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Carbohydrates and High Blood Sugar

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Hey everyone. This post is not concerning myself but rather my father. He is very fit; he runs like a madman everyday on the treadmill yet has a very poor diet. When I say that, I mean that he only eats one meal a day (dinner) and it is practically nothing but carbohydrates (beer, pasta, and bread). He went to the doctor and found out that he has high blood sugar and this is due in part to his high carb intake (from what the doctor told him). He asked me this morning to help explain to him the difference between "good" and "bad" carbs, which I can certainly do; however, does anyone have any insight as to the link between high blood sugar and carbs? Do you need to cut out refined "bad" carbs and switch to "good carbs," or should my father cut out all carbs in general?

In addition, he wants to start having breakfast (finally) and he asked me about good and healthy breakfast cereals with no sugar and practically no fat. Fiber One came to mind but I know that has sugar alcohols and is still somewhat high in carbs. Does anyone have any cereal suggestions? Any help would be great.

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I am an RD and a CDE and believe me when i tell you, this is not something that can be answered quickly or effectively over a chat. Your father, needs to be referred by his M.D. to a Certified Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian for proper diabetes education. You did not say (and may not know) if your father was diagnosed as pre-diabetic or type 2 diabetic? The diagnostic criteria is very specific and his Dr. can easily screen him for a definative dx. That is the first question that needs to be answered. It is very important that he get the education and help that he needs now to ensure that he either prevents the onset of diabetes or ensures optimal blood glucose management to prevent complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathy, etc. Most large hospitals have ADA approved Diabetes Self-Management Education programs available and insurrance will almost always cover the cost.

Please, do not try to manage his condition without professional help. I see sooo many diabetics that have chronic complications related to their diabetes because they didn't think they needed professional help to manage it.

ADA Nutrition

Canadian Diabetes Nutrition

There are links in both to find a centre near you.  Most give free nutritional classes.  I see that you are in NJ.  Not sure how they handle things there.  In Ontario, your doctor will enroll you in diabetes classes right away.

Thanks alot for the help I appreciate it.

Your father should not give up carbs altogether. Carbs are what gives us energy for physical activity. Our bodies change the starch from foods into sugar and then changes the sugar into energy. Refined sugars such as candy, cake, jam, syrup, and sugar have no vitamins and minerals that the body needs to change sugar into energy. All the energy that the body does not use is stored as fat. Of course, all the extra sugar causes blood sugar levels to go up and stay up.

I have Type 2 diabetes and I have had to monitor my carb intake. My husband can eat carbs all day long and lose weight. I can eat the same amount of carbs and gain weight. My body just doesnt process carbs effectively. I average 150-175 grams of carbs per day and I stay away from "refined" carbs. Please dont get me wrong, I still love the occasional piece of cake, but my body can process a bowl of strawberries much better than a piece of cake.

Have your father try the Kashi Strawberry Fields. Only 120 calories per cup with 0 fat and 28 grams of carbs. The Village Farm Whole Grain Oatmeal is 120 calories, 2.5 g of fat and 21 grams of carbs. The Sara Lee 45 calories & delightful bread tastes good and it has 90 calories per slice, .5 g of fat and 9 grams of carbs. Eggs and egg substitutes are good. Unfortunately, pasta is probably something he should stay away from. Over 40 grams of carbs per serving. That is way too much unless you plan accordingly and try to have a very small amount of carbs in your other meals for the day. As for the beer, he should switch to "lite" beer. Miller Lite has only 96 calories, 0 fat and 3.2 grams of carbs.

From this point forward, he should try to shop for food that has "no sugar added" or "sugar free". I still eat all my favorite foods without all the sugar and it tastes just as good. They are a little more expensive, but diabetic medication costs much more.

I agree that your father should seek proper medical advice.  However, he could do himself a lot of good by simply getting a better balanced diet and by eating more regularly.

The breakfast, for example.  If he boiled an egg (or two) and ate it with a slice or two of wholegrain toast that would be a fairly low-fat, high-fibre, sugar-free meal.  If his lunch and supper included plenty of vegetables and/or salad with some meat and fish as well as his bread & pasta (wholegrain preferably)... that would be another fairly well balanced meal. 

