One of the easiest ways to start improving the glycemic effect of your diet is to reduce or eliminate your intake of all regular soft drinks, juice, fruit-juice drinks, and other sugar-sweetened drinks such as iced tea or lemonade. It’s infinitely better to substitute water, diet (newly renamed “zero”) soft drinks (especially the non-caffeinated, non-cola varieties), other artificially sweetened beverages such as Crystal Light or Propel water, or small amounts of skim milk in their place.
Why is it so important to cut back on sugary caloric drinks? By not drinking calorie-filled sodas, you’re likely to consume 10 percent fewer calories than soda consumers on a daily basis. The negative effect of such drinks on diabetes control is an even more important issue, and your BG will suffer if you drink sugar-filled sodas or juices.
Cutting back on refined sugar in other foods involves being a more informed and careful consumer. You will need to identify sources of added sugars by reading food labels and checking all food ingredients carefully. By law, manufacturers must list ingredients in order of descending weight. In many products, that means sugar would come first, so companies have found many creative ways to disguise added sugars. Instead of using one source of added sugar, companies commonly add four or five different sweeteners so that each one will appear lower on the list of ingredients. So watch out for all the added sugar equivalents: sucrose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, glucose, fructose, maltose, levulose, honey, brown sugar, and molasses.
Unfortunately, choosing “sugar-free” and “fat-free” varieties of foods is not necessarily better, either. Such products, especially “sugar-free” cakes, cookies, candy, and the like, are rarely sugarless (as you will discover when you scan the labels for all of the above-listed possible sugar equivalents), and most are far from being calorie free or even from having reduced calories. Such products are typically high in fat and not beneficial to anyone with diabetes. Along the same lines, “fat-free” products are usually higher in sugar. Just keep in mind that any time food manufacturers remove flavor enhancers such as fat or sugar, they have to replace them with something else; if fat is taken out, sugar is usually added in and vice versa.
Next week, I’ll talk more about why sugar alcohols are not necessarily better.