Diabetes and the Diabetic Diet


  • Diabetes is characterized by elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels due to a lack or deficiency of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas.
  • There are two forms of diabetes, Type 1 (insulin-dependant diabetes) and Type 2 (adult-onset diabetes).
  • Healthy eating habits and exercise play an important role helping to manage diabetes and control blood glucose levels.
  • Turtle Mountain’s So Delicious Dairy Free Sugar Free products have been clinically proven to be an excellent option for persons seeking a diabetic friendly, low glycemic treat or simply seeking to reduce their intake of sugar.


Diabetes is characterized by elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels due to a lack or deficiency of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. During the digestion process foods are broken down into smaller components which are absorbed into the blood stream. Glucose is of particular interest in terms of diabetes because as it is absorbed into the blood stream the concentration of sugar in the blood rises sharply signaling the pancreas to secrete insulin. The insulin is responsible for moving glucose from the blood into cells, particularly muscle and liver cells, where it can be stored or burned for energy. When insulin levels are high, the liver stops producing glucose and stores it in other forms until the body needs it again. It should be noted that the brain and nervous system are not dependent on insulin; they regulate their glucose needs through other mechanisms.

There are two forms of diabetes, Type 1 (insulin-dependant diabetes mellitus, IDDM, or juvenile onset diabetes) and Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, NIDDM or adult-onset diabetes).


Type 1 diabetes is the more severe form of diabetes and is usually diagnosed during childhood. The cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed. Without insulin to move glucose into cells, blood sugar levels become excessively high. Since the body cannot utilize the sugar it spills over into the urine and is lost. Weakness, weight loss, and excessive hunger and thirst are a few of the symptoms related to Type 1 diabetes. Persons diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are dependant upon insulin injections or oral medications to help regulate blood sugar levels. Thus dietary intake is very important and must be balanced with insulin intake and energy expenditure from physical exertion.


The more common form of diabetes is Type 2 diabetes, accounting for 90% of cases. Most people with Type 2 diabetes produce normal, even high, amounts of insulin which behaves as normal attaching to receptors on the cell, but certain mechanisms prevent insulin from moving glucose into the cells where it can be used. Obesity is common in Type 2 diabetics and appears to be related to insulin resistance at the cell. Through dietary modifications, exercise, weight loss and maintenance the Type 2 diabetic can control their blood sugar levels minimizing the amount of medication or eliminating it completely.


People should meet with their doctor or a professional dietitian to plan an individualized diet within the general guidelines that takes into consideration their own health needs. There is no single diet that meets all the needs of everyone with diabetes. The overall approach to balanced nutrition is based on the US Dietary Guidelines1 for healthy eating for all Americans, and includes the following:

  • FATS: Limit fats. Avoid saturated fats (found in animal products) and trans-fatty acids (hard margarines, commercial products, fast foods). In selecting fats or oils, choose monounsaturated fats (virgin olive oil, canola oil), although also include polyunsaturated oils (sunflower, rapeseed).
  • CHOLESTEROL: Limit dietary cholesterol.
  • FIBER: Consume plenty of fiber-rich foods in the form of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Includes a daily choice of nuts, seeds, or legumes.
  • CARBOHYDRATES: When choosing foods with sugar, choose fresh fruits, but do so in moderation.
  • PROTEIN: Limit protein. In selecting proteins, eat in moderation and choose fish or soy protein over poultry or meat. (Avoid, in any case, high-fat meats.)
  • SODIUM: Reduce salt.

Furthermore the American Diabetes Association2 and American Dietetic Association3 recommend a balanced meal plan for diabetics and prescribe the following ratios:

  • No more than 30% of calories should come from fat. One gram of fat equals nine calories.
  • 60% of calories should come from carbohydrates. One gram of carbohydrate equals four calories.
  • More than 10% of calories should come from protein. One gram of protein equals four calories.

The most common method for assessing the impact of a food on blood sugar is the Diabetic Exchange List. Other methods include counting carbohydrate grams or utilizing the glycemic index/glycemic load.


