A1 See? Balanced Carb Diets for Diabetics Can Be Easy

Subsequent to being diagnosed with diabetes your first thought may be, “I’m going to have to be on a low carb diet the rest of my life.” 

That’s a scary thought!
Have no fear; that is not an entirely true statement. 

While carbohydrates do have a great impact on your blood sugar, or glucose, there are many things to take into consideration in regards to the types of carbohydrates that you choose to consume. Eating a diet with very little carbs causes insulin levels to drop, which not only starves the cells of energy (the very situation diabetics are trying to avoid), but also upsets the insulin–glucagon balance. 

In addition, studies show that when people with diabetes reduce carbohydrate consumption, they inadvertently increase fat consumption, often the unhealthy saturated fat, which has been shown to contribute to insulin resistance and less-well-controlled diabetes.

In order to support optimal glucose and insulin balance, you will want to become a carb expert. Some confusion may still exist on what a carb is, what foods contain it and how many should be eaten each day. It may be surprising to learn that milk, yogurt, fruit and starchy vegetables contain carbohydrate, whereas bread, pasta, cereal, and sweets are more commonly known carbohydrate rich foods.

For those with Type 2 Diabetes, your ultimate goal is to consume enough carbohydrate to fuel your body, but not more than the insulin your body is producing can handle. For those with Type 1 Diabetes, your goal is to accurately adjust your pre meal insulin based on your current blood glucose and the amount of carbohydrates you plan to eat.

Food labels are going to be your best friends. Look for the line that reads total carbohydrate grams, rather than sugars (these are factored into the total carbohydrate number). You will also want to look at the serving size and determine if that is in fact the amount that you are eating. If it is not, you will need to adjust (increase or decrease) the total carbohydrate grams. 

Finally, look at the line that says dietary fiber. If this number is below five, you have completed your calculation. If it is higher than five, subtract half of that number from your total carbohydrate grams. For example, if your label’s total carbohydrate line reads 21g and the dietary fiber line reads 6g, you would subtract half of the dietary fiber (6/2=3) from the total carbohydrate grams: 21-3= 18g total carbohydrate. If you are consuming foods that do not have labels, the information that you need can be easily found at: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/

Your healthcare team will be able to determine the amount of carbohydrate that you should consume per meal and snack. A general guideline from the American Diabetes Association is 45-60 grams per meal and 15 grams per snack.

Some additional helpful tips for choosing your carbohydrates wisely:

1) All carbohydrates are not created equal. Simple carbohydrates, such as candy, juice, white rice, milk and anything with white flour are absorbed very quickly, often causing a spike in glucose levels.  

2) Carbohydrate consumption should be limited to small quantities and when you do have them, include a source of fiber to assist in slowing the absorption process.

3) Fruits by definition are simple carbohydrates. However, they provide essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, often void in other simple carbs. Focus on those that also have a significant fiber content, such as raspberries, blackberries, apples and pears (with skin).

4) Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, and vegetables, are digested and absorbed slowly and can help to control insulin response, energy levels, and body composition. 

5) Unrefined, unprocessed, complex carbohydrates also provide higher fiber, vitamin and mineral content than their simple carbohydrate counterparts, providing increased satiety and glucose control. 

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