Karen Chapman Novakovski - Associate Professor of Nutrition

About Diabetes
Food & Diabetes
Medications & Diabetes
Current Issue
En Español
Recommended Websites
Your Guide to Diet and Diabetes
Recipes for Diabetes
Fiesta of Flavors: Traditional Hispanic Recipes for People with Diabetes


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August/September 2007

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In This Issue

Diabetes - The Medical Perspective

Gum disease is when germs in your mouth start to destroy your gums and the bone that hold your teeth in place. It starts with plaque, a sticky material made up of food, saliva, and germs. When plaque is not cleaned away it hardens into tartar and builds up under the gum line that can lead to gum disease and over time the loss of your teeth.

In turn, gum disease can make it harder to control diabetes. It is an infection and can increase your blood glucose levels.

Some signs of gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen, or tender gums
  • Bleeding while brushing and/or flossing
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Pus between the teeth and gums
  • Changes in your bite

There are ways that you can fight gum disease:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day
  • Visit your dentist at least twice per year
  • Keep blood glucose under control

If you are worried that you may have gum disease, you should talk to your doctor and dentist to avoid any further problems.

Diabetes and Food

Diabetes can cause other mouth problems. Some people may complain of having dry mouth. When you have a dry mouth it means you do not have enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Saliva is needed to help digest food and avoid infection and tooth decay by controlling germs. Dry mouth may be caused by your medications or when your blood glucose levels are high. 

In order to prevent dry mouth, some tips include:

  • Drink more water, or sugarless fluids
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Try sugarless gum or sugarless candy
  • Drink water or sugarless drinks with your meals
  • Avoid spicy or salty foods
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco

Sugarless foods may contain sugar alcohols that include mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. These sugar alcohols are not used by germs in the mouth so they do not promote with tooth decay. However, eating too much sugar alcohol can cause diarrhea.

Sugar alcohols in foods do not mean that the item is low in carbohydrates. Make sure you look at the food label when choosing items that are sugarless or sugar free. Eating too many carbohydrates can raise your blood glucose levels. Keep in mind to count the total amount of carbohydrates you should have for the day.

Exercise as a Part of Living

Experts suggest you should be active at least 30 minutes each day. You can break that up during the day. Pick times of the day that you can spend 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there.

Some tips to increase your activity include:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park your car at the far end of the parking lot
  • Take a 5-10 minute walk after every meal
  • Work in the yard or garden
  • Go on a bike ride with your child or grandchild
Remember to talk to your doctor before you start any kind of exercise program or if you have not exercised in a long time.

Recipes To Try

Lemon Chicken
8 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup fat-free low sodium chicken broth
2.4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 leek, halved, washed, sliced
1 pound baby carrots
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch with water for thickening
½ cup lemon juice

 Heat oven to 400° F

  1. In a large skillet, heat oil. Add chicken, turning often to brown.
  2. Add leek and lemon zest, cooking 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add lemon juice and broth, stirring to combine. Add carrots, making sure carrots are at least partially covered with liquid. Cover and cook 35 minutes.
  4. Uncover. While boiling add cornstarch water mixture. Stir while boiling until liquid begins to thicken.

 Total preparation and cooking time: 45 minutes.

Per serving:
Calories: 221                                
Fat: 8 grams
Protein: 29 grams
Calories from fat: 31%
Carbohydrate: 9 grams                          
Cholesterol: 118 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Sodium: 196 mg

Zucchini Salad
4 servings, 1 cup each

1 pound small zucchini, washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¾ cup chopped cilantro

  1. Slice zucchini, then half or quarter slices. Steam 3 to 4 minutes.

  2. Combine cilantro, onion, and zucchini in a medium bowl. 

  3. Combine oil and juice, pour over vegetable mixture. Toss gently.

Total preparation and cooking time: 15 minutes

Per serving:
Calories: 100                                
Fat: 7 grams
Protein: 4 gram
Calories from fat: 67%
Carbohydrate: 7 grams                        
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Sodium: 12 mg

Medication Update

A drug that was approved by the FDA and is used by dentists to treat bad damage to the gums is called doxycycline or periostat. It is used with a method of deep-cleaning of your gums and roots.

Periostat works by stopping the germs in your mouth from growing. This drug is taken by mouth and is only meant for the person to whom it was given. With diabetes, this drug may cause a false result in some tests for sugar in the urine.

Side effects that may occur are nausea or diarrhea. If you have any problems or symptoms report them to your doctor or dentist as soon as you can.

It is best to see your dentist in the morning after you have eaten a healthy breakfast so your blood sugar is within your target range. When you see your dentist you should plan on telling him/her any problems you have with infections, or if you have trouble keeping your blood sugar under control. Include your dentist as part of your health care team.

News & Resources

The New American Heart Association Cookbook (Paperback 2007) by the American Heart Association. More than 600 recipes.

Diabetes Fit Food (Paperback 2007) by Ellen Haas and the American Diabetes Association. More than 200 recipes.

101 Weight Loss Tips for Preventing and Controlling Diabetes (Paperback 2002) by Anne Daly, Linda Delahanty, Judith Whylie-Rosette, and the American Heart Association. 128 pages.

Remember to visit Your Guide to Diet and Diabetes in English and en Espanol at


New recipes are available at http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/diabetesrecipes/

And at


About Diabetes | Food & Diabetes | Medications & Diabetes | Current Issue | Archive | En Español

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