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How Carbohydrates Affect Blood Sugar


Carbohydrates can affect your blood sugar if you aren't careful to monitor your intake.

For those living with prediabetes or diagnosed with diabetes, understanding carbohydrates and how to count carbs is really important.

Our bodies crave carbohydrates – it is the body’s preferred energy source. While you might hear that people with diabetes should avoid carbs, this is not the case. You simply have to focus on counting your carbohydrates and understanding how they affect you.

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What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates or carbs are the starches and sugars in foods. Many foods contain carbs, including breads, grains, pasta, starchy vegetables, like potatoes, fruit, milk, and sweets.

When your body consumes carbohydrate foods, it gets really happy because carbs provide sugar. Think of a kid with a lollipop. While a moderate amount of carbs are good, people with diabetes need to be sure to not have too much or your blood sugar levels will rise too quickly and get too high, which can cause serious medical issues.


How do you count carbohydrates?

Start by looking at the nutrition label of the food you are about to eat. Here are the areas to look at first as you calculate total carbs:

  • Serving size: Some packaged goods seem like one serving, but are actually two servings. Be sure to know how much you are consuming.
  • Sugar, starch, and fiber: Be sure to add up all the sugar, starch, and fiber numbers if they are listed separately. You want the total number of carbs.

Start by checking how many grams of total carbs are in each serving. Note how many grams of fiber are in a serving – your body doesn’t digest fiber so it does not raise your blood sugar. Choose foods with higher fiber. Look at how many grams of added sugar in the food – select foods with the least amount of added sugar. The fiber sugar and added sugar are all part of the total carb grams.

Take the total number of carbs and divide by 15.

You want to understand how many grams of carbohydrate you are consuming. 15 grams equals one carbohydrate when you are counting carbs. So, you want to divide total carbs by 15 to understand how many carbs are in that particular serving.

You only have to do this type of counting for carbohydrate items. You do not need to try to calculate green vegetables, meats, or fats.

Foods with fewer than 20 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrate are considered ‘free’ foods or foods that you do not have to include.

To learn more about reading nutrition labels and understanding carb counting, talk to your healthcare provider about referring you to Beebe Diabetes Management. For information on group support sessions and upcoming classes, call 302-645-3121.