Carbohydrates are one of the major components of food and should account for at least 50 – 60% of the energy source. Carbohydrates can be broadly divided into two categories:
- Simple sugars – they act like an instant source of energy (in the form of glucose). Food items that are rich in simple sugars include sugar, jaggery, honey, candies, sweet meats etc. They raise the blood glucose levels quickly and therefore should be avoided by diabetes patients.
- Complex carbohydrates -This category includes starch, cellulose, fiber etc. They are slow in releasing their stores of energy and therefore inhibit sudden rise in blood glucose levels. Due to this food items like wheat, rice, oats, barley, potatoes and other vegetables that are rich in complex carbohydrates should form a major part of the diet.
A parameter called glycaemic index is used by nutrition experts and doctors to quantify the extent of rise in blood glucose level in response to the intake of a food item.
A diabetes patient should avoid foods that have a higher glycaemic index. Also, there are certain foods which may have a low glycaemic index but are high in fat content and hence, should be avoided*.
In Type1 diabetes it is important to synchronize the carbohydrate intake with the insulin injection schedule. The total carbohydrate intake for a day has to be spread over the meals according to the type of insulin being taken. Consult your doctor for the proper carbohydrate distribution plan. The same is applicable for a Type2 diabetes patient who is on insulin therapy.
Type 2 diabetes patients who are not on insulin therapy can simply spread the total carbohydrate intake over the meals.