Carbohydrate counting, or carb counting, is a meal planning tool for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Carb counting involves keeping track of the amount of carbohydrates in the foods you eat each day. Carbohydrates are one of the main nutrients found in food and drinks. Protein and fat are the other main nutrients. Carbohydrates include sugars, starches, and fiber.
Carb counting can help you control your blood sugar levels because carbs affect your blood glucose more than other nutrients. Healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, are an important part of a healthy eating plan because they can provide both energy and nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber can help you prevent constipation, lower your cholesterol levels, and control your weight. Unhealthy carbs are often food and drinks that are processed, or with added sugars. Although unhealthy carbs can also provide energy, they have little to no nutrients.
The amount of carbohydrate in foods is measured in grams. To count grams of carbohydrate in foods you eat, you’ll need to:
- know which foods contain carbs
- learn to estimate the number of grams of carbs in the foods you eat
- add up the number of grams of carbs from each food you eat to get your total carb count.
Which foods contain carbohydrates?
Foods that contain carbohydrates include:
- Grains: bread, noodles, pasta, crackers, cereals, and rice
- Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, melons, and oranges
- Dairy products: milk and yogurt
- Legumes: dried beans, lentils, and peas
- Snacks: cakes, cookies, candy, and other desserts
- Drinks: juices, soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks that contain sugars
- Vegetables: potatoes, corn, and peas
What should I know about vegetables?
Potatoes, peas, and corn are called starchy vegetables because they are high in starch. These vegetables have more carbohydrates per serving than non-starchy vegetables.
Examples of non-starchy vegetables are asparagus, broccoli, carrots, celery, green beans, lettuce and other salad greens, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini.
Which foods do not contain carbs?
Foods that do not contain carbohydrates include meat, fish, and poultry; most types of cheese; nuts; and oils and other fats.
What happens when I eat foods containing carbohydrates?
When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks down the sugars and starches into glucose. Glucose is one of the simplest forms of sugar. Glucose then enters your bloodstream from your digestive tract and raises your blood glucose levels.
The hormone insulin, which comes from the pancreas or from insulin shots, helps cells throughout your body absorb glucose and use it for energy. Once glucose moves out of the blood into cells, your blood glucose levels go back down.
What if I am a diabetic?
If you have diabetes, the process doesn't work as designed. How carb counting can help your blood glucose control depends on your treatment regimen and whether or not your body makes insulin.
Type 1: If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas no longer makes insulin, so you need to take background insulin as well as offset the carbohydrate in your food with mealtime insulin doses. To do this, you have to know exactly how many carbohydrate grams are in your meal.
Type 2: Because people with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin and may have a diminished supply, they need to moderate their carbohydrate intake and eat a consistent amount at each meal throughout the day; instead of all at one sitting.
Tools to carb count:
1. The first step in carb counting is to have a meal plan. A meal plan is a guide that helps you figure out how much carb, protein and fat to eat at meals and snacks each day. If you don’t have a meal plan, meet with a registered dietitian. The dietitian will specify the amount of carbohydrate you need each day depending on your age, gender, weight and activity levels.
2. Step two involves learning which foods contain carbohydrate. Most people know that starchy foods, such as bread, pasta and cereal contain carbs. But other food groups, such as fruit, milk and desserts and sweets, have carbs, too.
There are three main ways to learn how to carb count:
- Ask for a food choice list from your dietitian.
- Learn how to read the Nutrition Facts Label
- Purchase a food counts book that provides the number of grams of carb in various
3. Measuring tools: In order to accurately count carbs, you’ll need to be accurate with the portion sizes of foods that you eat. Invest in a food scale to weigh foods such as fruit and bread. Use measuring cups to measure cereal, pasta and rice, and use liquid measuring cups for carb-containing beverages such as milk, juice and energy drinks.
How can carbohydrate counting help me?
Carbohydrate counting can help keep your blood glucose levels close to normal.
Keeping your blood glucose levels as normalized as possible may help you:
- stay healthy longer
- prevent or delay diabetes problems such as kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and blood vessel disease that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and amputations—surgery to remove a body part
- feel better and more energetic
To meet your targets, you will need to balance your carbohydrate intake with physical activity and diabetes medicines or insulin shots.
This is why Spike is the right assistant for you! It will remind you to take your dose so you do not have to worry about your pancreas not producing insulin. You will be able to journalize the doses you take each day and the location where you ate so you don’t forget what you had that day! Spike will make sure to keep your blood glucose levels as close to normal. But don’t forget that carbohydrate counting will always be a crucial tool for people with and without diabetes!