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How to Choose Healthy Desserts for Diabetics

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In type I diabetes mellitus, the beta cells of the pancreas produces little insulin or no insulin at all; therefore, they require insulin injections daily to supply themselves with insulin. In type II diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance prevents the body from using insulin properly, thus increasing blood glucose levels.

Because of this, it seems that diabetic patients have to eschew sugary desserts forever, for diabetes is a condition that requires a lifetime of management and medications. However, that does not mean that a diet program for diabetes patients has to be overly restrictive and dull.

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After all, not allowing diabetes patients to satisfy their natural needs for sweet foods may frustrate them and cause them to eat in binges. And binge eating may increase blood sugar dramatically.

Fortunately, there are many types of desserts that diabetics can enjoy which are pleasurable to their sweet tooth but which do not cause severe spikes in blood sugar.

Examples of healthy desserts for diabetics that are enjoyable for the sense of sweetness and at the same time keep blood sugar to a safe level are: no-sugar hot chocolate; no-sugar gelatin with fruits (fresh or canned) with no-sugar syrup, and low-calorie cake made from sugar-free pudding with sugar-free toppings. Sugar-free fudge pops and jello chocolate mousse are also extra options, especially to those with strong chocolate cravings.

There are also sugar-free counterparts of branded desserts, like sugar-free Oreo cookies and sugar-free iced cream. (Note that "sugar-free" is different from "no-sugar"; "no-sugar" means "no sugar added", which means that the product still contains sugar, but only the minimum; in contrast, "sugar-free" products contain no sugar at all, and if they are sweet, it's because they contain artificial sweeteners.) These desserts are relatively low in glucose compared to their sugar-packed versions, and are easy to make or to buy.

Diabetics often feel that they have to completely avoid carbohydrates, but that's not necessarily true. In fact, completely taking carbohydrates out of the diet can leave the body running low on energy. That, in turn, can leave the body more susceptible to rapid exhaustion, especially in a low-insulin (as in type I diabetes) or insulin-resistant (as in type II diabetes) state. A better idea is to simply space out carbohydrates within meals properly could help keep the body's normal energy levels without causing a sharp rise in blood glucose levels.

The glycemic index (GI) is a good way of determining the effects of dessert on blood glucose levels. Glycemic index is a measure of how carbohydrates are digested within the body to form glucose. Carbohydrates with low GI (55 or less) tend to get digested slower than carbohydrates with high GI (70 or more), and thus are better for diabetics. (There are also intermediate GI foods, with a GI between 55 and 70.) Foods with low GI include oatmeal, barley, and bran cereals; whole-grain or sour dough bread; salad vegetables; and pasta and noodles. When deciding whether desserts are healthy for diabetics, it is wise to remember to look for desserts that have a low to intermediate GI index and avoid the ones with high GI.

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