Guide to count Carbs


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 to it.

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

If we learn to calculate the amounts, we will be able to have under control our blood glucose level and, in this way, we will know the glucose intake. With this information, we will know the eaten portions and is going to be easy 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 the quantity that we will be able to ingest depends on several factors; among others:

  • Physical activity: Depending on the lifestyle and the type of physical activity carried out, it can be ingested a number of carbohydrates. It has to be taken into account that the organism will need less amount of carbohydrates in 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 case of people with diabetes, if they are having any specific medication, is necessary to know the type of medicine to know 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 case of diabetic people it is necessary to tell their doctor so he or she could advise and recommend the number of carbohydrates that they will be able to eat approximately in each meal, therefore diabetics will be able to have into account their limits and know certainly 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 is quickly digested and absorbed by the organism, which leads to a quick increase in 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 case of monosaccharide and is 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?

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

Within these foods it can be found:

  • Starchy foods: Within this type of foods can be found 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 potatoes or sweet potatoes, which are very common in many types of diets and, depending on how are cooked can have high hydrates content.
  • Drinks: drinks can also contain simple hydrates, in fact, sugary soda drinks normally has a high content of it, so that it is necessary to control when intake it.

Some foods have very low carbohydrates content, so that is not necessary to count them unless you eat them in large quantities. For example, most of the not starchy vegetables have 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 the 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 the foods, monitoring, in this way, if the blood glucose levels are kept stable.

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

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

Nutritional 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 corresponds 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 number 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 labels, like fruits or vegetables. In these cases, it is necessary to use the generic foods nutritional composition tables. In Spain, thanks to the Base de Datos Española de Composición de Alimentos (BEDCA), any citizen can identify the sources of the 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 number 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 nutrition webs, 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 to know the nutritional values of the label, adding 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 make easier 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 the 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 ratios. These cups have holes in the base to drain the liquid of the food to not count unnecessary quantities. These type of cups can be freely obtained from a diabetes educator, endocrine or nurse.

Image obtained from  BLOG Nº HISTORIA  

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

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