Carbohydrate is the main fuel for our body. The energy value of carbohydrate is 4 kcal/gm which is similar to that of protein but less than fat. The end product of carbohydrate after digestion in our body is glucose which provides the energy. In our food stuffs, carbohydrates are hidden in various forms and quantities. Cereals contain the highest amount of carbohydrate (75-80%) predominantly as starch. Other foods also contain them- dhal (60%), starchy vegetables (10 – 30%), other green vegetables (10%), milk (< 10%), fresh fruits (10 – 25%), and dry fruits (75%). Non-vegetarian foods do not contain carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates like whole grain, unrefined cereals, unpolished rice, whole wheat atta, broken wheat, oats, etc are preferable to highly refined and processed products like maida, sooji, polished rice, white breads, noodles because the latter ones are very easily digested and converted to glucose faster. There is also loss of B complex vitamins and fibre during processing.
Simple sugars like honey, sugar, jaggery, soft drinks, fruit juices etc also rapidly increase blood glucose as they lack fibre and contain nothing except carbohydrate in refined form.
The amount of carbohydrate taken in a day is also important. Very low carbohydrate diets which promise instant weight loss are not recommended and may not be a healthy opinion for people with diabetes as we manipulate body’s metabolism by trying to switch its fuel from carbohydrate to fat. On the other hand a very high carbohydrate diet even if complex in form leads to weight gain and rise in blood glucose.
Therefore the source, quantity and form of carbohydrate are important for achieving good glucose control.
Simple easily absorbed in blood - Restricted
- Soft drinks
- Fruit Juice
- White breads
Simple easily absorbed in blood – Moderate amount
- Plain rice
Complex gradual absorption in blood
- Whole wheat