Nutrition

Why pair carbohydrates with protein or fat?

By Lindsay Boland, dietetic intern

Blood sugar spikes
Changes in blood sugar levels over time 

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel. When we eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose (sugar) which gets absorbed through the small intestine into the bloodstream. Normally when sugar enters the bloodstream, insulin moves the sugar into our cells to where it is either used for immediate energy or stored for energy to be used later.

When you have diabetes, this process may take a little bit longer either because the body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes properly. This leaves sugar hanging out in the blood stream for longer than it should. Therefore, when carbohydrates are consumed in large quantities, it often causes a spike in blood sugar.  Sometimes it may be necessary to take medications or insulin to help move the sugar out of the blood and into the cells.

The good news is we can help prevent these spikes in blood sugar by pairing certain foods together. Protein, fat and fiber require a little more work to be broken down than carbohydrates. This means these foods stay in our stomachs longer and take more time to enter the bloodstream. Pairing carbohydrate foods with a source of protein or fat and some fiber helps slow the absorption of the sugars into the bloodstream. This helps us maintain more steady blood sugar levels throughout the day, which allows our body to use these sugars appropriately for energy.

Snack examples:

CARBOHYDRATE PROTEIN/FAT
1 Medium Apple 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter
5 Whole Grain Crackers 1-2 Hardboiled Eggs
1 Cup Grapes 1oz Cheese
¾ Cup Berries 6-8oz Plain Greek Yogurt
2 Tbsp Dried Fruit 12-15 Almonds
Post content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

 

 

 

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