As we have already said, food is digested by your body to provide fuel to your tissues and organs. The amount of fuel is measured in kilojoules.
Let’s go a little deeper into this subject. When food is digested in your stomach and intestines, it’s generally changed from protein, fat and carbohydrate into a substance called glucose (a simple sugar). Glucose is the primary substance cells use as fuel.
During the digestive process, the glucose obtained from the food enters the bloodstream, where it is carried to the cells. For the cells to be able to use this glucose, a hormone called insulin must be available. Insulin allows the glucose to leave the bloodstream and enter the cell where it can be used as fuel. If there isn’t enough insulin available, the glucose remains in the bloodstream, resulting in the high blood glucose levels diagnosed as diabetes.
The speed of the digestive process depends on the type of food being digested. Table sugar (a simple carbohydrate) is quickly converted into glucose, and the result is a sharp, high rise in blood glucose levels. A complex carbohydrate, such as whole-wheat bread, takes longer to be converted into glucose than a simple carbohydrate. As a result, a slice of whole-wheat bread doesn’t cause as high or as fast a spike in blood glucose levels as a teaspoon of sugar. A protein takes longer to be converted into glucose than a carbohydrate.
Ideally, it would seem, your diet should be composed solely of proteins, such as meat and dairy products, so the post-meal glucose levels would be moderate. In fact, such a diet was advocated by many “experts” early this century.
What the experts have come up with is a recommendation that persons with diabetes follow an eating plan that provides fifty-five to sixty per cent of kilojoules from complex carbohydrates; twenty-five to thirty per cent of kilojoules from fat, and ten to fifteen per cent of kilojoules from protein.
After reading this, you may be tempted to go overboard on a high carbohydrate diet. Don’t do this. Meals containing large quantities of carbohydrate tend to elevate your blood glucose levels higher than meals consisting primarily of protein.
If you have just been diagnosed as having Type II diabetes, your first task is to work on normalizing your blood glucose levels. To do this, you need to shift away from carbohydrate foods that elevate these glucose levels. In so doing, you may find that you initially are eating about forty per cent carbohydrate. As your sugars improve you can slowly increase the carbohydrate content of your meals.