It All Adds Up
Around the time we at Diabetes Forecast started to put together this month's cover story on carbohydrates, I began using a continuous glucose monitor. This was a happy coincidence. It meant that while I was learning more about those crucial nutrients at work, I was also seeing, in rich detail, how they affect my blood glucose numbers. In both cases, I was in for a surprise.
Previously, I would have described my intake of carbohydrates as moderate. My diet generally favors whole foods, with lean sources of animal protein (mostly chicken and fish), nuts, and a decent amount of fruits and green veggies. I don't add salt, I've stopped eating ice cream, and I haven't had fast food or sugary soda (except when counteracting a glucose low) in years. And because I'm a sucker for really good bread, and I love rice and pasta, I've been focusing on having "moderate" amounts of these refined carbs.
So I was a bit taken aback to realize, while working with Associate Editor Tracey Neithercott on her story, that for all my hard work with "bad" foods, I hadn't been taking into account the carb content in "good" foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. My favorite, brussels sprouts, actually has 12 to 14 grams of carbohydrate per cup.
Now, I think of those veggies as carbs that are worth it. With the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) I can see more clearly how these and other sources of carbs affect my glucose. That said, the CGM has also helped me understand why some people prefer going low-carb. In my experience, when I'm trying to do tight control, it's much easier to maintain a "normal" blood glucose level without a lot of carbs. But it's a lot more boring, too—and makes achieving a balanced diet a lot harder.
So I'm thankful for another revelation from my new technology. It turns out that when I do an intense workout, my blood glucose is much more stable for at least 12 hours afterward, and I need less insulin to cover those carbs.
Did I already know that exercise was good for diabetes management? Sure. But seeing the idea in action has made a big difference in how I eat—and how I live.