Carb Counting

Carbohydrates are one of the main nutrients found in the food and drinks. Carbohydrates include sugars, starches and fiber. Carbohydrate counting or also called “carb counting” involves keeping track of the amount of carbohydrate in the foods you eat each day.

The goal of carb control is to help with better sugar control. Your health care provider or dietitian may recommend certain amount of carbohydrate calories order of total calories consumed throughout the day. This may be typically between 45-55% of the total calories. Generally it is recommended not to exceed more than 130 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables are an important part of the healthy eating plan because they can provide both energy and nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Unhealthy carbohydrates are often food and drinks with added sugars. Although these can provide energy, they have little or no nutrient value.

Which foods contain carbohydrates?bacon-avocado-salad

  • Grains, such as bread, noodles, pasta, crackers, cereals and rice.
  • Fruits such as apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, melons and oranges.
  • Dairy products such as milk and yogurt.
  • Legumes, including beans, lentils and peas.
  • Snack foods and sweets, such as cakes, cookies, candy and other desserts.
  • Juices, soft drinks, fruit drinks, sport drinks and energy drinks that contained sugars.
  • Vegetables, especially starchy vegetable such as potatoes, corn and peas. These vegetables are high in starch. So, they have more carbohydrates per serving than non starchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, green beans, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, asparagus or zucchini.
  • Foods that do not contain carbohydrates include meat, fish, poultry, most types of cheese, nuts and oils and other fats.

What happens when I eat foods-containing carbohydrates?

When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks down the sugars and starches into glucose. Then, glucose enters your blood stream and raises your blood sugar level. The hormone insulin, which comes from the pancreas or from insulin shots, helps cells throughout your body absorb glucose and use it for energy.

How much carbohydrate do I need each day?

It is generally recommended that carbohydrate intake for most people should be between 45 and 65% of total calories per day. One gram of carbohydrate provides about 4 cal. For example, if you want eat 2000 total calories per day, and get 45% of these calories from carbohydrate, you would aim for approximately 225 g of carbohydrates.

You would calculate the amount as follows:

2000 calories x 0.45= 900 cal.
900÷ 4= 225 grams of carbohydrate.
The following amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods each contain about 15 g of carbohydrate :
1 slice of bread
1 six-inch tortilla
1/3 cup of pasta
1/3 cup of rice
1/2 cup of canned fresh fruit or fruit juice or one small piece of fresh fruit such as small apple or orange
1/2 cup of pinto beans
1/2 cup of starchy vegetable such as mashed potatoes, cooked corn, peas or lima beans.

Some foods are so low in carbohydrates that you may not have to count them unless you eat large amounts. For example, most non-starchy vegetables of glowing carbohydrates. A half cup serving of cooked non-starchy vegetables or a cup of raw vegetables have only about 5 grams of carbohydrate.

How to read nutrition labels?

Nutrition labels tell you-

If you have two servings instead of one, such as one cup of pinto beans instead of 1/2 cup, you multiply the number of grams of carbohydrate in one serving—for example, 15—by two to get the total number of grams of carbohydrate—30.

Can I eat sweets and other foods and drinks with added sugars?

Yes. However, you should limit your intake of these high carbohydrate foods and drinks because they are often high in calories and low in nutritional value. Fiber rich whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans are better choices.

Adapted from an article from http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov.

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