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Do you have diabetes? Search the internet, including many health sites (even the NHS’s) and you’ll see them advising carbohydrate-based meals for you. This is the worst possible thing you can do for your condition, even if you eat the oft-touted ‘healthy whole grains’.

Why? 

Feel Fab Nutrition - diabetics have problems with blood sugar control
Feel Fab Nutrition – diabetics have problems with blood sugar control

Simply put, sweet things and starches (even whole grains) all break down into simple sugars, the main one of which is glucose. The glucose passes into the blood stream; more than a teaspoon full of glucose in our blood can be toxic, so the glucose needs to be taken out. In fact, just one and a quarter teaspoons would would you into the diabetic range.

In normal body systems, glucose stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas. The insulin tells cells to open up and let the glucose in. The glucose is then used as a source of energy where needed; excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles where it can be turned back quickly into glucose when required. Any further excess glucose joins up with fatty acids and is stored as fat.

This system works fine when it is not put under strain, but we are not designed to keep eating carbs throughout the day. As a result, insulin keeps being released and, eventually, cells stop reacting to the signals to let glucose in from the blood. In turn, the pancreas releases more insulin to the cells ‘open’ to glucose. However, in time, even these levels of insulin are not enough to work and diabetes develops.

Can you see the problem here of the ‘eat carbs’ and ‘snack to keep blood sugar level’ mantras? In addition, you’re usually told to avoid saturated fats.

The people who suggest you do usually labour under one or more of these misapprehensions:

  • Whole grains and other starches do not digest into glucose or ‘do not count’
  • We need dietary glucose
  • Saturated fats are bad for you and make you even fatter
  • Lots of fruit is good for you

Here is a quote from one of the NHS Pages*: ‘The important thing in managing diabetes through your diet is to eat regularly and include starchy carbohydrates, such as pasta, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables. If your diet is well balanced, you should be able to achieve a good level of health and maintain a healthy weight.’

Less than one inch away on the page, they also say, ‘You can make adaptations when cooking meals, such as reducing the amount of…sugar…’ Let me say this again: starches break down into glucose. Glucose is sugar.

If you look at their EatCrap Plate (sorry Eatwell Plate), you’ll see just how high in carbs it is.

They also say, ‘You don’t need to completely exclude sugary and high fat foods from your diet, but they should be limited.’

  • Yes, the occasional square of dark chocolate aside, you do need to exclude sugary foods! Why would you eat something that is poisonous to your body and won’t help you get better? While easier said than done for some, you can get over these cravings and take charge of your own life and health; just make it your choice
  • And, no, high fat foods don’t need to be limited – they are a valuable part of a healthy diet. Have the skin on your chicken and love the fat on your pork chop!  Of course, if you scarf down a whole slab of butter or pot of peanut butter on top of a meal, then all bets are off

In fact:

  • Insulin enables fat storage and while protein causes a slight insulin rise, to all intents and purposes it is sugars and starches that stimulates insulin release
  • We need saturated fats to help make healthy cells and more
  •  We do NOT need dietary glucose: most cells in our bodies can be fuelled by fatty acids and ketones (both from fats); where glucose is needed, the body can make it from dietary or stored proteins and fats
  • We are designed to have periods of fasting – hence, for example, ‘breakfast’ to break one’s [overnight] fast
  • Chronically elevated insulin levels lead to insulin resistance; diets low in carbs help reverse this situation
  • Dietary fat cannot be stored unless insulin is present; instead it is used up
  • Too much fruit can be damaging (eat it more as a treat and go for less sweet varieties) and fruit juice is a no-no

In conclusion, if you have type 2 diabetes, eat normal amounts of protein, plenty of fat (from meats, seafood, fish and dairy, and not polyunsaturated vegetable oils), and little or no carbohydrate.

NOTE: Fructose does not raise insulin levels, so was once seen as a way for diabetics to enjoy sugar; too much, however, can cause fatty liver and more. See more about fructose and its dangers here.

NOTE: You’ll know if you have type 1 diabetes, but you may not be sure if you have type 2. Click here for the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

*The NHS is the UK’s National Health Service

Why eating carbs is a BAD idea for diabetics
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