Carbohydrates in the Diabetes Diet
Carbs count in a diabetes diet because they directly affect blood glucose levels. If you're not producing enough insulin to regulate those levels, serious medical issues can develop.
By Everyday Health
By Dennis Thompson Jr.
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
When you have diabetes, following a careful diabetes diet is a key aspect of diabetes management, and controlling carbohydrate intake is an essential part.
Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are one of the three major components of food. Your body converts carbohydrates into glucose, which your cells burn for energy. Since glucose is transported to cells through your bloodstream, eating carbohydrates will cause your blood glucose level to increase.
Because carbohydrates directly affect your blood sugar level, eating too many carbs — or the wrong sort of carbs — can undo whatever other actions you’re taking to keep your diabetes in check.
How Carbs Affect Different Diabetes Types
It's important to control your carbohydrate intake no matter which of the three major forms of diabetes you have:
Type 1 diabetes. If you have this type of diabetes, you cannot produce insulin, a hormone that helps cells use glucose. That means you must take insulin and other medication to regulate blood sugar. A healthy diabetes diet with controlled carbohydrate intake will make it easier to predict when you will need to administer insulin and how much to use.
Type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes have developed a resistance to insulin, often due to obesity or poor diet. By maintaining steady blood sugar levels through carb counting, you may be able to reduce the amount of insulin or medication you need or avoid taking the drugs altogether.
Gestational diabetes. If you develop diabetes during pregnancy, you need to count carbs because unchecked blood sugar levels can damage the fetus as well as your own body.
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