Foods are composed of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and other nutrients. Some foods are mixtures of these, while others are especially high in certain nutrients.
Each kind of nutrient has a place in a healthy diet. But when you have diabetes, it's crucial to pay particular attention to carbohydrates. That’s because “carbs” are most quickly converted to glucose. A key part of managing diabetes is managing the amount and timing of the carbohydrates you include in your diet.
Some people might conclude it's best to avoid carbs if you're managing diabetes. But that's not a safe assumption, because the human body runs on the energy produced from carbohydrates.It’s natural to crave them.
Because of carbohydrates’ impact on blood glucose, people with diabetes do have to manage them, looking at the amount eaten at each meal and the total eaten in a day.If you don’t get the amount right, you may not feel your best.
If you are learning to manage diabetes, it's important to find out how different foods affect your blood glucose level. And you want to pay special attention to those dishes that are high in carbohydrates.
For example, you may want to experiment with different size portions of carbohydrate-rich foods, such as bread, rice, pasta, fruit and milk. (Yes, milk and some milk products, like yogurt, do have a significant quantity of carbohydrates.)
You can balance these carb-based foods with other foods, like meats and vegetables. The goal is to have a healthy, balanced diet with a good variety of food choices, without a big blood glucose “spike” after you eat.
All people with diabetes should explore the amounts of carbohydrates they can include in their daily meals — and should also know where to find information on the carbohydrate content of various foods.
The phrase “glycemic index” often appears in discussions of diabetes and food. Foods have been categorized by their “index” — that is, how quickly they tend to raise blood glucose levels. A food with a high glycemic index will tend to raise the blood glucose quickly; candies, breads, and potatoes are examples. A food with a low index will affect blood glucose more slowly.
Keep in mind, however, that there is not an exact science behind these guidelines. A reaction to a food can vary by individual, and a group of foods eaten in combination can impact blood glucose differently than if any of them were eaten alone.
Charts of the glycemic index can be useful in helping you learn more about individual foods, but it's important that you also learn your own reaction to the foods in your diabetes diet.