Information on Type 2 Diabetes and the Glycemic Index

Diabetes 2 and the Glycemic Index

Good carbohydrates or bad carbohydrates? Low glycemic index or high glycemic index?

Life can become very complicated for you with Type 2 diabetes. Not only do you need to monitor your glucose levels, remember your medicines but you also have to plan your meal strategy for keeping your glucose levels in a safe range.

Scientists have argued for years about what makes blood sugar levels too high for those with type 2 diabetes. Probable offenders include sugar, carbohydrates (carbs) in general, simple carbs, and starches. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) considers counting carbs a key strategy for meeting your glucose level goals.

Carbohydrates are a diverse group of foods that break down different ways in your system.  People with type 2 diabetes  have a difficult time breaking down certain foods, particularly those high in carbohydrates. As a result, their digestion is slow and sugars and starches are absorbed into the blood stream which often causes an excess in blood glucose.

Counting Carbs

Certain carbs causes your blood glucose levels to increase. By eating the right amount of the right kind of carbs, you can keep your glucose levels in a safe range. There are three kinds of carbs:

  • Starches or complex carbohydrates are foods such as grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes).
  • Sugars may be natural (fruit, milk) or added (canned fruit with syrup).
  • Fiber is found in fruit, especially fruit with edible skin (apples), vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains.

When you know the number of carbs you need to eat each day you can make carb counting work for you. However, you also need to keep in mind how active you are and the medicine you take to control your glucose levels. They all have an impact on how much carbs you need. It’s a good idea to work with your doctor or dietitian to help you plan your meals.

Diabetics are usually told to limit their carbohydrate intake because it takes such a long time for most carbohydrates to digest.  However, this is easier said than done and it is difficult, if not impossible, for many diabetics to eliminate carbohydrates from their diet.  This is probably one of the reasons many diabetics are non-compliant in their treatment.

The Glycemic Index may be helpful for you in figuring out your food choices because it rates different carbohydrates based upon their effect on the different levels of blood glucose.  Generally, foods that digest rapidly cause the less harm to the system and have a low glycemic index.  The carbohydrates that take a longer time to digest have a higher rate as they cause more harm to the blood glucose level and have a high glycemic index.

The Glycemic Index ranges from one to one hundred.  A low food in the glycemic index has a rating of below 55.  These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and some pastas.    Foods that fall between the 56 to 69 range are considered “medium” in the Glycemic Index such as candy bars, croissants and rice.

What is surprisingly is that a candy bar can score in the medium classification of the glycemic index, yet it is not as harmful as those carbohydrates that score in the high glycemic index range.  Those higher include corn flakes, white rice, white bread and baked potato.  In other words, if you have Type 2 diabetes it may be easier for you to digest a candy bar than a baked potato.

Ruthan Brodsky

Health Writer (member American Medical Writers Assoc.)

Resources:

American Diabetes Association website

MayoClinic.com  Health Information  “Nutrition and Healthy Eating”  Mayo Clinic Staff

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