type 2 diabetes, however, either don't produce enough insulin or their bodies don't use it as efficiently. Are carbs allowed on diabetic diets? The answer is a definite yes - except that people with diabetes may have to take certain steps to keep their blood sugar levels controlled.
Carbohydrates are found in starchy foods like bread and pasta, but also in fruits, vegetables, beans, milk, corn, and sugar. Our bodies break down a carbohydrate into smaller molecules to provide us with fuel and energy. Our bodies need carbs to function properly. Trying to eat a 'no carb' or severely restricted 'low carb' diet isn't a good idea, as diabetics are also at higher risk for hypoglycemia, which is when blood glucose levels drop too low.
One way to choose 'better' carbs is to use the glycemic index of foods as a reference. The glycemic index (or GI) is a measure of how the carbohydrates in various foods affect blood glucose levels. Choosing more low-GI foods will help to maintain better blood glucose levels after eating... however, the goal isn't to force people to only consume low-GI foods, only to balance the foods you choose for your meal. For example, if there's a high-GI food you really want for your meal, pairing it with low-GI foods can help to balance it out.
For people who love baked goods, you can also choose alternatives to wheat flour such as baking with spelt or with baking with coconut flour. Both types of flour are higher in fiber and protein than regular wheat flour. Rice lovers can substitute protein-rich quinoa instead.
Portion control is important not necessarily just because of the carbohydrates in foods (which can elevate blood sugar), but because large portions can lead to weight gain. A calorie is a calorie, regardless of whether you get it from a bowl of soup or from a cheesecake. Read our article on diabetes and portion control for tips on how to remember portion sizes.
Of course, eating a lot of carbs in one meal isn't recommended either. Carbs get converted by our bodies into sugar, and for type 2 diabetics, this can result in a blood sugar spike.
Many people eat a breakfast that is very 'carb-heavy' with cereal, toast, and fruit or fruit juice. Instead, try to spread out your carbohydrate consumption evenly between your meals and snacks. This will help blood glucose levels to remain steadier throughout the day, rather than spiking after a carb-heavy meal or snack.
Keep carb consumption more even across meals and snacks also allows for easier planning of medications or insulin. Medications or insulin may need adjusting if you eat more than (or less than) the usual amount of carbohydrates during a meal.
Here is one video that explains the concept of 'carbohydrate counting':
A dietician or a diabetes educator can help you get on the right track, incorporating proper meal planning as part of your diabetes treatment. It is much easier to stick long-term with a flexible meal plan that includes foods you enjoy. Carbs are allowed on diabetic diets - a little planning will still allow you to enjoy them as an essential part of a healthy diet.