Expert Health Articles

Eating Carbohydrates with Diabetes

Martha Gonzalez RD, LD, CLC

Diabetes affects millions of people throughout the world. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body being unable to produce insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of sugar in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is the result of the body not being able to control insulin and is linked with obesity. For those who have diabetes, deciding what to eat for the next meal can be rather challenging. Along with diabetes comes a need for change in both eating and exercise habits. Because diabetes is greatly affected by the types of foods you eat, this article can be used as a guide for choosing the best foods, most importantly the best carbohydrates or “carbs” to eat with diabetes.

Carbs are the easiest to change to sugar and are sent into the blood for the body to use as energy. So, eating the right amount of carbs is very important while managing diabetes. Most fruits, vegetables and grains are considered carbs, though some have more carbs than others. Without knowing the types of foods and how they affect the body, it may seem difficult to feel full while still limiting the amount of carbs you eat.

Fortunately, there are types of carbohydrate foods that can fill you up with healthy nutrients while keeping carb and calorie counts low. The best group of foods for this is the non-starchy vegetables. There are plenty of non-starchy vegetables to choose from including: green beans, carrots, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, peppers and green leafy veggies to name a few. It’s advised to fill half of your plate or more with a variety of non-starchy veggies.

Fruits are also packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, though they do contain a good amount of carbs. One serving of fruits has about 15 grams of carbs, so it’s important to keep track of how much fruit you eat. However, eating fruit is a great way to receive an abundance of nutrients while also curbing that sweet tooth!

Carbs that should be watched closely are grains and starchy vegetables. The keys to allowing grains and starchy vegetables within a diabetic diet are to do so carefully and to make them count. For grains, be sure to choose whole grains like brown rice, whole grain bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa and wild rice. These will provide more nutrients than processed foods like white bread or regular cereal. Starchy vegetables such as plantains, potatoes, pumpkin, peas and corn are great sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, but should be added with care. These grains and starchy vegetables provide valuable nutrients and can be added in variety, but the amount of carbohydrates in each serving should be monitored closely.

By recognizing the different types of carbohydrate foods and how they affect the body, managing blood glucose levels can be much easier and more achievable!