World Diabetes Day – Being Carb Conscious

World Diabetes Day – Being Carb Conscious

For World Diabetes Day 2019 we feel that it is very relevant to look at the different types of carbs and to clear up the confusion regarding the different types of carbohydrates are suitable for diabetics. That being said; not all carbohydrates were created equal.

Luckily there is something like the glycaemic index to help categorise carbohydrates in Frequent and Often foods, Sometimes foods and Exercise foods.

Carbohydrates are manufactured by plants and are a major source of energy in the diet comprising around half the total calories. Carbohydrates are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

Important dietary carbohydrates can be categorized as:

  • Monosaccharides
    • Monosaccharides do not normally occur as free molecules in nature but as basic components of disaccharides and polysaccharides.
    • Examples: Glucose, galactose and Fructose.
  • Disaccharides and oligosaccharides
    • Although a wide variety of disaccharides and oligosaccharides exist in nature, are three most important disaccharides in human nutrition are sucrose, lactose, and maltose.
      • Sucrose (e.g., table sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar grape sugar) is formed when glucose and fructose are linked together. Sucrose occurs naturally in many foods and is also an additive in commercially processed items.
        • Lactose, or milk sugar is formed by glucose and galactose and made almost exclusively in the mammary glands of lactating animals; it accounts for 4.5% of the composition of cow’s milk.
        • Maltose (malt sugar) formed from two glucose molecules is seldom found naturally in the food supply but is formed by hydrolysis of starch polymers during digestion and is also consumed as an additive in numerous food products.
  • Polysaccharides
    • Polysaccharides are carbohydrates with more than 10 monosaccharide units. Plants store these carbohydrates as starch granules formed by linking glucose in α-1,4 straight chains and branching the straight chains with α-1,6 linkages into a complex granular structure.

All this very technical terms mean is that all carbohydrates we eat (like starches, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, legumes or sweet foods), even if they don’t taste sweet, are digested in the stomach and intestines and are then absorbed into the bloodstream in the form of glucose. The glucose in the blood then stimulates the pancreas to produce and excrete insulin into the bloodstream. This hormone, insulin, helps the body cells to take up glucose from the blood, so that the cells can use the glucose for energy.

Research over the past 20 years has found that not all carbohydrates are digested and absorbed at the same rate. This means that different carbohydrates have different effects on blood glucose and blood insulin levels of diabetics and non-diabetics.

What is the Glycaemic index?

Therefore, the word Glycaemic index can be explained in the following manner:

  • “Gly” in the medical terms stands for glucose
  • “aemic” in the medical terms stands for blood
  • “index” means an indicator of sorts

Thus, the Glycaemic index is a “blood glucose indicator”. It gives us an indication of the rate at which the food affects blood glucose levels, after eating the food.

Carbohydrate foods with GI values nearer 100 is high GI foods and are digested and absorbed faster than those carbohydrate foods with GI values of 55 and below.

  • High GI foods, e.g. refined white bread, will therefore cause a huge increase in blood glucose levels followed by a rapid drop thereafter.  
  • These foods are also referred to as simple carbohydrates – simple as in broken down and absorbed easily.
  • Low GI foods, e.g. Albany Bread-A-Betix Low GI bread or butter beans, on the other hand, are digested and absorbed slowly, but steadily, and thus only produce small increases in blood glucose levels.
  • These foods are referred to as complex carbohydrates – taking longer to break down and absorb.

Therefore, a meal containing Albany Bread-A-Betix Low GI bread would keep one feeling full much longer than a meal based on refined white bread or cakes. In addition, the body would have to secrete much less insulin to deal with the carbohydrate from the butter beans or Albany Bread-A-Betix Low GI bread, than for the large amount of carbohydrate that is dumped into the bloodstream by the refined white bread.

Foods that are mainly sources of protein and fat e.g. meat, fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, nuts, avocado, margarine, peanut butter etc. do not have GI values, since it is only carbohydrate containing foods that have a GI value, because they gave an immediate effect on blood glucose levels.

GI Categories:

Based on the GI of each carbohydrate containing food, carbohydrates are now divided into three broad categories:

  • LOW GI foods (Frequent and Often foods)
  • INTERMEDIATE GI foods (Sometimes foods)
  • HIGH GI foods (Exercise foods)

For thorough lists please visit


Not all carbohydrates were created equal and for the best results (such as staying fuller for longer, have long-lasting slow release in energy and prevention of lifestyle diseases) it is best to choose low GI options.