How Does Carb Counting Help with Blood Glucose Control?
Your blood glucose levels are related to the amount of carbohydrate you eat. If you regularly track the amount of carbohydrate you eat at a meal and check your blood glucose levels one to two hours after that meal, you’ll hopefully detect patterns. That’s what carb counting is all about. Monitoring the amount of carbohydrate you eat, and eating about the same amount at each meal, will help you keep your blood glucose levels on target throughout the day. This will help you feel your best and allow you to manage your blood glucose medication effectively.
When you get and keep your blood glucose levels in your target ranges, you feel better. You also can help prevent and/or delay the complications of diabetes, such as heart, eye, and kidney problems. Think of blood glucose control like walking on a balance beam – you don’t want to fall off on either side. There are dangers associated with both high blood glucose and low blood glucose (if you are on certain diabetes medications), so you want to stay right in the middle. Hypoglycemia is another word for low blood glucose. Hyperglycemia is another word for high blood glucose.
Basic Facts about Carbohydrate
When you eat any type of carbohydrate, the body breaks it down into glucose (sugar) and releases the glucose into your bloodstream. With the help of the hormone insulin, the cells of your body then use that glucose as fuel for all the different types of work they have to do.
There are three categories of carbohydrate: starches, sugars, and fiber. Starches and sugars are the main contributors of carbohydrate to our foods. Fiber is also carbohydrate, but its impact on blood glucose can be different than that of other types of carb. There are many types of fiber.
You may have heard the terms “simple carbohydrates” and “complex carbohydrates” before. These categories were used for many years to try to explain how various types of carbohydrate affected blood glucose in different ways. These terms are no longer used because recent research suggests that our old understanding wasn’t accurate. We now know that once carbohydrate is broken down, the body doesn’t know whether the resulting glucose came from the carbohydrate in mashed potatoes or a piece of apple pie. All carbohydrate becomes glucose – the body’s’ preferred and primary source of energy.
If Carbohydrate Raises Blood Glucose, Should I Follow a Low-Carb Eating Plan?
Once you realize that carbohydrate is the nutrient in foods that raises blood glucose the most, you might jump to the conclusion that people with diabetes should steer clear of foods that contain carbohydrate. But that’s incorrect. For starters, any eating plan that drastically restricts a particular food or food group is not realistic in the long term. Restricting carbohydrate would limit foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are essential for good nutrition. And your body still needs carbohydrate for energy.
In general, the ADA recommends an eating plan in which about 45-5% of your total daily calories come from carbohydrate. The exact grams of carbohydrate you eat will vary depending on your total calorie goal and a number of other factors.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about using low-carb meal plans to lose weight. Most of these plans restrict carbohydrate intake to the point where less than 40% of your total daily calories come from carbohydrate. The results from research on these low-carb weight-loss plans have been mixed, and the long-term effectiveness of low-carb eating plans hasn’t been shown. At this point, many diabetes experts conclude that there’s insufficient evidence to recommend low-carb diets, especially to people with type 2 diabetes. Beyond the question of long-term effectiveness, there are safely concerns about following such a plan over the long term, such as concerns about the progression of heart and kidney problems.
It is most important to consider the total calories that you eat every day if you are considering weight loss, so it can be counterproductive to focus on only whether the calories come from carbohydrate or protein or fat. Therefore, it is best to choose healthy carbohydrate sources, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat and low-fat sources, like foods that contain added sugars and sweets, because they contribute concentrated amounts of calories and fats and add little in the way of essential vitamins and minerals.
The best advice? Find a sensible and realistic healthy eating plan for you that is based on source science. The eating plan should help you lose weight (if you need to) and, even more importantly, keep weight off the rest of your life.