Rich foods are the primary source of energy for all body functions. Your body breaks down carbohydrates, or carbs, into fuel for use by your cells and muscles, that’s why eating a moderate amount of carbohydrates is necessary for most people. There are two types of carbs; sugars and starches. Sugars are simple carbohydrates that can be easily digested by your body and include foods like cake, soda, candy, jellies and fruits. Starches are complex carbohydrates that take longer to be digested and include foods such as breads, grains, pasta, tortillas, noodles, fruits and vegetables. Other Nutrients * Carbohydrates * Fat * Protein * Sugar Many carbohydrate-rich foods are loaded with other nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are not only great carbohydrate sources, they are also excellent suppliers of vitamins A and C and many other vitamins and minerals. Most dairy products are also great sources of carbohydrates. Some foods rich in carbohydrates have fewer nutrients. Some foods rich in carbohydrates have fewer nutrients. Foods made from sugar (white, brown, powdered and raw) as well as corn syrup, honey and molasses are simple carbohydrates that provide little to the diet except extra calories, and too many extra calories in the diet can lead to excess body fat. Use the top layer of the Food Guide Pyramid as your guide, and limit your consumption of sugary foods, even if they do contain carbohydrates. Quality Carbohydrate Choices Do most of the carbs in your diet come from cookies, cakes and sugary foods? You don’t necessarily need to cut back on the number of carbohydrates you eat, but you should try to eat foods that provide your body with more nutrients and less fat and sugar. Here are a few tips for making better carbohydrate choices: * If you eat white bread, switch to bread made with stone ground whole-wheat flour. You can use it for sandwiches or French toast or you can grind it into breadcrumbs. * If you like to snack on crackers that are high in fat and sodium, switch to whole-wheat crackers. For example, Triscuits are made with whole wheat, and come in reduced-fat and low-sodium varieties. * Drinking milk is a great way to load up on quality carbs, but whole milk has a high fat content. Choose 1%, skim or skim milk fortified with calcium instead. Begin weaning yourself off whole milk by using skim for cooking and baking first before using it on cereal. * Learn how to use sugar and oil replacements in your cooking. Instead of oil, use applesauce or pureed prunes in muffins and cakes. Instead of sugar, Splenda and stevia are sweet-tasting replacers that can be used to prepare your food and drinks. How Many Carbohydrates Should I Eat? Most medical experts say that 60 percent of the calories you eat every day should come from carbohydrates. To find out how many carbohydrates you need, multiply the number of calories you need by .6. For example, if you need 2,000 calories per day, 2,000 multiplied by .6 = 1,200. So you know you need 1,200 calories from carbohydrates. There are 4 calories in a gram of carbohydrate. Take your 1,200 calories and divide by 4 = 300 grams. Knowing the calories and the carbohydrate grams you need will help you when you are reading a food label. Focus on Fiber Fiber is an important kind of carbohydrate that comes only from plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains. The two types of fiber are soluble and non-soluble. Soluble fiber helps control blood sugar and may also lower cholesterol. Non-soluble fiber doesn’t appear to lower blood sugar or cholesterol but may help reduce the risk of colon cancer. It also helps maintain bowel function. (“C” & “S” shape stool is ideal) When choosing packaged breads, grains and cereals, use food labels to determine how much fiber a food contains. The fiber content of manufactured foods is listed on the Nutrition Facts label. Adults need between 20 and 35 grams of fiber every day, according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA). The organization reports that Americans currently are only eating between 12 and 17 grams a day. Good sources of soluble fiber include * Oat bran (although many commercial oat bran muffins and waffles actually have little fiber) * Oatmeal * Beans and legumes * Peas * Carrots * Sweet potatoes * Rice bran * Barley * Citrus fruits * Strawberries * Bananas Good sources of non-soluble fiber include * Whole-wheat breads * Wheat cereal * Wheat bran * Rice (except for white rice) * Barley * Cabbage * Beets * Brussels sprouts * Turnips * Cauliflower * Fruits and vegetables with skin Carbohydrate Counting for People With Diabetes The three main nutrient “protein, carbohydrate and fat” affect blood sugar differently. Because carbohydrates contain both sugar and starch, they have the biggest impact on blood sugar. All of the carbohydrate you eat gets changed into blood glucose within five minutes to three hours after the food is eaten. For people with diabetes, knowing carbohydrates, effect on blood sugar is important for good health. How much carbohydrate you eat (whether it’s sugar or starch) will determine your blood sugar level after a meal or a snack, so keeping track of your carbohydrate intake is important. Many people with diabetes have maintained good blood sugar control with a technique called carbohydrate counting. Carbohydrate counting not only contributes to better blood sugar control, it also provides more variety in food choices. There are two ways to count carbs: the simple way and the more advanced method. With the simple method, you work with a certified diabetes educator/registered dietitian to figure out how many grams of carbohydrate to eat at your meals and snacks. For example, if your nutritionist estimates that you need 75 grams of carbohydrates for breakfast each day you have the information you need to vary your food choices. A breakfast of cereal, milk, yogurt and blueberries will add up to 72 grams. But you might choose a breakfast of bagel, low-sugar jelly and non-fat milk for a total of 78 grams. The advanced method of carbohydrate counting involves matching your insulin dose to the amount of carbohydrate you eat. You will need to work with professional diabetes educators to determine your ratio of carbohydrate to insulin. In both types of carbohydrate counting, however, knowing serving sizes and reading food labels are both necessary in order to count carbohydrates.