Q: Is weight a concern if someone has diabetes?
A: Yes. For anyone, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the many ways to fight off heart disease. But if you have diabetes, watching your weight is even more important because the two risk factors together-obesity and diabetes-dramatically increase your risk for heart disease.
Q: How do carbohydrates affect diabetics?
A: For someone with diabetes who has to maintain control of high blood sugar, a carb is not just a carb. Most of the food we eat is turned into sugar for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin to help the sugar get into our bodies' cells. With diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. This causes sugars to build to high levels in your blood.
One hundred percent of carbohydrates, 50 percent of proteins and 10 percent of fats are eventually turned into sugar for our bodies to use for energy. Foods that have similar carbohydrate content can result in varying blood sugar levels when the carbohydrates are eaten without protein, fiber or fat.
Q: What is the glycemic index?
A: The blood sugar level in a person with diabetes depends on the glycemic index (GI) and amount of the food eaten, plus the combination of carbohydrate, protein, fiber and fat eaten at the same time.
When carbohydrates only are eaten during a meal or snack, the GI number of the carbohydrate has a greater influence on the blood sugar level. The glycemic index rates foods on a scale of 0 to 100. Carbs with a GI of 55 or lower (such as most fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes) tend to be slowly released into the blood and raise blood sugar gradually. Carbs with a GI of 70 or higher (including foods high in table sugar or corn syrup, white potatoes, breads or pastas, and highly processed cereals) are quickly released into the blood and raise blood sugar faster and, perhaps, higher than lower-glycemic carbs.
Q: What's the best way for a diabetic to lose or maintain weight?
A: Typically, it is recommended that people with diabetes eat balanced meals and snacks. This helps control blood sugar levels by slowing the release of sugar into the bloodstream. When meals and snacks are balanced, those with diabetes can enjoy a wider variety of foods. However, they still must keep portion control in mind. It's wise to consult with a doctor, registered dietitian or a certified diabetes educator about the best eating plan for them.
Q: Is the GI system recommended instead of a low-carb diet for diabetics?
A: The GI system offers one method for diabetics to monitor their sugar intake while reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. However, it may not be the right approach for everyone and diabetics should consult with their physician before using this system.