How Many Carbs Should I Eat?

There is much controversy around carbohydrate intake, some experts say that you don’t need ANY carbs and others say that you need at least 130 g/day.  At the GlucoseZone, we will work with you whatever approach you take – but remember that diabetes is a disease of elevated blood sugar, which is an indication that your body does not deal with carbohydrates at the current level (or past level) that you were consuming, so cutting down carbohydrates to a level that your body can manage more easily is strongly advised.

When discussing how many carbs you should consume, it is important to first understand what a carbohydrate is. Carbohydrates are a great source of energy (calories), vitamins, minerals and fiber. When choosing your carbohydrates, it is important to keep in mind the glycemic index and glycemic load of the food. The Glycemic Index is a numerical index that ranks carbohydrates based on their rate of glycemic response (i.e. their conversion to glucose within the human body). The glycemic load (GL) of food is a number that estimates how much the food will raise a person’s blood glucose level after eating it.

Sources of carbohydrates include:

    • whole grains – brown rice, unflavored oatmeal, whole wheat, wheat berries, kasha (buckwheat), quinoa, wild rice, barley, bulgar wheat (Tabouli)
    • Fruit and fruit juice
    • Root vegetables – potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, jicama, yucca (cassava), celery root, taro root, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, yams
    • Winter Squash – butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin (calabaza), hubbard, kabocha squash, and many more
    • Beans, legumes and peanuts
    • Plantains, corn, popcorn, polenta, grits
    • Milk and yogurt
    • Processed foods with flour and/or sugar as the source of carbohydrates
      • Breads, doughnuts, pretzels
      • Cookies, cakes, pies
      • Candy
      • Soda, soft drinks, sweet or iced tea, sports drinks, flavored coffees, sugar in your coffee
      • Potato chips, tortilla chips, plantain chips

How many carbohydrates you “should” eat depends on the time of the day and how your body responds to carbohydrates. You should never cut your carbohydrates drastically if you are taking insulin or a hypoglycemic agent without speaking to your doctor because these medications are based on your carbohydrate intake in the past and you could go dangerously low if you cut your carbohydrates drastically.

If you tend to have high blood sugars in the mornings, you may want to keep your morning carbohydrate intake down to 15 grams or less

  • Check your food labels- 15 grams is the amount in a low carbohydrate wrap or small piece of bread or ½ cup of unsweetened cereal, small sweet potato or plain yogurt with ¼ C of fruit or ½ C of berries, melon or ½ small banana or small apple

If you tend to run high later in the day, keep your carbohydrates between 30 – 45 grams for your lunch and dinner and consume snacks that have around 15 grams

If you tend to crave carbohydrates after dinner, you may need to decrease your dinner carbohydrates.  Craving carbohydrates may mean that your body is over-producing insulin to work on the carbs that you consumed

Work with testing your blood sugar during different times of the day to learn how many carbohydrates work best for your body.

 

About the Author:

LaurieAnn Scher  MS, RD, CDE is the diabetes educator for GlucoseZone.  With over 30 years in practice, she embraces new technologies and ideas that are grounded in human physiology to help people with diabetes achieve the best outcome.  With an undergraduate degree in Clinical Nutrition from Cornell University and a Masters in Applied Physiology and Nutrition from Columbia University, Teachers College, she is comfortable applying innovations in nutrition, exercise and diabetes to the current practice of diabetes management.  LaurieAnn is comfortable with challenging the status quo to personalize diabetes care recognizing that while diabetes may be similar as a disease state, not everything works for all people all of the time.  Join LaurieAnn to help discover how to manage your diabetes in the GlucoseZone

For more on this topic, watch the Diabetes Talk below: