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  • Sandra Ramacher

    Diabetes, Glycemic Index and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet

    Sandra Ramacher
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Winter 2008 Issue. NOTE: This article is from a back issue of our popular subscription-only paper newsletter. Some content may be outdated.


    Chinese Fast Food. Image: CC BY-ND 2.0--Jonathan Kos-Read
    Caption: Chinese Fast Food. Image: CC BY-ND 2.0--Jonathan Kos-Read

    Celiac.com 02/13/2021 - I was interviewed for a national diabetes magazine the other day.  They wanted to know how a diet such as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet would be for diabetes sufferers, especially since, in Australia, 10% of diabetics are also diagnosed with celiac disease.  For diabetics the all important question is how carbohydrates affect their blood sugar level, and that the recommended foods have a low Glycemic Index.  The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measurement of the type of carbohydrates in a particular food, and how fast 50 grams of this carbohydrate raises blood glucose levels (and consequent insulin secretion and effects produced by the pancreas) as it is digested.  It is also important to consider the Glycemic Load of foods.  For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the Glycemic Load was devised to make the Glycemic Index useful in the real world.  

    The problem with the Glycemic Index is that the tests use 50 grams of carbohydrate from the food being tested.  On a practical level, that means they test a plateful of spaghetti, but a truckload of cucumbers! It doesn't take into account how food is eaten in the real world, making benign foods seem damaging.  



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    The Glycemic Index is the measurement of how rapidly a given carbohydrate food is absorbed, and therefore how fast it spikes blood sugar.  In general, a rapid rise in blood sugar triggers a large insulin release.  The Glycemic Load is the Glycemic Index multiplied by the actual number of grams of carbohydrate eaten.  Ten or less is a low Glycemic Load—11 to 20 is a medium load, and anything over 20 is high.  

    Take carrots.  Carrots have a high Glycemic Index for a vegetable—around 50.  But do you know how many carrots you'd have to eat to get fifty grams of carbohydrate? More than fifty! The carbohydrate content of eating two whole carrots with a meal is too small to cause a significant rise in blood sugar levels.  Oatmeal, on the other hand, has about the same GI as carrots, but a one cup serving of cooked oatmeal has 25 grams of carbohydrate, for a Glycemic Load of 12.5 in contrast to say 5 baby carrots which has 4 grams of carbohydrate and a Glycemic Load of 2—very low.  

    So how do the foods allowed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet rate, in regard to the GI and GL? Is this a good thing for diabetics and everyone else wanting to be healthier? 

    The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is based on ‘Simple Carbohydrate Foods' or rather monosaccharides which are the single molecule carbohydrates which need no enzyme to be digested.  Carbohydrate foods naturally divide themselves into two groups: 1.  starches and refined sugars, and 2.  everything else.  It's the concentration of carbohydrates in the starches and refined sugars that makes them a problem to those with bowel disease and/or diabetes.  The specific carbohydrates allowed on the diet and used in the Healing Foods cookbook are the ones that are in most low GI foods.  These foods are simple fresh foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, some low starch pulses, nuts, meats, cheeses and yogurt.  Even the baked goods which are sweetened with honey are acceptable as the almond meal used instead of the wheat flour contain monounsaturated fats which slows the absorption rate of glucose from the honey into the bloodstream.  

    Considering all these factors, diabetics, digestive disease sufferers, and generally everyone who wants to live a more energetic and healthy life should be able to benefit from the recipes in Healing Foods: Cooking for Celiacs, Colitis, Crohn's and IBS.  

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  • About Me

    Sandra was born in 1964 in Toronto, Canada and moved to Germany at an early age with her parents, who eventually immigrated to Australia in 1974. From 18 – 26 Sandra worked in the fashion industry and eventually settled in Noosa, Australia to have her son Reuben. It was just after the birth of her son that she was diagnosed with severe Ulcerative Colitis and it was then that she went on the search for alternatives to the steroidal drugs that her doctors put her on. She eventually found out about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet* and cured herself with the help of this diet. “As a photographer and passionate cook I realized that there was a need for a comprehensive visual reference to all the wonderful recipes that can be achieved with this diet” Her book ‘Cooking for Celiacs, Colitis, Crohn’s and IBS’ is a visually stunning and delectably written cookbook, which will please and inspire everyone out there, wanting to help and heal themselves from these debilitating diseases.


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