The management of blood glucose (blood sugar) levels is critical for diabetics, and is a key hallmark of diabetes treatment.
Simple and complex carbohydrates are both metabolized as sugar, but complex carbohydrates are metabolized more slowly, meaning less spiking of blood sugar and a more consistent energy supply (see Starchy Carbohydrates for more information).
As with every recommendation of the Diabetic Heart Lifestyle System™, your doctor is the first resource for how much sugar is permissible for you.
Blood sugar and heart health
The correlation between high blood sugar and heart disease is strong, according to statistics from the American Heart Association. One of the reasons may be that high blood glucose causes the blood vessels to contract more than normal, increasing blood pressure. Other reasons may include the frequency of other concurrent conditions that are often present in patients with diabetes, including hypertension, high cholesterol levels, high triglycerides, obesity, and sometimes a lack of physical activity.
Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols
Artificial sweeteners can be a stopgap measure for diabetics trying to control sugar cravings. As a caution, consider that some older artificial sweeteners have been shown to raise the risk of cancer and other diseases. Others may have an effect on the body’s insulin resistance and metabolism of glucose (see Resources for more information). Sugar alcohols raise the blood glucose, but not as much as sugar; however, they can cause bloating and can have a laxative effect. It is safe to assume that not enough is known about some of the newer artificial sweeteners to be certain of their effects.
Reducing sugar consumption
Patients who are diabetic know the drill. Minimize the consumption of sweets, especially highly refined, junky sweets. Hopefully, the box of snack cakes that once occupied a spot in the pantry is just a memory. Other than a few sugar-free chocolates and cookies to satisfy sudden cravings, true sweets are probably few and far between. The necessity of maintaining a healthy blood glucose overrides the pleasure of eating anything you want.
The balancing act that diabetic heart patients face is to avoid replacing sugar with things that contribute to heart disease risk, like saturated fats and sodium. A well-balanced lifestyle eating plan of complex carbs, healthy fats, increased consumption of vegetables, and meats with low saturated fat may be your most helpful plan of attack.