Back to Basics of Diabetes: Sweets and Sugar

Nora Saul is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Manager of Nutritional Education at the Joslin Diabetes Center
Nora Saul is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Manager of Nutritional Services at the Joslin Diabetes Center

Great minds think alike—which means that people who are new to diabetes and the world of self management tend to come up with the same questions.

So for those of you a bit too shy to inquire directly, here’s what your fellows are curious about.

Every Monday, we will be posting a common diabetes-care question along with the answers I give patients. If there is a question you are dying to know the answer to, let us know.

Can I have sweets and sugar?


For many years, people with diabetes were told to avoid all sweets and to purchase products with a sugar content of less than 5 grams.

But that hasn’t been the case for a long time now.

We now know that both sugar and starch can raise blood glucose. In fact, some starches can raise blood glucose more quickly than some sugary foods. For example, white bread will elevate blood glucose more quickly than a chocolate chip cookie containing equal amounts of carbohydrate.

That doesn’t mean you have a license to eat sweets all day long. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans consider sweets to be a bonus food; something you can have if you have consumed adequate quantities from the recommended food groups and have calories left over.

So, sure! Go ahead and enjoy that cookie for dessert. But don’t make it a major part of your diet.


    • Dear Mr. Southwell,
      Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein but does contain carbohydrate. If you carb count, simply count it as part of your carbohydrate allowance for your meal. If you follow the plate method it would take the place of your milk serving.

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