Breaking Down Daily Carb Intake For Diabetics

01 Feb 2020

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Diabetes is a chronic condition that currently affects over 400 million people worldwide and is the 5th cause of death throughout the world [1] When you are diagnosed with diabetes, the first order of things is usually to examine, analyze and revise your diet, specifically how many carbohydrates you’re getting daily. Maintaining good blood sugar control can help lower the risk of complications as diabetes affects the way the body processes sugar or carbohydrates [2].

Connection Between Carbs and Sugar

When you eat food, the carbohydrates in it are broken down into small units of glucose, which then enters the bloodstream. Following this, the pancreas reacts to the spike in blood sugar by releasing the hormone insulin. Insulin, in turn, allows the glucose to be from the bloodstream to enter the cells where it is then utilized as fuel for the body.

However, in diabetes, this system doesn’t work the way it is supposed to and you end up having either too high and too low blood sugar levels which can cause severe harm. In type 2 diabetes, the effectiveness of insulin is reduced and in type 1 diabetes, the insulin levels in the body are very low.

Whether you have type 1 type 2, it is important to pay close attention to the number of carbohydrates you consume every day. To figure out the right number of carbohydrates to eat per day can be confusing, so here’s a quick guide about the different types of carbs and how they affect your diabetes diet plan.

Understanding Carbs

Carbohydrates are clubbed into two main types based on their chemical makeup and what your body does with them – simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates have basic molecular makeup which requires minimal processing by the body before it hits your bloodstream. Whereas complex carbs have a more intricate molecular structure, so they take longer for your body to convert into sugar.

Eating carbohydrates affects your blood sugar more than other foods, which is why monitoring your carb intake daily is important. When people with diabetes eat foods high in carbs, their blood sugar levels can surge leading to serious health issues.

How Many Carbs To Have?

Various studies suggest that following a low-carb diet can help treat and manage diabetes [3]. Although our body’s daily calorie requirement depends on several factors such as age, activity levels, and gender, an average person with diabetes is usually prescribed a diet that derives 45% of calories from carbs [4]. This means that with a 1,600-2,000 calorie diet, you can consume about 45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal and 15 to 30 grams of carbs for a snack.

With diabetes, the goal is to keep the blood sugar levels as steady as possible. For this, it is important to read food labels that tell us how many calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat are in each serving.

Learning about serving sizes and portion control can help keep your food intake in check. Some people feel that eating 5 to 6 smaller meals all through the day keeps them from getting hungry and helps curb their cravings. Whereas, bigger meals can lead to a sudden spike in blood sugar levels.

In diabetes, when you eat is almost as important as what and how much you eat. For people suffering from diabetes, it is advisable to eat the same amount of carbohydrate at the same time every day as it helps keep your blood sugar levels in the normal range. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates at the right time, your insulin dose can cause your blood sugar levels to drop. Whereas, if you eat too much carbohydrate at the wrong time, you might not have enough insulin in your body to keep your blood sugar levels in check.

However, before you make any drastic changes to your diet, it is important to consult your doctor or a dietician to figure out a meal plan that helps manage your diabetes.

References:

  1.     https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes
  2.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2014359/
  3.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1325029/
  4.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279012/
  5.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19099589

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