Monday, October 31, 2016

How Carbohydrates Affect Blood Sugars for Diabetics

How Carbs Affect Blood Sugars for Diabetics
How Carbs Affect Blood Sugars for Diabetics

Keeping blood sugar levels stable is important for those who suffer from diabetes. Doctors are likely to mention to diabetics the role that carbohydrates play in the diet. But which foods are actually classified as carbs, and how do they affect blood sugar? Here is some important information for diabetics when it comes to monitoring carbohydrate intake.

The foods we eat contain nutrition to provide energy to the body and a large contributor to that energy is carbohydrates. There are two forms of carbohydrates, including sugars and starches. While sugars refer to things like fructose, lactose, and glucose, starches are foods like potatoes, corn, rice, grains, and bread.

The body breaks down most carbs and converts them into glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream and used for energy. Glucose and insulin work together to maintain a proper blood sugar level in healthy people after they eat a meal or consume sugar.

People with diabetes, however, cannot decrease their blood sugar levels once they have risen because they have problems with their insulin. Type 1 Diabetes causes the pancreas to lose the ability to make insulin, while Type 2 Diabetes prevents the body from having a healthy response to its insulin.

Because the body transforms carbs into glucose, eating carbs raises the level of blood sugar. This does not mean that carbohydrates must be avoided, but they need to be consumed with care. Carbs are an essential part of an overall healthy and nutritious diet.

Some carbs are healthier than others. There are two additional categories: complex carbs and simple carbs.

Complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber and may be called a dietary starch. They are made of sugar molecules that are branched or strung together like a necklace or a coil. Their fiber content makes them a satisfying food that is beneficial to health. Complex carbs are most often found in whole plant foods, which also adds to their high vitamin and mineral content. The fiber found in complex carbs is crucial to the diet because it keeps the digestive system working efficiently. Eating lots of fiber can actually help slow down the body's absorption of sugar. People who have diabetes can especially benefit from fiber because of its ability to control blood sugar.

Simple carbohydrates, however, are sugars. They are simply made up of one or two sugar molecules. Simple carbs are a fast source of energy and are very quickly digested. These carbs are lacking in the nutritional content that complex carbs provide, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Sugar found in foods like fruit are simple carbohydrates. These can also be added to foods during production, like heavy syrup or other added sugars. Simple carbohydrates begin to raise blood sugar levels very quickly after consumption, which leads a diabetic person to need insulin.

The glycemic index is used to assign a value to a food based on how quickly the food causes the blood sugar to rise. Foods that are low on the glycemic index scale release glucose at a slow and steady pace, which is beneficial for those with diabetes. However, foods with a high glycemic index release glucose very quickly, causing blood sugars to rise at a rapid rate. Foods that are low on the glycemic index foster weight loss and foods with a high glycemic index provide immediate energy and can offset hypo-glycemia. People with diabetes need to concentrate on foods with a low glycemic index, due to their inability to produce enough insulin. The slow release of glucose in foods that are low-glycemic is helpful in controlling blood sugar.

The best way to manage carbohydrate intake is to choose whole foods that have not been processed. Choosing to eat from plant sources such as whole fruit rather than juice, and fresh vegetables rather than potato chips will guarantee your body is getting the complex carbohydrates it needs, along with fiber, and crucial vitamins and minerals.

When buying foods that are pre-packaged, look at food labels to ensure that corn syrup or other high glycemic index sugars are not among the first five ingredients on the list.

A diabetes care team can assist in finding the right amount of carbs to include in your meal plan to cater to your diabetes. They can also help you learn how to split up a number of carbs you need between each meal to help you manage levels of blood sugar. Because carbohydrates can raise the blood sugar more than other foods, some people with diabetes may consider eliminating them from the diet. However, they provide the body with energy, as well as much-needed vitamins and minerals.

Juliana Mazzo is the Director of the Nutrition Wellness Center in Nassau County NY.  Learn more about Diabetic Diets by visiting her website.