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Carbohydrates and Diabetes

Por Lic. Nina Nazor -
Carbohydrates and Diabetes

A healthy diet may be one of the most important components in controlling diabetes, but it doesn’t have to be the most difficult.

Why follow a diet?

The main objective of nutrition therapy for diabetics is to keep blood sugar levels as normal as possible (normal =110 mg/dl).
Uncontrolled blood sugar levels increase the possibility of developing serious health problems, such as heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, and circulatory problems. In order to stay healthy, following a balanced diet is essential.

The American Diabetes Association guidelines

The  American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines recognize that there is no single dietary plan that applies to all diabetics. Though people with diabetes can follow the same healthy eating principles as most Americans, they should work closely with a registered dietitian (RD) to create a diet plan that will meet their individual needs. These health professionals will take into account an individual's medical treatment, eating habits, exercise patterns, other lifestyle factors, and individual food preferences, and help design a diet that is best for them.

Simple vs. complex carbohydrates

As a diabetic, it is important to know the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly. Many simple carbohydrates contain refined sugars and few essential vitamins and minerals. Examples include fruits, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, honey, molasses and sugar. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and are usually packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Examples are vegetables, breads, cereals, legumes and whole grain pasta.

In the past, simple carbohydrates were eliminated from diet plans provided to diabetics by nutrition professionals. Though simple carbohydrates are allowable for a diabetic to have, it is important to limit their quantity. Not only can simple carbohydrates affect your blood sugar levels much more rapidly than complex carbohydrates, in many cases they offer little overall nutritional value. 

Carbohydrate options:

Milk products

Milk products contain a lot of protein and calcium as well as many other vitamins. Choose non-fat or low-fat dairy products for the great taste and nutrition without the saturated fat.

Choose 2-3 servings per day.

A serving is:

1 cup non-fat or low-fat milk
1 cup of yogurt


Choose 6-11servings per day .Remember, not many people would eat the maximum number of servings. Most people are toward the lower end of the range. Choose whole grain options when possible.

Serving sizes are:

1 slice of bread
¼ of a bagel (1 ounce)
½ an English muffin or pita bread
1 6-inch tortilla
¾ cup dry cereal
½ cup cooked cereal
½ cup potato, yam, peas, corn, or cooked beans
1 cup winter squash
1/3 cup of rice or pasta


Fruits have plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This group includes blackberries, cantaloupe, strawberries, oranges, apples, bananas, peaches, pears, apricots, and grapes.

Choose 2-4 servings per day

A serving is:

½ cup canned fruit
1 small fresh fruit
2 tbs dried fruit
1 cup of melon or raspberries
1 ¼ cup of whole strawberries


All vegetables are naturally low in fat and are good choices to include often in your meals or to have as a low-calorie snack. Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. This group includes spinach, chicory, sorrel, Swiss chard, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, peas, and lima beans are counted in the starch and grain group for diabetes meal planning.

Choose at least 3-5 servings per day.  

A serving is:

1 cup raw
½ cup cooked

Remember that keeping blood glucose under control is essential for avoiding medical complications. Be sure to keep your health care provider informed about your diet and exercise routines, so that they can monitor and adjust your treatment plan accordingly.


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