We all know the stereotype – if you have got diabetes, you must have eaten too much sugar in food.
What is sugar?
Sugar is found naturally in fruit, vegetables and dairy foods. It’s also added to food and drink by food manufacturers, or by ourselves at home. The debate about sugar and health is mainly around the ‘added sugars’. This includes:
Table sugar that we add to our hot drinks or breakfast cereal
Caster sugar, used in baking sugars hidden in sauces, ready meals, cakes and drinks.
Does sugar cause diabetes?
There are two main types of diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
In Type 1 diabetes, the insulin producing cells in your pancreas are destroyed by your immune system. No amount of sugar in your diet – or anything in your lifestyle – has caused or can cause you to get Type 1 diabetes.
With Type 2 diabetes, though we know sugar doesn’t directly cause Type 2 diabetes, you are more likely to get it if you are overweight. You gain weight when you take in more calories than your body needs, and sugary foods and drinks contain a lot of calories.
And it’s important to add that fatty foods and drinks are playing a part in our nation’s expanding waistline.
So you can see if too much sugar is making you put on weight, then you are increasing your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. But Type 2 diabetes is complex, and sugar is unlikely to be the only reason the condition develops.
If I have diabetes, can I eat sugar?
Having diabetes doesn’t mean you have to cut sugar out of your diet completely. We all enjoy eating sugary foods occasionally, and there’s no problem including them as a treat in a healthy, balanced diet. And, for some people with diabetes, sugary drinks or glucose tablets are essential to treat a hypo, when your blood glucose levels get too low.
However, we are eating too much sugar – far too much – and harming our health as a result. Being overweight can make it difficult to control your diabetes and increase your risk of getting serious health problems such as heart disease and stroke in the future. Too much sugar is bad for your teeth too.
Should I stop eating sugar altogether?
You don’t have to cut out sugar out of your diet completely. Sugar is found naturally in fruit, vegetables and dairy foods, and most people are not getting the recommended five fruit and vegetables a day so it’s important we don’t cut these out as they are so good for you.
It’s the added sugar that we need to cut down on. And it’s not just the obviously sweet things like biscuits and chocolate. It’s the hidden sugar lurking in many foods foods such as baked beans, pasta sauces, tomato ketchup, low fat yogurts and ready meals.
Some drinks are packed with sugar too. And go easy on fruit juice which contains a lot of sugar and calories. Keep to just one small glass – 150 ml – a day.
How can I tell from a label if there is added sugar?
Food labels are the best way to work out how much sugar is in what you’re eating. The amount of added sugar in a food or drink is not always given. The figures for sugar are for total sugar and don’t tell you how much of the sugar comes from natural sugars, such as fruit sugar and how much comes from added sugar. Some foods and drink don’t have the word ‘sugar’ in the ingredients list but still have sugar added. Honey, sucrose, glucose, glucose syrup, dextrose, fructose, hydrolysed starch, corn and maize syrup are all added sugars. If you see any of these words on the ingredients list, you know sugar has been added.
How much sugar should I be eating?
We all should be cutting our sugar intake by half to around 25g a day – which works out at just five teaspoons a day. Given that a tablespoon of ketchup contains around one teaspoon of sugar, a chocolate biscuit has up to two, and a small serving of baked beans almost three – you can see how quickly the teaspoons tot up.
How can I reduce my sugar intake?
Simple changes can dramatically reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet.
Instead of your usual chocolate bars, sweets, cakes and biscuits, make fruit your snack of choice.
For those times when only chocolate will do, stick to a few squares of dark chocolate.
Try natural yogurt mixed in with chopped fruit or a small handful of nuts instead of your usual sugary fix.
Experiment with reducing the sugar you use in recipes – most recipes will work just as well.
Try artificial sweetener in place of sugar, example honey.
