But It’s Natural Sugar

I’ve mentioned several times in the past that I’m sick of people trying to give me a “healthier” dessert of fruit simply because I have diabetes.

“Fruit has natural sugar,” I’ve been told, implying that natural sugar is okay. I really hate how tied into diabetes (all types) the word “sugar” is! Natural, synthetic, processed, alien, whatever! If it has “sugar” of any type in it, it has carbohydrates in it.

When I explain things related to diabetes to people, I try to use words like: glucose, carbohydrates and energy. The word “sugar” comes in here and there but I try to make it known that sugar is a carbohydrate and I have to count carbohydrates and that I take insulin for my body to be able to turn the glucose in my blood from the carbohydrates into energy. Is it a scientific explanation? Not really. But I feel like it elicits at least fewer images of candy, cookies and white granules when I talk to people.

I had an interesting conversation with a family friend over the holidays about natural vs. processed sugar (and food in general). He wanted to know how I have to handle natural sugar and processed sugar when it comes to my diabetes… the answer was: the same way.

Before anyone jumps on me about natural being better than processed or synthetic… When it comes to the simple concept of tracking carbohydrates, taking insulin, keeping blood glucose levels normal and bringing up a low bg level, natural sugars and processed sugars act the same way inside my body. I find that I feel better overall when I eat natural and organic foods but that was unrelated to today’s exact topic.

Back to the conversation…

he asked about a specific fruit and it’s blood sugar effect. I explained how I need to look at the carbohydrates, fiber, protein and fat in any food (or drink) to figure out how much insulin to take and plan on how quickly it will process and turn into glucose in my blood stream.

Then I talked about hypoglycemia. I explained that when I’m low, I drink natural juice with natural sugar in it, but if I didn’t have juice available to me,  a regular soda with processed sugar in it would also raise my blood glucose level. 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates (natural sugar) in organic apple juice and 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates (processed sugar) in a regular Coke will accomplish the same goal in that particular situation. And if all I have available to me is bad-for-you soda and I’m experiencing a low blood sugar, that bad-for-me beverage could save my life.

At another point in time, if my bg is too high, for a numeric example let’s say I have a reading of 238 mg/dL (which is about 100 points above where I’m okay with), 9 grams of natural sugar (pure carbohydrates) in a clementine orange will drive my blood sugar higher. The clementine would act the same way as 9 grams of processed sugar in 9 jellybeans (pure carbohydrates) would. While an orange is a much better snack choice than candy, at the point when my blood glucose is high, both are a bad idea.

Nutrition Label for a clementine {source}

Nutrition for a clementine {source}


Nutrition label for 10 jellybeans {source}

Nutrition for 10 jellybeans {source}

Natural sugar, whether in fruit, maple syrup, honey or anything else, is still a form of sugar so it still has carbohydrates. As far as my stupid pancreas is concerned, it’s all the same.

I haven’t posted about diabetes topics lately because I’ve haven’t been all that interested in talking about diabetes when other things are going on. But one point of this blog is to help share knowledge about life with diabetes. I feel that examples and analogies help people better understand what I’m talking about.

What examples have you used or heard that made understanding something complicated easier?

2 thoughts on “But It’s Natural Sugar

  1. Hi Rachel!

    I feel the same way about how the word sugar is used. I get a lot of “Why do you need to take your needle? It’s a bowl full of pasta, not candy”. Also, I use the same analogy you use when explaining the whole sugar-carbs situation.

    I can’t off hand think of an example of how something complicated was explained to make it easier. I’ll have to see if I can come up with something. Thanks for sharing.

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