Understanding Carbohydrates and Diabetes

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 No Commented
Categorized Under: Diabetes

 

There has been a wealth of discussion regarding carbohydrates, or carbs, and its importance to our diets over the past few years. There has been conflicting views on the value of carbs in our diets.

This article will touch on the basics concerning carbs, and what is generally accepted practice, but your health team knows what is best for you specifically.

Perhaps the most simplistic definition of a carbohydrate is that it is food which is commonly known as a starch (bread, pastry, pasta, potatoes) and when our body processes these food items they turn to sugar. Often this causes there to be too much sugar in our system and too much of anything is never a healthy choice.

One question that seems to come up repeatedly regarding carbohydrates is, “Should I stop eating carbs entirely, especially as a diabetic?” And the answer to that question is an emphatic, “No!” Carbohydrates are a very essential part of our diet, supplying vitamins and minerals that are not available in other foods.

As always, before making any major changes to your dietary regime consult your physician and/or registered dietician. These individuals are well versed in your health history and are particularly qualified to guide you through the challenges of treating your diabetes, including your dietary needs.

There are basically two ways to “count” carbs, by “servings” or “choices” and by grams. Essentially, 1 carb “choice” is equal to roughly 15 grams of carbohydrate. You will learn the tracking method that works best for you. Patient practice and soon it will become second nature.

As with everything about our individual bodies, we process carbs differently. In order to answer the question, “How many carbs should I eat?” we must take into consideration a multitude of variables, such as sex, build, height, activity level and current weight. All of these factors will need to be considered before establishing a target for the amount of carbs you should have.

One consistent opinion among the experts, including the American Diabetes Association is that 45-65 percent of your day’s calories should come from carbohydrate sources. If you eat fewer carbs, particularly if you’re on a lower calorie diet, you may not receive the nutrients your body needs to maintain good health.

Generally speaking, women need fewer carbs than men, and the smaller your build the less carbs you need. If you are trying to lose weight, the percentage of calories from carbohydrates should be at the higher end of the scale.

Typically, you should have carbs at every meal to supply your body with the fuel it needs to function properly. And you should choose “complex carbs” over “simple carbs”, because complex carbs take long for the body to break down into sugars, reducing the “sugar spike” that often occurs after meals.

It is also recognized that snacks should be a part of the diabetic’s lifestyle, to avoid sugar spikes in blood glucose levels. Snacks typically should be between 7 and 10 grams of carbohydrates, and should be from complex sources, such as fruits and vegetables or whole grains and not from highly processed foods, which tend to have simpler forms of carbohydrates, such as sugar.

Below is a table with basic guidelines. Be sure you verify this information with your health team before making changes to your dietary plan.

Variables Carbs per Meal Woman wanting to lose weight 30-55 grams (2 – 3 ½ choices) Man wanting to lose weight 50-65 grams (3 – 4 choices) Smaller Woman (Maintaining Weight) 45 grams (3 choices) Larger Woman (Maintaining Weight) 60 grams (4 choices) Smaller Man (Maintaining Weight) 60 grams (4 choices) Larger Man (Maintaining Weight) 75 grams (5 choices)