Counting carbohydrates with a dietitian
May 12, 2020
Carbohydrate counting is a useful skill to have, particularly if you have Type-1 or Type-2 Diabetes. This may be something that your dietitian in Camberwell will recommend if you book a consultation, so we have a few tips to help you through the process
Diabetes is a condition in which the body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Our body produces a hormone called insulin that converts glucose (from food) into energy. In Type-1 Diabetes, the body doesn’t produce any insulin naturally. So, people with Type-1 rely on insulin each day to replace what their body isn’t producing.
In people with Type-2 Diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin, or it gradually stops producing enough to control blood glucose levels. High levels of glucose in the blood can eventually cause damage to blood vessels (arteries and veins) and nerves.
Blood glucose levels normally vary between 4 and 6 mmol/L (fasting). People with diabetes should aim to achieve blood glucose levels as near as possible to the normal range in order to avoid short- and long-term Diabetes complications.
Some of the short-term complications are;
· Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels); fainting, dizziness, confusion, heart palpitations and anxiety
· Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels); increased thirst, headaches, fatigue, weight loss and blurred vision.
Some of the long-term complications are;
· Heart disease
· Kidney damage
· Eye damage
· Nerve damage
· Limb amputations
All carbohydrates are converted to glucose within about two hours of eating, directly affecting your blood glucose levels. Spreading carbohydrate foods evenly across the day can help maintain energy levels and keep your blood glucose levels within your target range.
- Eating too much carbohydrate at one time can result in high blood glucose levels after meals.
- Eating too little carbohydrate can result in low energy levels. If you use insulin or certain types of blood glucose lowering medications, eating too little carbohydrate or skipping a meal can make your blood glucose level drop too low and cause hypoglycaemia.
Counting carbohydrate exchanges is one way of estimating the amount of carbohydrate in food.
A carbohydrate exchange is an amount of food that contains approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate. Exchanges don’t refer to the weight of a food – for example, a slice of bread can weigh 40 grams but only contain 15 grams of carbohydrate (one exchange).
A dietitian can help you go figure out how many carbohydrates exchanges you’re having at each meal as well as teach you how to do this yourself. A dietitian can also go through your medication and determine the impacts it has on how many carbohydrates you should be eating. Together we can tweak your typical dietary pattern to ensure you’re meeting the guidelines.
As a general guide, the amount of carbohydrate the average Australian man and woman may need at each main meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) is;
Women: 30 – 45 grams or 2 – 3 carbohydrate exchanges.
Men: 45 – 60 grams or 3 – 4 carbohydrate exchanges.
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