Honey contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, and studies suggest it may
not raise blood sugar as fast as other sweet
products. (It is generally better for the body to have a slow and steady rise in blood sugar after eating, rather
than a dramatic spike.) Honey, however, does contain calories and should be used as sparingly as any other full-calorie sweetener.
Choose diet fizzy drinks and no added sugar squashes instead of sugary versions. Sugary drinks are best used as a treatment for hypos.
Try to cook from scratch where possible – that way you can be sure of what’s in your food. Check out our tasty, easy-to-follow and simple recipes.
Keep an eye on reduced-fat foods – many actually contain more sugar as food manufactures add sugar to compensate for the altered taste and texture caused by the fat being removed. Look at the whole food label to be sure.
To see whether a product is high in added sugar look at the ingredients list, which always starts with the biggest ingredient first.
Can people with diabetes eat sweets?
Yes, You can have your cake and eat it too, just not the whole cake! Like everyone, people with diabetes should put the brakes on eating too many sweets. But you can still enjoy them sometimes.
Do people “grow out of” diabetes?
People with type 1 diabetes don’t grow out of it. With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin and won’t make it again. People with type 1 diabetes will always need to take insulin, at least until scientists find a cure.
People with type 2 diabetes will always have a tendency to get high blood sugar levels. But if they take steps to live a healthier life, it can sometimes lower their blood sugar. If people eat healthy foods and exercise enough to get their blood sugar levels back on track, doctors might say they can stop taking insulin or other medicines.
Can one catch diabetes from a person who has it?
No, Diabetes is not contagious. People with diabetes inherited genes that made them more likely to get it.
Can people with diabetes feel when their blood sugar levels are high or low?
No, not well enough to depend on. You may notice some things happening to your body if blood sugar levels are very high or low. For example, you might feel more thirsty, pee a lot, or feel weaker or more tired than usual. But the only way to know for sure if blood sugar levels are high or low is to test them.
People who don’t test regularly may have blood sugar levels that are high enough to damage the body without them even realizing it.
Do all people with diabetes need to take insulin?
All people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin injections. That’s because the pancreas doesn’t make insulin anymore.
Some people with type 2 diabetes have to take insulin — and they may need to take other diabetes medicines too. But there are people with type 2 diabetes who don’t need to take insulin. They can manage their blood sugar levels by eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and sometimes taking other diabetes medicines.
Does insulin cure diabetes?
No, Insulin isn’t a cure for diabetes; it just helps to manage the disease. Insulin helps get glucose out of the blood and into the cells, where it’s used for energy. When you do that, it keeps blood sugar levels under control.
Can one take insulin as a pill?
No, Insulin gets destroyed by the acid and digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines. So people who need insulin — like people with type 1 diabetes — have to take it as a shot or through an insulin pump. That way, it gets into the body without going through the digestive system.
People with type 2 diabetes might take pills, but those are medicines that help the body make more insulin or use insulin more effectively. Some people with type 2 diabetes need to take insulin too.
Do people with diabetes need to take diabetes medicines even when they’re sick?
Yes, In fact, being sick can actually make the body need more diabetes medicine. If you take insulin, you might have to adjust your dose when you’re sick, but you still need to take insulin. People with type 2 diabetes may need to adjust their diabetes medicines when they are sick. Talk to your diabetes health care team to be sure you know what to do.
Can people with diabetes exercise or play sports?
Yes, Exercise helps to keep weight under control, is good for your heart and lungs, relieves stress, and is great for blood sugar control. Talk to your diabetes health care team about exercising and managing your blood sugar.
Ask Your Care Team First
If you ever come across information you’re not sure about, ask your diabetes health care team if it’s true or false. Watch out if someone tells you to do the opposite of what your care team has told you. Always check with your doctors to get the truth on what’s helpful and what’s harmful.
We share information on our blog for people to eat right because health is life. At LIWONDER FOOD ‘N’ GLOBAL EVENTS we cut down the sugar intake in our food products such as cakes and snacks.