Diabetic’s Guide to Carbohydrates
It is important for Diabetics to be aware of what a carbohydrate is and how it reacts within the body. In general, a carbohydrate is a unit of energy, similar to a calorie, that is derived from sugars ingested into the body.
When you eat or drink sugars, your intestine will immediately begin to break those sugars down in order to transfer them to your blood stream. Once you have sugar (glucose) in your bloodstream, insulin will help the glucose enter your cells to be changed to energy. The energy will power body functions, such as breathing, or more intense activities, such as running.
If you have more sugar in your body than you are able to use, those sugars are converted to fat and stored in fat cells and the liver for later use. As such, if you continue to consume more carbohydrates than you are able to use, your body will have to store more fat than if you had been careful to balance your carbohydrate intake with your energy use. Your body fat and weight will increase.
Because we know that obesity and high blood sugar levels are both dangerous conditions to which Diabetics are prone, it is especially important for Diabetics to understand the delicate balance between carbohydrates eaten and energy use.
Many researchers agree that it is important for Diabetics to maintain a low carbohydrate diet in order to be healthy. However, simply maintaining a low carbohydrate diet is not enough; Diabetics must understand the difference between the two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates have a high Glycemic Index. And, because of that are far more destructive on the body than complex carbohydrates and should, therefore, be minimized or eliminated from the diet(interactive learning about sugars and starches).
There are two important types of carbohydrates: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. One can determine which category a carbohydrate falls within based on the complexity of the sugars that make up the carbohydrate and how long it takes those sugars to be absorbed into the blood stream (simple sugars will be absorbed faster than complex carbohydrates).
Some sugars, such as those sugars that come from candy and desserts, will raise your blood sugar level very quickly because the intestine begins to break them down quickly after they are consumed. These sugars are called â€œsimpleâ€ or â€œrefinedâ€ sugars because they have been processed. Foods with refined sugars in them are generally very sweet and will make you hungry for more food. They will also give you a quick burst of energy, leading to a â€œsugar highâ€ that is used by many athletes for energy during a competition.
However, other carbohydrates, such as those that come from whole wheat and grains, are called â€œcomplex carbohydrates.â€ Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest than refined sugars and, therefore, will help your blood sugar level stay even for a prolonged amount of time. Complex carbohydrates also have a tendency to have other nutritional value, such as fiber and vitamins, that will benefit your body by giving it more than just energy.
For more information about carbohydrates and how you can plan your low-carbohydrate meals, visit our Diabetes diet menu and Diabetes nutrition sections.