“A person with diabetes does need to be more mindful of the type of carbohydrates they choose to consume, as each source of carbohydrate is digested by the body differently and has a different effect on how quickly it hits a person’s bloodstream and causes their blood sugar to spike,” says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
She explains that for example, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are all complex carbohydrates, meaning it takes longer for our body to break down and digest them, and provides us with a steady release of energy over time (a slow release of glucose into our bloodstream).
“However, simple carbohydrates typically found in white bread, white pasta, sugary cereals, desserts, juice, candy, and ice creams get digested by the body a lot quicker and hit our bloodstream a lot faster than complex carbohydrates, and can cause a quicker spike in blood sugar,” says Ehsani.
That means that many types of dessert can quickly make things go south for diabetics, which is why Ehsani adds that anyone with diabetes needs to limit added sugar in their diet and choose more complex carbohydrates over simple ones (unless you’re having a low blood sugar episode).
Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition and a spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adds that “it is recommended that people with diabetes have consistent carbohydrate intake and try to avoid consuming just simple carbohydrates by themselves, as well as making sure they have enough fiber and protein.”
However, sugar isn’t completely evil for people with diabetes–it just depends on a few factors.
“Sugar isn’t necessarily ‘bad’ for people with diabetes, but quantity, quality, timing, and food combinations matter very much,” says Silvia Carli, MS, RD, CSCS, registered dietitian with 1AND1. “People with diabetes have a decreased sensitivity to insulin, meaning that cells in their bodies have a harder time bringing in sugar in the blood and converting it into energy.”
Carli adds that the health risks of having chronic high blood sugar levels can lead to atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke, and issues with nerves, eyes, and kidneys.
To keep your blood sugar steady and under control (and prevent spikes and dips), here are 7 of the worst desserts for diabetes to be aware of, according to dietitians.