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Uncover the truth about carbs, sugar and diabetes
Uncover the truth about carbs

Date published: 10/3/2010

IF ONE MORE PERSON tells me that carrots are "loaded with sugar," I'll scream!

Carrots are actually a low-carbohydrate vegetable.

Many people are confused about how carbs affect blood sugar and health. Myths about carbs hurt millions of Americans with diabetes, metabolic syndrome and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Here are the top seven misconceptions about carbohydrates, and the truth about them:

Myth 1: Carbs are bad.

Truth: The body needs some carbohydrates to fuel the brain and muscles.

Myth 2: Carrots are loaded with carbohydrates.

Truth: Despite their sweet taste, carrots don't have a big impact on blood sugar unless you eat several cups of them. Carrots are one of many low-carb veggies that do not significantly affect blood sugar. Other low-carb veggies include lettuce, tomatoes, onions, beets, peppers, broccoli and green beans.

Other low-carb food groups are proteins and fats. Protein foods include meat, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, tofu, low-fat cheese and eggs. (It's good to choose low-fat, lean versions of these foods.) Heart-healthy fats include canola and olive oils, tub margarines, avocados, raw or dry-roasted nuts and peanut butter.

Unlike low-carb veggies, carbohydrate-rich foods affect blood sugar. These foods include sweets such as soda and candy, as well as these three food groups: fruits, milk and yogurt, and starchy foods such as breads, pastas, potatoes, peas and corn.

All carbohydrates turn to sugar in the blood within two hours after we eat.

Myth 3: Certain fruits are pure sugar and should not be eaten by people with diabetes.

Truth: All fruits are healthful. However, whole fruits are better than juices. That's because fruits contain fiber, which blunts the rise in blood sugar. Juices have the fiber removed, so they spike blood sugar as much as an equal amount of soda.

It's smart for people with diabetes to avoid juice, regular soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks.

Myth 4: White flour will kill you.

Truth: Whole-grain breads are a better choice than white bread--they have more fiber, so they don't raise blood sugar as quickly as white bread. However, whole grains contain the same amount of carbohydrates as white flour.

Myth 5: Sugar-free foods are more healthful.


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To learn more about keeping tabs on the carbohydrates in your diet, try these sites:

American Diabetes Association: diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/carb-counting/planning-for-carbs.html

Iowa State University: extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/plan/menuplanning/plate

Jennifer Motl is a registered dietitian. Formerly of Fredericksburg, she now lives in Wisconsin.