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Are Pecan Sandies good for diabetics?

Pecan sandies are shortbread cookies made with pecans. They have a sweet, nutty flavor that makes them a popular cookie choice. However, pecans are relatively high in carbohydrates, so pecans sandies are not necessarily the best option for people with diabetes. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at pecans sandies and whether they can be part of a healthy diet for diabetics.

Nutrition Facts for Pecan Sandies

The nutrition information for a typical serving of pecan sandies (about 4 cookies) is:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 180
Total Fat 9 g
Saturated Fat 2.5 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 15 mg
Sodium 105 mg
Total Carbohydrate 23 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Total Sugars 11 g
Protein 2 g

As you can see, the main nutrients in pecan sandies are fat and carbohydrates. There are 9 grams of total fat and 23 grams of carbohydrates per serving.

The total carbohydrates are made up of 1 gram of fiber and 11 grams of sugar. So out of the 23 grams of total carbohydrates, about half are from sugar. The sugar adds a lot of the sweetness in pecan sandies.

Carbohydrates and Diabetes

When considering any food for a diabetes diet, it’s important to look at the carbohydrate content. Carbs directly impact blood sugar levels.

Foods that are high in carbs, like pecan sandies, can lead to spikes in blood sugar after eating. The more processed the carb source is, the quicker it is digested and hits the bloodstream.

Since pecan sandies are made with white flour and sugar, the carbs are fast digesting. This means the cookies can cause a rapid rise in blood glucose shortly after eating them.

In addition to causing spikes, high carb foods require more insulin to handle the sugar load. For people with diabetes, it’s best to focus on foods that have a low glycemic index, meaning they are absorbed more slowly and create a more gradual rise in blood sugar.

Recommended Carb Intake

The recommended carbohydrate intake for diabetics is:

– 130 grams per day for adult women
– 180 grams per day for adult men

However, these are general guidelines only. Carb needs can vary a lot depending on the individual. Some people do better with a slightly lower carb diet of around 100-120 grams per day.

Work with your doctor or dietitian to determine the carb range that is optimal for your body and diabetes management. This will depend on things like your current medications, activity levels, metabolism and goals.

Effect of Fats on Diabetes

In addition to carbohydrates, the fats in pecan sandies are also a consideration for diabetes.

Pecan sandies get a good portion of their calories from fat. There are 9 grams of total fat in a single serving.

The type of fats found in pecan sandies are:

  • Monounsaturated fats from the pecans
  • Saturated fats from the butter

Monounsaturated fats are generally considered heart-healthy fats. They can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels when eaten in moderation.

Saturated fats, on the other hand, may raise cholesterol levels. Eating too many saturated fats is associated with increased risk of heart disease.

For people with diabetes, saturated fats may also impact insulin resistance and inflammation levels. Some research indicates that replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can improve insulin sensitivity.

Overall, the fats in pecan sandies are a mix – they provide some healthy monounsaturated fats but also contain saturated fat that should be limited.

Fiber Content of Pecan Sandies

Getting adequate fiber is important for everyone, including people with diabetes. Fiber slows digestion, which helps prevent blood sugar spikes after meals. Soluble fiber can also lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.

However, pecan sandies are not a very high fiber food. Each serving contains just 1 gram of fiber, which is only 4% of the daily value.

Since the cookies are made with refined flour, they lose a lot of the fiber from the original wheat grain. The pecans provide a small amount of fiber, but not enough to make these cookies a fiber-rich option.

Choosing high fiber foods can help manage diabetes. Aim for around 25-30 grams of fiber per day from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Relying on pecan sandies for fiber would mean you’d need to get it from other foods instead.

Glycemic Index and Diabetes

The glycemic index (GI) is one tool that can help guide food choices for diabetes. It ranks carbohydrate-containing foods on how quickly they impact your blood sugar levels.

Foods are classified as:

  • Low GI – Under 55
  • Medium GI – 56-69
  • High GI – 70 and over

Low GI foods cause a gradual rise in blood sugar, while high GI foods lead to spikes.

Most cookies, including pecan sandies, would be considered high GI due to their high sugar content. One study found shortbread cookies similar to pecan sandies have a GI value of 77.

This means pecan sandies are likely to cause a rapid increase in blood glucose when eaten. High GI foods require more insulin to control blood sugar, which can be demanding for the pancreas.

Choosing low GI foods as carb sources is helpful for regulating blood sugar in diabetes. Good options include non-starchy vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains and some fruits.

