November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Of course, healthy eating is a key part of diabetes management.
Sugar is an ingredient that even those without diabetes are watching for in their diet. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate that breaks down into glucose and is used as a type of energy. There are two types of sugars in foods - naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are those in fruit and milk products, whereas added sugars are those added to foods such as pop, snack foods, cereals and flavoured yogurts, for example.
Foods that have naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, contain many nutritional benefits including fibre, vitamins and minerals, so you do not need to avoid these foods. However, if you have diabetes, controlling the portion size of fruits and milk products at each meal is helpful for managing your blood sugar values.
The World Health Organization recommends adults limit added sugars to 25 g per day, which equals six teaspoons. Although this may sound like a lot, it can add up quickly as sugars are added to many foods that you may not even be aware of.
On a food’s nutrition label, the Nutrition Facts panel does not list added and naturally occurring sugars separately - rather, it shows only the total amount of sugar. So, the best way to determine whether a food’s sugar content is naturally occurring or not is to read the ingredient list. If there are any sugars listed in the first few ingredients, the food is likely quite high in added sugar. Added sugars include a variety of sweeteners such as honey, agave syrup, glucose, sucrose, and maple syrup along with sugar itself.
Sugar substitutes such as stevia, sucralose and aspartame do not affect blood sugars. Health Canada has approved these as safe if consumed in amounts up to the acceptable daily intake. Sugar alcohols, such as xylitol and sorbitol, do not affect blood sugars and are only partly digested by the body. If you consume more than 10 g of sugar alcohol per day, you may experience some GI side effects.
If you prefer to avoid sugar substitutes (and particularly artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame), you can reduce added sugars in your diet by purchasing foods with little or no added sweeteners. Opt for plain oatmeal or plain yogurt, and flavour it with spices, fruit zests, or vanilla extract. When baking, you can also experiment with reducing the amount of sugar called for in a recipe by up to 1/3 – often there is no noticeable difference in the final product.
This recipe for Overnight Steel Cut Oats with Chia is a high-fibre breakfast option. Although it does include some maple syrup, you can reduce the amount if you wish and add in cinnamon and nutmeg.
Overnight Steel Cut Oats with Chia
1/2 cup (125 mL) PC Organics Steel Cut Oats
1/4 cup (50 mL) PC Organics Black Chia Seed
1-½ cups (375 mL) PC Organics Original Unsweetened Fortified Almond Beverage
2 tbsp (25 mL) PC Organics 100% Pure Maple Syrup
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
3/4 cup (175 mL) toasted and coarsely chopped PC Organics Natural Walnuts Halves and Pieces
3/4 cup (175 mL) fresh blueberries
3/4 cup (175 mL) sliced fresh peaches
- Place oats and chia in 1 litre mason jar; screw metal lid on and shake to combine.
- Bring almond beverage, maple syrup, salt and 1 cup (250 mL) water to a boil in small saucepan; immediately pour over oat mixture. Screw lid on tightly to close. Holding jar in tea towel, shake gently to combine. Let stand on counter 10 minutes, shaking once or twice. Refrigerate for 12 hours. (Make-ahead: store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
- Scoop oats into four bowls. Top each with an equal amount of walnuts and fruit.
Makes 4 servings
Per serving: 340 calories, fat 19 g, sodium 330 mg, carbohydrate 37 g, fibre 8 g, protein 8 g
Recipe source: pc.ca
Jillian Reid is a Registered Dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in Amherst, Nova Scotia.
Have a nutrition question? Want to book an appointment or educational store tour for yourself or your community group or business? Contact me by phone at (506) 866-2115 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.