Not all carbohydrates have the same effect on blood glucose levels. The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system designed to rate the effect carbohydrates have on blood sugar levels. Glucose has the most rapid effect on blood sugar levels and is one of the two references by which carbohydrates are compared, white bread is the other. Carbohydrates that breakdown quickly during digestion have the highest GI and a blood glucose response that is fast and high. Carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, have a low GI.4 A GI of 70 or more is considered high while GI of 55 or less is low.5 A GI value only indicates how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into sugar, but it doesn't indicate how much of that carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food. Glycemic load (GL) is a more accurate way to assess the overall impact a food has on blood sugar because it takes into consideration the amount of available carbohydrates per serving. A GL of 20 or more is considered high while a GL of 10 or less is low.5 Typical diets on average contain from 60-180 GL units per day. The GL of a food is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate in grams (total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber) provided by a food and dividing the total by 100. For example, our So Delicious Dairy Free Sugar Free Fudge Bars have a GI of 8.9, 12 grams of total carbohydrates and 6 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Therefore the GL would be calculated as:

GL Index

The values provided above were obtained from clinical studies of So Delicious Dairy Free Sugar Free by the Glycemic Research Institute. Click here to review the report of these clinical studies. It should be noted that adding certain fats to a food, for example butter to potato, can slow down the food’s impact on blood sugar.

In addition to helping control blood glucose, diets rich in foods that have a low glycemic index appear to have added health benefits. Some additional benefits of low glycemic foods include obesity prevention, cardiovascular health, and reduced cancer risk including breast, prostate and colon cancers.


Our So Delicious Dairy Free Sugar Free products have been clinically proven to be an excellent option for persons seeking a diabetic friendly, low glycemic treat or simply seeking to reduce their intake of sugar.

Dr. Ann de Wees Allen, Chief of Biomedical Research of the Glycemic Research Institute in Washington, D.C. had this to say regarding our Carb Escapes™ products.

"The Turtle Mountain So Delicious Dairy Free Sugar Free frozen desserts performed exceptionally well in clinical studies conducted at the Glycemic Research Institute Human Clinical Research Laboratory. The glycemic index and load of the products is very low, and was additionally shown not to stimulate fat-storage in humans. The metabolic response of Carb Escapes™ was one of the most favorable we have ever tested since 1983.

In both diabetics and non-diabetics, the So Delicious Dairy Free Sugar Free products exhibited a lower glycemic index and load than 99% of all frozen desserts on the market. Turtle Mountain has produced a State-of-the-Art product that encompasses future-science, and the bonus is that it tastes great."


American Diabetes Association, ATTN: Customer Service, 1701 Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311
Call (800-232-3472) or (800-DIABETES) or http://www.diabetes.org/
A primary source for information on diabetes.

Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, International, 120 Wall Street, 19th floor, New York, NY 10005. Call (212-785-9500) or call (800-JDF-CURE) or http://www.jdfcure.com/

American Dietetic Association, 216 West Jackson Blvd., Suite 800, Chicago IL 60606-6995. Call (312-899-0040) or http://www.eatright.org/
This organization provides names of local dietitians and programs through their Dietitian Referral Hotline: Call (800-366-1655) from 9AM to 4PM.

US Food and Drug Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857-0001. Call (888-INFO-FDA) or http://www.fda.gov/


Glycemic Research Institute. http://www.glycemic.com/

For more information regarding Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm


1. “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.” Health and Human Services. 12 Jan. 2005. <http://www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines/>

2. “Making Healthy Food Choices.” American Diabetes Association. 2 Mar. 2005. <http://www.diabetes.org/nutrition-and-recipes/nutrition/healthyfoodchoices.jsp>

3. “Food and Nutrition Information.” American Dietetic Association. 3 Mar. 2005. <http://www.eatright.org/Public/>

4. “What is the Glycemic Index?” University of Sydney. 13 Apr. 2005. <http://www.glycemicindex.com/main.htm>

5. Mendosa, David. “Revised International Table of Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) Values – 2002”. Mendosa.com. 15 April 2005. <http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm>