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What is a carb?

There three main types of carbohydrates in food – so if you're newly diagnosed with diabetes knowing what kind and how much to eat can be confusing.

Need to Know

On nutrition labels, "total carbohydrate" includes all three types of carb so this is the number you should pay attention to when carb counting.

Starch - complex carb

StarchFoods high in starch include vegetables like peas, corn and potatoes, dried beans, lentils and peas, and grains like oats, barley and rice. The grain group can be broken down further into whole grains or refined grains. Whole grains are the healthier choice as the refining process removes some of the goodness contained in the outer two layers, including fibre, B vitamins and minerals, and essential fatty acids. Whole grains take longer for your body to break down and are slower releasing than refined starches.


Fibre - complex carb

StarchFibre comes from the indigestible part of plant foods and includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Fibre contributes to digestive health and helps to keep you feeling full and satisfied after eating. For good health aim to eat between 25-30g of fibre each day. Good sources include: beans and legumes, fruit and vegetables, whole grain pasta and bread, oats, and nuts (but watch portion size as nuts are high in good fats and calories).


Sugar - simple carb

StarchThere are two main types of sugar – naturally occurring sugars found in fruit and milk and sugars added to processed foods. Sources of added sugar to look out for include: raw sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, glucose fructose and sucrose, fruit juice concentrate, honey, maple syrup, molasses. On nutrition labels "total sugars" refers to both natural and added sugar. Try to avoid some of the most common refined sources of simple carbs, like cakes and biscuits, and look for healthier alternatives like dried fruit.

The views expressed in Reach are not necessarily those of Roche Diabetes Care Limited or our publishers. The content of Reach is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely – you must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in Reach. Although we make reasonable efforts to ensure that the content of Reach is up to date, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content of Reach is accurate, complete or up-to-date.


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