Carbs, carbs, carbs. Without a doubt being a person with diabetes, you need to know as much as possible about the whole carbohydrate ordeal.
And when it comes to carbs, we get tons of questions on the topic. Here we've gather up 15 of those carbohydrate questions with their answers.
If you've got a question yourself, leave your comments below and we'll do our best to answer them.
1. How much do carbs influence your numbers?
All carbohydrates break down to glucose, glucose enters your bloodstream (aka: blood sugar level). Different types of carbohydrates do enter the bloodstream at different rates. For instance, a simple carb digests faster, causing a quicker response, while a complex low glycemic index carb will digest slower and cause a slower, steadier rise in blood sugar.
But, while the type of carb is important, the total amount of carbs you eat is the major contributing factor to both blood sugar and A1C results.
2. What's the best source of carbs to eat?
Many people think of carbohydrates as pasta, bread and rice. While these are carbs, vegetables are also a carbohydrate – the type of carb you want to eat more of.
If you decrease your intake of pasta, bread and rice and increase your intake of non starchy vegetables, and you'll be well on your way to better numbers.
3. Do our bodies need carbohydrates?
Our bodies do prefer carbohydrates (glucose) as a fuel source. And studies have shown that our brain functions better with glucose as it's fuel source. However, we don't need as much as we've been led to believe.
In fact, some research even indicates that neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and dementia are the new “type 3 diabetes” – caused by too much glucose in the brain, causing insulin resistance in the brain.
It's interesting because carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient. If we didn't eat them, our body can use both protein and fat for energy. And while it's not necessary to follow a no carb diet (that's not recommended), cutting back on carbs has been shown to benefit type 2 diabetes in many ways – lower blood sugar and A1C, improved cholesterol, lower weight loss and so forth.
4. What foods are low in carbs but also filling and healthy?
Non starchy vegetables are the lowest in carbs and they are full of fiber, which fills you up. Most people don’t eat enough vegetables so if you feel hungry, load up on more of these 20 all-you-can-eat veggies.
You can also increase sources of healthy fat – no, that’s not a free license to go and chow down on all the pork rinds and bacon fat you like, far from it. Those are not healthy options.
5. Does it help to eat meals prepared with the lowest carb counts?
Well it certainly helps to eat meals that are low carb – and most people do need to eat lower carb. But eating low carb doesn't meal eating no carbs either.
If you're making recipes that contain 60 g carbs per meal, you're going to struggle to lower levels. On the other hand, sticking to around 20 g per meal seems to be a sweet spot for many people.
6. How many carbs a day am I supposed to have?
There isn't one clear definitive answer to this, however, we encourage a low carb diet because research shows it works.
According to research, carb definitions are as follows:
- Very low carb ketogenic diet: 20-50 g per day. Below 10% intake of 2000 calorie diet.
- Low carbohydrate diet: Below 130 g per day. Below 26% total energy intake.
- Moderate carbohydrate diet: 26-45% total energy intake <<< Research shows these DON'T perform as well as lower carb diets
- High carbohydrate diet: Above 45% total energy intake <<< Current recommendations that AREN'T working
Our meal plans are based on an average 80 g/ day carbs (which seems to be a sweet spot) but some people can go as much as 120 g/ day and still do fine. Anymore than that and you may find it more difficult to manage levels.
Find a sample 2 day menu over here.
7. Carbs to sugar is very similar in both white and brown rice/ pasta, is brown better solely because of fiber?
The short answer is yes. Dr. Robert Lustig once explained that when we eat fiber it forms a lattice-like structure in our gut that dramatically slows down digestion and therefore uptake of nutrients – in this case, namely carbs.
The glycemic index (GI) demonstrates this: brown rice is around 50, white rice 65+ depending on the type of rice.
Glycemic index rating works like this:
Low = GI value 55 or less | Medium = GI value of 56 – 69 inclusive | High = GI 70 or more
Brown rice is low GI, white rice is medium to high GI, depending on the type of rice. It's the fiber that changes this. But, the thing to be careful of with either white or brown rice is that they are both high carb foods. Rice has around 23 g carbs in 1/2 cup. Once you add other meal items on top of this, your carb count is going to stack up, fast.
Though some people can eat rice and still manage to keep blood sugar levels under control, majority of type 2 diabetics don't tolerate rice well.
8. Are “low carb” pasta's OK to eat?
Yes, they certainly are.
Another alternative – and one we prefer most of the time – is to make zoodles. Read more about how to spiralize vegetables into noodles here.
And check out this delicious Olive Herb Chicken Zoodle Salad.
9. Is there a list of foods with their carb /sugar numbers for single servings?
Someone said: “I was a Weight Watcher and they had several printed booklets with detailed ‘points' numbers for exact portions.”
This is a question that comes up frequently because it does make it a bit confusing when 10 g carbs of one item is one cup, 10 g of another item is one slice, while yet another is half a cup – how on earth do you get your head around it?
You might have seen some lists that point out 15 g carb snacks. But, unfortunately, when it comes to carbs, there are just too many to have one list like Weight Watchers points. However, inside our members area we do have many detailed food guides that also contain food charts by carbs.
In general, if you stick to this list of foods you'll find you won't have to count carbs as closely.
10. Can I limit my carbs for breakfast and lunch and splurge a little on my dinner meal for a special occasion?
It doesn't really work like that unfortunately. When we eat carbs, our body uses what it can for immediate energy and stores what it can in the liver and muscles for later use, the rest that can't get stored in the liver and muscles, gets stored as fat. So there's only so many carbs our body can handle at any given time.
If you skip carbs at breakfast or lunch it won't mean your blood glucose won't go up as much at dinner or if you splurge. In fact, it could mean it goes up more because your body will ‘react' more to the sudden stream of glucose.
Overall, what works best is getting your levels under control on an everyday basis. Then, you'll be able to have those occasionally splurges without seeing too much overall impact.
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11. How does cooking food change the carb content?
This is a tough one to answer because it depends. Some foods won't change a lot, others will increase, and some may even decrease in carb count.
If you need to search for reliable food values, try using the NSDA nutrition database.
12. Are vegetables sufficient as carbs without having potatoes or rice as well?
Vegetables are carbohydrates and they are the type of carbs you need to rely on, especially non starchy vegetables. These will still add up overall over the day, providing you with ample carbs, but they won't impact your blood sugar like potatoes and rice.
13. Where can you find low carb items?
You can find most of what you need at the local supermarket – meats, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, vegetables and healthy fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts.
14. What is the the difference between carbs and calories?
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient. We have 3 macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Calories refers to the amount of energy those macronutrients provide to the body.
Both carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories of energy per gram, fat provides 9 calories of energy per gram.
15. Where can I find meal plans and recipes that I don't have to calculate carbs, fats, sugar, etc?
Here at Diabetes Meal Plans, of course.
We provide our members with delicious weekly meal plans to help make life easier. And we have more than 1000 blood sugar friendly recipes available to our members, all with nutrition facts included.
But we're more than just meal plans, DMP is a unique online nutrition service dedicated to helping people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes lower blood sugar and A1c and improve their health. We’re proud to say our members are achieving great results. Let us help you too!
- Weekly meal plans
- Food guides
- Diet and health resources
- Personal help and support
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If you've got a question yourself, be sure to leave it in the comments below. 🙂