Whole foods with high carbohydrates are some of the most consumed in the world. Some carb foods are good but others especially those high in carbohydrates are bad for diabetic patients. According to National geographic, Rice is the most consumed food in the world and over 3.5 billion people consume it. Several studies have shown why foods like Rice, are bad for people with diabetes. According to a study, eating rice can increase the risk of having type 2 diabetes.
This is followed by the second most cultivated food, Corn (Maize), which is also a food rich in carbohydrates. Other foods like Wheat, Roots, and Tubers are not far behind on the list of consumed foods in the world. In this article, we would explore the reasons food high in carbohydrates is bad for your health, especially when you’re a diabetic patient.
Types of Carbohydrates and Their Risk of Diabetic
Carbohydrates come in different “flavors” some of them are bad for you. Carbohydrates provide the fuel we need to carry out our day-to-day activities and are bad for diabetic patients. We group carbohydrates as a wide range of sugars that provide Adenosine Triphosphate, the energy molecule of the body. Nutritionists classify carbohydrates into two categories based on the complexity of the carbohydrates, and the glycemic index of the carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are very simple carbs, they can also be called “sugars” as they have a molecular structure that is linear and very simple. The body easily absorbed simple carbs and can easily cause sugar spikes in the blood sugar levels of eaters. Some examples of simple carbohydrates are;
- Lactose (sugar in animal milk)
- Energy drinks (glucose)
- Refined carbohydrates like polished rice and flour, etc.
Simple carbohydrates are the major cause of diabetes, and people diagnosed with diabetes should avoid them. Simple carbohydrates are not at all bad. Yet, some forms lead to health problems like obesity, diabetes, and other high blood sugar-related problems. These groups are easily addictive and can be difficult to abstain from. Diabetic patients would need to put in extra effort in skipping foods in this category.
How Carbohydrates Cause Diabetes
After a meal of carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into the final product- sugar. After digestion, the small intestine absorbs Sugar (Glucose) and transfers it to the bloodstream. Simple sugars contain very short and simple chains of glucose molecules which can be broken down by the body. Because they are rapidly digested, simple sugars get into the blood faster and noticeably increase the blood sugar level.
As the blood sugar level rises, a hormone called “insulin” is released into the bloodstream. Insulin travels through the blood and tells body cells to use the sugar for their activities. When the excess sugar in the bloodstream is left “hanging” around for too long, then the person may be diagnosed with hyperglycemia.
Why Simple Carbohydrate eaters are prone to Diabetes
The high blood sugar level is the reason diabetic patients must avoid foods with a high amount of simple carbohydrates. If sugar “lingers” in the bloodstream too much, it is often a sign of metabolic problems.
This means that insulin is not available to direct the movement of sugar in the blood, or the insulin in the blood doesn’t know what to do with the excess sugar. When there is too much sugar in the blood the insulin available may not be enough to get rid of the sugar. This leads to health implications known as diabetes.
Complex carbohydrates are more complex forms of carbohydrates. Their molecule is very complex and contains a long chain of smaller sugars joined by glycoside bonds. Carbohydrates in this category are much harder to break down in the digestive tract of the human digestive system. Carbs take longer to break down, the digestive tract cannot break others at all. Vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc are great sources of complex carbohydrates.
Foods high in carbohydrates to avoid
People usually divide Carbohydrates into two categories; simple and complex. Nutritionists grouped carbohydrates based on the effect of carbs on the sugar level. They call this effect of carbohydrates on the sugar level the glycemic index.
They grouped carbohydrate foods into three based on the glycemic load. To calculate the glycemic load we multiply the number of carbs in the food by the glycemic index. The glycemic index * Amount of Carbohydrates = Glycemic Load. Scientists argue that consuming food with a higher glycemic load increases the risk of developing diabetes.
1) Some Foods with Low glycemic load
Food with a low glycemic load is one that vaguely increases the blood sugar levels after eating. For food to be considered a low glycemic load, it must have a glycemic load of under 10. Some popular examples are; Bran cereals, Apple, Orange, Kidney beans, and Black beans. Other common examples are Wheat tortillas, Skim milk, Cashews, Peanuts, and Carrots.
2) Foods with medium glycemic load
Regulated quantities of Rice, oatmeal, whole-grain bread, and whole-grain pasta would not harm. Provided that the patient eats these foods moderately there is no reason to fear. Foods in this range span between the low GI foods and the High GI foods. Medium glycemic load food at overly safe for diabetic patients, as its effect on glucose levels, could be unhealthy if not taken properly.
When you are uncertain of the carb quantity, avoid eating foods that fall in this category. As the saying goes, “too much of everything is bad for you”.
3) High glycemic load
The most potent culprit for Type 2 diabetes are foods that cause a noticeable spike in blood sugar. These foods can range from solid to liquid and have been processed. Liquid forms of these groups of foods usually have a high amount of added sugar to them, like Soda.
You might wonder why they cause a rapid spike in blood glucose, the reason is that many of these foods have undergone a lot of processing in factories. Manufacturers strip most of their nutrients and fiber, making the absorption of sugar very easy.
