How to Count Carbohydrates

Counting carbohydrates is helpful to people with diabetes.

Carbs make up a third of the dietary nutrients (protein and fat are the other two) our body needs to stay healthy.

Though diabetics should pay attention to all three dietary nutrients, they should pay more attention to carbs more because they have the biggest impact on blood sugar, since 90 percent are broken down into glucose.

"Carbohydrates include starches like bread and pasta, fruit, vegetables, legumes, milk and sugars like sucrose, honey and molasses," said Samantha Heller, RD, nutrition coordinator for the Fairfield, Conn. YMCA.

Almost all of the carbs we consume end up as glucose – an important source of fuel for the body.

However, carbs can damage the blood vessels because they can cause blood sugar to rise to high in people with type 2 diabetes.

Counting calories in food helps you control the portions of your meals and total you have for the day. This way, you can get all the nutrients in carbo-loaded foods while keeping your bllod sugar in check.

"Counting carbohydrates takes some instructions but is not difficult once you understand how many grams of carbohydrates are best for you each day," says Heller.

For diabetics who take insulin before meals often count carbohydrates so they can compute for how much insulin they need to take with every meal.

Regardless of whether you’re on diabetic medication or not, you can also count carbs to make sure you do not go over your daily requirement.

"Diabetics need to be aware of how many servings of carbohydrates are in a food and where they are in their day with regard to number of servings, calories, and health choices," says Heller.

Doctors and/or dietitians may suggest two days for you to count carbs in your diet. For either method, 15 grams = 1 serving.

Counting grams of carbohydrate

For example, if you want to eat 45 grams of carbohydrate, you would choose three servings (3 servings x 15 grams per serving = 45 grams). So for breakfast, you could choose three servings of different foods (such as oatmeal, milk, and half of a banana) or three servings of the same food (such as a larger serving of oatmeal).

Counting servings of carbohydrate

This is sometimes called the carbohydrate point system. In this system, 15 grams equals 1 point. Doctors often want some people with diabetes to give 1 unit of fast-acting insulin for each 10 to 15 grams (or 1 point) of carbohydrate in a meal. Women with gestational diabetes often give 1 unit of fast-acting insulin for each 10 grams of carbohydrate. On the point system, instead of 45 grams of carbohydrate at breakfast, you would count 3 carbohydrate