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!!