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The Diabetes Diet, Chapter 3 – Part 6

The Diabetes Diet
Richard K. Bernstein, MD, FACE, FACN, FACCWS
Part 6 of Chapter 3
Essential Guidelines for the Diabetes Diet

Vegetables
Just as some fruits are acceptable — some biological fruits, mentioned above — some vegetables are best avoided.

Beets.
Like most other sweet-tasting vegetables, beets are loaded with sugar. Sugar beets are a source of table sugar.

Carrots.
After cooking, carrots taste sweeter and appear to raise blood sugar much more rapidly than when raw. This probably relates to the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars by heat. Even raw carrots can be slowly converted to glucose and should be avoided. If, however, you are served a salad with a few carrot shavings on top for decoration, don’t bother to remove them. The amount is insignificant, just like a teaspoon of milk.

Corn.
Not a vegetable at all but a grain. Nearly all of the corn grown in the United States is used for two main purposes. One is the production of sweeteners. Most of the sugar in Pepsi-Cola, for example, comes from corn. The other major purpose is animal feed, e.g., fattening up hogs, cattle, and chickens. Corn for consumption by people, as a “vegetable” or in snack foods, comes in third. Diabetics should avoid eating corn, whether popped, cooked, or in chips — even 1 gram of corn (a couple of kernels of popcorn) will rapidly raise my blood sugar by about 5 mg/dl.

Potatoes.
In a steak-and-potato meal, it’s the potato that’s the heart-attack food. For diabetics, cooked potatoes raise blood sugar almost as fast as pure glucose, even though they may not taste sweet. Giving up potatoes in all their variety can seem a big sacrifice for many people, but it will also make a big difference in your blood sugars and your ability to lose weight and keep it off.

This book has a fabulous recipe for Mashed Cauliflower that makes a very good substitute for mashed potatoes. The Parmesan-Crusted Zucchini slices could substitute nicely for home fries.

Tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce. Tomatoes, as you probably know, are actually a fruit, not a vegetable, and as with citrus fruits, their tang can conceal just how sweet they are. The prolonged cooking necessary for the preparation of tomato sauces releases a lot of glucose, and you would do well to avoid them. If you’re at someone’s home for dinner and are served meat or fish covered with tomato sauce, just scrape it off. The small amount that might remain should not significantly affect your blood sugar. If you are having them uncooked in salad, limit yourself to one slice or a single cherry tomato per cup of salad. (See page 258 for a low-carbohydrate, tomato-free, Italian-Style Red Sauce that can be good over, say, a broiled, sautéed, or grilled chicken breast or veal scaloppine.) Onions fall into this same category — despite some sharp flavor, they’re quite sweet, some varieties sweeter than others. There are other vegetables in the allium family that can be substituted, although in smaller quantities, such as shallots and elephant garlic. A small amount of chopped onion (1 tablespoon) contains only 1 gram of carbohydrate and can readily be added to an omelet without adverse consequences.

Commercially Prepared Soups
Believe it or not, most commercial soups marketed in this country can be as loaded with added sugar as a soft drink. The taste of the sugar is frequently masked by other flavors — spices, herbs, and particularly salt. Even if there were no added sugar, the prolonged cooking of vegetables can break the special glucose bonds in the cellulose of slowacting carbohydrates, turning them into glucose. As you know from above, the amount of carbohydrate claimed on a nutrition facts label can vary considerably from what’s actually in the product. Add to that the common inclusion of potatoes, barley, corn, rice, and other unacceptable foods in soups, and you have a product that you will generally want to avoid. There are still some commercial soup possibilities that fit into our scheme (see page 79).

Health Foods
Of the hundreds of packaged food products that you see on the shelves of the average health food store, perhaps 1 percent are low in carbohydrate. Many are sweetened, usually with honey or other so-called natural sugars. Indeed, many natural foods can be very high in carbohydrate. Since the health food industry shuns artificial (nonsugar) sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame, if a food tastes sweet, it probably contains a sugar. If it isn’t honey or fructose, then it may be another stealth sugar, such as sorbitol or maltitol. A few “health foods” are unsweetened and low in carbohydrate.


We would like to thank the publisher Little Brown and Company and Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, for allowing us to provide excerpts from The Diabetes Diet.

Copyright © 2005 by Richard K. Bernstein, M.D. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Author’s Note:
This book is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. The reader should regularly consult a physician for all health-related problems and routine care.

For more information on Dr. Bernstein’s and to purchase his books, CD’s or get access to his free monthly webinars, visit his website at DiabetesBook.com.