Effect of Carbohydrates on Blood Sugars

Learn what foods are rich in carbohydrates, and how carbs affect blood sugars.


Effect of Carbohydrates on Blood Sugars

We are getting back to basics with nutrition. There are three main nutrients in foods: carbohydrates, or carbs, protein and fat. First, we will look at carbohydrates. What foods have carbohydrates and how do they affect blood sugars? 

What foods are rich in carbohydrates? Most foods contain some carbs. Foods such as rice, pasta, potatoes, cereal, fruit and fruit juices, vegetables, milk and yogurt, snack foods, such as chips, pretzels and crackers and deserts, are all rich in carbohydrates. Sugar-containing beverages such as sports drinks, regular soda, iced tea, lemonade also contain carbs.

How do carbohydrates affect blood sugars? You can see here that within the beginning of starting of 10 minutes, blood sugars start to increase. And about an hour to an hour-and-a-half after eating carbohydrates, blood sugars are at its highest point. And then, they start to come back down within normal ranges between two to three hours.

All carbs break down into glucose, or blood sugar, quickly and require fast-acting insulin to help the sugar into the cell for energy. Carbs are needed for energy, growth, fiber and vitamins. You are not on a carb-restricted diet, and it is important that you do not avoid eating carbohydrates to avoid taking insulin.

What types of carbohydrates should I eat? Not all carbs are the same. Eating healthier carbs such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, low-fat milk and yogurt are healthier for the heart. Try eating brown rice instead of white or whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Unhealthy carbs you should choose less often, such as deserts, cakes, pies, cookies, sugar-sweetened beverages and candy. These foods contain added sugars, which is not heart-healthy.

How many carbs should you eat? Your nutritionist can help you figure out how many carbs you should eat every day to stay healthy.

Topics Covered: Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, Cystic Fibrosis-related Diabetes

Related Centers and Programs: Diabetes Center