Understanding Carbohydrates

nutritional label

The best way to regulate your intake is to count the carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are counted in grams, which is a measure of weight. Even a few grams can make a difference.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you must match your carbohydrate intake to your insulin dose. To get the best blood sugar result, your carbohydrate count must be accurate.

When you have type 2 diabetes, your blood sugar will go up if you eat too much carbohydrate. And if you are treated with oral medications that release insulin from the pancreas, or insulin, you must match your carbohydrate intake to your medication dose. To get the best blood sugar result, you need to know how much carbohydrate is in your food and regulate your carbohydrate intake.

The best way to regulate your carbohydrate intake is to “count the carbohydrates” in your food. Carbohydrates are counted in grams, which is a measure of weight – and even a few grams more or less can make a difference in your blood sugar reading.

In this section, you will learn about:

Chemistry, Digestion and Sources of Carbohydrates

Chemistry of Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate is sugar – and includes both single sugar units called sugar (or glucose) and chains of sugar units chemically linked together called starch. Carbohydrate has to be broken down into single sugar units to be absorbed. Glucose is the most common sugar unit in our food and in our bodies.

Sucrose and starch are comprised of glucose

Digestion of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate has to be broken down into single sugar units to be absorbed.

How starch enters the blood stream

Sources of Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates are found in:

  • Rice, grains, cereals, and pasta
  • Breads, tortillas, crackers, bagels and rolls
  • Dried beans, split peas and lentils
  • Vegetables, like potatoes, corn, peas and winter squash
  • Fruit
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Sugars, like table sugar and honey
  • Foods and drinks made with sugar, like regular soft drinks and desserts

Fiber

What about fiber? Fiber is a complex carbohydrate found in fruit, vegetables and whole grains. However, while you can eat fiber, you do not digest it. It will not cause your blood sugar levels to rise, so you do not need to take insulin to cover the fiber.

Additional Resource Materials

We have compiled resources for you to use to learn more about carbohydrates and their role in managing your care. Here is a list of topics in print-friendly PDF format ready for your download:

Self-assessment Quiz

Self assessment quizzes are available for topics covered in this website. To find out how much you have learned about  Understanding Carbohydrates, take our self assessment quiz when you have completed this section.  The quiz is multiple choice. Please choose the single best answer to each question. At the end of the quiz, your score will display. If your score is over 70% correct, you are doing very well. If your score is less than 70%, you can return to this section and review the information.

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