Low-Carb Diabetic Diet

My husband is a diabetic and has more trouble with carbohydrates than with sugars. I've noticed that most of the articles that deal with diabetes stress "low sugar" and not "low carbs". It seems that he has more difficulty with the potatoes, breads and pasta than he does with the sugars. Can you explain more about carbohydrates? —J.W., Mayfield, Kentucky

All the food that we consume is converted by our bodies into sugar (glucose). But diabetics have a more difficult time regulating the amount of glucose in their bloodstream than the rest of us. Nearly all the carbohydrates a diabetic eats end up as glucose in the bloodstream—unlike protein or fat, which have little direct impact on blood glucose levels. To achieve good glucose control, diabetics need to pay close attention to the amount of carbohydrates they eat. There are two categories of carbohydrates—sugar and starch. Sugars include glucose, fructose and lactose. Starches are grains, pasta and potatoes. Whether we consume sugars or starches, our bodies eventually convert them to glucose. The body doesn't know (or care) whether the glucose came from a bowl of pasta, a piece of candy or fresh fruit. To the body, glucose is just its favorite source of energy. Diabetics need to be more concerned about the amount of carbohydrates they eat at each sitting, rather than the source—because that is what determines how much glucose reaches the bloodstream. That said, fruits (which contain fructose) and milk (which contains lactose) have been shown to have less of an effect on blood glucose levels than some starches. Sucrose (table sugar) has less of an effect on blood glucose than bread, rice or potatoes. With all the hype about low-carbohydrate diets these days, make sure that your husband realizes that carbohydrates—in controlled amounts—are still an important part of his diet.