Why Should I Count Carbs?
Last updated: June 2023
Have you ever asked “Why should I count carbs?”
You are not alone. Please read this article to learn the benefits of carb counting.
Four reasons to count carbs
1. Carbs are the nutrient with the greatest impact on blood glucose levels
A simplified explanation: All carbohydrates, with the exception of dietary fiber, are broken down by the digestive system into glucose and then absorbed into the blood (i.e. blood glucose). The pancreas senses a rise in blood glucose resulting in an increase in insulin production. Insulin allows glucose to enter the body cells to be used as energy. Without adequate insulin production, blood glucose levels become elevated and increase the risk of both acute and chronic complications.
2. Counting carbs will allow you to have more awareness of your overall food intake
Keeping track of your daily carb intake will give you more awareness of your daily energy intake and will likely reveal sources of hidden calories.
By counting carbs at each meal and snack you will be able to keep on track with the carb amount that has been recommended by your physician and/or dietitian.
3. Counting carbs will allow you to see how different foods with carbs impact your blood glucose
Depending on the type of carbohydrate consumed, carbs will begin to raise your blood sugar within minutes of being consumed. Foods that rank lower on the glycemic index will raise the blood glucose slower than foods that rank higher on the glycemic index.
You may also notice that meals and snacks that are high in fat or high in protein may result in a more delayed blood glucose rise. Protein and fat, when eaten alone, have minimal impact on blood glucose levels. However, when eaten in combination with carbs, these nutrients (protein and fat) slow down the digestion of carbs (in particular fat) resulting in a more delayed blood glucose rise.
4. Counting carbs is a great way to improve post meal glucose levels
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends a target blood glucose of 180 mg/dL or less, 1 to 2 hours after completing a meal. By having an awareness of how much carbohydrate you are consuming, you will be more likely to reach your target number. In addition, reaching your post meal target blood glucose will also help get you to your A1c target.
How to get started with carb counting?
- Ask your physician about meeting with a registered dietitian and/or certified diabetes educator for nutrition education.
- Start reading nutrition labels. Doing so will allow you to become familiar with foods that have carbs and foods that are carb free/low carb.
- Use a phone app or a food journal to track your daily carb intake at meals/snacks.
Do you carb count? Please share your experience with the type2diabetes.com community!
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