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New Year’s question: What to do about sweets and sweeteners?


Happy New Year to all my Vincy family! I hope that 2011 brings health and happiness, in whatever form most benefits you and your loved ones.

We start this year with what may seem like an obvious question and answer: what to do about sweets when you have diabetes? Many of you are saying out loud, “well, you don’t eat them!” Yet at the same time, you are saying quietly, “but you know you will eat SOME!” {{more}}This is why I wanted to address this question.

First what do I count as “sweets?” Anything with a high concentration of sugar or sweetener is counted as “sweets” in my book, so it includes all soft drinks/sodas, candy (sweetie), chocolates, candy bars, sweet puddings, any icing, fudge (including Tarry), anything with sugar sprinkled on top-you get the idea.

There are few things I ask my diabetic patients to avoid at all costs, aside from situations where their blood sugars are very low and they need help quickly. The only two things I ask them to avoid are sodas and icing. These two are SO concentrated when it comes to sugar-load, and they have no nutritional value whatsoever.

As for the other sugar-loaded items, the rule is still to avoid them and eat as little as possible. If you can dust the sugar off, please do. Keep your portions to VERY small sizes. And be kind to yourself and make it easy in some ways: if you have a weakness for candy bars, DON’T BUY THEM and leave them in the cupboard. Because you KNOW as soon as you go looking for baking powder, you will instead see the Fruit and Nut and eat it while you are looking for the baking powder.

And a word about artificial sweeteners, which are quite popular and worth a try for many people: the most common ones in use now are Splenda and the new kid Stevia/Truvia. I have spoken to our dietician as well about these and she is on board with our diabetic patients using them. Patients should remember that these have calories and starches, which still count. So, just because the pudding is flavored with Splenda does not mean it is “free” in terms of blood sugars, because it likely still has starch, which will raise blood sugars. Do not be fooled by candy bars, ice cream etc., which happily state they have non-sugar sweeteners. They are definitely better than regular versions, but they still need to be counted in terms of starch when you are figuring out what and how much you can have. And if you are trying to lose weight, watch out, because research suggests that low-sugar and low-fat foods can make you gain weight faster, because we tend to eat more of them.

So I will end with these short pieces of advice to sum it all up:

— Don’t drink sodas or eat icing unless in a blood sugar emergency. And I mean true emergency!

— Limit, meaning as small an amount as possible, other candy, sweets etc. Try to find sugarless versions if you can.

— Keep in mind that even if something has other non-sugar sweeteners, the food still can (and often will) raise blood sugars, because of other starches present. Sugar is not the only thing to think about.

Until next week, stay safe and healthy Vincies!

Anita Ramsetty, MD [email protected]

Medical Director Endocrine Care Group

Tel: 843-798-4227