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Welcome, sweet carbohydrates!


A few years ago, the Atkins diet took the world by storm-“no carbohydrates for me!” everyone said, and bread went out the window. The tide has changed since then and the diet is not as popular as it once was, although “low carb” diets continue one of the most widely tried diets. In regard to diabetes and pre-diabetes, these diets were especially interesting because on the one hand low carbohydrates helped control sugars somewhat better, but on the other hand there was more cholesterol ingested and that did not help people who already had high cholesterol.{{more}} Many folks are now confused about carbohydrates and diabetes-are they good, bad or neither?

First let me say that carbohydrates are necessary parts of your diet. They are the main source of energy for you and without them your body turns to other sources like protein for energy. All carbohydrates are made up of sugars, some with more interlocking sugar molecules than others. Hence the prior designation of “simple sugars” and “complex.” These days the story is becoming more complicated because some of the complex carbohydrates do raise your blood sugars, while some simple sugars (like fruits) do not necessarily do the same.

Many of you have heard of the glycemic index, which is a new way of thinking about carbohydrates. In general, the glycemic index is a measure of how fast and high a certain food causes your blood sugar to rise compared to pure glucose. A low glycemic index is better than a high one. Common foods with a low index include beans and oats. Foods with a high glycemic index include potatoes, white rice and bread. Like many parts of science, the glycemic index is not perfect, and it should not be the only issue you use when planning meals. You can check out your favorite foods at, a database that has over 1,000 foods included. Be prepared for a shock though!

Where does this leave you with your diabetes and dieting? Well it is still about choosing the right carbohydrates not only for your diabetes, but keeping in mind that there are also now links between poor diet choices to heart disease and some types of cancer. My overall recommendations:

1) When you have your next plate of rice and peas, pile on the peas and take less rice. Peas and beans are wonderful for you. They give you some carbohydrates as well as proteins and minerals.

2) Try to change everything white for something brown-white bread, white pasta, white rice are less good for you than wheat bread, wheat pasta and brown rice.

3) Fruits and vegetables are your friend. Many diabetics are afraid of fruits, but they are not all that bad. Very ripe fruits with little fiber do tend to make your sugars rise, so be careful with those. But in general, fruits and especially vegetables work to make you healthier.

That’s the good word on carbohydrates for this week. Hope you are all doing well in this beautiful New Year. Until next week!

Anita Ramsetty, MD
Medical Director Endocrine Care Group
Tel: 843-798-4227