If you have diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is critical. Can sweet treats fit into a diabetic diet? In proper portions, of course.
Diabetes or not, health experts recommend reining in added sugars (not the natural type found in milk and fruit). That's because they contribute excess calories without providing nutrients, which can lead to unwanted weight gain, poor heart health and elevated blood sugar levels. The American Heart Association advises women to limit added sugars to six teaspoons daily and men to cap their intake at nine teaspoons per day.
A recent article in Environmental Nutrition offers strategies for including desserts in a diabetes plan -- they work for fitting desserts into a healthy eating plan as well.
--Count those carbs. For people with diabetes, total carbohydrate is the focus - not just grams of sugar, according to Toby Smithson, registered dietitian and author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies. Sugar on a food label is only part of the total carbohydrate. It's important to count all the carbohydrate in a food. Although it's highly individualized, 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per meal is fairly common.
--Key on portions. Read the serving size and the total amount of carbohydrate per serving on food labels. If your favorite treat is especially high in carbohydrates, consider eating a smaller portion than that listed on the label.
--Turn to sugar substitutes. Sugar substitutes (or non-nutritive sweeteners), such as aspartame, sucralose or stevia, are considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration and the American Diabetes Association recommends using them as an acceptable strategy to reduce overall calorie and carbohydrate intake.
--Watch out for "low-sugar" desserts. Many special "diabetes" treats, can be high in calories, refined grains and saturated fats, and are no better than "regular" desserts.
--Rethink diabetic candy. Too much diabetic candy can put you in the bathroom due to the sugar alcohol used to reduce calories.
--Make it fit. Think about carbohydrates like your bank account. If you're going to have a dessert, with its added carbohydrates, swap other carbohydrate-containing foods, such as bread, rice, cereal, yogurt or milk.
--Balance it out. Swapping healthful carbohydrates -- such as whole grain and fruit -- too often for not-so-healthy desserts can put you at risk for missing out on critical nutrients found in whole foods.
Q and A
Q: Is decaffeinated black tea equally as beneficial as regular black tea?
A: The potential health benefits of regularly consuming black tea, such as lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers and osteoporosis, are likely due to the polyphenols it provides. Polyphenols may help protect our body in several ways, such as by helping prevent cell damage, supporting the immune system and fighting inflammation, among other mechanisms. The decaffeination process slightly reduced the polyphenol content of black tea and may affect polyphenol absorption. One human study showed the polyphenols in decaffeinated black tea are absorbed, but to a lesser extent than either regular black or green tea. And in some, but not all animal studies, decaffeinated black tea was slightly less effective at inhibiting cancer development than regular black tea. However, no studies have directly compared the health effects of regular versus decaffeinated black tea in people, so we really cannot say for sure if they differ significantly. Regardless of which tea you prefer, it will still contribute to your polyphenol intake, and it's a great way to stay hydrated. A bonus: if you skip add-ins like sugar, your tea also will be calorie-free and a much better choice than sugar-sweetened drinks. -- Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.
Granola can be tricky when it comes to finding one that is low in fat and carbohydrates. Cooking Light offers a Coconut-Buckwheat Granola (to mix in your favorite Greek yogurt) that fills the bill.
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked dried coconut
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup uncooked buckwheat groats (pale-green)
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients (oats through groats) in a large bowl. Combine oil, honey, salt and cinnamon in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add honey mixture to oat mixture; stir well to coat. Spread oat mixture in a single layer on a parchment paper- lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden, stirring once after 10 minutes. Cool completely. Serves 12 (serving size: about 1/3 cup).
Per serving: 168 calories, 5 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 10.9 g fat, 3 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 0 mg cholesterol, 162 mg sodium.
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