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Concerned about Diabetes? It's time to cut the sugar

Posted by: Julie Meek
Tags: nutrition ,

Many people with Type 2 diabetes are all too aware that managing their diet is a key factor in controlling their condition, but what about those who are risk of developing the disease and don’t even know it?

Each day in Australia, a staggering 280 people are diagnosed with diabetes and in 2005, the Australian AUSDIAB Follow-up Study found that 1.7 million people have diabetes, although up to half of the cases remain undiagnosed.

Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle dramatically increase the risk of developing diabetes and a healthy diet is key.

While eating a ‘healthy balanced diet’ sounds simple enough, many nutrition facts and fairytales abound, meaning it can be difficult to know how to choose the best food.

One of the most hotly debated topics associated with diabetes is the role of carbohydrates in the diet. Carbohydrate rich foods are integral to all of us as they supply energy to our muscles and they do truly provide brainpower.

Carbohydrates, made up of several different types of sugars, used to be classified as simple or complex based on the speed of digestion. This type of classification assumed that ‘simple’ carbohydrates (lollies, soft drink, cordial, honey etc) were digested quickly and ‘complex’ carbohydrates (breads, cereal, rice and pasta, fruit and vegetables) were digested slowly.

Research has progressed significantly and we now know there’s more to it than simply digestion. As carbohydrate foods are digested and absorbed, our blood glucose level rises, promoting the release of insulin, which in turn promotes the storage of glucose into cells and lowers blood sugar levels. 

A way of classifying a carbohydrate food according to how quickly it’s digested and more importantly how quickly it’s absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose, is known as the Glycemic Index (GI). Simply stated, low GI foods are digested and absorbed slowly and high GI foods, quickly. Research has found that a low to medium GI diet can improve blood glucose control in people with or without diabetes. 

If you eat minimally-processed, higher-fibre foods such as fruits and vegetables and wholegrain cereals with minimal ‘treats’, your diet is most likely to be low GI. This is because these foods aren’t easily converted to glucose and take longer to be absorbed.

Also, carbohydrates with higher-fibre content tend to be more filling, allowing you to better control your appetite and weight. Visit to find out the GI of common foods.

In reality, the higher-fibre minimally processed carbohydrates are not the ones we really need to worry about. It’s the hidden sugar in other foods that we can’t see.


Check out the following for some stealthy sugar and where to find it:


Cordial 250ml 2 teaspoons
Soft drink 375ml can 8 teaspoons
Sweet muffin 1 medium 7 teaspoons
Milk chocolate 50g bar 6 teaspoons
Jellybeans 10 3 teaspoons
Jelly Snakes 5 small 5 teaspoons
Plain, sweet biscuit 2 1 teaspoon
Chocolate covered biscuit 2 3 teaspoons
Honey 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon
 Sugar, any type 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon

So, next time you’re considering that sugar quick fix, why not swap the sweet drinks and chocolate and make the healthy choice.

For some extra tips on how to make healthier choices, check out My Healthy Balance, or for healthy sweet snack ideas, check out the Healthy Choices Healthy Futures, Healthier Snacks: For the Sweet Tooth resource

Until next time…

Julie :)


About Julie Meek

Accredited practising dietitian, performance specialist, speaker

View all posts by Julie Meek

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