Having talked about insulin management, it is important to understand the other important factor in blood sugar control: food. People with diabetes often tend to think that they can only eat certain types of foods. However, this is incorrect! It is certainly possible to eat all sorts fo foods but care and attention needs to be displayed when dealing with certain types of foods which will be explained shortly.

There are six main components of foods:

  • Proteins– needed for muscle growth and repair (e.g. fish, meat, eggs, nuts)
  • Fats– needed for energy and growth (e.g. avocado, cheese)
  • Carbohydrates– major energy source for the body (e.g. pasta, pizza, lollies, juice)
  • Dietary fibre– not digested by the body but essential for ensuring a healthy digestive system (e.g. fruits, vegetable, nuts e.t.c.)
  • Minerals and vitamins– essential in the diet and perform a diverse range of functions including red blood cell formation (iron) and bone strength (calcium) (e.g. Vitamin C from oranges)

The component that has the most major effect on blood sugar levels are carbohydrates, but all of them can contribute and interact with each other in different ways. Since carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood glucose levels, we will explore them first. It is important to be sufficient at carbohydrate counting and this can be aided through the use of applications such as CalorieKing . (https://www.calorieking.com/au/en/). It is important to understand the complexities that exist between insulin dosing and carbohydrate consumption.

Glycaemic index

Carbohydrates can be classified based on how quickly they raise blood sugar levels (a scale known as the glycaemic index). High GI foods are broken down by the body more quickly leading to increased blood glucose levels in a shorter period of time whereas low GI foods are broken down more slowly leading to a slower but more prolonged increase in blood sugar levels. It is important to be able to differentiate between high and low GI foods in order to inject insulin appropriately. Below is a graph that shows between the high and low GI foods:

In general, high GI foods such as lollies consist of processed carbohydrates which can easily be broken down by the body whereas low GI foods such as bread consist of carbohydrates which take a longer time to be broken down by the body. High GI foods are therefore used to rapidly raise blood glucose levels whereas low GI foods take much longer and don’t cause such a rapid spike in blood glucose levels.

For example, say you were with a group of friends having pizza at a restaurant. Pizza has a low GI value which means that it will take a longer time than usual for blood sugar levels to increase after consumption meaning that insulin may have to be delivered as an extended bolus (spread over a few hours) rather than a single injection.

However, if you were having an ice-cream which has a high GI value, then the insulin could be given in one injection to reduce the effect of the rapid spike in blood glucose levels.