People with diabetes use different ways to manage their food intake in order to keep their blood glucose (sugar) levels close to normal. One such method used is ‘carbohydrate counting.' Carbohydrate counting, or "carb counting," is a meal planning method for managing blood glucose levels. It is a technique for controlling the amount of carbohydrates at various meals and snacks.
Carbohydrates are one of the three main energy sources of food, along with protein and fat. Foods that contain carbohydrate are starchy foods like bread, cereal, rice; starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potato, suran and yam; fruit and juice; milk and yogurt; dried beans and soy products; sweets and snack foods like sodas, juice drinks, cake, cookies and chips. These foods affect blood glucose much more than other foods. Along with a health care provider or a nutritionist one needs to define his/her carbohydrate allowance for each meal. The amount of carbohydrate that one eats makes a big difference to the blood glucose levels. If one eats more carbohydrate than usual at a meal, blood sugars are likely to form a peak, thereby affecting blood glucose control.
Carbohydrate counting uses a precise calculation of the total number of carbohydrates in the day and its distribution in each meal. These calculations require measuring cups, a measuring scale, and a calculator. Carbohydrate counting also becomes easier when food labels are available. Watch out for the serving size and grams of total carbohydrate in food labels.
This single-nutrient counting method helps diabetics to learn how to convert grams into their equivalent amount of carbohydrates. Counting carbohydrate servings helps maintain blood glucose target and also prevents diabetes complications. It allows flexibility and helps diabetics incorporate a wider array of foods into their meal plans. If one takes insulin, carbohydrate counting can help to decide how much insulin to take and when. With the right balance of carbohydrates and insulin, blood glucose level can be easily maintained in the target range.
However, with carbohydrate counting, one should also remember the importance of other nutrients like protein and fat in meals. Always include a good source of protein like lean meat, egg whites, fish, soya, legumes, etc. in each meal. To reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, look for products with the lowest amount of saturated and trans fats per serving. For people with high blood pressure, foods with less sodium should be chosen.