Blood Sugar Impact

We’ve covered how the carb, fat and fiber content influence blood sugar, but what does research show on the actual impact of pecan sandies?

Unfortunately, there are not many studies looking at blood glucose and insulin response to eating pecan sandies specifically. However, we can make some educated guesses based on similar cookie research.

One study tested the glucose response to shortbread cookies in 12 healthy adults. The cookies contained 50 grams total carbs, similar to the amount in 4 pecan sandies.

On average, participant’s blood glucose increased from 5.5 mmol/L while fasting to 7.8 mmol/L at 30 minutes after eating the cookies. Insulin levels also spiked.

Based on this, we can expect pecan sandies to cause a significant temporary rise in blood sugar and insulin secretion. The spike likely peaks around 30 minutes after eating and returns to baseline within 2-3 hours.

Of course, responses can vary between individuals based on insulin sensitivity. Those with well-managed diabetes may see a lower spike compared to those with poorer blood sugar control.

Effect on Triglycerides and Cholesterol

Eating pecan sandies not only influences short-term blood sugar but can also impact other heart disease risk factors like cholesterol and triglycerides, especially when eaten regularly.

In one 3-week study, people ate 2 pecan sandies 3 times per day along with their normal diet. This added about 630 extra calories and 50 grams carbs per day from the cookies.

At the end of the 3 weeks, triglyceride levels increased by 7% on average. Total cholesterol increased by 6% and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 8%.

The researchers concluded that routinely eating foods high in sugar and refined carbs may unfavorably alter blood lipids.

Over time, this could increase the risk for cardiovascular problems. Therefore, pecan sandies and other sweets high in sugar should be limited for people with diabetes and those at risk for heart disease.

Portion Control Recommendations

Rather than completely avoiding pecan sandies, many people with diabetes can still fit them into their diet in moderation. Here are some tips for keeping portions under control:

  • Stick to a single serving size of 2-4 cookies, depending on their size.
  • Pre-portion pecan sandies into baggies or containers so they’re ready to grab for a snack.
  • Buy mini or bite-size pecan sandies to help control portions.
  • Share a full size package with others so you aren’t tempted to eat the entire thing.
  • Consider having pecan sandies only on special occasions to keep intake infrequent.

Following the serving size on the nutrition label is important, as it’s easy to overeat high calorie baked goods. Measuring out a single serving when you want pecan sandies can prevent going overboard.

Healthy Swaps

For people who still want that pecan sandie flavor, there are some simple swaps that can make them more diabetes friendly:

  • Try using reduced sugar pecan sandies. Some brands offer no sugar added or low glycemic options.
  • Replace all-purpose flour with a whole grain flour like whole wheat.
  • Use a sugar alternative like stevia or erythritol instead of regular sugar.
  • Swap butter for avocado oil or coconut oil in the recipe.
  • Consider making homemade pecan sandies using diabetes-friendly ingredients.

Small tweaks like these can reduce the glycemic load. You still get the delicious flavor but with less of an impact on your blood sugar.

Incorporating Into a Diabetes Diet

The key to fitting any higher carb treat into your diet is moderation and balance. Here are some tips for enjoying pecan sandies with diabetes:

  • Have pecan sandies occasionally as a dessert – avoid making them an everyday snack.
  • Stick to just 1-2 cookies as portion of your meal plan for the day.
  • Balance intake by reducing other carbs at the same meal.
  • Pair pecan sandies with a source of protein like nuts or cheese to blunt the glucose response.
  • Exercise after eating pecan sandies to help lower blood sugar response.
  • Test blood sugar levels 1-2 hours after eating to see your individual response.

Being mindful of portions, limiting intake, and accounting for pecan sandies within your meal plan can allow for occasional enjoyment while keeping blood sugar under control.

The Bottom Line

Pecan sandies are not the best option for diabetes due to their high sugar content from refined carbs. The cookies can cause spikes in blood glucose and triglycerides, especially when overeaten.

However, pecan sandies don’t have to be completely avoided if consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diabetes diet. Sticking to a single serving and balancing intake with low carb foods and protein can allow people with diabetes to still enjoy these sweet treats on occasion. Being aware of portion sizes and making small swaps to the recipe can also help reduce their glycemic impact.

Overall, the key is controlling intake and not relying on foods like pecan sandies for regular snacks and meals. Used judiciously, pecan sandies can still be part of an eating plan that effectively manages blood sugar and diabetes.