Insulin is a hormone which helps the body lower the amount of glucose in the blood. If you have diabetes, you either do not produce enough insulin or you do not respond properly to it. You can make it easier to manage diabetes by following a careful diet plan, which can include limiting the amount of sugar you eat.
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Carbohydrates and Blood Glucose
Carbohydrate intake is a focus of diabetes diets because of the effect that carbohydrates have on blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates of all forms, including sugars, are broken down by the digestive tract and converted into glucose, which is then secreted into the blood. As a result, sugar and other carbohydrates have a more immediate effect on blood glucose levels than fats and proteins. Because people with diabetes have a natural tendency towards higher blood glucose levels, it is important for them to limit their carbohydrate intake, EndocrineWeb notes.
There are three main kinds of carbohydrate: simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates and fiber. Sugars are simple carbohydrates, and include glucose and sucrose, which is also known as table sugar. Other sugars include fructose, which is found in fruit, and lactose, which is present in dairy products. These sugars are broken down more rapidly by the body, the Merck Manual explains, so they have a more immediate effect on blood glucose levels than other kinds of carbohydrates.
In the past, diabetics were told to avoid sugar, because it was thought that sugars had more of an effect on blood glucose levels than other carbohydrates. The American Diabetes Association notes, however, that diabetics should limit their consumption of all carbohydrates, not just sugars. Diabetics should aim to consume between 45 and 60 grams of carbohydrates at each meal, states the ADA. This helps limit carbohydrate consumption and also makes it easier for blood glucose levels to stay stable. You should try to have between 45 and 65 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates daily, recommends the United States Department of Agriculture.
Because current recommendations focus more on total carbohydrates consumed rather than sugar, there is no daily limit or allotment of sugar for diabetics. However, you should keep in mind that foods with lots of sugar often have a high amount of carbohydrates in a small serving. Sugary foods can also be thought of as "empty" carbohydrates, because they often provide little in the way of nutrition and may leave you feeling hungry again shortly after eating them.