Highly processed carbohydrates are a major risk factor for diabetes. Some studies have shown that a diet containing heavily processed food increased the risk of type 2 diabetes in Chinese women.
Baked potatoes, French fries, Refined cereals, sugar-sweetened beverages, Candy bars, white-flour pasta, etc.
Why high-carbohydrate meals are bad for diabetic patients
For foods that expose the consumer to a higher risk of developing diabetes, high-GI foods are the main culprits. It is not a surprise that there is a link between high GI foods, diabetes, and obesity. There is a significant correlation between weight gain and the risk of developing diabetes.
In a 2019 study published in the journal Obesity, the researchers assessed the ingredients that make up high processed food and why people found it difficult to stay away from this food. They discovered such foods provided the body with an instant re-fuel of glucose. Because they are easy to prepare, can be stored for a long time, and stimulate craving, people often become addicted to them.
Sweetened beverages include a long list of drinks sweetened with added sugar or some other form of sweetener. Sugary drinks have topped the list as one of the most unhealthy drinks and twice or more calories than most other foods in one serving.
Soda is no doubt one of the most consumed beverages on the planet. Not only that, but it also tops the rank in the list of most addictive foods on earth. A study carried out in Asia showed that drinking as much as 100ml of a sweetened drink daily could increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26%.
No matter the demographic use, the results turn out the same. Sweetened beverages taken frequently is a fast lane ride to bad health. In another study, this time on black women, they linked soft drinks with an increase in weight.
At the mention of fats, you probably assumed I was talking about the white stuff found on meat, right? Well, that too is fat. You might say, well you don’t eat those, so your diet is clean of fats. Wrong! Fats come in different forms. There is the good stuff and then the bad stuff. Our concern, for now, is on the bad fats.
Bad fats comprise foods that increase blood cholesterol levels. The body doesn’t easily digest fats, so they linger around for quite longer than others. Irrespective of their kind, fats should be consumed moderately.
Can you guess which of these are bad fats? meats, cheese, margarine, olive oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, chicken skin, palm oils, coconut oils, and butter. Ok, I’d give you a minute to guess.
Are you done? Ok here are the bad fats.
Meats, cheese, butter, chicken skin, palm oil, coconut oil, and margarine. You are surprised, right? All these are foods that are common and eaten regularly. They are referred to as saturated and trans fats and their role in the increase in blood cholesterol levels is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
High Glycemic Index: Fruits Aren’t Left Out
Once again, the risk of diabetes increases with the rise in blood sugar levels. How much food increases the Glycemic index measures a person’s blood sugar level. Most fruits are GI friendly, they do not cause a quick spike in blood sugars. However, if you are diabetic, then paying close attention to the number of carbs you take per meal is the key to survival.
Fruits usually have a Low GI, but consuming too many at a time could cause trouble. Studies have shown that adding fruits to your diet is beneficial to your health especially when you are diabetic. We have found fruits like Watermelon and overly ripe bananas to increase the GI score. This is because these fruits have a high GI score above 70.
How much of a threat are fruits with Glycemic Index
Well, there is no need to be overly worried about the sugar content in fruits. Most fruits have their sugars in more complex forms and are locked up between chains of fiber. However, you should know the number of carbs in whatever fruit you ingest. Also, remember the more fruits you eat, the more carbs you take. Ultimately, eating too many fruits at a time would defeat the purpose of having a healthy snack (fruit).
Before I forget, I must inform you that fruit juices are a buster. According to a study, whenever you eat a meal with fruit juice, your blood sugar levels rise quickly. The same study concluded that people who took more fruit juice have higher chances of developing type 2 diabetes. You should eat the fruit whole.
How Many carbs should a diabetic patient eat a day?
High-carbohydrate foods are bad for you especially when you’re diabetic. There you should find out how to count the number of carbs in your daily diet. Technically speaking, food is energy and its unit of measurement is Calories. A fast source of calories is sugar and carbohydrates.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), people with diabetes get 45% of their calories from carbs per day. This is if you cannot afford another alternative. 45% translates to about 250 grams of carbs intake per day. The ADA further recommends that people with diabetes would do very well if they cut down their carb intake to 50grams and may even be lucky to not need insulin supplements.
Is Cheese a Source of High Carbohydrates?
I know just how much you love a cheese toast. Unfortunately, when you’re with diabetes, you need to know exactly what it is you’re eating. But, if your love cheese then you would want to finish reading this article.
Cheese doesn’t have a high amount of calories. Yea! Good news right? well yes. Cheese is made from milk, you know this already don’t you. Okay, just hit the nail on the head. Cheese is not a high source of carbohydrates because it is mostly made of fat. Fat is an alternative source of energy to carbohydrates. Unlike carbs, fat (good fat) takes longer to digest and wouldn’t cause a surge in blood sugar levels.
