How do carbohydrates affect blood sugar?

Carbohydrates (mainly sugars and starches) provide your body and brain with energy. For people with diabetes, it’s important to know that of all the things that you eat, carbs impact your blood sugar levels the most. The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100, according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar (glucose) levels after eating. Some carbs release glucose into the blood rapidly (high GI), while others have little effect on blood sugar (low GI). Therefore, high GI carbs are more likely to cause blood sugar to spike quickly. So you will want to carefully monitor the types and serving sizes of these foods.

Tips to Select Low GI Foods:

  • Choose nonstarchy, fiber-rich vegetables, beans, and fruits such as apples, pears, and berries.
  • Eat grains in the least-processed state possible, such as whole-kernel bread, brown rice, whole barley, and wheat berries. Or, choose traditionally processed grains such as stone-ground bread, steel-cut oats, and natural granola, or muesli breakfast cereals.
  • Limit refined-grain products, such as white breads and white pasta, to small side dishes.
  • Limit pastries, cakes, cookies, and ice cream to occasional treats.
  • Reduce fruit juice and try to eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks.

Consider other factors that impact a food’s GI, such as:

  1. Ripeness and storage time—the riper a fruit or vegetable is, the higher the GI.
  2. Processed juice has a higher GI than whole fruit, mashed potatoes have a higher GI than a whole baked potato, stone-ground whole wheat bread has a lower GI than whole wheat bread.
  3. Cooking methods can affect GI, too. For instance, the length of time a food is cooked can increase GI. (Example: al dente pasta has a lower GI than soft-cooked pasta).