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How Food Affects Blood Sugar

Understanding how different foods and amounts of food affect blood sugar levels after eating is one of the first steps toward making healthier food choices. Food is made up of carbohydrates, protein, and fat—and all of these have some effect on your blood sugar levels after eating.


Foods with carbohydrates, or carbs, have the most effect on your blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates are found in starchy foods (like bread, cereal, potatoes, corn, rice, pasta) and in fruit, milk, yogurt, and sweets. Since many healthy foods contain carbohydrates, they are important to include in your diet.


Protein usually has only a small effect on your blood sugar levels. Protein is found mostly in animal products, nuts, some dairy products, and beans. Your body needs protein to work properly.


Foods with fat slow down how fast the stomach empties. This can make blood sugar a little lower soon after meals and a little higher longer after meals. Choose healthier fats and limit high-fat foods to help reduce your risk of heart disease, a major health threat for people with type 2 diabetes.

Keeping Track of Carbohydrates

Keeping track of the carbohydrates you eat is a key factor in managing your blood sugar. Carbohydrates have the greatest impact on your blood sugar after meals, and your blood sugar level can go too high when you eat more carbohydrates than your body can use. By keeping track of the carbohydrates you eat and spreading them throughout the day, you can help manage your blood sugar. Check with your doctor or dietitian for help in learning how your blood sugar is affected by carbohydrate intake.

Control Your Portion Size

Eating large amounts of foods that contain carbohydrates can cause higher after-meal blood sugar levels. Measure portions at home until you learn to estimate. Eating less can help reduce your after-meal blood sugar and your weight. Talk to a registered dietitian or other diabetes educator about how many carbohydrates you should have at each meal.

"Rate Your Plate" Test

A quick way to make sure you are eating a variety of healthful foods at each meal is to "Rate Your Plate." When you sit down for a meal, draw an imaginary line through the center of your plate. Then draw a line to divide one section into two.

You may need to count the carbohydrates in your meal so you can be sure your insulin and exercise are on target. But rating your plate can help you get started.

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