What Are Carbs and Why Are They Important?
It’s all about carbs! Carb control is the first step in gaining control of your blood sugar numbers. Carbs are the food group mainly responsible for raising blood sugar. While the body can make glucose from the protein and fats you may eat, it is slower in action and doesn’t usually cause the “spike” that carbs do.
There are three types of carbohydrates — sugars, starches and fiber. To know how much carbohydrate you eat, you need to be clear about which foods are primarily carbohydrate and which contain enough carbs that they require counting. It’s not necessary to count “sugars” separately, they’re contained in the carb count and are basically still a “carb”.
Carbohydrate is found in:
grains (breads, pasta, cereals)
root crops (potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams, carrots…)
beer, wine, and some hard liquors
desserts and candies
most milk products, except cheese
-ose foods, like sucrose, fructose, maltose
In a healthy diet, most carbohydrate should come from nutrient-dense foods. Nutrient-dense foods and complex carbs like whole grains, fruits, legumes, vegetables, nonfat or low fat milk, and yogurt contain a high volume of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein in proportion to their calorie content. These don’t cause your blood sugar to “spike” as high or as fast. Even “whole grains” are carbs though, and must be controlled.
Simple sugars are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can cause your blood sugar to rise very fast and high. These simple sugars are contained in fruit juices, regular sodas, many candies cakes and pies or other baked goods especially those made with white flour. Certain vegetables such as white potato and corn as well as many fruits also contain a large amount of simple starch/sugars and can cause the same blood sugar spike.
Complex carbohydrates require your body to do more processing to break them down for fuel, and usually take longer to get into your bloodstream. This causes a slower blood sugar rise usually. The complex carbohydrates include:
the energy storage form of carbohydrates found in plants, especially in the seeds and roots. Starchy food examples include rice, wheat, corn, carrots and potatoes.
the structural component of plants. We are unable to digest a lot of the fiber in foods, and the fiber that our bodies can digest usually takes longer and creates less of a “spike” of blood sugar. Potatoes, dry beans, grains, rice, corn, squash and peas contain a large amounts of starch. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, lettuces and other greens are not starchy.
The stems and leafy parts of plants do not contain much starch, but they do contain fiber. Since we can’t digest a lot of the fiber, that means that the green and leafy vegetables contain fewer calories and carbs than the starchy vegetables.
Fiber is a diabetic’s friend because it takes longer to process in the body and slows down the absorption of the carbs.
Try to get your carbohydrates from healthy sources such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. But remember, even complex carbs are carbs and must be limited to avoid spikes in blood sugar.
Carbohydrates and Metabolism
Once the digestion process has begun and the food components are in your blood stream they are either used for energy, stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, or if there is more energy available than you can use, they are converted and stored as fat.
The storage of glucose is triggered by insulin, which forces your body to store any extra blood sugar as glycogen. People with diabetes or metabolic syndrome either can’t produce enough insulin or they are not sensitive enough to the insulin they produce and need to regulate their blood sugar with medications, insulin or dietary changes.
How To Count Carbohydrates
Start by giving yourself some limits: Some suggested limits would be for women 20-40 per meal and 15 per snack. Men can usually have higher limits. Remember, these are just suggestions. By testing you will find the amount of carbs that work for you.
Here’s a good on-line source for carb counting: click here
A few foods like table sugar and lollipops are entirely carbohydrate, so their weight on a gram scale will be exactly the same as the number of grams of carbohydrate they contain. Most foods, however, have only part of their total weight as carbohydrate. The carb content of these foods can be determined by food labels, reference books or software, or a scale.
Like any new skill, counting grams of carbohydrates will take a couple of weeks to master. You will need to weigh and measure foods consistently for a while. As time passes, you will train your eye to estimate accurately both serving sizes and weights, whether eating out or at home. As you look up the foods you commonly eat, make a list of them for easy reference. Keep that list next to your food log, and use it to figure the carbs in a meal before you decide how much to eat.
Food labels contain information you need to do carb counting. Just be sure your serving size is the same size as the serving on the label, or calculate on the basis of the amount you’ll be eating. For example, lets say you want to eat an 8 ounce carton of low fat yogurt. The label that tells you that a one cup or 8 ounce serving contains 18 grams of carbohydrates. If the serving you eat differs from the serving size listed on the package, you will have to weigh or measure your actual serving and do some minor calculations to determine your carb amount.
Source: click here
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