Diet plays a key role in managing all types of diabetes. Let's look at the ways in which food choices can help keep you healthy. When you have diabetes, a smart diet starts with understanding how different foods can affect your blood sugar levels. Fortunately, there's a convenient tool to measure this-the glycemic index. The glycemic index, or GI, is a tool that distinguishes how different carbohydrates affect blood sugar. The system compares various foods to pure glucose, which has a rating of 100. Foods with a glycemic index rating below 55, such as an apple, are digested slowly, keeping blood sugar stable. A. Foods with a GI rating greater than 55, like a donut, are digested and absorbed quickly, B. creating intense fluctuations in the body's sugar and insulin levels. Because diabetics must regulate their blood sugar carefully, it is best to avoid foods that will cause sugar spikes. Some examples of foods with particularly high GIs include: A. white bread, which has a GI of 71, B. watermelon, which weighs in at 72 and C. pretzels, which have a GI of 81. A. If you have diabetes, you'll rarely go wrong with fresh vegetables, because they have extremely low glycemic indexes. B. For example, broccoli and spinach both have a GI of 15. Once you begin to use the glycemic index, there are some guidelines to follow that can keep you on the path to good health. Start adding high-fiber foods to your diet. Fiber will keep you full longer and reduce blood sugar surges. A. Enjoy low GI fruit, like apples and cherries. B. Lean meats, like chicken and turkey, C. and unrefined grains are great options for diabetics, too. While every diabetic is different, a good rule of thumb is to try to consume 50 percent of your nutrients from carbohydrates, 20 percent from protein and a maximum of 30 percent from fats. While all of us should watch our intake of saturated fats, processed foods, and simple sugars, it's even more important for diabetics to do so. A. That's because these foods can cause uncontrollable blood sugar surges in diabetics, B. resulting in a coma or even death. Above all else, a great healthy-eating guideline I share with my clients, is to read the ingredient listings on your food. If you don't recognize or can't pronounce some of the ingredients, don't eat it! A diagnosis of diabetes can be life-altering, however following a healthy diet that takes the glycemic index and general good sense into account can help diabetics stay well and feel great! Because every diabetic is different, remember that you should always talk to your doctor before starting a new diet.