When you eat anything sugary, your blood sugar levels increase quite sharply.  When you don't eat at all, they drop sharply.   The idea is to avoid massive highs and lows but to keep them more steady.  And that's more easily achieved by choosing the 'good carbs' (complex carbohydrates, wholegrains, fruit, vegetables), to balance your diet with proteins and fats,  and to eat/snack reasonably regularly.  

Original Post by marybell42498:

From this point forward, he should try to shop for food that has "no sugar added" or "sugar free". I still eat all my favorite foods without all the sugar and it tastes just as good. They are a little more expensive, but diabetic medication costs much more.

 I didn't want to get into a big discussion about this online as I feel it can only confuse things and DSMT needs to occur face to face, but with the above statement being made I feel I have to.

The "sugar free" and "no sugar added" trap is a common one that diabetics who are not properly educated fall into.  There is no reason for a diabetic to look for these  marketing "tags" on food labels. It generally just means the food company is going to charge more for a food that is not necessarily a better choice. "Sugar free" or "No sugar added" does not always mean that the food is either good for you or lower in carbs. Remember, all carbohydrates (there are only 3 forms- sugars, starches, and fiber) coming from any form of sugar or starch will quickly breakdown into simple sugar in the stomach. This is what is supposed to happen, which is why carbs the bodies quickest source of energy. Blood sugar levels do not rise any faster or higher in relation to equal amounts of sugar vs starch. The term "complex carbohydrates" is no longer used in applied nutrition, because, by definitions, white bread is considered a "complex carb" as any starch is. Complex carbs are defined as any carbohydrate that has more than one sugar molecule. Starch is simply simple sugar molecules linked together by a very weak chemical bond. So, by those terms, any starch, whether it is a whole grain or not is a complex carb. Fiber is the only form of carb that will never break down into simple sugar and therefore will not raise the blood sugar and does not provide any calories. So we now explain that "high fiber" or "whole" sources of carbohydrate are the ones to focus on. But, by enlarge, the reaction of the blood sugar has much more to do with the amount (total grams) of carbohydrate than the source. Looking for the "grams of sugar" on the nutrition fact label will never help you. Look at the "Total Carbohydrate" and "grams of Fiber". Also, as gijane said, combing the high fiber carbs with moderate amounts of lean pro and healthy fats, in regularly scheduled meals, within your calorie allowance will help to balance out the bodies hormonal responses.(ie: insulin/glucagon- energy storage/energy usage) 

So learning about "counting carbs" (which is a process that includes basic nutr education) is essential in diabetes education. I healthy diet for a diabetic is a "heart healthy" diet that is individualized for that person. An RD/CDE can work with you to determine the amount of carb per meal/snack that is best for you. There is no one amount that is right for everyone. There is no such thing as a "diabetic diet" or an "ADA" diet. The recommendations that the American Diabetes Assoc. has are parallel to the rec's of the Amer. Heart Assoc..

I agree that he should see a doctor that specializes in blood sugar issues to find out what his personal blood sugar level should be, and how he should get himself there. Until he can see a doctor, though, try to get him to, at LEAST, space out his eating better. Try subtracting some of the pasta or bread and adding vegetables, or healthy fats, so that he won't feel unsatisfied with the portion.

Jan 09 2009 20:38
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I was in a position similar to your father two years ago with high blood glucose, though I was also overweight and not exercising much.  My doctor recommended visiting the RD, which I eventually did.  He also recommended cutting out a lot of easy to digest carbs - which for me came mainly from overeating breakfast cereal - and replacing it with whole wheat toast and peanut butter.  His initial advice was enough for me to get my blood glucose levels down. 

Your dad should still visit the RD (though I was miffed that my visit was not covered by my insurance).  At the very least the RD will check his program and maybe offer some things he or the Dr. haven't thought of.  Mine gave me a free blood glucose monitor and threw in a lot of strips, which are helpful at $1 a pop.

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