Cheese just like fat needs to be taken with caution. Diabetics are more sensitive to the effects of sugar than most people. So again, precaution is the key to survival. Cheese is often used in a type of diet known as the “keto diet“. The principle behind this diet is to force the body to utilize fat as its main source of energy. This process that happens in the body is called “ketosis’. If you’re diabetic, it is important that you stay away from low-fat cheese and processed cheese.
Are there foods with No high carbohydrates bad?
There is a diet known as the “no-carb diet” which people follow through to remove digestible carbs from their diet. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy and are found in lots of food we consume today. Since the body derives most of its energy from carbs, for a diabetic patient, finding foods high in fiber and fat. We have mentioned before, that fat is an alternative source of energy.
But to answer the question, yes and no. All foods we eat today have a certain amount of carbs in them, however, they may be minuscule. A diabetic patient would eat foods like nuts, seeds, non-starchy vegetables, and high-fat fruits.
How do you avoid Carbs?
To avoid carbs, you must follow a no-carb or keto diet. You should not eat whole and/ or refined grains, and baked foods, and limit the number of sugary fruits, yogurt, beans, legumes, etc. You’re scraping off most of the foods available to you.
You can opt for foods, like fish, eggs, cheese, butter, etc. For a diabetic patient who wants to be on the safe side, you can opt-in for any of the diets I mentioned above.
Can You live without carbohydrates?
Technically no. Your body would get the carbs. Fats also have carbs albeit little. But you can surely survive with your food containing minimal amounts of carbohydrates but rich in energy- as all foods are made up of carbon and hydrogen. Diabetic patients only need to avoid food with high carbohydrate or high glycemic index. Eat moderately and you should be fine. There is no need(medically) to remove all carbs from your diet unless instructed by your doctor.
Benefits of low-carb diets
Even though doctors do not recommend abstaining from carbohydrates, minimizing the number of carbs taken daily can be of great benefit. Doctors advised diabetic patients to keep clear of high carb diets at all costs but can occasionally eat foods with low carb quantity.
- Low blood pressure
- Better Blood sugar regulation
- Low risk of developing diabetes
Disadvantages of low-carb diets
- Constipation: Because a low-carb diet excludes fruits, most vegetables, beans, and whole grains, it might be deficient in fiber. Fiber is beneficial to digestion because it promotes intestinal regularity. As a result, a low-carb diet may produce constipation and intestinal pain. We usually find fiber in foods rich in carbohydrates, reducing the fiber intake can affect bowel movement leading to gastrointestinal problems.
- Lack of energy: Carbohydrates are your body’s principal source of energy. As a result, a low-carb diet may cause weariness and poor energy, especially at first. In the short term, the metabolic changes that occur in your body when you decrease carbohydrates might cause impaired mental performance, nausea, and interrupted sleep.
- Malnutrition: A low-carb diet may lack vitamins and minerals including potassium, B vitamins, and vitamin C, which are plentiful in fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods. The increased urine caused by carbohydrate restriction may cause salt and potassium deficits. Eating a varied diet with a balanced diet might assist guarantee you get adequate nutrients. It is more long-term maintainable than a no-carb diet.
- Risk of increased cholesterol levels: Scientists haven’t studied the subject much and are skeptical of the no-carb diet in the long term. Maintaining a no-carb diet for an extended length of time might have serious health repercussions. A no-carb diet is not suitable for persons with eating disorders, youngsters, cholesterol hyper-responders, or pregnant or breastfeeding women since it is excessively restricted, heavy in fat, and little investigated for safety.
What happens to your body when you stop eating sugar and carbs?
Again you can cut out these from your diet. Whether you eat fruits or veggies or cheese, you’re still going to get some amount of carbs. However, completely cutting off your primary source of energy would meal malnutrition and ultimately death.
Can I replace carbs with protein?
Yes, you surely can, however, you’d still have to supplement with something with high fat. But, researchers are a little skeptical about that decision. Researchers monitored 15,428 adults aged 45-64 over two decades beginning in 1987 for the study, which was published in The Lancet Public Health.
The researchers discovered that from the age of 50, those with a moderate carbohydrate intake (50-55% of daily calories) lived an average of 83 years, which was four years longer than those with a very low carbohydrate intake (less than 40% of calories), who lived an average of 79 years. Those who consumed a lot of carbohydrates (over 70% of their daily calories) lived an average of 82 years.
Researchers also showed that replacing carbs with animal protein and fat exposed people to a higher risk of death than moderate carbs intake, whereas replacing with plant-based diets was associated with a lower risk of mortality.
Diabetic Patients have to pay attention to the number of calories they take and must avoid foods with high carbohydrates because they are terrible. There are several diet routines that diabetic patients can subscribe to in other to live a healthy and normal life. We divide carbohydrates into two based on their molecular complexity; simple and complex carbohydrates. We also grouped carbohydrates into three based on the glycemic load. Low, medium, and high glycemic load. The glycemic index is the measure of the rise in blood glucose caused by food.
Diabetic patients should avoid foods like white rice, pasta, sweetened beverages, pizza, and heavily processed foods. They contain high amounts of carbohydrates with a high glycemic index. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, cheese, and vegetable oil are very healthy alternatives.