Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar

Someone with diabetes or hyperglycemia needs to be aware of what he or she eats, because each food item that enters their body can have a significant affect on blood sugar levels.  All carbohydrates, no matter the type, are converted to glucose in the blood.  There are three different types of carbohydrates that can be consumed: starches, or complex carbohydrates, sugars, and fiber.  Understanding carbohydrates and the way the various types of carbohydrates are utilized by the body is absolutely essential to excellent management of blood sugar.

Starches are vegetables such as peas, corn, lima beans, potatoes, beans, split peas, and grains.  Whole grains are much more nutritious for the body than refined grains, because they contain all the portions of the grain instead of just the starchy part of the grain.  Some starches, such as refined grains, are digested quickly and will cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, while others, think whole grains, are digested more slowly and cause less of a spike in blood glucose levels.

Sugars are also fast-acting carbohydrates.  Some sugars occur naturally, such as those found in fruit and milk.  Others are added to foods, such as the sugar found in candy, cookies, pastries, fruit canned in syrup, and syrups in carbonated beverages.  No matter what the type of sugar consumed, this carbohydrate will cause a quick rise in blood sugar.

Fiber is a carbohydrate that comes only from plants.  Fiber is not digested and is ultimately filtered out by the intestines.  Although the body does not digest it, fiber is extraordinarily good for the body.  Fiber lowers cholesterol and increases overall digestive health.  Beans, such as black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, and white beans are a primary source of dietary fiber.  Other fruits and vegetables are also an optimal source of dietary fiber.  Whole grains and nuts also provide healthy fiber.  Eating food with fiber also allows you to eat more carbohydrates through the day.

Carbohydrates with fiber cause a significantly lesser blood glucose spike in the body.  A fibrous carbohydrate will raise blood glucose slowly, over an hour to 90 minutes after a meal.  A serving of food that contains at least 5 grams of dietary fiber allows you to take half the grams of fiber and subtract that number from the total carbohydrate in that particular food.  Carbohydrates that are not fibrous, such as refined grains, cause a significant, quick spike in blood sugar 15 to 30 minutes after a meal.  Most people’s bodies can deal with a quick spike in blood sugar, but for someone with a disorder such as glucose intolerance, metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, or diabetes, this quick spike can be dangerous as their bodies are not able to handle the excess glucose well.

It is important, especially for people who are paying close attention to their blood glucose levels, to understand the various types of carbohydrates.  Not all carbohydrates are bad for you.  Knowing how each different kind of carb affects blood sugar levels will lead to successful monitoring, and a healthier future.