Diabetes and carbohydrates can be a confusing mess of contradicting information. The fact of the matter is that every diabetic is different, and will need to eat different things in order to manage his or her diabetes. However, there are a few questions that every diabetic should ask him or herself when choosing what to eat.
- How processed is the meal?
- Where does this food fall on the glycemic index?
- What is the ratio of carbs to fibre in this meal?
The first question is very basic. How processed is this meal? The more a particular food is processed, the more its nutrients have been stripped away. For example, consider a slice of white bread vs a slice of whole-grain brown bread. The wheat in the white bread has been processed beyond recognition. Eating this bread will cause a quick, rapid spike in blood sugar levels. Eating the whole-grain bread will give the body a slow stream of sugar for the blood stream, so it does not get overwhelmed. The same goes for white rice, white potatoes, and white pasta. Choosing long grain rice, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat or rice based pasta will help to mitigate the rise in blood sugar after the meal.
Where does this food fall on the glycemic index? The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of a carbohydrate based on the degree to which it increases blood sugar. The index runs from 0-100, with pure glucose being 100. Foods considered to be Low-GI have a score of less than 55. It is generally accepted that diabetics should choose foods that have a low GI, as they will have less of an impact on blood sugar fluctuations than high-GI foods. Things like oats, most fruits and vegetables, barley, whole milk, and sweet potatoes are all considered to be low-GI.
The ratio of carbs to fibre is better known as net carbs. The total amount of fibre is subtracted from the total amount of carbohydrates in a food. This gives a better picture of the impact that the carbohydrates will have on a body. Fibre is helpful in that it aids in the efficient removal of waste from the body, including excess blood sugar. It is indigestible, and therefore has no impact on raising blood sugar like other carbohydrates do. Choosing something with low net carbs will help you to make the best choice to manage your diabetes.
There is no shortage of information available about carbohydrates and diabetes. Some of it is confusing and contradictory, but if you ask yourself these three questions, you will be well on your way to making healthy choices and managing your diabetes.