Type 2 Diabetes Guide

How Carbs Affect Insulin Release

If you have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (sometimes also called as ), finding a healthy and nutritious diet is an important of managing your well-being. The carbohydrates you consume are the most important because they directly affect your blood sugar levels. because they break down into sugars which are then absorbed into the blood. As the amount of sugar in the blood rises, the body releases insulin - which in turn puts the sugar into your cells. This sugar is the energy our body uses.

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In people with type 2 diabetes, the body doesn't produce enough insulin or it doesn't respond to it as well as it should. Understanding how the body uses foods, especially carbohydrates, can help us to manage our blood glucose levels.

The Effect of Carbohydrates on Blood Sugar

Carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels very quickly. That's why diabetics need to understand which carbs are "better", so blood sugar "spikes" are avoided. Different carbs affect blood sugar in different ways. The more carbs you eat, the higher your blood sugar levels will be.

There are two types of carbohydrates - simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are readily available in sweets but also fruit and milk. These carbs are readily broken down by the body when they are eaten and the sugar is quickly absorbed. It is this fast absorption that can cause blood sugar to "spike", especially if you eat a lot of foods that contain simple carbs.

Complex carbohydrates are those which are found in starchy food products. These include whole grain breads, pasta, oatmeal, and some vegetables and beans. These carbohydrates take longer to digest and release glucose more slowly, and over a longer period of time. This helps to keep your steadier.

Generally, refined or processed food products will break down faster and cause your blood sugar to rise more quickly. Because you want to prevent wild fluctuations in blood sugar levels, complex carbohydrates are your friends, and you can balance them by adding proteins and some fats to your meals.

The (GI) and the Diabetic Food Pyramid (see below) are both tools you can use to help plan your diet.

The Diabetic Food Pyramid

The Diabetic Food Pyramid allows for:

  • 6 to 11 servings per day of Grains and Starches (breads, pasta, rice, cereal...).
  • 3 to 5 servings per day of Vegetables.
  • 2 to 4 servings per day of Fruits.
  • 2 to 3 servings per day of Milk and Dairy products (low-fat products preferred).
  • 4 to 6 ounces of Meats and Meat Substitutes (lean meats preferred, such as chicken and fish. Includes foods like peanut butter, cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, and tofu).
  • An occasional treat of fats, sweets, and alcohol to be consumed sparingly (potato chips, cookies, candy, cakes, etc).

Note that a "serving" will mean something different for every category - for instance, 1 slice of bread is a "serving" of grains/starches, while 1 cup of raw veggies is also a "serving".

Planning Your Diet

Many people find it difficult to give up foods like breads, pastas, and rice since they are staples in many households. You don't necessarily have to give them up; eating smaller portions is an option, or making substitutions can help too. For example:

  • adds a lot of fiber and more protein to baked goods, which can help you feel fuller, faster.

  • is another good option, and one that's easy to do for people accustomed to baking with regular wheat flour. There is even pasta made from spelt!

  • Substitute the quinoa in place of rice. This protein-rich super-food has a pleasant texture and mild taste, which lends itself well to flavorings or as a base for your meal.

A dietitian or nutritionist can help you figure out a good diet based on your individual needs. Most people find it easier to stick with an eating plan long-term if it also allows for they enjoy. An overly-restrictive diet that's too difficult to follow can cause people to drop out quickly. Once your eating plan is in place, be sure to follow it even though it may be difficult at first (as any lifestyle change can be). A proper diet is an important part of successfully managing diabetes. Carbs do affect insulin release so understanding what you should and should not eat is vital to your health.

Exercise is also an important component in a plan. A combination of regular exercise and a healthy, nutritious diet will keep you feeling your best.



The information on this website is based on our own research and personal experience, and is not a substitute for medical advice. Questions about your health and individual situation should be directed to your doctor.