The Sweet Truth about Starch & Blood Sugars

No Grainer


One of the advantages of having diabetes (and believe me, there’s not that many) is that you know pretty quickly how certain foods can spike your blood sugars. I know that grains just turn to sugar & are not my friend, I know that certain kinds of ‘mylk’ need to be avoided as even a small amount in a cup of chai will send my blood sugars sky rocketing & I now know that starch flours, even grain free ones, will spike my blood sugars through the roof.

I had come across lots of Paleo recipes that included tapioca starch and had always just assumed it was a fairly healthy  ingredient. I had even read on a food blog that I really respect that tapioca starch was ‘inert & didn’t affect blood sugar.’ Ok, fine, that’s good enough for me! So when I came across a recipe for Paleo Naan that used equal parts of almond flour, tapioca starch & coconut cream I went for it as Indian style breads are something I really missed.  Granted, the Paleo Naan was totally delectable. It was light, chewy, & tasty with just the right amount of crispness.  I was a fan. Fast forward two hours when I went to check my blood sugars and I was completely shocked to see my reading was a whopping 23! This is higher than what my blood sugars were when I was first diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic 10 years ago & I was suffering from full blown diabetic keto-acidosis.

The first thing I did was check that my insulin pump was working & that my insertion site was OK. This all proved to be fine so then I re-washed my hands & checked my blood sugars again in case I’d accidentally had something sweet on my hands before I checked last time. The numbers were there plain as day, I was seriously high. I gave myself a correction dose, drank copious amounts of water & played the waiting game for my blood sugars to come down. It took a really long time & at least two more correction doses for my blood sugars to stabilize. What the heck had happened?! Well, when I began to research tapioca starch I saw that it wasn’t ‘inert’ at all & in fact contained as many carbohydrates as white flour with 88% of it being pure carbs. Also, because it’s a starch & has been stripped of both fat & fibre it really spikes your blood sugars. It would’ve been helpful to know this before my naan cooking session!

This diabolical diabetic dilemma has led me to reading & researching ingredients even more closely & I found that tapioca starch could be found in large amounts in most gluten free breads & baked products. So this was the reason I could never tolerate them! The positive thing that came from my experience with tapioca is that it led us on the path to creating our No Grainer line of breads – this is something I truly am thankful for! Our bread contains a mere 2.4 grams of carbs per serving so even if I do over indulge I can rest assured that my blood sugars will remain stable. Phew!

So, can tapioca be part of a balanced diet? I believe it can, as long as it’s used in moderation & doesn’t constitute the main part of the recipe. I use small amounts of tapioca when making paleo gravies & crackers & it even features in our pizza base recipe as it adds a lightness & a crispness that couldn’t be achieved without  a starch like flour to balance the other ingredients. I have been able to enjoy our pizza bases many times & it hasn’t cause my blood sugars to spike. The reason I had such a bad reaction to it with the naan was both because it represented one third of the recipe & because I made a bad estimate at how many carbohydrates I thought it had (because I read that it had no affect on blood sugars & I didn’t do a fact check!) & I didn’t give myself enough insulin.

Hopefully other people can learn from my experience & not go too crazy with starches in their recipes. Also check the ingredients  of baked products & if starches represent  a third of more of the ingredients it’s best to stay clear of it (unless it’s a very occasional treat & you don’t have issues with blood sugars like I do) Moderation is key folks! Even with something as delicious as Naan!!