An elevated glucose level, known as hyperglycemia, is associated with an increased risk in heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage and blindness. Chronic high blood sugar weakens smaller blood vessels, causing organs and tissues to lose vital nutrients. Keeping your glucose levels within target range will help you feel better and reduce your risk of the serious health complications associated with diabetes.
Carbohydrates and Glucose Levels
Only carbohydrates raise your blood glucose levels, so most people with high blood glucose follow a limited-carbohydrate diet. This should not be confused with a low-carbohydrate diet that causes your body to burn fat rather than glucose for energy. A limited-carbohydrate diet is an eating plan that encourages a moderate amount of carbohydrates. If the typical diet includes 60 percent carbohydrates, people with high blood glucose are encouraged to obtain between 40 and 50 percent of their calories from carbohydrates.
Carbohydrate Quality -- The Glycemic Index
People with diabetes and elevated blood glucose are often advised to eat carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index, or GI, scale. The GI is a score that ranks foods based on their potential to raise blood sugar -- the lower the score on the GI, the less impact a food has on your blood glucose level. Foods are scored from 1 to 100, and any food scoring less than 55 is a low-GI food. Many popular diets plans are based on choosing low-GI foods.
The Importance of Fiber
A high-fiber diet may help help lower your glucose level. Fat, protein and fiber all slow down digestion and the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. Dietary protein contains 4 calories per gram and dietary fat contains 9 calories per gram. However, most dietary fiber passes through your intestines without being digested and absorbed. Therefore, fiber does not generally add to your total calorie count. According to Harvard's Joslin Diabetes Center, people with diabetes following a high-fiber diet had much better glucose control than people without enough fiber in their diets.
The Diabetic Exchange System
Designed specifically for people with diabetes, the Exchange Diet groups foods into separate categories, including starch, meat, vegetable, fruit, milk, and fat and "free" foods that have less than 20 calories per serving. Each group has its own calorie, fat, protein and carbohydrate count per serving. For example -- one starch exchange is equivalent to 80 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of protein. You are limited to a specific number of exchanges daily in each category, but you have the freedom to choose the foods that you like. The exchange program can seem complicated at first, but is a flexible system that ensures adequate nutrition and should help to stabilize your glucose level.
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