How do low-fat foods affect blood glucose levels?

Some carbohydrates are harder to spot in foods. Products such as low-fat and nonfat foods have added carbohydrates that can affect blood glucose. You’ll want to keep in mind that even if a product is labeled as low calorie, low sugar, or sugar free, it may contain other substances that raise blood glucose.

Often, these substances are modified forms of carbohydrate that are used as emulsifiers or bulking agents. For example, maltodextrin and polydextrose can be found in products such as sugar-free, nonfat yogurt or low-fat pudding and ice cream. Maltodextrin is digested like a carbohydrate and provides 4 calories per gram. Polydextrose mostly passes through the body and provides just 1 calorie per gram so it does not have much effect on blood glucose.
Alberta Scruggs
Nutrition & Dietetics
Low-fat foods may be low in fat but high in sugar. One of the dietary goals for those with diabetes is to limit/control the amount of carbohydrate (sugar), consumed. Identifying and limiting intake of foods with added sugars is vital. Added sugars are refined sugars, which are quickly broken down and absorbed by the body (unlike complex sugars that are digested and absorbed much slower, resulting in a gradual rise in blood sugar).

When choosing a low-fat diet , my suggestions to you are:
  • Select low-fat foods from the outer aisle of the store and cook from “scratch” whenever possible. Fat is generally found in dairy, meats and fats/oils.
  • Choose 1% or skim dairy products (yogurt/milk/cheese), instead of 2% or Whole milk products. Most pasteurized dairy products are enriched with vitamin A & D.
  • Choose lean meats such as ground round instead of ground beef. Choose Canadian bacon instead of regular bacon. Choose baked or broiled fish (haddock, cod, flounder, trout or tuna in water), instead of fried fish. Choose egg whites instead of the whole egg. If cheese is a substitute for meat, choose cheeses with less than 3 grams of fat per ounce (Parmesan. Mozzarella), instead of American, Swiss or cheddar cheese.
  • When possible, substitute butter with a butter/Olive oil bend. Limit intake of saturated fat (animal products and coconut products), to less than 7%-10% of total daily kcalories.
Remember -- All foods have a serving size. Limiting food intake according to the recommended serving size of food is a dietary strategy that will help lower the amount of fat eaten and manage sugar intake also.

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Foods contain a combination of 3 macronutrients fat, carbohydrate and protein of which all are eventually broken down into glucose to affect blood glucose levels. Low fat foods tend to have a higher carbohydrate content which is broken down rapidly to result in higher blood glucose levels immediately. Strive for healthy blood glucose levels by including healthy fats, protein and carbohydrate at every meal and snack. Include a variety of vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil, proteins including lean meat, and nuts. Choose 2 or 3 small servings of high carbohydrate foods in range of about one-fourth to one-half cup or 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrate, of legumes, beans, soy or dairy, whole grains, and fruits at meals and snacks.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.