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Carb counting and the glycemic index

meal planning Choosing what to eat can be a challenge when you have diabetes. You may find yourself asking more questions before you eat: Is it sugar-free, low-sugar, low-fat or high-fiber? How many carbs does it have? Will it cause a spike in my blood sugar? Is this food high or low on the glycemic index? (And what’s the glycemic index anyway?)

Counting carbohydrates and monitoring your blood sugar can help you control diabetes. However, not all carbs are created equal, so it can be helpful to know which carbs raise blood sugar more than others. The glycemic index measures how fast and high your blood glucose, or sugar, rises after eating a food that contains carbohydrates. Generally, the higher the number, the greater the spike in blood sugar.

Foods with a low glycemic index include whole-grain, minimally processed foods, non-starchy vegetables, beans and legumes and most fruits. Foods that tend to have a high glycemic index include white breads, highly processed foods, some fruits (melons and pineapple) and starchy vegetables (russet potatoes and pumpkin). Meats and fats are not measured on the glycemic index, because they don’t contain carbs.

Tools for meal planning
The glycemic index provides one way to measure the foods you eat, but it may not work for everyone. That’s why experts recommend choosing an approach to meal planning that works for you. For example:

Carb counting: The American Diabetes Association suggests 45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal as a starting point, but this amount may need to be adjusted depending on how you manage your diabetes.

The plate method: Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter with grains and starchy foods and one-quarter with lean protein.

Glycemic index: The glycemic index may help you identify “good” carbs to include in your diet. Foods that score low on the glycemic index take a longer time to digest and supply the body with a steady source of energy.

Keep in mind, portion size is another important factor in controlling your weight and balancing the calories you consume and the calories you burn.