Carbohydrates and Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Carbohydrates and Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Carbs and Diabetes

Many diabetics are very confused as to why they cannot lower their hemoglobin A1c levels. They follow their doctor recommendations, exercise, and take their insulin and oral Glycemic medications but still, diabetic complications are progressing forward.

What you may not realize is that something very simple – watching your carbohydrate content of your diet – could be exactly what you need to do to gain better control of your hemoglobin A1c levels and bring them down from a 9.0 to a .5.

The reason why carbohydrates are SO important to monitor is because diabetes is a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism. Your body can’t metabolize carbohydrates when you have diabetes, either type 1 or type 2.

What Are Carbohydrate Foods?

Carbohydrate foods include the following:

  • Fruits
  • Dairy products
  • Some nuts
  • Cakes/cookies/traditional desserts
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Pastas
  • Cereals
  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Breads
  • Sweet rolls

How to Count Carbohydrates in Foods

Each of these types of foods has a general guideline about how many carbohydrates are in a serving. Here’s a table for that info:

Fruits ½ cup fruit = 10 gramsDried fruit (2 tablespoons) = 10+ grams

¾ cup to 1 cup berries = 10 grams

Dairy products  8 oz. milk = 12 grams8 oz. yogurt = 12 grams

1 oz. cheese (slice) = 12 grams

¼ cup cottage cheese = 12 grams

Nuts Most nuts are 100% fat, but cashews and peanuts contain some carbohydrates in them. Check their label to be exact.
Breads One slice bread = 15+ gramsOne bun = 24+ grams
Cereals ½ cup cooked cereal = 15 grams
Starchy vegetables ½ cup = 15 grams1 small potato = 15 grams
Pastas ½ cup cooked = 15 grams
Sweet rolls 1 small sweet roll = 20+ grams
Non-starchy veggies Carrots, celery, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, and cooked greens are 2-4 grams in ½ cup cooked serving sizes. Lettuce and mixed greens that are raw are the same amount of carbohydrates for 1 cup.
Cakes/cupcakes These are variable. Usually one slice or one cupcake is 18 to 54 grams. Read the labels to find out.

Your New Goal Is 30 Grams Carbs/Meal

When you have diabetes, you must cut the carbohydrate intake way back to around 30 grams per meal and 10 grams per snack. This may seem like it’s far too little, compared to what you have been eating, but it’s the level you’ll need to see the hemoglobin A1c level fall on your next test.


Here are a few examples of meals that keep the carbohydrate content down to around 30 grams per meal:

  • Steak, broccoli, carrots, salad with dressing, fruit
  • Chicken, pasta, green beans, spinach salad with bacon, fruit
  • Oatmeal, milk, 2 eggs, tomato or carrot juice

You can always eat more non-starchy vegetables and more salad if you’re still hungry after eating these meals. When you begin keeping carbohydrates in the proper range, you’ll also begin losing weight as well. This is important for most diabetics because a higher body weight will contribute to a higher blood sugar level and hemoglobin A1c level. However, as you begin to lose weight, your blood sugar level will decrease and your insulin needs will decrease. You’ll also begin to feel better.

Because you are making a significant change to your diet, it will be more important to monitor your blood sugar levels during this time. Remember though that all these are changes for the good and the adaptation time will be well worth it.

You have more control over your blood sugar level than you think. It all starts with carbohydrate counting.

Up next:
What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

Everything You Need to Know About Type 1 Diabetes

What is type 1 diabetes? Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. 
by Abigail David on April 17, 2019
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