Can I ever eat carbohydrates if I have diabetes?

The main thing to remember with diabetes is carbohydrate control. Your total daily intake of carbohydrates should be at least 130 grams (g) per day, ideally 40% to 45% of your total caloric intake. If you regularly take medication or insulin for your diabetes, it's helpful to maintain meal-to-meal consistency in distributing your carbohydrates throughout the day.

What does this mean? It means you still need to eat plenty of carbs, which contain sugars, but you also need to become educated about selecting foods with a low glycemic index, which is a system of ranking how quickly certain carbohydrate-containing foods raise your blood glucose levels. Foods with a low glycemic index will raise your glucose levels more slowly and help your body stay on a more even keel.
Reza Yavari, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

Absolutely! Carbs are essential to the health of all people. But when it comes to carbs, it's important to discuss type 1 and type 2 diabetes separately. In type 1, the body does not produce insulin, the hormone needed to process sugar or glucose. So when carbs are consumed, additional insulin has to be injected to cover the rise in blood sugar. Depending on body size, composition and other factors such as medications etc., a certain amount of insulin has to be injected for each gram of carb consumed. Once this is known, a person with type 1 diabetes can consume as much carb as they want and just adjust their blood sugar with insulin. However, more carbs consumed leads to more insulin required and will cause weight gain. People with type 1 should not consume excessive amounts of carbs just because they can lower their blood sugar with insulin injections.

In type 2 diabetes, the body is often resistant to insulin. So, in response to carbs too much insulin is released in the body causing weight gain and poor control of blood sugars. People with type 2 diabetes should not consume too much carbs - in particular fast absorbing sugars - to avoid excessive swings in blood sugar levels, resulting in poor control of their diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes should also restrict carbs to lose weight. So yes, you can eat carbs but ask your doctor how much and what kind of carbs.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Yes in fact you need carbs for energy, fiber and B vitamins. You need to learn to eat whole grain carbs like whole grain breads, whole grain rice, sweet potatoes, etc. You need to limit the number of servings of carbs each day to maintain a normal blood sugar and a healthy weight.
Molly Morgan
Nutrition & Dietetics

Yes, definitely! You can eat carbohydrates, what is important is keeping track of how many carbohydrates you have. Depending on your regimen for managing your blood sugar levels (e.g. diet and exercise, oral medication, insulin), may depend on how exact you need to be with your carbohydrate intake tracking. In general (for everyone, not just diabetics) keep in mind the 'healthiest' carbohydrates to enjoy are those that are nutrient rich like: fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Plus nutrient-rich carbohydrates have vitamins, minerals and fiber, which can help to slow down the release of sugar in your body.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics

Absolutely! I would suggest consuming 100% whole grains, fresh fruits (limit fruit juice) and low fat dairy as great healthy carb choices for controlling your blood sugar. 

A registered dietitian can sit down with you and plan a great, healthy meal plan. Find one in your area at

You can eat carbohydrates if you have diabetes. You'll just need to monitor how much carbohydrate-rich food you eat at each meal and pay attention to the kind of carbohydrates you're eating, too.

One approach to meal planning for people with diabetes is to count carbohydrates for each meal. You can work out with your healthcare team how many grams of carbohydrate per meal or snack is a good level for you. Pay attention to the source of your carbohydrates, too. Get more of your carbohydrate allotment from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and limit the amount of sugar you consume.
Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics
If you have diabetes, of course you can eat carbohydrates. You cannot live on strictly protein and fat. Also, you are taking medication to lower blood sugar. If you do not eat carbohydrates at every meal, your blood sugar could go too low. It's all about moderation. Count your carbs. If your blood sugar is more than 40mg/dl than when you started eating two hours before, that told you that you ate too many carbs at that meal. 
Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics

Plain and simple, YES!

You need carbohydrates every single day. Avoiding them just because you have Diabetes can actually be unsafe. If you have Diabetes, you just need to eat carbohydrates smarter. This can be done by consuming protein options with your carbohydrates. Pairing them together will give your body the correct balance of nutrients. For example, you can have a small serving of berries and cottage cheese or whole wheat crackers and tuna. This combination of adding in the protein with the carbohydrate will delay the digestion and absorption of the carbohydrates therefore preventing a spike in your blood sugar. Also the protein will keep you full longer than just eating the carbohydrates by itself.

Enas Shakkour
Nutrition & Dietetics
Yes, you can still eat carbohydrates if you have diabetes. I advise to learn how to count carbohydrates though. 15 grams of carbohydrate is a serving of carbohydrate. Most women need about 3-4 servings of carbohydrate per meal, and men usually need about 4-5 servings of carbohydrate per meal. Your needs for carbohydrate depend on your height, weight, and activity level. I also advise you to choose carbohydrates wisely choosing whole grains and legumes. Try to stay away from refined carbohydrates and simple sugars found in sodas and sweets.
Nadine Pazder
Nutrition & Dietetics


During digestion, carbohydrates break down to simple sugars called glucose, fructose and maltose. Glucose is the preferred source of fuel for your brain, nervous system, muscles and vital organs.

