Carb Exchanges Make a Diabetic Diet Easy

Carb Exchanges Make a Diabetic Diet Easy

Glycemic index, glycemic load, carbohydrate exchanges, and carb counting are terms you may have heard. They sound interesting but what do they mean and just how do they apply to you or do you put them into practice.

Glycemic index is a term describing a comparison of the blood sugar spike that occurs in a person after eating plain sugar to whatever the particular food is. Glycemic load is the result of the glycemic index multiplied by the grams of carbohydrates. At this time there is insufficient evidence that eating a diet following low-glycemic guidelines can reduce average blood glucose.  A recent systematic review revealed that a low-glycemic diet did not yield weight loss greater when compared to a variety of other diets. (1) It is recommended that people with diabetes do not follow a low carbohydrate diet. (2)

In fact, it is recommended that people with diabetes do not follow a low-carbohydrate diet and that they typically need 45-65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates, which is about 130 grams or 45 grams per meal (not snacks). (3) In order to do this, a person would have to read labels and count grams of carbohydrates, and that can get daunting.

This is where the carbohydrate exchanges come in very handy. (4) Carbohydrate exchanges use a simple method, each exchange counts for 15 grams of carbohydrate, and non-starchy veggies, meat, and fat are free! Looking at the carbohydrate exchange list you will see that foods are organized by food groups and you can memorize what amount of carbohydrate is in a given serving of food using the exchange system.

Make sure to choose whole grains as they offer the additional health benefit of phytonutrients and increased fiber, which can help keep cholesterol in a healthy range.


  1. Emadian, Amir et al. “The Effect of Macronutrients on Glycaemic Control: A Systematic Review of Dietary Randomised Controlled Trials in Overweight and Obese Adults with Type 2 Diabetes in Which There Was No Difference in Weight Loss between Treatment Groups.” The British Journal of Nutrition114.10 (2015): 1656–1666. PMC. Web. 7 June 2017.
  2. Sheard, N. F., Clark, N. G., Brand-Miller, J. C., Franz, M. J., Pi-Sunyer, F. X., Mayer-Davis, E., . . . Geil, P. (2004, September 01). Dietary Carbohydrate (Amount and Type) in the Prevention and Management of Diabetes. Retrieved June 06, 2017, from
  3. Institute of Medicine. 2005. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved June 06, 2017, from
  4. “Glossary.” Diabetes Education Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 June 2017.


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This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.

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