ounce steak.

    When reading a food label, 7 grams of protein is 1 ounce of protein. In a 6-ounce steak there would be 42 grams (6 x 7). In a can of tuna there are 42 grams of protein or 6 ounces (42 divided by 7).

  4. Why is saturated fat and trans fat so bad for me?

    Saturated fat is found in full-fat dairy products like cheese, whole-milk, ice cream, skin on poultry, fat on meat or high-fat meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, butter, cream sauces, etc. Trans fat is found is some processed foods. These fats clog our arteries and raise our cholesterol levels. Try to eat no more than 15-20 grams per day (if you have any at all!).

  5. Why are whole grains better for me? For example: why should I eat whole grain bread instead of white bread?

    Whole grains have more nutritional value. They contain vitamins and fiber. Fiber slows digestion so your appetite may diminish, it helps cleanse your digestive tract and your blood glucose levels won’t rise as quickly due to this slower digestion.

  6. What’s a carbohydrate serving and how many should I have for the day?

    A carbohydrate serving has 15 grams of carbohydrates. 1 slice of bread, 17 small grapes, 1/3 cup cooked rice or pasta and 1 1/2 cups of cooked broccoli are all examples. Every 15 grams of carbohydrates will breakdown into 4 teaspoons (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) of sugar. Depending on your height and weight and how many carbohydrates your body can process at one time will give you the answer to how many carbohydrates you should have for the day. Start with approximately 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per meal and test before and 2 hours after that meal. Glucose should not raise more than about 50 points.

  7. Is there a lot of sugar in alcohol, wine, beer?

    Contrary to popular belief, there are ZERO carbohydrates in alcohol such as Gin, Rum, Vodka, Tequila, etc. Be careful of what you mix it with: fruit juice, etc.

    Wine, although made from grapes, has only 1-2 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Stay away from sweet wines, however. Champagne has about 3-4 grams of carbohydrates per serving.

    For many people with diabetes, blood glucose levels will drop from drinking alcohol. For others it will rise and then drop. Be careful and eat a snack with your alcoholic beverage or have a glass of wine with dinner. Be especially careful if you are more prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) episodes. If so, be sure to eat some source of carbohydrate mixed with fat and/or protein while having a drink. Ex: crackers and cheese or fruit and nuts.

  8. What does glycemic index mean?

    The glycemic index provides a value to a carbohydrate. The higher the number the more quickly the food will breakdown into sugar. This makes your glucose levels raise fastest. Ex: fruit juice. The lower number will not impact your glucose levels as much since they will more slowly digest, giving your body a chance to process the carbohydrate before it makes the levels rise in your bloodstream. Ex: any high fiber or dense carbohydrate will take longer to breakdown into sugar. Imagine a rope that is frayed; it will break apart more quickly than a rope that is tightly woven. The frayed rope has a high glycemic index and can be white bread. The tightly woven rope has a low glycemic index and can be rye or whole grain bread.

  9. My friend and I have diabetes for about 2 years. She can eat more carbohydrates than me and her glucose levels don’t rise as high. Why?

    There are different severities of diabetes – different levels of it. Some people are very insulin resistant (their insulin is working only 50% efficiently) while others are only a bit insulin resistant (their insulin is working 85% efficiently). Other people are insulin resistant in addition to making too little insulin and even others don’t make any insulin at all. Some people with diabetes are more active than others, manage their stress differently, have different sleep patterns and are taking different medications, none at all or different amounts of medications. These are all factors in diabetes management in different people.

  10. Since olive oil and avocado and nuts are so good for me – being that they are monounsaturated fats and have an insignificant affect on glucose levels – can I eat as much as I want?

    Olive oil may be highest in the healthiest, monounsaturated fat, however like all fat; it still contains lower amounts of polyunsaturated and saturated fat. Also, unlike protein and carbohydrates that contain 4 calories for each gram, fat contains 9 calories for each gram. 1 tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories!