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How many carbs are in this food?

The term carbohydrate covers a wide variety of foods, from the sugar we put in hot drinks to the rice on our plates. Our bodies need to have some carbohydrate as it is one of the body’s main sources of glucose for energy, and the brain’s preferred source of energy.

Types of carbohydrate

The two main types are starchy carbohydrates and sugars:

  • Starchy carbs include bread, pasta, chapatis, potatoes, dumplings, yam and cereals.
  • Sugars can be categorised as natural sugars and added sugars (or ‘free sugars’). Free sugars include those added to food by manufacturers, cooks or consumers (such as granulated or Demerara sugar) and those naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juice.

Diagram showing starchy and sugar carbohydrates

It is important to consider not only the amount of carbohydrate in a food but also whether it is refined or not, how it is cooked and what it is eaten with. High fibre, starchy carbs are digested more slowly than sugary foods and drinks, keeping you fuller for longer and helping maintain healthy digestion.

Below are some examples of common foods and drinks, with the carbohydrate values shown for each portion.

5g of carbohydrate is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar, so note that some of these portions with 50g of carbohydrate contain the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar!

Bread

Medium slice of wholemeal bread, pitta bread and bagel:

slice brown bread - 14g carbs; pitta bread - 39g carbs; bagel - 50g carbs

Pasta & noodles

Rice noodles, pasta twists and ravioli:

Rice noodles - 40g carbs; pasta twists - 50g carbs; ravioli - 50g carbs

Potatoes

New potatoes, oven chips and mashed potato:

New potatoes - 29g carbs; oven chips - 30g carbs; mashed potato - 55g carbs

Rice & grains

Couscous, basmati rice and egg fried rice:

Cous cous - 48g carbs; basmati rice - 51g carbs; egg fried rice - 57g carbs

Desserts

Apple pie, chocolate & nut cone and cheesecake:

Apple pie - 26g carbs; chocolate & nut cone - 29g carbs; cheesecake - 35g carbs

Drinks

Grapefruit juice, apple juice, cranberry juice, cola and hot chocolate:

Grapefruit juice - 12g carbs; apple juice - 16g carbs; cranberry juice - 20g carbs; cola - 31g carbs; hot chocolate - 39g carbs

 

Stay safe

When considering a low-carb diet as an option, people with diabetes should be aware of possible side effects such as the risk of hypoglycemia, and should get support to reduce this risk if on insulin or medicines such as Gliclazide or Repaglinide. Seek advice from your Health Care professional for further information about monitoring and adjustments to medication as required.

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