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Carbohydrates and Diabetes

Carbohydrates and Diabetes

You need your energy. Your body needs fuel to create that energy. Carbohydrate is the fuel your body runs on, the nutrient that converts to energy. If you were a car, you might not need to be refueled every day. Since you are only human, it is important to eat foods every day that supply carbohydrate, especially if you have diabetes.

Carbohydrates are either simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars which are made of only one or two units or molecules. Words that end in "ose" are sugars. Examples of sugars include:

  • Sucrose or table sugar
  • Fructose, the sugar naturally occurring in fruit and honey
  • Lactose, the sugar found in milk

Complex carbohydrates , also known as starch, are very long chains of glucose molecules. Both types of carbohydrate, simple and complex, have a similar effect on blood sugar levels. Except fructose (a simple carbohydrate) which causes a smaller rise in blood sugar compared to equal amounts of other sugars or most complex carbohydrates.

The Food Pyramid for Diabetes is a useful tool for identifying specific foods to include in your diet and as a guide to ensure that you include carbohydrate-containing foods with each meal.

Carbohydrates in Your Diet

Grains/Beans/Starchy Vegetables: At the base of the pyramid are all foods that provide complex carbohydrates.

Vegetables: Vegetables, found in the next level of the pyramid, provide both simple and complex carbohydrates.

Fruits/Milk: Fruits and milk provide simple carbohydrates or sugars.

Sweets: At the very tip of the pyramid are sweets, which, according to the American Diabetes Association, may be included in the diet.

Diabetes and Fiber

Fiber in breads, cereals and other grains may cut the risk of diabetes, say two studies -- one that tracked roughly 25,000 men and women for about a decade and a meta-analysis that combined the results of nine other large studies. Researchers found about a 30 percent lower risk of diabetes in people who reported eating the most fiber from grains, compared to those who ate the least. Fiber from fruits and vegetables wasn't linked to diabetes.

The lower the risk of diabetes was roughly 20 percent lower in people who reported eating the most magnesium (375mg a day) than in those who ate the least (225mg a day), according to the meta-analysis.

So, what can you do? You can eat more whole-grain breads, cereals, and other grains to cut your risk of diabetes. You can get more magnesium from leafy greens, nuts, fish, and beans.

Diabetic Pyramid

Although people with diabetes were told at one time to avoid sugar and sweets, it is now recognized that such foods may be included in the diet occasionally as part of your total carbohydrate intake.

Try to spread your carbohydrate intake evenly throughout each day. A consistent intake of total carbohydrate from day to day helps to promote control of your blood sugar levels. Talk to your health care team about how much carbohydrate per day would be beneficial for you.

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