Type 2 Diabetes and Carbohydrates


Mary Pickett, M.D.

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mary pickett

Mary Pickett, M.D., is a lecturer for Harvard Medical School and an assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR. At OHSU, she practices general internal medicine and teaches medical residents and students.


I am a 64–year-old woman with type 2 diabetes. How many carbohydrates should I eat each day?


Carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, starches, grains, low-fat milk and baked items.

Your carbs should be proportional to the number of calories you take in. This creates a nutritionally balanced diet.

For most diabetics, daily calories should be somewhere between 1,600 and 2,800 per day. The calorie intake at the lower end of this range is for people who are overweight.

Out of these total calories, 45% to 65% should be carbohydrate calories. And at least half of your carbs should come from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk. Remember that in addition to providing healthy carbs, fruits and vegetables contribute fiber to your diet.

Related Video: Choosing Higher Quality Carbohydrates with Diabetes

Watch Choosing Higher Quality Carbohydrates with Diabetes.

Aim for two to four servings of fruit, and three to five servings of vegetables per day. This breaks down an ideal diet into these parts:

  • Carbohydrates: 45% to 65% of calories

  • Protein: 15% to 20% of calories

  • Fats: 25% to 40% of calories

Make monounsaturated fats the main type of fat in your diet. These are found in olive and canola oil. They help raise your "good" cholesterol (HDL) to healthy levels. Take in no more than 10% of polyunsaturated fats. Minimize saturated fats and trans fats. They are found in meats and high-fat dairy products, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, and processed, packaged and fried foods.

Some people with diabetes who take insulin use a technique called "carb counting." They calculate the amount of "quickly digested carbs" they expect to eat in a meal. This allows them to adjust the insulin dose they will need. If you are interested in learning carb counting, talk to a dietician or nutrition specialist.

Last Review Date: Mar 1, 2012

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