What are carbs?

Carbohydrates, fat and protein are the three major nutrients found in food. 

Carbohydrates can be classified in different ways but essentially there are two main types, starchy and sugars. 

Starchy include any foods that are made from a grain (rice, wheat, oats, maize, rye, barley), or the flour of a grain, as well as starchy root vegetables, like potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and beetroot. Plants grown above the ground also contain starchy carbs but it’s in very small amounts. 

Sugars include table sugar (caster, granulated,etc.), and can also be found in fruit (fructose), and some dairy foods (lactose). They can often be identified on food labels as those ingredients ending with –ose. 

Why do we need carbs?

Carbohydrates are a quick source of energy and glucose, and is especially essential for the brain. Also, carbohydrate foods are often high in fibre, such as wholegrains and fruit, and play an important role in the health of the gut. 

Why are carbs important in diabetes?

Although carbohydrates have some benefit to the body, all carbohydrates are converted into glucose and will have an impact on blood glucose levels. Blood glucose requires insulin to travel around the body. If glucose remains in the bloodstream for too long, it can cause damage to the arteries. Therefore, eating lots of high carbohydrate foods, such as rice, pap, bread, potatoes, fruit, or sugar produces a large amount of glucose, requiring a large amount of insulin to process. 

When insulin is depleted or not working properly, this can be problematic. This is why large amounts of carbohydrates for people with diabetes and/or insulin resistance is not recommended.

Reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing this energy with an increased intake of healthy fats, as well as consuming a moderate amount of protein, is a good strategy in reducing blood glucose levels.


Carb counting is a meal management tool for people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes who use insulin. The aim of carb counting is to balance the mealtime insulin injected with the amount of carbs eaten at each meal. 

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