Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are the main nutrients in food that give your body energy. Sugars and starchy foods are examples of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can raise blood sugar levels more than other nutrients. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the amount of carbohydrates you eat.
Natural sugars found in foods like milk and fruits are a type of carbohydrate called simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates may also be added to certain foods when they are made, like heavy syrup that is added to canned fruit. Simple carbohydrates, which are broken down faster than complex carbohydrates, will begin to raise blood sugar levels very soon after you eat them.
Complex carbohydrates, like starches, take longer to break down in the body. As a result, complex carbohydrates take longer to impact blood sugar, causing the amount of sugar in the blood to rise more slowly.
Foods containing more carbohydrates are:
- Starches—bread, cereal, crackers, grains, rice, pasta
- Starchy vegetables—potatoes, corn, peas, beans
- All fruits and fruit juices
- Milk and yogurt
- Sugary foods—candy, regular soda, jelly
- Sweets—cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream
Food groups that don’t normally have carbohydrates are proteins and fats.
Because carbohydrates raise blood sugar more than other types of foods, you may wonder why you should eat them at all. You need to eat foods with carbohydrates because they provide your body with energy, along with many vitamins and minerals.
Sweets are okay once in a while, but remember that sweets usually have a lot of carbohydrates, calories, and fat, with very little nutritional value. Creating your personal meal plan is a great way to balance eating healthy with the foods you love.
Speak with your diabetes care
team about carbohydrates
Your diabetes care team will help you find the right amount of carbohydrates for your meal plan. A dietitian or diabetes educator can help you split up the amount of carbohydrates you need between meals and snacks to help you manage your blood sugar levels.
Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar, especially if you take certain types of medicine. If you include snacks in your meal plan, don’t forget to count the carbohydrates in your snacks, too!
The glycemic index is a measurement of how much one kind of food will raise your blood sugar levels. Some carbohydrate-containing foods can cause a faster rise in blood sugar levels than other foods. Speak with a dietitian for more information about the glycemic index.