Tag Archives: Glycemic Index

Diabetes and Carbohydrate Counting

carbohydrate countingWorld Diabetes Day is the primary global awareness campaign for diabetes and is held on November 14 each year. It was introduced in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in response to the alarming rise of diabetes around the world. There were 62 million diabetics in India in 2014, according to CDC, which is equivalent to Italy’s population. We all know that lifestyle modification is the key to prevent this disease, but those who are already suffering with it can resort to carbohydrate counting to keep the diabetes related complications at bay.

Carbohydrate counting is a meal planning tool for people with diabetes. It involves keeping track of the amount of carbohydrate in the foods we eat each day. Carbohydrates are one of the main nutrients found in food and drinks; protein and fat being the other two. Carbohydrate counting can help a person in controlling blood sugar levels because carbohydrates affect blood glucose more than other nutrients. The amount of carbohydrate in foods is measured in grams. To count grams of carbohydrate in foods you eat, you will need to

  • know which foods contain carbohydrates
  • learn to estimate the number of grams of carbohydrate in the foods you eat
  • add up the number of grams of carbohydrate from each food you eat to get your total for the day

Foods that contain carbohydrates

  • grains, such as bread, noodles, pasta, breakfast cereals, rice, wheat
  • fruits, such as apples, bananas, mangoes, melons, and oranges
  • milk and other dairy products
  • legumes, lentils, and peas
  • snack foods and sweets, such as cakes, cookies, candies, and other desserts
  • juices, soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks and other energy drinks that contain sugars
  • vegetables, especially “starchy” vegetables such as potatoes, corn, colocasia (arbi), sweet potato, yam (zimikand) and peas

How much carbohydrate do I need each day?

The daily amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat for people with diabetes has not been defined—what is best for one person may not be good for another. Everyone needs to get enough carbohydrate to meet the body’s needs for energy, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Experts suggest that carbohydrate intake for most people should be between 45 and 65% of total calories.

One gram of carbohydrate provides about 4 calories, so you will have to divide the number of calories you want to get from carbohydrates by 4 to get the number of grams. For example, if you are required to eat 1,500 calories per day and get 50% of your calories from carbohydrates, you would calculate the required carbohydrate amount as follows:

  • 50 x 1,500 calories = 750 calories
  • 750 ÷ 4 = 187.5 grams of carbohydrate

You then need to divide these 190 g throughout the day. A dietician or diabetes educator can help you learn what foods to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat based on your weight, activity level, medicines, and blood glucose targets.

How to find out carbohydrate content of foods you eat?

You will need to learn to estimate the amount of carbohydrate in foods you typically eat. For example, the following amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods each contain about 15 grams of carbohydrate:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/3rd cup of pasta / rice
  • ½ cup of canned or fresh fruit or fruit juice or one small piece of fresh fruit, such as a small apple or orange
  • ½ cup of starchy vegetables such as mashed potatoes, cooked corn, peas, or beans
  • ¾ cup of dry cereal or ½ cup cooked cereal

Some foods are so low in carbohydrates that you may not have to count them unless you eat large amounts e.g. most non-starchy vegetables are low in carbohydrates. A ½ cup serving of cooked non-starchy vegetables or a cup of raw vegetables has only about 5 grams of carbohydrate. Also you can find out how many grams of carbohydrate are in the foods you eat by checking the nutrition labels on food packages. You can use books or websites that list the carbohydrate content of food items to estimate the amount of carbohydrate in a serving.

How to know whether carbohydrate counting is working for you or not?

Checking blood glucose levels regularly can help you in knowing whether carbohydrate counting is working for you. You should also have an HbA1C blood (glycosylated haemoglobin) test at least twice a year. This test reflects the average amount of glucose in your blood during the past 3 months. If the blood glucose levels are too high, you may need to make wiser food choices, be more physically active, or make changes to your diabetes medicines.

More help with carbohydrate counting

The Internet has carbohydrate counting tools that let you enter a type of food and find out what nutrients the food contains, including carbohydrates. Try visiting these sites:

Glycemic Index Elucidated….

glycemic index elucidatedDiabetes management calls for a major overhauling in the dietary practices of an individual. The most important nutrient to be modified is carbohydrate. Lets see how and in what way knowing GI of a particular food helps?

Carbohydrates are a class of foods which are known for their saccharide (sugar) content. A food containing carbohydrate which when digested and absorbed increases the glucose levels of blood. This increase in blood glucose has now become the key to planning diets for diabetics, obese and weight watchers. The term used to describe this increase in blood glucose is called as Glycemic Index (GI).

The concept of GI was developed by Dr. David J. Jenkins and his colleagues in 1980–81. Glycemic index consists of a scale from 1 to 100, indicating the rate at which 50 grams of Carbohydrate in a particular food is absorbed into blood. On this scale Glucose is used as the main reference point and is rated 100. A GI value of 70 and above indicates High Glycemic index, 56-69 medium and less than 55 indicates low GI. Simply put a food which does not lead to sharp increase in blood sugar post absorption is termed as a low GI food. The foods which take time to digest and slowly get absorbed in blood have low GI and vice versa.

Try to select foods with Lower Glycemic index as they will cause a slower rise in blood sugar. The lower glycemic index foods tend to have more fiber than the higher glycemic index foods. In other words, select dense wholegrain bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, dalia, rather than refined or processed white bread, white rice and pasta.

Apart from knowing the GI value of foods there are other factors which can help us in managing our blood glucose in a better way. These include:

  1. Even distribution of carbohydrate over the day rather than loading a meal completely with carbs.
  2. Eating small frequent meals rather than 2-3 large meals.
  3. Various forms of carbohydrate affect blood glucose levels in different ways even though the carbohydrate content is the same. E.g., Physical form – solid, liquid; puree can influence the rate of glucose release. Solids taking more time in digesting and thus have a high GI. Raw or Cooked: raw carbohydrate foods rather than cooked ones are more slowly absorbed. Whole-foods rather than processed foods, are more slowly absorbed
  4. Some of the complex carbohydrates behave more like simple sugars, with a quick release of glucose. Like potatoes and many breakfast cereals such as cornflakes all have a high GI.

Following is a Chart of few commonly consumed foods with their GI:

Food Product Glycemic Index
Wheat 48
Rice, brown 50
Rice, white 58
Vermicelli 35
Buckwheat (kuttu) 54
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes 92
Kellogg’s Special K 69
White bread 70
Carrot 47
Peas 48
Potato, baked 85
Potato, boiled 88
Pumpkin 75
Sweet Corn 60
Sweet Potato 61
Yam (Zimikand) 37
Broad Beans 79
Rajmah 28
Soy bean 18
Apple 38
Banana 51
Cherries 22
Grapes 46
Mango 51
Orange 58
Pear 38
Kiwi 53
Watermelon 72
Apple Juice 40
Coca Cola 63
Orange Juice 52
Peanuts 14
Popcorn 72
Honey 55
Table Sugar 68

Image Courtesy: clinicme.com