Can I drink a little sugar if I have diabetes?

I have heard this question repeatedly over the last few years. And we should not be surprised. For some people, the diagnosis of diabetes marks the beginning of the end of their relationship with sugar. At first glance, it seems logical. If diabetes is characterized by an increase in the levels of a blood sugar (glucose), a good strategy would be to eliminate sugars from the diet. Sometimes this thought is somewhat more exaggerated in some people with diabetes and their relatives, coming to perceive sugar as a substance something more like a poison than a food.

When consulting our health professionals, we find different positions, often confronted. The most stringent recommend completely eliminating sugars from the diet of people with diabetes. The most permissive allow sugars to be included in the diet, though, under a series of rules and controls. This small conflict indicates that, surely, there are a number of reasons or arguments both for and against including sugars in the diet of people with diabetes. Here are some of them:

In favor of taking sugar

Sugars are naturally occurring substances in many healthy foods such as fruits, honey or milk. But in addition, we also find processed sugars, extracted from other foods, such as white sugar or table sugar, basically composed of sucrose. This is the most used sugar in our diet, as it is included in a multitude of products such as sugary drinks, juices, ice creams, pastries, etc.It is often recommended that basic carbohydrates in the diet be complex, such as rice or pasta

The main fear when taking sugar is to think that it will produce a rapid and uncontrolled rise in blood glucose right after taking it. Instead of sugars, it is usually recommended that the basic carbohydrates in the diet be complex, such as rice or pasta, which are not composed of sugars, but of starches.

We must understand how the process of digestion and absorption of food works. Once chewed and swallowed, the food reaches the stomach, where digestion takes place. There, the nutrients are separated into smaller portions, so that they can then be digested in the small intestine. Logically, the sugars just need to go through this process of digestion, so they go to the blood at high speed, increasing blood glucose quickly. Starches, on the other hand, are complex molecules, composed of the union of up to several hundred bound glucose molecules, which must be separated before they can be absorbed. Here is the key. This separation process is much faster than you might think. Studies show that blood glucose levels increase similarly when taking a sugar such as sucrose (table sugar) as when taking a food based on starch, such as white bread or boiled rice. Therefore, you should not be afraid to take a food containing sugars, because the effect on blood glucose is similar to any other food made from refined flours.

In addition, it is known that when sugars are included or mixed with other foods, their rate of absorption is reduced. For example, taking a candy between meals will produce a rapid rise in blood sugar, higher than if taken after a snack.

Another argument in favor is based on the fact that the possibility of taking some amount of sugar makes food more normal, especially in the case of children and / or adolescents. This could help those with diabetes better adapt to dietary treatment of the disease.


The arguments against are clear. Sugars increase blood sugar very quickly, especially those foods that contain glucose. The pure glucose added to many products is the food that increases blood glucose more quickly. On the other hand, fructose, or fruit sugar, has a much slower effect, which is why it produces very progressive increases in hypoglycemia.

The nutritional value of sugars is not interesting at all. That is, they provide calories and carbohydrates, but little else. In contrast, foods that contain starches, such as rice or pasta, provide a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals. In addition, if these foods are taken whole, their nutritional quality is much higher, especially for its high fiber content.

Once exposed and studied the arguments for and against, with the help of their medical team, each one can make their own decision. In any case, it seems clear that: