Carbohydrates and Diabetes: Breaking it down
If you have diabetes it's important to know how carbs can affect your blood glucose levels. If you eat too many carbohydrates, or the types of carbohydrates that process rapidly, then your blood glucose levels will fluctuate dramatically, increasing health risks. Even if you don't have diabetes, it's good to know the ins and outs of carbs and how they affect your body.
So how do you learn to moderate your carb intake effectively? You need to get a good understanding of two things: carbohydrate distribution and carbohydrate quality. Carbohydrate distribution refers to when you eat and the amount of carbohydrate you eat. Carbohydrate quality refers to the types of carbohydrates you eat, and can be moderated using the glycemic index or load. If you familiarise yourself with both these aspects of carbohydrate intake, and make any necessary changes to your diet, you’ll be well on your way to effectively managing your blood glucose levels.
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Carbohydrate distribution refers to when you eat and the amount of carbohydrate you eat.
If you have diabetes, regular meals with an even distribution of carbohydrate over the day are important for good control of blood sugar levels. If you eat large quantities of carbohydrate foods at main meals, and little or none between meals, you risk excessive fluctuations in blood sugar levels. It's better to eat smaller amounts of food more frequently, as this results in steadier, more even blood glucose levels. In general, the recommended daily eating pattern for good blood glucose control is:
If you are diabetic, your doctor or dietitian can advise you on the level of calories and carbohydrate most appropriate to your weight, medication, and activity. You should also check your blood glucose regularly for feedback on how carbohydrate intake is affecting blood glucose levels.
Whether or not you have diabetes, a rough rule-of-thumb for carbohydrate intake is 13g of carbohydrate per 100 calories; this is equivalent to about 50% of total calories. Variations on this rule are shown in the Carbohydrate Intake table below.
From Allan Borushek's Pocket Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter, 2005 edition.
Choose less processed carbohydrates, such as brown rice instead of white rice
Moderating your carbohydrate intake involves more than just eating the right amounts of carbohydrate at the right times. You also need to choose the right kinds of carbohydrate foods.
Various forms of carbohydrate affect blood glucose levels in different ways. The same amount of carbohydrate from different foods may affect blood glucose differently. For example, white and brown rice have approximately the same amount of carbohydrate, but white rice will cause your blood glucose levels to rise faster than brown rice.
The aim is to choose carbohydrate foods that cause a slow, steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. These tips can help you towards that goal:
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