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Valentine’s Day for People with Diabetes Mellitus

February 7, 2022

As Valentine’s Day approaches and we are making plans to show our loved ones how much they mean to us, we need to consider those individuals in our lives who suffer from diabetes mellitus. These plans often involve food, drink, and sugary treats, all of which can cause great fluctuations in an individual’s blood sugar. So, what can we do for these special people in our lives that is not detrimental to their health?

There are a few immediate considerations when giving these carbohydrate-laden products to loved ones with diabetes mellitus. The first thing to consider is the type of carbohydrate in the foods, followed by the number of carbohydrates in each food. Lastly, there may be times it’s necessary to find a reasonable replacement when the first two considerations eliminate a food choice as an option.

Carbohydrates are found in three forms; starch, sugar, and fiber. The starch and sugar type will impact a diabetic’s blood sugar levels significantly, known as the Glycemic Index (GI) of a food. The GI of food ranges from 0-100, where zero has no effect on a diabetic’s blood sugar, and 100 means that the food will cause a major increase in the person’s blood sugar, and consequently, their insulin levels. So, when many foods and treats such as candy, cookies, and pastries contain significant starch and processed sugar, giving them a high GI ranking, it’s important to shift to another more acceptable food choice that has a lower GI ranking.

How to Choose Low GI Foods

Choosing treats for a diabetic based upon GI ranking does not mean the items need to be devoid of sugar. Instead, consider the amount of sugar in the food. A GI index ranking of 55 or lower is a good number to target. Alternative options consist of those that avoid processed sugars, including certain fruits and dark chocolate with 60%-70% cacao or treats that use alternative sweeteners such as stevia. These are good options because they have a GI of 0 but caution should be used because these types of sweeteners can cause gastrointestinal upset. To better understand a food’s GI rank, download a smartphone app or look up the GI ranking of the food online.

Alternative Valentine’s Day Gifts

When seeking alternatives to high sugar treats and candy, consider fresh fruit combinations such as pears and cheese, apples with natural peanut butter, and strawberries dipped in dark chocolate or with low-sugar whipped cream. Other fruits to consider are peaches, plums, cantaloupe, and cherries. Dark chocolate-covered almonds or cashews are also wonderful options. Alcohol in small quantities is also acceptable. As with all food choices, food sensitivities, allergies and their interaction with medications must be considered.

Please note that the above suggestions are not intended to be diet modifications for an individual with diabetes mellitus. The best recommendation for a comprehensive diet plan is that it be individualized and an assessment is completed by a dietician or their primary care physician.

Originally published on February 7, 2022, at Senior Outlook Today