Get Your Facts Straight on Diabetes Friendly Starches

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By : Suvarna Sheth

Diabetes has today grown to be an epidemic chronic disease plaguing both children and adults worldwide.

When left uncontrolled, diabetes may lead to different serious health consequences.  However, a major link has been found between the kind of food we eat and diabetes because the condition is primarily caused by excess sugar in the blood as a result of our diet and lifestyle.

Therefore, eating the wrong type of food can cause the blood sugar levels, as well as the insulin levels to rise. This promotes inflammation and thus increases your risk of diabetes.  It is important that people living with diabetes stay away from consuming too many foods that easily raise their blood sugar, and chief among such foods are carbohydrates.

Starch and Diabetes

Starch is one of the three categories of carbohydrates, others being sugar and fiber. Starch is a very important source of energy and the most commonly consumed carbohydrate. Starches are made up of a combination of many sugar molecules, and thus they are referred to as complex carbohydrates.

Most nutritionists are of the view that patients with diabetes should desist from starchy foods. This is because starchy foods are prone to raising blood glucose level to a range that is not safe for people with diabetes as well as contributes to weight gain.

Be that as it may, starches are quite complex carbohydrates. Even as there seems to be a negative side to consuming them, most starchy foods no doubt pose no health challenges when consumed moderately. In this article, we will be looking at a number of starches that, if moderately consumed, are diabetes-friendly.

#1: Whole-Grain Bread

Bread is obviously a very common food. Following the implications of consuming white bread, care must be taken when deciding on the bread to buy, and critical reading of nutritional information is key. This is because white bread is made with sugar and highly processed white flour.

Bread with no form of added sugar, high quantity of fiber and lowest amount of carbohydrates is the best recourse and diabetes-friendly.  According to the American Diabetes Association, instead of white bread, whole-grain bread or fully whole-wheat bread is diabetes-friendly and encouraged.

#2: Brown Rice

Brown Rice

While some kinds of rice are okay for people with diabetes, others have been discovered to negatively affect the blood sugar. White rice has been discovered to cause blood sugar spikes just like that of sugar. It has a high score on the glycemic index and thus causes the blood sugar level to soar few minutes after consumption.

Brown or wild rice, however, are healthier to eat by people living with diabetes. These varieties of rice have significant fiber content which helps slow the rush of glucose into the bloodstream. Research shows two or more weekly servings of brown rice to be linked to lower risk of diabetes.

#3: Whole-Wheat Pasta

 Whole-wheat pasta is the best recourse and more diabetes-friendly especially when taken with a tomato-based sauce. Compared to the regular pasta, the whole-wheat pasta has fewer grams of carbohydrate, more fiber content, and fewer calories, therefore making it a diabetes-friendly alternative for regular pasta.

#4: Fruit

All fresh fruit contain vitamins and fiber, making them a healthy part of any diet. Even at that, some such fruits have more sugar content. For example, melons, bananas, and stone fruits like nectarines and peaches are on the high-sugar side and may raise the blood sugar levels more than other fruits — this is relative though.

Instead of melons, Granny Smith apples, stone fruits and bananas, blueberries, and other berries are lower in sugar and healthier for people with diabetes. However, it is needful for one to find what fruit works for them.  What works for one diabetes patient may not work for another.

Alternatively, it is good to cut down the fruit portion by combining the fruit with low-fat cheese or peanut butter and ensuring you reduce the fruit portion by half. Two hours after eating this, test your blood sugar to find out how you react. While suggesting fruits are diabetes friendly, it is important to know that you should steer clear of fruit juices.

#5: Milk and Yogurt

Consumption of yogurt and milk products is associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Similarly, research reveals that total dairy and low-fat milk products largely present a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

#6: Potatoes

Potatoes

All potatoes are not created equal when it comes to diabetes-friendly foods. Unlike others, sweet potatoes are high in fiber and vitamins, and it is best to reach for them in trying to keep the blood sugar level in check. Sweet potatoes become low in glycemic index (GI) foods when they are boiled, thus making it impossible for them to spike blood sugar as much as the regular ones.

#7: Yam

Yam

Particularly, elephant foot yam as well as yellow and purple yams, have a low glycemic index and are rich in fiber which helps to maintain controlled blood sugar levels and helps fight the effects of diabetes. Yams are diabetes-friendly as it aids to reduce the cells insulin resistance and thus, reduces the risk of contracting diabetes.

#8: Beans

Beans, whether white, black, navy, pinto, soy, lima, kidney or garbanzo, are a combination of lean protein, soluble fiber and high-quality carbohydrates which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. They are also fat-free, which is an added advantage.

#9: Cakes and Pastries

While toaster pastries, doughnuts, and other bakery sweets are made from processed white flour and high in fat, sodium and carbohydrates and spike blood sugar levels, whole grains and brown rice cakes are better alternatives.  This is because they are less processed and lower in carbohydrates, sodium, and fat. As a recipe instead, try either half of a whole-grain English muffin, brown rice cake added with peanut butter and just a little low-sugar.

Finally, peas, corn tortillas, etc., are other starchy foods that can also be moderately consumed by people with diabetes.  Basically, foods that are fried, highly processed or made with white floor should generally be especially avoided.  Obviously, whole grain and high fiber starchy foods are generally nutritious.

However, it is important to note that it is not strictly about the particular starchy food that one adds to his or her diet but about the portion size. The key to diabetes diets is managing portion, and the patient should always have this in mind and work with his/her dietitian. Work out the right amount of carbohydrates you can have with your health care team and as soon as this is done, choose your food and portion size and ensure you respect this.

Sources:

  1. Kharroubi A.T., Darwish H. M. June 2015. “Diabetes mellitus: The epidemic of the century.” Accessed April 24, 2018.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26131326
  2. Healthline.  “How Many Carbs Should a Diabetic Eat?”  Accessed April 24, 2018.   https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/diabetes-carbs-per-day#section1
  3. Liljeberg H. G, Akerberg A. K, Björck I. M. “Effect of the glycemic index and content of indigestible carbohydrates of cereal-based breakfast meals on glucose tolerance at lunch in healthy subjects.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Apr;69(4):647-55.
  4. Raben A, Holst J. J, Madsen J., and Astrup A. “Diurnal metabolic profiles after 14 d of an ad libitum high-starch, high-sucrose, or high-fat diet in normal-weight never-obese and postobese women.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Feb;73(2):177-89.
  5. Shari Hussenbocus. 2017. “Can I Drink Milk If I Have Diabetes?” Accessed April 24, 2018. https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/can-i-drink-milk-if-i-have-diabetes/