Sugar and diabetes, what's the story?

I was at an event on Tuesday and a gentleman came up to me with this question:

"So, sugar and diabetes... What's the story?"

He was confused to whether he, having type 2 diabetes, was allowed to have a drink with a teaspoon of sugar in it. He hadn't seen a dietitian yet, but had been reading numerous and various articles on sugar and health.

What do you think?

(Image courtesy:

When it comes to managing diabetes, there are two key goals:
  1. Manage blood glucose levels - daily.
  2. Prevent complications of diabetes - long term.
Carbohydrate-rich food will raise your blood glucose level. Whether it does that quickly (high GI) or slowly (low GI) depends on the quality of the carbohydrate. Ideally we want to focus on eating unrefined, low GI carbohydrate foods like wholegrains, legumes, fruits and starchy veg with skin on. Food will generally lose its health-promoting antioxidants and fibre with more processing. Such nutrients that are lost during processing often have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

So table sugar, being a highly refined carbohydrate, is not an ideal everyday food. 
But does that mean you must avoid it completely? 

Not really.

As long as your general overall diet is filled with wholesome and nutritious foods and you exercise regularly, having a teaspoon of sugar here and there will not kill you.

So my answer to the man is:

Sugar and Diabetes can have a happy ending as long as we take a holistic approach in nutrition and lifestyle, instead of putting our entire focus on one single nutrient.

I love being a dietitian because our focus is on nourishing the body whilst maintaining enjoyment in eating :)