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Counting “macros” is all the rage in the weight loss industry these days, but what about macronutrients and diabetes?  Find out about dietary macros and how they affect your blood sugar.

What are macronutrients?

Macros is an abbreviation for the word macronutrients, and the word macro means “large.”  A macronutrient is an energy-containing component of food, so it makes sense that our bodies use macros for fuel.

Micronutrients (“small” nutrients) are necessary components of food that don't give us calories when we eat them, like vitamins and minerals.

Three types of macros

  1. Protein — nutrients that help us build and maintain our muscles.  Protein can be used as fuel if needed.
  2. Fat — nutrients that help us insulate and protect our bodies, and can also be used as fuel.
  3. Carbohydrate — nutrients that are primarily used as fuel for muscles and brain cells

Macronutrients and diabetes:  which macros affect blood sugar?

Neither fat nor protein affects your blood sugar in any significant way.  Carbohydrates are the macronutrients that are most important for managing diabetes.

Carbohydrates are chains of sugar molecules.  When we digest them, our blood sugar increases.  There are two main types of carbohydrate:

  1. Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly in our digestive tracts.  These foods lack fiber.  Simple carbs are naturally found in foods like milk and fruit.  Sugar-sweetened foods like cakes, pies, and soft drinks are loaded with simple carbohydrates.
  2. Complex carbohydrates are long chains of sugar molecules.  Complex carbs are broken down into glucose (sugar) molecules just like simple carbs are, but they usually have added fiber, which slows our digestion and means that our blood sugar levels don't rise as quickly when we eat them.

When it comes to macros and diabetes, complex carbs are the best choice for keeping blood sugar in range.  The more fiber a food contains, the more likely it is to be a complex carbohydrate.

Examples of simple carbohydrates

  • milk
  • yogurt
  • juice
  • honey
  • candy

Examples of complex carbohydrates

  • vegetables
  • beans
  • lentils
  • whole-grain bread
  • brown rice

You don't need to “count macros” to control your blood sugar; you only need to count carbohydrates.  If you eat a normal, balanced diet, your fat and protein intakes will fall in line without any need for a calculator.

 

Macronutrients and Diabetes — Day 5 Action Items:

  1. Decide on just one simple carb that you could eliminate from your diet.  For example, if you usually drink 3 regular sodas a day, you might decide to cut back to 2 regular soft drinks and drink a diet soda or water instead of the third.  Make your goal something you know you can realistically accomplish — don't set yourself up for failure by choosing a goal you're not likely to meet.  Write down your goal, and make a plan for how you'll accomplish it.  Do you need to get rid of your sugar bin, or take a different route to work so you won't drive by your favorite fast-food restaurant?
  2. Walk at an easy pace for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Download this infographic about macronutrients and diabetes.

 

This post is part of a series, 30 Days to Tame Type 2 Diabetes.  To go to Day 1 of the series, click here.

 

Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

macronutrients and diabetes
Julie Cunningham

Julie Cunningham

MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES, IBCLC

I believe people with diabetes can enjoy good food and good health without feeling ashamed of their bodies.