It is a normal physiologic function for the glucose level to rise in your blood stream after meals. This is the way that all nutrients are absorbed and carried to various tissues of your body. When blood glucose levels are excessively elevated because you don't make enough functioning insulin, then you are diagnosed with diabetes.

The carbohydrate-containing foods that fuel your body and keep you healthy before a diabetes diagnosis are the same foods that fuel your body and keep you healthy after a diagnosisof diabetes. The difference is now you need to know just how much your body needs and how to incorporate them into your meal planning.

Ask your healthcare provider to refer to a 10 hour diabetes self-management course and to a Registered Dietitian for nutrition counseling.

Michaela Ballmann
Nutrition & Dietetics

Absolutely!  A Diabetic diet is by no means a low-carbohydrate, Atkins-style diet.  It is a diet balanced in carbohydrates, with the emphasis on whole grains, low-fat dairy or dairy substitute, and fresh fruit being spaced throughout the day.  For people with diabetes, it is important to have balanced meals that are very similar to the new MyPlate guidelines--fill 1/4 of your plate with a lean protein, 1/4 with a whole grain or starchy vegetable, 1/2 of the plate with non-starchy vegetables, and add a piece of fresh fruit and/or a glass of milk/milk substitute.  You may also need a snack or two during the day to tide you over and keep you from getting hypoglycemic (too low of blood sugar).  It is very important to pair a carbohydrate food with a protein food.  For example, have an apple with peanut butter; crackers with cheese; sliced turkey on whole wheat bread.

The emphasis of combining carbohydrates with protein comes from the fact that in diabetes management, we want to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.  When you ingest carbohydrate by itself, or too much at one time, the blood sugar levels rise.  Chronically high blood glucose can lead to problems and diseases of the kidney, eyes, nerves, and much more, which makes following a healthy diet, balanced in carbohydrates crucial.

Elaine Koontz
Nutrition & Dietetics

Not only can you eat carbohydrate if you have diabetes, you should eat carbohydrate at regular intervals throughout the day. Carbohydrate is found in milk and milk products, grain products, some vegetables, beans, and fruit/fruit juices. It would be very unhealthy to exclude all of these food groups from your diet! When you meet with a CDE and/or RD, you'll learn how many servings or "choices" of carbohydrate you can have at each meals and snack. For instance, if you're allowed four choices at lunch, this would be equivalent to a sandwich, a cup of soup, and an apple. Three important things to keep in mind are:

  1. It's important to eat approximately the same amount of carbohydrate at each meal if you have diabetes. If you had eggs for breakfast (which contain no carbohydrates) a large salad for lunch (which generally contain very little carbohydrate), and then had a large plate of pasta for dinner, your blood glucose would be very unsteady. This is what we're trying to avoid.
  2. Fiber makes a difference in the rate of fluctuation in your blood glucose. An orange and a half-cup of orange juice contain the same amount of carbohydrate, but the orange will keep your blood glucose more steady, because of the fiber content.
  3. You should eat something containing carbohydrate every four to five hours when you're awake. Your dietitian will be able to help you plan a meal and snack schedule that fits into your lifestyle.
Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Foods contain a combination of 3 macronutrients fat, carbohydrate and protein of which all are eventually broken down into glucose to affect blood glucose levels. Carbohydrate in food affects blood glucose directly and must be monitored in your diet. Strive for healthy blood glucose levels by including healthy fats like olive oil, protein such as lean meat and carefully planned small amounts of carbohydrate found in nutrient dense legumes, beans, soy or dairy, whole grains, and fruits at meals and snacks. Eat unlimited non-starchy vegetables with few carbohydrates. See a Registered Dietitian to plan nutrient and carbohydrate content of meals that are individual to your needs and lifestyle to help diabetes and promote healthy weight maintenance.

While you do need to be aware of how much and when you eat carbohydrates, that doesn’t mean you will have to eliminate them. Having diabetes doesn’t mean that you have to start or stop eating certain foods or follow a complicated diabetes diet plan. For most people, a diabetes diet is just eating a variety of foods in moderate portions and sticking to regular mealtimes. You should choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Consistency also is key, because your body responds to excess calories and fat by creating an undesirable rise in blood sugar. Rather than an “I can’t have” diet, a diabetes diet is a healthy-eating plan that’s loaded with nutrients, low in fat and calories, and high in fiber. In fact, it’s the way most people should be eating!

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.