Diabetes Self-Management Articles

These articles cover a wide range of subjects, from the most basic aspects of diabetes care to the nitty-gritty specifics.

Links not loading properly?

Some of our pages use Portable Document Format (PDF) files, which require Adobe Acrobat Reader. To download Acrobat Reader for free, visit www.adobe.com.

Sign up for our weekly e-mail newsletter and receive a FREE GIFT! Enter your e-mail below.

Learn more

Learn more about diabetes

Links to help you learn more about diabetes.

Ask a diabetes expert
Other diabetes resources
Browse article topics

 

Counting Carbohydrates Like a Pro
Practical Tips for Accurate Counts

by Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE

Let’s get this straight: There is no such thing as a “pro” when it comes to carbohydrate counting. There is no master’s degree or PhD in Carbohydrate Science at any major university, nor is there a course focusing on carbohydrate counting in any dietetics or nutrition science program. And I’ve yet to meet anyone at a circus or carnival who, for a mere dollar, will “guess the carbohydrates” in your favorite food item, lest you win a valuable prize. So why would anyone with diabetes want to count carbohydrates “like a pro”?

Simple. When it comes to keeping blood glucose levels in control, carbohydrate counting works better than any other system. Better than counting calories. Better than avoiding sugar. And certainly better (and simpler) than the exchange system.

Carbohydrate is what raises blood glucose level abruptly after meals. Not fat or protein or vitamins or minerals. Just carbohydrate. Counting and managing the amount of carbohydrate in your diet has important benefits. If you take multiple daily injections of insulin or use an insulin pump, carbohydrate counting allows you to match doses of mealtime rapid-acting insulin to the foods you eat. This allows for almost unlimited dietary flexibility and helps to prevent post-meal highs and lows.

If you control your diabetes with diet and exercise, pills, or just one or two insulin injections a day, you can also use carbohydrate counting to improve your control. Researchers at the University of Texas School of Allied Health Sciences in Galveston found that consistent carbohydrate intake (eating the same amount of carbohydrate at the same meals every day) in people with Type 2 diabetes leads to improvements in blood glucose control, whether or not a person also loses weight. In their study, people who ate consistent amounts of carbohydrate at regular intervals lowered their average blood glucose by 55 mg/dl, and lowered their average HbA1c (glycosylated hemoglobin, or A1C) from 8.8% to 6.9%. (The American Diabetes Association recommends shooting for an HbA1c level below 7% to prevent long-term diabetes complications.)

A few definitions
Carbohydrate counting simply means adding up the total amount of carbohydrate (in grams) in meals and snacks. Carbohydrates include sugars, including sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), and lactose (milk sugar), as well as starches, which include much of the carbohydrate found in bread, rice, cereal, and potatoes. When you eat something that contains starch, the starch is broken down into simple sugars before entering your bloodstream.

Now here’s the kicker: From the standpoint of blood glucose control, it doesn’t matter if the carbohydrates you eat are in the form of sugars or starches. OK, now relax. Take a few deep breaths, then call your mom to say “I told you so.” Both sugars and starches will raise blood glucose by the same amount and at about the same rate. A cup of rice containing 45 grams of starch will raise blood glucose level just as much as a can of regular, sugar-sweetened soda containing 45 grams of sugar. In other words, don’t be overly concerned about the sugar content of a food. Be concerned about the “total carbohydrate” content of a food.

So that’s it? Just count the carbohydrates, and life will be wonderful? Not so fast. Accurate carbohydrate counting is what we’re after: That’s because being off by just 5 grams of carbohydrate can affect blood glucose by 30–40 mg/dl in someone who weighs 50–100 pounds and by 20 mg/dl in someone who weighs 150–200 pounds. But accurate carbohydrate counting had better not require too much work, or nobody’s going to do it.

Page    1    2    3    4    5    Show All    

Also in this article:
Estimating Portion Sizes
Resources
Carbohydrate Per Cup

 

 

More articles on Nutrition & Meal Planning

 

 


Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.

 

 

What's Your Diabetes Strong Point?
What about diabetes do you do best? If you were going help teach a diabetes self-management... Blog

Insulin Pump Therapy for Kids
There's no doubt that interest in insulin pumps is up among people with diabetes. In fact,... Article

How Low is Low Carb?
Many agree: People with diabetes should eat a low-carb diet. Last week we looked at what "carbs"... Blog

How might labor affect my blood glucose levels? Get tip


Carbohydrate Restriction: An Option for Diabetes Management
Some people find that decreasing the amount of carbohydrate they eat can help with blood glucose control. Here’s what to know about this approach.

Insulin Patch Pumps: A New Tool for Type 2
Patch pumps are simpler to operate than traditional insulin pumps and may be a good option for some people with Type 2 diabetes who need insulin.

How Much Do You Know About Vitamins?
Learn what these micronutrients can and can’t do for you.

Complete table of contents
Get a FREE ISSUE
Subscription questions