Carbs 101: Carb Counting and Diabetes

Whether you have Type 1, Type 2 or gestational diabetes, your goal is to stay healthy. Carbohydrate counting is an important part of staying healthy with diabetes.

By counting carbohydrates, you will be better able to keep your blood sugar in control. Carbohydrates, or carbs, are one of the three main energy sources in food. The other two are protein and fat. Carbohydrates affect your blood sugar more than protein or fats.

There are three types of carbohydrates: sugar, starch and fiber. The amount of carbohydrates you eat determines how much your blood glucose levels rise after you eat. With the right balance of carbohydrates and insulin, your blood glucose level is more likely to stay in your target range. As you map out your eating plan, it is important to understand how carbohydrates affect your blood sugar.

Knowing the number of carbohydrates in foods and keeping track of the amount of carbohydrates for each meal or snack is a helpful way to know if your blood sugar is in control. Carb counting may sound hard, but it doesn’t have to be.

What’s in That Package?

A nutrition facts label identifies what is in packaged food. It also tells you what you will be eating, which can help you to make better choices.

  1. Check the serving size. Many packages have more than one serving. The serving size on the package may not be what you eat.
  2. Check out the amount of total carbohydrates on the nutrition facts. There are two kinds of carbohydrates — dietary fiber and sugars. For most people with diabetes, it’s the total carbohydrates that matters.

Even though a food choice might be very healthy, the carbs can add up quickly. For example, ½ cup of green beans has 5 grams of carb, but it can quickly add up when you enjoy 2 cups (20 grams carb) with a meal.

Foods that are low in carbs can still raise your blood sugar if eaten in large amounts.

Log your Carb Intake

Keeping track of how many carbs you eat can show you how foods can affect your blood sugar. It can tell you how some carbs affect you more than others. It will also show you how activity or exercise affects your blood sugar. By counting carbs you will learn –

  • How long you need to go between meals without eating.
  • Recognize patterns of high or low blood sugars.
  • Help your doctor or nurse adjust your medicine.

Source: UW Health, American Diabetes Association, Healthwise®

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