Tell us about your experiences with weight management. Take our survey!

Candy bar knocks on front door in fear; photos of food groups including protein and vegetables are displayed on walls. Hat, sweater, and bag hang on wall hooks.

Are Carbohydrates the Enemy?

Carbohydrates, the topic of debate amongst people with diabetes and other members of health-related communities. A subject that has many personal experiences mixed with sketchy data that can show both sides as winners of the debate. As I like to say, when both sides can show supporting data on a topic, it means results are more personalized than general. It is up to you to test your blood glucose and see how carbohydrates affect you.

Fast vs. slow-acting carbs

Another area of debate is fast vs. slow-acting carbohydrates. Fast-acting carbohydrates, also known as simple carbohydrates, are immediately released into the bloodstream. Slow acting carbohydrates, also known as complex carbohydrates, need to be broken down in the digestive system into simple carbohydrates in order to be absorbed. This is why a spike in blood sugar happens easier and faster in fast-acting carbs. With this spike, you want to avoid ingesting fast-acting carbohydrates regularly because that spike can easily put your blood sugar at a dangerous level where damage to your body can occur.

Carbs and type 2 diabetes

So, are carbohydrates the enemy? No, carbohydrates are not the enemy. It’s the number of carbohydrates and what surrounds the carbohydrates that are the enemy. The carbohydrates in a candy bar will act in a similar fashion as the carbohydrates in a piece of fruit. They are both simple carbohydrates, and eating the same amount of carbs in fruit, compared to a candy bar, will have similar blood sugar spikes. The difference is what surrounds the carbs.

Fruit is loaded with minerals and vitamins necessary to a healthy body. You would also need to eat more fruit to reach the same carbs as a candy bar. This makes fruit a good snack food or part of a healthy meal. Similarly, there are vegetables that are higher in carbs, which many diabetics are advised to avoid. If your doctor or nutritionist has told you to avoid them, please continue to do so. If it is just a friend or random person on a social media site, take it with a grain of salt. Different vegetables offer different nutrients. Instead of avoiding them, try smaller portions, and adjust carbohydrate intake from other food you eat more regularly.

What types of carbs are best for blood sugar control?

Slow-acting carbs are better for blood sugar levels as long as they are eaten in moderation. The time needed to break them down before absorption allows your body to regulate your blood glucose levels more efficiently. This does not mean you can eat limitless amounts of complex carbohydrates. The more you eat, the more of a spike your blood glucose will have.

One downside to complex carbohydrates is the process of breaking down the carbs before absorption means carbs will be released into your bloodstream for a longer amount of time. For those with a controlled fasting blood sugar reading, this may not be bad at all. People that have high fasting numbers may have more of an issue with this as blood sugar readings could be in the danger level zone longer, whereas people with controlled sugar readings may not reach the danger zone at all with complex carbs.

Personalize your carb intake

As I said, this is all very individualized. Carbs are not the enemy if you take the time to know how your body reacts to them. Learn how fast and slow-acting carbs affect you. Do not copy what a friend or social media group tells you to. They don’t know you and could be offering dangerous opinions. Diabetes is a trial and error disease. It’s all about finding out what works for you and continuing that lifestyle.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.