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Managing Diabetes – Carbohydrate Counting
In the United States, 30.3 million people have diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). According to the CDC, 8.9% (7,639 individuals) of adults in Nassau County have diabetes. A key element to managing diabetes is to keep blood sugar in a healthy range. Proper meal planning can help prevent many diabetes-related complications related to long-term high blood sugar. These complications can include:
Nerve damage (neuropathy)
Kidney damage (diabetic nephropathy) or kidney failure
Damage to the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness
Clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye (cataract)
Feet problems caused by damaged nerves or poor blood flow that can lead to serious skin infections, ulcerations, and in some severe cases, amputation
Bone and joint problems
Teeth and gum infections.
During digestion, your body breaks down carbohydrates from foods — such as bread, rice, and pasta — into various sugar molecules. One of these sugar molecules is glucose, a primary energy source for your body. Glucose is absorbed directly into your bloodstream after you eat, but it can’t enter the cells without the help of insulin — a hormone secreted by your pancreas. When insulin is no longer produced or works incorrectly, the cells no longer take in glucose, leaving too much glucose in the bloodstream. Carb counting is a technique to help manage blood sugar levels.
The safe number of carbs is different for each person and depends on age, weight, activity level, and medication. Therefore, it is essential to seek medical assistance to develop a personalized daily caloric and carbohydrate plan.
Carbohydrates are in grains, fruits, honey, sugar, starchy vegetables, and dairy. Non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, etc., contain only 5 grams of carbs in each serving. This means that a person with diabetes can safely eat three times more non-starchy vegetables than starchy vegetables.
To regulate blood glucose and food intake, it is recommended to eat three meals a day, with a space of 4 to 6 hours apart. Aim to eat at the same time each day. Generally, the goal is to consume between 45 to 60 grams of carbs at each meal.
Choosing carbohydrates carefully and being mindful of when and how one eats means that a person with diabetes needs not to give up their favorite foods.