Carbohydrate-rich foods like vegetables, grains, and beans
should account for the vast majority of our daily diets. These foods are loaded
with healthy sugars, which provide our bodies with the calories of energy they
need to function properly throughout the day. Carbohydrates are essential for
everyone, but they can be challenging for diabetics to understand especially
when diabetics know that limiting their carbohydrates can help them better
manage their diabetes.
Heres a brief overview of how carbohydrates work and how
you can eat healthy carbohydrates even as a diabetic:
blood glucose levels
Carbohydrates are foods that are high in sugars and starches
and give the body energy to function. Its important for individuals to eat
about 275 grams of carbohydrates a day, which amounts to about 50 to 60 percent
of total food consumption, in order to function properly. Keep in mind that the
body not only needs energy to exercise and help you get through your normal
daily activities, but energy also helps the body automatically:
- Process foods
- Build & repair cells
- Use muscles, and more.
Not all carbohydrate-rich foods interact with the body in
the same way. Some foods cause blood glucose levels to increase more rapidly
others, even when different foods have the very same amount of carbohydrates.
The amount by which a carbohydrate-rich food causes the blood glucose level to
increase is measured on the Glycemic
index. Foods with high rankings on
the Glycemic index cause higher blood glucose spikes and, therefore, are harder
for the diabetic body to process.
Carbohydrates are processed when the salivary glands, the
stomach, and the small intestines release enzymes that break down different
carbs into the simplest sugars like glucose, fructose (fruit sugar), galactose
(milk sugar), etc. Then the pancreas
releases insulin into the bloodstream to help the bodys cells break the sugars
down and convert them into usable energy and cell building material.
Remember: carbohydrates are different forms of sugars.
In a non-diabetic, the pancreas releases the right amount of insulin to convert
the exact amount of glucose. However, in a diabetic, the pancreas either
doesnt secrete enough insulin (if at all) or the bodys cells are not as
sensitive to the insulin as they should be.
This means that all of the available insulin is not used to convert all
the glucose in the bloodstream.
When insulin does not break down and convert all of the
glucose from the carbohydrates that a diabetic has consumed, blood glucose
levels remain elevated. Elevated blood glucose levels can be toxic to the body
in many different ways; they stress the kidneys, can increase blood pressure,
can lead to diabetic neuropathy, and so much more. For these reasons, it is very
important for diabetics to find ways to control their blood glucose levels
keeping their glucose level in the normal range as determined by their physician.
There are a variety of ways to control blood glucose
- Exercise– exercise can help
diabetics to lose weight and decrease blood sugar levels significantly as well.
- Medications– medications are an
important treatment element for most diabetics, but even with medications, the
body does not produce the right amount of insulin at the right time for the
specific amount of sugars consumed
- Nutrition– nutrition plays a very major
role in blood glucose level control.
While diabetics should not eliminate carbohydrates from
their diets, they should be aware of the types and quantities of carbohydrates
they consume. It is wise to consume carbohydrates that have low Glycemic
index rankings and high levels of nutritional value
There are alternatives to all foods that have high
Glycemic index rankings (1 100) and diabetics should become aware of these
alternatives in order to make wise food selections. For example, white bread has
a Glycemic index of about 95. Alternatively, whole grain pumpernickel bread has
a Glycemic index ranking of 50 nearly half as much as white bread and is
loaded with more vitamins and minerals that are good for the body than white
By selecting carbohydrates that have low Glycemic index
rankings, diabetics will still be able to consume their 275 grams a day and
have all of the necessary energy to stay healthy, but they will also be
selecting carbohydrates that are better for their specific dietary needs.
What about that
Diabetics should severely limit desserts that are high in
sugar and carbohydrates, including cakes, candy, cookies and more. Many
diabetics, however, can satisfy their sweet teeth by opting for low-sugar or
sugar-free alternatives to their favorite desserts.