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Diabetes Diet

The Crunch Factor for People with Diabetes

Those people who don’t have diabetes yet take the crunchiness of their food for granted. Who doesn’t eat tons of potato chips, corn chips, and nachos?

Those of us who need to manage our diabetes, that’s who. The most popular of the crunchy foods are high in carbohydrates that quickly raise our blood sugar levels a lot.

But just because we have diabetes doesn’t mean that we stop loving the crunch factor in our foods. Fortunately, some crunchy foods are low enough in carbohydrates that they won’t literally do a number on our blood sugar.

The big three crunchy foods for me start with chia seeds. These tiny little seeds are packed with fiber, the essential omega-3 fats, and antioxidants. According to the Nutrition Facts label of the brand that I buy, AZChia, all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fiber.

I’ve written about chia seeds several times including two articles here. I introduced it in my Chia Seeds article back in 2007 and reviewed a new book about it a few months ago in Chia Seed Power.

Plain whole yogurt is a staple of my diet currently. But unless I add lots of chia seeds, this yogurt is too plain for me. The crunch factor of chia seeds really livens up the yogurt.

While I wrote about the benefits of chia seeds, I failed to mention the crunchiness factor then. This is my penance.

I also failed to mention the crunchiness of another mainstay of a very low-carb diet in my article earlier this month on Nectresse, a brand new natural no-calorie sweetener. One of its ingredients is a sugar alcohol, erythritol. I actually didn’t realize why I liked using it until I read the online comment to that article by my friend and colleague Gretchen Becker.

“I like the erythritol products because the erythritol, like table sugar, is crunchy … ,” she wrote.

Of the dozen or so sugar alcohols that I reviewed on my website eight years ago in Net Carbs, erythritol has the least impact on our blood sugar. It has just 0.2 calories per gram and a glycemic index of zero.

Chia seeds are both crunchy and healthy. Erythritol is neutral. But number 3 on my list of favorite crunchy foods may not be especially healthy, even though it’s certainly better than the chips that most Americans depend on for their crunch.

Number 3 on my list is actually a type of chip. It goes by various names including pork skins, pork rinds, chicharron, or chicharrones.

Chicharrones are usually but not always made from pork rinds — pig skins. I don’t have any problem with that, but I have some concern that they are deep fried. My concern is that unless you make chicharrones yourself, the cooking oil is probably the same cheap oil high in the inflammatory omega-6 fats, soybean oil.

I am not a purist and am into eating very little carbohydrate for the rest of my life. So I will make an occasional exception for chicharrones, especially when I want crunch and don’t have any chia seeds or erythritol handy.

We probably have many other choices of low-carb, healthy, and crunchy foods. But none come to my mind. Since two or more minds are better than one, please tell us what your favorite crunchy foods are. Your comments here, please!

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • pat at

    Properly prepared, chicharrones are rendered pork skins; i.e. the layer of fat beneath the skin (and in some countries, also a layer of meat) is not trimmed off….The skins are cut into strips or squares and slowly cooked over low heat to enable the subcutaneous fat to melt and to eventually crisp both skin and meat. Thus the rendered pork fat — aka lard– remains well below smoking level and does not oxidize. This rendered lard is incredibly flavorful for cooking other foods.
    Commercial preparation is, of course, quite a different process.

  • KM at

    When green, Bitter Melon, is somewhat crunchy
    (unknown GI), as is cucumber, small zuchinniii,

  • Suzie_B at

    I have often wondered about what pork rinds were fried in. It seems to me that if it were soybean oil or other oils, it would have to be listed in the ingredients. Maybe they are fried in pork fat.