Carbohydrates in food are an important source of energy. They should therefore not be overlooked. However, when you are diabetic, you must control your carbohydrate intake in order to keep blood sugar as close to normal as possible and thus prevent complications of diabetes in the long term. This requires being aware of the carbohydrate difference between different foods and playing on equivalences. Let’s try to make learning less restrictive for more food freedom!
Article written by Catherine Conan, dietician
Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates should be an important part of the diet of diabetics because they are the most important source of energy in the body. They must represent 50 to 55% of the total energy intake, or around 180 to 200 g per day, to be adapted according to age, weight, size and physical activity.
The carbohydrates ingested during meals are turned into glucose, the main fuel for the brain and muscles, causing insulin to secrete from the pancreas in people without diabetes. The pancreas then has the essential role of bringing glucose into the cells in order to normalize the glycemia (sugar level in the blood). But in people with diabetes, the lack of insulin or the resistance of the pancreatic cells to insulin means that blood sugar is increased. Hence the importance of distributing carbohydrates well over the meals of the day in order to avoid peaks of hyperglycemia or hypoglycaemia.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates are represented mainly by:
- sucrose or refined white sugar;
- the lactose present in milk and certain dairy products;
- the fructose contained in fruits.
Complex carbohydrates are made up of several simple carbohydrate molecules and are transformed into glucose during digestion. They are found in bread, pasta, rice, cereals, certain fresh vegetables or even pulses. The fiber found in fruits, vegetables or whole grains, which is part of carbohydrates, has no impact on blood sugar.