Guide to count carbohydrates


Everybody should count and have into account the carbohydrates taken, what is something essential for being completely informed on  ingested calories. Diabetics must pay much more attention on it.

Foods contain macronutrients, those nutrients which provide the most part of metabolic energy to the organism, like proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Carbohydrates are the macronutrient that increase blood glucose level. So that, for people with diabetes, it is essential to count the carbohydrates that they ingest.

If we learn to calculate the quantities, it will be able to have under control our blood glucose level and, in this way, it will be able to know the glucose intake. With this information, it will know the eaten portions and it will be able to adjust the proper insulin dose needed for wellbeing.

Important factors to have into account about how many carbohydrates intake.

It should be noted that it does not exist a fixed amount of carbohydrates that can be intake but quantity that it will be able to ingest will depend on several factors; among other:

  • Physical activity: Depending on the lifestyle and the type of physical activity carried out, it can be ingested more or less carbohydrates. It has to be take into account that the organism will need less amount of carbohydrates in the case of a sedentary lifestyle, so that, the normal thing it is that sedentary lifestyle people will need to ingest less quantity of carbohydrates.
  • Medication: In the case of people with diabetes, if they are having any specific medication, it is needed to know what type of medication for knowing if it can have an impact on carbohydrates assimilation and, in consequence, to regulate more or less the ingestion.

There are many other factors which affect the ingestion of carbohydrates, for that reason, in the case of diabetic people it is necessary to tell their doctor so he or she can advise and recommend the amount of carbohydrates that they will be able to approximately eat at each meal, thus diabetics will be able to have into account their limits and certainly know which type and amount of food they can eat.

How carbohydrates are categorized?

Carbohydrates can be classified as simple or complex according to the chemical composition:

  • Simple hydrates are characterized by being compound by a single molecule (monosaccharide) which can be hydrolyzed. This type of carbohydrates are quickly digested and absorbed by the organism, what leads to a quick increase of blood glucose levels. Within this variety of simple sugars are included fructose, galactose, lactose, saccharose and maltose.
  • Complex hydrates: are characterized by being compound by several monosaccharide molecules (polysaccharide). Its absorption is slower than in the case of monosaccharide and are a constant source of energy during all the day. These help to keep stable the glucose levels. Cellulose and hemicellulose are examples of this type of sugars.

Which foods contain carbohydrates?

One of essential elements for counting carbohydrates is to be conscious and have a previous knowledge to identify them. There are many foods that contains them in low proportion. Despite this, it is important to observe  and have all them into account, but specially those in which glycaemic load is high, since these are foods in which it is necessary pay more attention counting carbohydrates.

Within these foods it can be find:

  • Starchy foods: Within this type of foods can be find commonly eaten foods like bread (what it is eaten nearly daily), cereals, legumes, rice, pasta and cookies.
  • Fruits: Fruit normally has a high carbohydrates content, such as fruit juices.
  • Milk and dairy products: milk, cheese and different yogurts.
  • Vegetables: paying special attention to potato or sweet potato, which are very common in many types of diets and, depending on how are cooked can have a high hydrates content.
  • Drinks: drinks can also contain simple hydrates, in fact, sugary soda drink normally has a high content of it, so that it is necessary to control intake it.

Some foods have a very low carbohydrates content, so that is not necessary to count them, unless eaten them in large quantities. For example, most of not starchy vegetables have a low carbohydrates content.

How to know how many carbohydrates are in foods?

Nowadays, it is quite easy to know how many carbohydrates are in foods. With the help of Internet and some applications, it is provided a fantastic source of information, with which it is possible to find out the nutritional values of almost all foods, monitoring, in this way, that blood glucose levels are kept stable.

There are two ways to know the carbohydrates contribution of a food:

  • Nutritional label: Currently, law of most countries of the world obliges producers and manufacturers to include nutritional labels for having consumers informed on nutritional contribution of foods. With these labels it is able to know how many carbohydrates are going to be intake every 100 gr or in each portion of product, depending on how manufacturer specifies it. For well-read the nutritional label it is necessary to pay attention on carbohydrates and on the size of food portion. That is lay down per 100 gr of product or by the total grams of a protion, depending on how producer express it. Following there is an example of a nutritional label.

contar-carbohidratos-valor-etiqueta-nutricionalNutritional label value

For example, this label is referred to one liter of almond milk. To know how many carbohydrates are in a glass of milk (250 ml), in the label it is written that 1 portion of 250 ml correspond to 20,8 gr, i.e., 2 portions of carbs.

To the extent that it is going to be necessary more or less milk than indicated for a portion, it would be necessary to apply the following rule of three.

For example, we are going to take a little more than a normal glass of milk, 300 ml of milk:

✎ Multiply the quantity that it is going to be drink, 300ml , by the quantity of carbohydrates contained in 100 ml, what are 8,3 gr, and divided it by 100 ml;

300 ml * 8.3 gr / 100 ml = 24,9 gr HDC = 2,5 Portions

  • If there is no nutritional label: There are foods without nutritional label, like fruits or vegetables. In these cases, it is necessary to use the generic foods nutritional composition tables. In Spain, thanks to Base de Datos Española de Composición de Alimentos (BEDCA), any citizen can identify sources of specific nutrients, carry out analysis of personalized diets and, even, design special diets for patients, etc.

In these cases, first,  it is necessary to know the amount of grams to be intake with the help of a scale and then apply the same rule of three according to the values contained in the tables.

Applications and other methods

There are a lot of webs on nutrition, where it is easy to find This type of information. Valuable iOS and Android applications like My Fitness Pal, that thanks to them it is possible to easily and quickly count calories and carbohydrates. It is only necessary to pass the smartphone over the bar code of the product for knowing the nutritional values of the label, adding them the quantity that is going to be ingested, the application calculates it automatically. Cool!  There are also private foundations like Diabetes Foundation, which offer low-cost complete guides in a booklet format for patients.

There are also very useful and illustrative pocket guides that are delivered for patients in hospitals or public healthcare centers for helping them and easing the counting of foods’ carbohydrates. We leave you a pocket guide developed by ROCHE in the following link.

As a last option, it is possible to count carbohydrates once cooked according to food’s volume. It can be done with a common glass or with a measuring cup manufactured by companies like Bayern, that have been specifically designed to calculate rations. These cups have holes in the base to drain the liquid of foods for not counting unnecessary quantities. These type of cups can be free obtained from a diabetes educator, endocrine or nurse.

Contar-carbohidratos-vaso-medidor-bayernImage obtenid from  BLOG Nº HISTORIA


It is very important to learn to make daily good decisions for having a proper diabetes monitoring. If you have read to here it means that you have made the decision to learn, thus you will have less probability to suffer health problems caused by diabetes.



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