Diabetes is a health concern that has reached epidemic proportions globally. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious repercussions, including cardiovascular disease, kidney complications, neuropathy, eye deterioration or retinopathy, hearing impairment, and other complications. Prediabetes among adults and children has also been linked to these conditions. The key to living well with diabetes is managing blood sugar and eating well to manage blood sugar.
As a diabetic, it is probably not surprising to hear about certain foods you’re supposed to avoid. Foods that are particularly rich in carbohydrates can increase blood sugars levels quickly. This can not only make you feel lethargic but can also trigger weight gain. More importantly, certain foods can raise your insulin levels and cause inflammation─ increasing health complications.
However, it may be surprising that certain foods that you assume are healthy are foods you should limit or absolutely avoid due to their high carbohydrate content, lack of fiber, or less nutritional value.
How does carb intake affect diabetes?
Carbs, fat, and protein are macronutrients that pump your body with energy. Amongst them, carbs or carbohydrates have the most significant impact on your blood sugar levels. This is predominantly because your body breaks down carbs into glucose which goes into your bloodstream, increasing your blood sugar.
Starches, sugar, and fiber are all types of carbs. However, fiber is a complex carb that can’t be digested by the body. Instead of breaking down into sugar molecules, it passes out through the intestines unabsorbed, so it doesn’t raise your blood sugar.
While counting net carbs, detracting fiber from the total carbs in food servings will give you its digestible carb content. For example, if a bowl of mixed vegetables contains 20 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber, its net carb amount is 15 grams. When people with diabetes consume high amount of carbs at one time, their blood sugar levels can go up to dangerously high levels.
Over time, consuming foods that shoot up your blood sugar levels can harm your body’s tissues and blood vessels, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and other severe health conditions. Keeping a low carb or low glycemic index diet can help limit blood sugar spikes and significantly lower the risk of diabetes complications. Learn more about the glycemic index here.
How to determine optimal carb intake
Although studies have shown that varying levels of carb intake may manage blood sugar, the optimal quantity varies by person.
The ADA suggests that carbohydrate intake should emphasize carbohydrate sources that are nutrient-dense i.e., high in fiber. An individual’s ideal carb intake should be based on their dietary requirements and metabolic goals. It is essential to maintain a diet that can be realistically maintained in the long run.
Consequently, figuring out the quantity of carb intake requires testing and evaluating to understand what works best for your body requirements. To determine your ideal carb intake, measure your blood sugar levels with a blood glucose meter before every meal and again 1 or 2 hours after eating. To prevent blood vessels and nerves damage, the maximum level your blood sugar should reach is 139 mg/dL (8 mmol/L).
In order to achieve your blood glucose goals, you may have to limit your carbohydrate consumption to less than 10, 15, or 25 grams per meal.
Besides, you may notice that your blood sugar increases more at certain times of the day, so your carb intake may be lower for dinner than for breakfast or lunch.
Overall, the fewer carbs you eat, the less your blood glucose will rise, thereby reducing the diabetes medication or insulin you require to stay within a healthy range.
The bottom line
If you have diabetes, reducing your carb intake is beneficial. Various studies have revealed that an everyday carb intake of 5–35% of total calories not just leads to better blood sugar control but may also promote weight loss and reduce the risk of other diseases.
Nevertheless, note that some people can take more carbs than others. Testing your blood sugar and paying attention to how your body reacts with varying carb intakes can help you find your optimal range to control diabetes. It is essential to avoid foods and drinks that spike up your blood sugar levels. To read about what foods to avoid, click on the link.
Dietary improvements are an important aspect of diabetes management. We at DrNewMed believe in personalized approach to treatment for diabetes since no two individuals are the same and not one treatment can suit all. Our team of diabetes experts recommend what’s suitable for your body needs with a focus on nutrition, sleep and activity management that will help control your blood sugar levels.
If you’re determined to have better control on your diabetes and learn the flair of staying healthy, visit our diabetes management center in Scottsdale, Arizona or book an online consultation.