When thinking of Diabetes, the first word that often comes to mind is sugar. Many people think living with Diabetes means limiting sugar intake and staying away from sweet treats. Carbohydrates, however, play an important role as well. In fact, monitoring and limiting carbohydrates is just as important because carbs can actually be a partner in crime to sugar when it comes to spikes in blood glucose levels. For that reason, a quick lesson on carbs is needed.
WHAT ARE CARBS? – A SIMPLE DEFINITION
arbs are found in a variety of foods, both healthy and unhealthy. The three most common types of carbs in food are starches, sugars and fiber. The body converts most carbs into glucose, a type of sugar, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. As glucose levels rise in the body, insulin is released by the pancreas. Insulin is important because it’s needed to move sugar from the blood into cells where it is converted into energy to support and fuel the body.
HOW CAN CARBS BE BAD?
For someone without Diabetes, the body typically makes just the right amount of insulin to match the food and activity, and glucose levels naturally rise and fall in response. For someone living with Diabetes, the process is disrupted, either because the body stops producing insulin altogether (Type 1 Diabetes) or because the insulin it produces becomes less effective (Type 2 Diabetes).2 The main goal in treating Diabetes is to keep glucose levels within a target range. This is to prevent short-term and long-term health problems that can occur when glucose falls too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia).
Simply put, the carbs we eat impact our blood sugar. Moderation, balance and continuous monitoring are key!
MONITORING AND CONTROLLING CARBS
From reading labels to calculating Glycemic Load to utilizing food apps and websites – there are a myriad of ways to monitor and control carbs. As a general rule of thumb, it is said that “most adults with Diabetes should aim for 50-60 grams of carbs per meal and 15-20 grams per snack, but that could vary based on the rest of your daily food intake.”
Using a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to help to control carbs will help to take much of the guesswork out of the mix. A CGM provides real time, data to pinpoint the details and track results and allows patients to monitor foods containing carbs that can make blood glucose rise quickly and helps to keep levels in check throughout the day. A Continuous Glucose Monitor helps to create a customizable food plan and takes the mystery out of food spikes. Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems, like the FreeStyle Libre, can stay ahead of the numbers, monitor trends and stay prepared for what is coming.
THE GOOD CARBS
Not all carbs are alike and there are definitely healthier options to consider, like whole, unprocessed carbs versus refined options. The goal is to choose carbs that are rich in fiber and vitamins and low in added sugars, sodium and unhealthy fats. Here are a few options to consider that will have a smaller impact on blood sugar:
- ❖ Non-Starchy Vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, leafy lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes which are low on carbs and high in fiber.
- ❖ Beans and legumes like lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas.
- ❖ Fruits high in fiber like apples, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
- ❖ Sweet potatoes that are loaded with healthy carbs and fiber.
- ❖ Plain yogurt without added sugars which also help with calcium and Vitamin D requirements.
- ❖ Whole grain foods that are not processed or enriched like brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, quinoa, barley, and couscous.
- ❖ Oatmeal which is “rich in soluble fiber and causes less spikes in blood sugar and also helps lower cholesterol”5 so it’s heart-healthy too.
- ❖ Nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios are “linked to improved glycemic control.”
THE BAD CARBS
“Consuming too many carbs can raise blood sugar to a dangerous level and cause damage to nerves and blood vessels and can set the stage for heart disease, kidney disease and other serious health concerns.”7 Here are foods that are high in carbs that should be avoided:
- ❖ Sweet, sugary beverages like sodas, juices and flavored coffee drinks.
- ❖ White bread, white rice and pasta which are made with refined white flour which raises blood sugar.
- ❖ Fruit flavored yogurts which are sweetened with additional and artificial sugars and can cause spikes in levels.
- ❖ Sweetened and processed breakfast cereals which have very little protein and are full of carbs and sugars.
- ❖ Dried fruits which can contain up to four times the amount of carbs as fresh fruit.
- ❖ Packaged snack foods like chips, cookies, candies and cakes that are highly processed and can raise blood sugar levels quickly.
- ❖ French fries are high in carbs, raise blood sugar levels and are fried in unhealthy oils that can cause other health issues.
HEALTHY EATING SUPPORT
Living with Diabetes is not easy and knowing which foods to eat and which foods to avoid can be complicated. Through food education and learning how certain foods affect blood sugar levels, it can be done. Moderation and continual monitoring are key. Finding a support network is also imperative to learning how to manage Diabetes and keep it under control. Once patients realize that they are in control of their own outcomes through diet and their Continuous Glucose Monitor, they are one step closer. It takes daily effort, a strong support system and continual education.
At Quest Health Solutions, we know there are many resources available and it can be overwhelming. We are committed to helping patients, healthcare providers and Diabetes educators find the solution that is right for them, and we vow to be a valued resource when it comes to Diabetes education. To learn more about how Continuous Glucose Monitors can be used to control carbs and manage diet, contact us at 1-877-888-7050 Option 3, Ext. 1011 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
1. (2020) Harvard School of Public Health. Carbohydrates Quality Matters available at Click Here accessed on 10 December 2020.
2. (2014) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases 2014. Carbohydrate Counting and Diabetes available at Click Here accessed on 11 December 2020.
3. (2015) American Diabetes Association 2015. Factors Affecting Blood Glucose available at Click Here accessed on 11 December 2020.
4. (2019) WebMD. How to Count Carbs available at Click Here accessed on 11 December 2020.
5. (2017) Eating Well. Healthy Carbs for Diabetes available at Click Here accessed on 12 December 2020.
6. (2019) Everyday Health. 8 Healthy Carbs for People with Type 2 Diabetes available at Click Here accessed on 12 December 2020.
7. (2020) Healthline. 11 Foods and Drinks to Avoid with Diabetes available at Click Here accessed on 12 December 2020.