How much sugar is allowed for people with diabetes?

Sugar is often portrayed as the villain or the main culprit when the subject of diabetes comes up.

Although sugar plays an important role in the context of this disease, several misconceptions exist about the ability of people with diabetes to consume sugar.

People with diabetes can eat foods and drink drinks that contain sugar. But as with everything, moderation is key.

This article will give you more information on the role sugar plays in diabetes and blood sugar management, and how to approach it in an appropriate and balanced way.

Clinical guidelines or recommendations on anything, including sugar consumption by people with diabetes, are just that: guidelines. They are meant to guide many people to stay as healthy as possible.

Expert opinions differ on the recommended amount of sugar each day.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that only 5 to 10% of your calories come from added sugars or “free sugars”.
  • In the United States, this recommendation is the same, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That translates to 12 teaspoons a day when on a 2,000 calorie diet.
  • However, the American Heart Association advises limiting sugar to 6% of total calories per day. This means a limit of 7.5 teaspoons per day for a 2,000 calorie diet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mentioned that the average intake of added sugars was 17 teaspoons per day — or 19 teaspoons for men and 15 teaspoons for women — for Americans aged 20 and older in 2018.

If you usually eat a lot of sugar, you may want to reduce your intake to help manage your blood sugar and keep it within the target range.

Of course, everyone is different. Your weight, activity level, nutritional needs, and your body’s reaction to factors that affect your blood sugar will be different from someone else with diabetes.

You and your diabetes care team should discuss your situation, including your history of managing your blood sugar, to determine how much sugar you can eat in a typical day. It can also vary depending on the type of diabetes you have and the medications you take.

Some people may fear that sugar consumption leads to diabetes, but diabetes is much more complex. Also, your body needs sugar to function. According to the National Institutes of Health, a type of sugar called glucose is an important source of fuel for your body and brain.

Part of the sugar in your body comes from carbohydrates. After you eat, your body breaks down the food you eat as you digest, which sends glucose into your bloodstream.

Simple carbs like candy or fruit break down quickly, sending a rapid surge of sugar into your bloodstream. More complex carbs like pasta break down more slowly and provide a more stable dose of sugar over time.

If you don’t have diabetes, your pancreas will respond to the influx of sugar by releasing a hormone called insulin, which works to move that sugar out of your blood and into your cells to use as fuel.

However, if you have diabetes, your pancreas may not respond by producing enough (or not at all, in some cases) insulin to do the job. Sugar can build up in your bloodstream, which can eventually damage your blood vessels and lead to other complications.

It is a common misconception that people with diabetes should give up sugar and be sugar free for the rest of their lives.

In other words, yes, people with diabetes box still eat sugar. They can eat foods with added sugars as well as other foods with carbohydrates that are broken down into sugar in the body.

People with diabetes should pay attention to How many sugar they consume. The key word is “moderation,” according to the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists.

Limiting the sugar content overall is a smart choice. Here are some commonly recommended strategies:

  • Try eating smaller portions to reduce your daily calorie intake.
  • Eat a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, grains, and low-fat dairy products, to get the best bang for your buck.
  • Choose foods with less fat.
  • Beware of highly processed foods, which may contain lots of added sugars.
  • Limit sugary drinks. Instead, try substituting with a lower sugar option or choose water more often.

You can also learn to count carbohydrates. Many people with diabetes count carbohydrates to help them keep track of what they eat to better manage their blood sugar.

According to the CDC, if you are overweight, you can help reverse prediabetes and delay or prevent type 2 diabetes by losing 5 to 7% of your body weight. Since this isn’t the only way to prevent type 2 diabetes, and it may not be necessary for everyone, it’s best to talk with your doctor first.

If you have diabetes, you don’t have to resign yourself to a life without sugar. But you need to be aware of how much sugar you’re consuming and how it affects your ability to control your blood sugar.

This not only includes sweets, but also beverages and anything with carbohydrates because these turn into sugar in your body. Your diabetes care team can help you design a plan that helps you achieve a healthy balance.

Lance B. Holton