Carb Counting

Alright, let’s say this from the get go…. Everyone loves carbs. However, you know who doesn’t love carbs? A nonfunctioning pancreas. Before I was diagnosed I really did not think about carb counting or really carbs in general. I would claim a large pizza all to myself without thinking twice (double cheese please). After I got the diagnosis though, things had to change. Many people think that people with diabetes need to only worry about sugar, which is somewhat true. What is not as commonly known, though, is that there are multiple classes of carbohydrates, three according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The three classes are starches (also known as complex), sugars, and fibers. An example of starches are bread, pasta, and grains. Sugars are candy (Snickers please), plain sugar, and cookies. Fiber, the most forgotten class, are most commonly found in vegetables such as beans, squash, and broccoli. Although fiber is not as well known it absolutely plays a vital role in carb counting. Fiber essentially counteracts starches and sugars because the body does not digest it, allowing it to pass through worry-free (keeping you regular). For example, if there are 15 grams of carbs in a meal but 5 grams of fiber the overall net carb count would be 10 grams.

So why are we talking about carb counting at all? Well, carbs are in a lot of foods and some would probably surprise you (carrots and tomatoes for example). Diabetics literally revolve their life around carbohydrates and the corresponding insulin rations. Carbohydrates and insulin typically have a very intimate and wonderful relationship. When someone without diabetes eats a carb, it gets broken down into glucose and enters the bodies’ cells, with the help of insulin, to be used for energy. The best analogy that I have heard is that insulin is the key to open the door for glucose to enter the cell. If you do not have a key or the wrong key, you are not opening the door. So for people with diabetes, that glucose can ring the doorbell or bang on the door to try and get in, but without insulin it is going to be highly disappointed. When glucose cannot enter the cells it continues to circulate in the bloodstream which can potentially cause a lot of health complications (see my write up on complications).

By understanding carb counting we can begin to understand and work through the carb to insulin ratio. Everyone’s carb to insulin ratio is different, regardless of your type of diabetes (and if you take insulin at all). For example, my ratio is 1 unit of insulin for every 2 grams of carb for breakfast. I then take 1 unit of insulin for every 3 grams of carbs for lunch. Finally, I take 1 unit of insulin for every 5 grams of carbs for dinner. So, every time that I am about to eat or drink something I need to calculate how many carbs there are and then decide how much I am actually going to eat. Ironically, I hated math in high school but who knew that I would be basing my survival on correct math calculations. I initially thought that you took one dose of insulin and then you were good, that it didn’t matter how many carbs you ate (cute right?). It is pivotal for diabetics to know how many carbs they are eating, no ifs, ands, or buts to avoid high or low blood glucose which can lead to major health complications and death.

I hope that this has helped shed a little light into what diabetes is and what it is like to live with it. By partnering with your favorite local places though, I hope to make your choices and experiences a little bit easier so you can truly Party Like A Diabetic.


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