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How to Count Carbs

Keep Track

Different foods will affect your blood sugar in different ways. This depends not only on the kind and amount of carbohydrates you eat and the insulin or medications you take, but other things such as how active you are, Smithson says.

“I ask clients to keep a food journal once in a while. A day or two lets us match up patterns with blood glucose readings,” Smithson says.

She suggests writing down the foods and number of carbs you eat, the insulin or medications you take, whether you exercised or had other physical activity, and your blood sugar readings.

“Try things out on yourself,” she adds. “If you see that your blood glucose is higher after eating potatoes, then you can plan for that the next time you have them by either changing your portion size or your medications.”

Smithson says that it’s important not to beat yourself up if you make a mistake counting your carbs. “It can be confusing or overwhelming at first. Remember that managing your diabetes is about more than just the food. We look at carbs because they have the most direct effect on blood glucose, but it’s not the only thing.”

All Carbs Are Not the Same

Keep in mind that the type of carbs you eat can have different effects on your blood sugar. You should also know that your body uses two types of carbs for energy: simple and complex. They affect your body a little differently.

Simple carbs are sugars. Your body digests these very quickly, so they raise your blood sugar quickly too. These include sugars that are added to processed foods such as:

  • Table sugar
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate

Fruit and milk contain simple carbohydrates naturally.

Complex carbs are starches. They take longer for your body to digest than simple carbs. So they take a little longer than simple carbs to affect your blood sugar. You’ll find them in:

  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Tortillas
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Beans
  • Potatoes and yams
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Whole fruit

Fiber is also a carbohydrate, but your body doesn’t digest it, so it doesn’t affect your blood glucose.