5 foods for diabetics to avoid

If a food says it is “diabetic”, does that mean that it is 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. Ice cream without added sugar. Ice creams labeled “no added sugar” are sweetened with what are called alcoholic sugars. While it is true that the sugars in alcohol do not raise blood sugar as quickly as natural sugars, the number of calories is the same. A small serving of ice cream with no added sugar (1/2 cup) has about 100 calories, 50% more than a piece of bread. But a large bowl, say 2 large tablespoons, could equal 400 calories, or 20-25% of the caloric needs for an entire day. Another drawback is that the sugars in alcohol sometimes cause diarrhea or diarrhea. For the same reason, sweets with added sugar should not be avoided, except for an occasional treat.

2. Soda without sugar. While it is true that sugar-free sodas will not raise your blood sugar, other ingredients have potentially harmful effects on your health. Some are high in sodium and therefore can raise blood pressure, something diabetics certainly don’t need. Many cola drinks are high in caffeine, which contributes to insomnia, anxiety, and sometimes heart palpitations. The acid level can affect tooth enamel, and the caramel color has the potential to stain teeth like coffee. While an occasional sugar-free soda does little harm, especially the low-sodium and caffeine-free varieties, many diabetics consume soda as their main source of fluids. Water is a better option, or even skim milk.

3. Certain cold cuts. To make lean meats more attractive, manufacturers often add large amounts of salt, especially to ham. 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 foods that are high in sodium, even if they are low in calories, such as canned chicken soup. Frozen prepared foods are also often high in sodium, unless they are labeled “low sodium.”

Four. Fat-free cakes. While it is true that some fat-free cakes are slightly lower in calories than regular cakes, they are often higher in sugar. Read the label and check the calorie count before you buy.

5. Sweet fruit. Some fruits are as high in calories as soda or Kool-Aid. Not that you should avoid them entirely, but portion size is critical. While a cup of watermelon has about the same calories as a cup of orange juice, a large slice of watermelon can have as many calories as a hot chocolate ice cream. A slice of pineapple won’t hurt, but eating it whole will raise your blood sugar as much as a Big Mac and French fries.

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

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