What Are Carbohydrates
A carbohydrate is a biomolecule consisting of carbon hydrogen and oxygen atoms, usually with a hydrogen–oxygen atom ratio of 2:1 (as in water) and thus with the empirical formula Cm(H2O)n (where m may or may not be different from n). However, not all carbohydrates conform to this precise stoichiometric definition (e.g., uronic acids, deoxy-sugars such as fucose), nor are all chemicals that do conform to this definition automatically classified as carbohydrates (e.g. formaldehyde and acetic acid).
Healthy Carbohydrates for Glycemic Control
Carbohydrates are starches, fibres and sugars that we can find in different foods. So, there are different food groups that contain carbohydrates, such as our grains and starches, fruits, some vegetables, and dairy and milk.
We also find them in another food group called other. So, this is usually cookies, candies, things like that. Carbohydrates are actually our main fuel and source of energy, and even the brain will use carbohydrates as its source of energy.
In carbohydrates, we find a lot of vitamins, minerals and fibre. So, fibre has a lot of benefit for our body. It can actually help lower our cholesterol levels. It’s very important for the health of our intestines and our digestion. Best of all, it can even help with management of diabetes.
There are different types of carbohydrates, such as short-chain carbohydrates, so these are also called rapid-acting carbohydrates. Meaning that the body will digest them and absorb them quickly or faster, which can actually cause a spike in the blood sugar. Some examples would be juice, white bread and sugar.
Then we have longer-chain carbohydrates, so this takes the body longer to digest and absorb, causing less of an effect on the blood sugar. Examples would be legumes, oats, barley and berries, for example.
When you’re looking for foods, let’s say out in the grocery store, and you’re reading labels, a really important thing to look for is the amount fibre. So, when you choose products that have higher fibre, these are going to take longer to digest.
Carbohydrates can play a very important role in diabetes management. Aiming to choose high-fibre carbohydrates will help in slowing down the digestion, causing less spikes in blood glucose. Also, when choosing carbohydrates, we’re looking at the quality – so meaning high fibre – but also the quantity.
For example, on your plate, a quarter of your plate should be the quantity of carbohydrates, which could equate to about one cup, or a fist. So, for example at a meal, having a cup of cooked barley, or a cup of cooked lentils, for example, on your plate could be your portion of carbohydrates.
Here are some tips: aiming to put more vegetables and legumes on your plate. Looking at the quality of the carbohydrates, so high fibre, and also keeping an eye on the quantity. As you increase your fibre, don’t forget to increase your water as well.
Local Practitioners: Registered Dietitian