So a quick review. Carbs are simple sugars and starches, but all you really need to know about them is that they tend to raise blood sugar very quickly, and the more carbs you eat at one time the higher your blood sugar is likely to go.
For instance, if you have two packages of snacks on the table in front of you and one has 25 carbs on the label and the other has 45 carbs, I’d expect the 45 carb snack would spike your blood sugar worse than the 25 carb snack. So you can use the carb count of a food as a predictor of the blood sugar impact it is likely to have.
Higher carb foods tend to be white in color:
- Flour (including pasta, sorry)
Diabetics like me who use fast-acting insulin count our carbs before eating to know how much insulin is needed to “cover” the impact. For diabetics on oral meds it can be trickier.
The common wisdom is that for non-diabetic people to maintain weight an adult male should limit himself to 60 carbs per meal and an adult female to 50 carbs per meal. Of course, children should have less. That said, the vast majority of American meals are far greater than this. For instance a Big Mac, large fries, and a 21 oz. Coke (which McDonald’s considers a “medium”) totals up to 166 carbs, nearly the daily total for a full grown man, which wouldn’t really be a problem if he only ate the one meal per day.
But for people with diabetes, things are trickier. As a general rule, to maintain blood sugar control, diabetics should have a slightly lower carb total than non-diabetics. Women should still have a lower carb count than men, because their bodies are generally smaller. If you are trying to lose weight, a still lower carb count is advised. But don’t go crazy, you need some carbs. Very low carb diets are neither healthy nor sustainable. For the vast majority of diabetics, I find 30-45 carbs per meal seems to work well.
A simple way to test where in this range you fit in, use your blood glucose meter. Test before you eat a set number of carbs and two hours later. The after-eating number should be around 50 points higher. If it is much higher, try a lower carb count next time.
Foods that are high in carbs and high in either fat or fiber tend to have less of an impact on your blood sugar.