Why Should I Count Carbs?

Why Should I Count Carbs?

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?

  1. Ask your physician about meeting with a registered dietitian and/or certified diabetes educator for nutrition education.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (4)
  • Riddler
    9 months ago

    Counting carbs was one of the first things I was taught to do when I was first dx. I always went with ‘total’ carbs due to it being the easiest to do. When looking at the total I’d automatically check to see how much of the carbs were related to sugar.

    The subtracting fiber etc I never played with. Too many numbers to remember. A friend of mine who is also diabetic was telling me that I need to subtract this, add that etc to get the carbs.

    The dietitian told me to forget everything I had read and had heard from everyone else and let him help me out instead. Was good enough advice for me because at that stage I was totally confused as what to do. Already had the shock of being told I was diabetic and then to try and play the numbers racket was too much to take in.

    He explained the quick and easy what I really needed to be concerned with. Told me to try and get the higher fiber when eating, also to look at the sodium intake. Also when looking at carbs to see how much of that was sugars. Was surprised to see in some products that all of the carbs had come from sugar. So when shopping around I’d always go for the lower sugar rating, lowest carbs, highest fiber, low salt, and cholesterol. Now I have the fun of trying to add calories into the factor. Great. 🙁 😉

  • Riddler
    9 months ago

    Wonderful article. I learned to count carbs when first dx with type2.But even though it’s been years doing this since 2012 I still have issues with the carb count in such things as fruits like grapes etc so that I’d know how many of the things would make how many carbs. Know what I mean?

    The grapes and other types of fruits and of course some of the vegetables. I know brown rice is healthier than white rice but I also know that it too has carbs to deal with and thus having to remember the portion to get of it. Wife always saying eat this, eat that, it’s healthy and I have the hardest time trying to explain how some things might be ‘healthier’ than others they still have carbs that I must count and make sure not to much of them during a meal.

  • Meryl Krochmal, RD, CSP, CDE, CNSC moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi Riddler, Thank you for your feedback! I’m glad that you liked this article. It can be challenging to count carbs that don’t have labels, such as fresh produce. A safe rule-of-thumb is that 1 cup of fruit (which is about the size of a fist or baseball) will provide approximately 15 grams of carb. Using a food scale (for times when you are at home) may also be helpful when it comes to counting carbs in produce. You bring up another really great point…. just because a food is considered healthy/nutrient dense does not mean that it will be carb free! All carbs should be accounted for (just like you mentioned!). Keep up all the great work and please continue to reach out to the type2diabetes.com community if you have any questions. Take care, Meryl Krochmal, RD CDE Community Moderator.

  • Riddler
    9 months ago

    Hi Meryl Krochmal. Thanks for the reply and understanding at what I’m getting at. I have the list that the original dietitian gave me and know that 17 grapes = 15 carbs and some of the others. I also know that when I first started they wanted me to have three servings of carbs per meal and a total of 45 carbs per meal. And I did good at it having gone from 240lbs to 167lbs.

    Vegetables are hard at times to figure out due to knowing they have carbs also but not like fruit. Certain measures for certain ones will equal about five carbs but then would have to figure out the ‘portion’ control as to know the carbs for the and then know how much vegetables to eat. I know that the sheet I was going by when first dx was dealing mostly with carbs due to the dietitian wanting me to learn the carb count since it was probably the easiest to learn to do since I knew nothing about it at first and I needed a starting point and figure that was the best place to start with. Stilll dont know anything on calories count so guess this tiem the new dietitian will be getting me into that.

    One thing I’m also seeing that I’m going to have fun with now on calories is the meat and other ‘proteins’ that might not have the carbs hitting me but will have the calories going against me. Was trying to talk to wife about calories and sodium. For instance take a look at a serving of Spam and some of the others. Even the 25% less sodium ones. Still has a pretty high rating for sodium and calories for one serving of Spam. And I don’t even know some of the others. I know that I’ll be hearing, ‘it’s protein, it’s good for you’ just like with things like the how healthy brown rice is for you.

    But I know that with my team and the help from here I’ll be able to stay in that car longer before falling out during the bumps and potholes, dusting off and getting behind that wheel again with everyone reading that map helping me out. 😉

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