Why is food important?
Your food choices have a direct impact on the amount of glucose in your blood, and management of blood glucose is the primary goal of all diabetes care. There’s a lot that you can do in your day-to-day meal plans that can have a positive impact on your diabetes, and your health overall.
Energy from food.
Glucose is a type of sugar produced when food is digested. Once it enters the blood, glucose becomes the body’s main source of energy. A hormone called insulin allows the body to absorb and use glucose. If you have diabetes, your body isn’t making or can’t use insulin efficiently. Your body can’t get the energy it needs, and the unused glucose builds up, causing damage to the body.
Carbohydrates are the type of food most quickly converted to glucose. For this reason, a key part of managing diabetes is managing the amount and timing of the carbohydrates that you include in your diet.
Many foods contain carbs. In general you find carbs in the following:
- Starches (bread, cereal, rice, beans and pasta) and starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, winter squash and peas)
- Fruit and fruit juices
- Milk and yoghurt
- Sugar and foods made with sugar (sweets, baked goods, fizzy drinks, syrups, etc.)
Follow these steps to count carbs using a food label:
- Locate serving size near the top.
- Look for grams of Total Carbohydrate Measure or weigh what you will be eating.
- Total Carbohydrate includes all types of carbs such as sugars, fibre, sugar alcohols and complex carbs.
- A 1/2 cup serving of this product has 13 grams of total carbohydrate. How does the amount you will eat compare to the serving size on the label? If there are more than 5 grams of fibre in a serving, half of the fibre grams should be subtracted from the total carbohydrate.
- If you are planning on eating 1 cup, this is 2x (twice) the amount listed on the label.
- That totals 26 grams of carbohydrate (13 X 2 = 26) If there are more than 5 grams of sugar alcohols listed under carbohydrate, subtract half of those listed grams from the Total Carbohydrate.
It can be a bit overwhelming trying to make the right choices when it comes to eating. The answer is to build a basic set of meal planning skills. This process takes work, but fortunately you’re not alone in this effort. Some standard systems and recommendations have been devised to help people living with diabetes better understand foods, as well as get the input they need to make informed decisions.
A wide variety of meal planning guides and “diabetes-friendly” cookbooks have been published. These can be great resources, especially if you enjoy reading about food. But keep in mind that each person with diabetes is different. It’s ideal if you can tailor your own meal plan to your specific needs. Healthcare professionals, such as diabetes educators and registered dieticians, can help you put together a truly personalised program.