How Many Carbohydrates Should A Person With Diabetes Eat Each Day?
Last updated on August 17th, 2016
Many diabetics know that carbs are something you shouldn’t eat too much of if you want to keep your blood sugar down. The types of carbohydrate foods you eat each day and how many carbs you eat are vital when managing your blood sugars. The idea is to strike a balance between the insulin levels in the body and the number of carbohydrates you take in.
It is understood by nutritionists that your carbohydrate intake strongly affects your blood sugar levels—even more than the amount of protein and fat you consume in your diet. If you eat too many carbs in any given day, your blood sugar levels may be high. In the same way, taking medications to lower the glucose level may cause you to have low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia.
The actual amount of carbohydrates you need to take in depends on what medications you are taking for the diabetes and is unique to each diabetic. Things like your activity level, how much insulin resistance you have, and the range of blood sugar levels you need play a role in how many carbohydrates you should eat per day. When counting carbs, it is important to learn how many carbs is in each snack or meal you take in so you can count those carbs toward your total.
In general, it is recommended that a woman with diabetes, should take in about 45 grams of carbohydrates in each meal, while men can eat 60 grams of carbohydrates in each meal. This is because men tend to be bigger and can have normal blood sugar levels after eating more carbs when compared to women. Carbohydrate intake should be spread throughout the day so that there are no spikes in blood sugar when you eat a high carbohydrate meal or snack.
In order to know if eating 45 grams of carbohydrate in your meal or snack is appropriate, you need to eat a meal that contains 45 grams of carbs and then you should measure your blood sugar levels immediately after eating and then repeat the test two hours later. There should be no greater than a 40 gram/dL difference between the blood sugar level before you ate and the blood sugar number right after eating or two hours after eating. Try doing this for every meal of the day for several days in a row. If the sugar numbers don’t appreciably rise after a 45-gramcarbohydrate load during each of the meals tested, then it is okay to take in 45 grams of carbohydrate per meal.
How to Count Carbs
Carbohydrate counting is a way of planning meals in patients who have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It involves keeping track of the number of carbohydrates you take in during meals and snacks and keeping within a certain number of carbohydrates per day.
Carbohydrates are considered macronutrients, along with protein and fat. Carbohydrates involve things like starches (which are complex carbohydrates), simple sugars (that enter the bloodstream faster), and fiber. Counting carbs will be able to help you keep your blood sugar levels in control as carbs are the major macronutrient involved in raising blood sugar values.
The idea is to eat as many healthy carbohydrates as you can. You can find healthy carbohydrates by eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—all of which contain complex carbohydrates, which are better for you than eating simple carbohydrates, such as seen in sugary foods. Complex carbs you find in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are considered good for you because they have other nutrients and vitamins in them, as well as fiber that can lower cholesterol levels and can improve your bowel movements so you have less constipation.
Carbohydrates that are bad for you are those foods that contain simple sugars, such as cookies, cakes, white bread, table sugar, and candies. These often have no helpful nutrients in them and just raise your blood sugar values to a greater degree than foods containing complex carbohydrates.
Your carbohydrate intake is usually measured in grams. In order to count carbs, you’ll need to be able to estimate how many grams of carbs are contained in each food. You’ll also have to find out which foods are high in carbs and should be able to total the number of carbs you’ve taken in each meal so you know the total number of carbs you ate each day. When in doubt, contact a nutritionist, dietician, or diabetic specialist who can help you learn how to count carbs and which foods you should eat per day.
In looking at your carbohydrate intake, you should know that the following foods are high in carbohydrates:
- Vegetables that are starchy, like peas, corn, and potatoes
- Juice, sodas, sports drinks, fruity beverages, and energy drinks
- Snack foods that contain sugar, such as candy, cookies, and cakes
- Legumes, such as peas, lentils, and beans
- Dairy foods, such as yogurt and milk
- Fruits of any kind
- Grains, such as cereal, rice, crackers, pasta, and bread products
There is a difference between vegetables containing starch and those that aren’t high in starch. Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower contain nutrients and complex carbohydrates and aren’t considered starchy vegetables. Corn, peas, and potatoes are high in starch and contain more carbohydrates than those vegetables that don’t contain starch.
Foods you can eat as a diabetic that don’t contain any carbs, include nuts, fatty foods, oils, poultry, meat, many cheeses, and fish. You don’t have count carbohydrates when you consume these foods.
Eating Foods high in Carbs
When you eat foods that are high in carbs, the starches and sugars are broken down in the digestive tract and are absorbed by the intestines in the form of simple sugars like glucose. The glucose travels throughout the body and insulin is released from the pancreas in order to put the glucose into your cells for use as cellular fuel.
When you have type 2 diabetes, the cells are resistant to insulin, which keeps the blood sugar level up. When you have type 1 diabetes, insulin cannot be produced by the pancreas so the blood sugar stays high after eating a high carb meal.
The goal for any diabetic is to choose a meal plan that has plenty of protein in it and that contains mostly complex carbohydrates. You need to avoid taking in too many simple sugars so that your blood sugar remains relatively stable and doesn’t spike after the meal in any appreciable way. Starchy foods can be a part of this type of diet but you have to count them toward your total carbohydrate intake per day.
- Can you put a number on carbs? http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2012/nov/can-you-put-a-number-on-carbs.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/. Accessed 5/12/16.
- What I need to Know about Carbohydrate Counting and Diabetes. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/carbohydrate-counting-diabetes/Pages/index.aspx.