EAT WELL TO BE WELL: How to include the best and avoid the worst foods to control blood sugar

Whether you have diabetes or not, certain foods can send blood sugar soaring. Deciphering what foods do this from those that don’t can be challenging when you have to be mindful of keeping your blood sugar in check. Our blood sugar also known as glucose is a major supplier of energy to our muscles and brain. But when you have diabetes, you need to limit the amount of sugars or carbohydrates to keep blood sugars under control. When blood glucose or sugar is kept within normal limits, over time it can make a difference in whether you develop serious complications.

“The thing with carbohydrates is that they are found in all plant-based foods with the only animal-based food containing them being milk, yogurts and ice cream,” stated Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “The reason why carbs in food are exclusively singled out is because they are primarily responsible for raising blood sugar levels. Fat and protein have a very small to no effect on making blood sugar rise.”

By keeping track of carbs consumed throughout the day, this can be an effective tool in controlling blood sugar. All diabetics have varying dietary needs but a general rule of thumb is to limit carb intake to about 30-60 grams at each meal and 15-30 grams at snacks. However this can vary between men and women depending on body size, whether the person needs to lose weight or not and how much exercise they get in each day.

The key is having a good understanding of which foods have a high amount of carbohydrates and which foods have a more reasonable amount. Here are the best and worst foods that can either have a positive or more negative effect on your blood sugar:

Best foods

Best foods for keeping blood sugar in check are foods with a low to moderate amount of carbohydrate grams (less than 30 grams per serving). These foods shouldn’t spike your blood sugar levels and when they are paired with a protein source, this further prevents that spike. Protein foods are digested more slowly than carbs leading to a slow, controlled release of glucose or sugar into the bloodstream. Here are the best foods to get this done:

• Peanut butter with celery sticks

Peanut butter’s protein amount paired with low carb celery is a match made in carb heaven. One tablespoon of peanut butter spread across a celery stick has 3 grams of carbohydrates while a stalk of celery has only about 1-2 grams. 104 calories

• Pistachios and raspberries

It doesn’t long for calories to add up when eating nuts but pistachios are a better choice if you’re trying to watch your weight while having a nutritious and satisfying snack. Pair pistachios with a low carb fruit like raspberries and you’ve got a perfect carb combo. Having 25pistachios is only 5 grams of carbohydrates while ½ cup of raspberries has about 7 grams. 132 calories

• Hard-boiled eggs and whole wheat crackers

A high-quality protein paired with a whole grain cracker sets you up for the needed energy boost in between meals while keeping carbs to a minimum. Eggs have no carbs while approximately 6 whole wheat crackers provide 20 grams of carbohydrates. 198 calories

• Turkey or ham lettuce wrap

Lean meat like turkey or ham (2 oz.) wrapped in fresh, crispy lettuce makes a delicious statement while being mindful of carbs. The meat has no carbs and the lettuce only has about 2 grams. 70 calories

• Cottage cheese with walnuts and blueberries

Sometimes you just need a food that is filling but without making you stuffed. This trio is a perfect combination of protein, fiber and healthy carbs to satisfy your hunger without an excess of calories. A ½ cup of cottage cheese contains only 3-4 grams of carbs, ¼ cup of walnuts has 3 grams of carbs and ¼ cup of blueberries has 5 grams. 294 calories

• Edamame

If you’ve never tried edamame, now is a good time. This green soybean is a fiber-rich, high quality carbohydrate and a good source of protein. They come either in a pod or already shelled and can be steamed or microwaved for a fun, chewy snack that provides 8 grams of carbs in a ½ cup. 95 calories

• Apple slices and mozzarella cheese stick

Here’s a yummy snack that meets all the qualifications of a good-for-you food. High in protein, fiber and just the right amount of carbs to meet energy needs without going overboard. One sliced apple contains about 20 grams of carbs while one cheese stick has less than one gram. 142 calories

• Veggies with hummus or quacamole

Heart healthy and fiber-rich hummus (chickpeas) and quacamole (avocados) are just the right dips when paired with a variety of fiber- and nutrient-rich veggies such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, or pepper strips. A ¼ cup of either dip will be around 10 grams of carbs while the veggies will range from 5-10 grams. 160-180 calories

• Yogurt with nuts

Here’s dynamic duo that’s hard to beat. Yogurt provides lean protein and calcium while nuts provide fiber, magnesium and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A note of caution on yogurts – choose artificially sweetened or nonfat plain yogurt to keep the carbs reasonable. Regular sweetened yogurt will be too high in carbs. One 6-ounce container of artificially-sweetened yogurt contains about 15-20 grams of carbs while ¼ cup of nuts range from 3-5 grams. 150-180 calories

• Sunflower/pumpkin seeds with orange slices

Maybe not a common combination, but this duo makes an outstanding pair for several reasons. Oranges contain soluble fiber, potassium, vitamin C and have a high water content. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, iron, protein and fiber. This is one delicious nutritional package. One orange and 1/4 cup of seeds provides about 21 grams of carbs. 189 calories

Worst Foods

Worst foods for making blood sugars skyrocket are simple carbohydrates.

“A common mistake is when someone with diabetes regularly chooses foods composed of a lot of sugar,” said Dr. Samadi. “These foods are also known as simple carbohydrates. These foods contain an excessive amount of sugar or total carbohydrates of more than 30 grams per serving, minimal fiber, and few vitamins and minerals.”

Dr. Samadi went on to add, “When someone with diabetes is eating foods with little to no fiber this means the simple carbohydrate foods will be digested much more quickly, pouring a large amount of blood glucose rapidly into the bloodstream raising blood sugars way above what they should be.”

The worst foods to avoid are:

• Sugary candy
• Cookies
• Cake
• Pie
• Donuts and pastries
• Soft drinks
• Sugary drinks such as lemonades, some sports drinks, other sweetened beverages
• Sugary coffee drinks
• Fruit juice
• White rice
• White bread
• Cinnamon rolls
• Smoothies – depends on the ingredients
• Pizza – particularly thick crust
• Milk shakes
• French fries
• Battered fish dinners
• Nachos
• Biscuit and sausage gravy
• Many crackers (read the labels for total carbohydrate grams)
• Sugary breakfast cereals
• Yogurts with more than 30 grams of total carbohydrates per serving
• Pasta

Avoid the worst offending foods and you’ll have fewer blood sugar spikes. Include more of the best foods and you’ll not only have less high blood sugar readings but improved health because of their excellent nutritional value.

Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City, an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, Ks where she teaches Basic Nutrition, and is a blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi and www.nutroutine.com, an online market place connecting nutrition experts with customers worldwide. View her website at www.eatwell2bewellrd.com and she can be contacted at cmussatto@hotmail.com.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News channel’s Medical A-Team and Sunday Housecall and is the chief medical correspondent for AM 970 in New York City, where he is heard Sundays at 10 a.m. www.samadimd.com

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