Carbohydrate, Fat and Diabetes

There are three main types of carbohydrate in food, starch, sugar and dietary fiber. Starch and sugar both raise blood glucose levels so it is important to include both types in your meal plan. Choose starchy foods that are high in fibre, such as whole grain cereals, flour and bread and peas and beans. Include a starchy food in each meal. Sweet foods are often high in fat. If you are going to eat sweet foods, try to eat less often and in smaller amounts.

Meal planning for diabetes is more than just cutting back on starch or sugar. There are many options that people with diabetes use to help them plan their meals. Having diabetes does not mean eating the same foods day after day. Here are some options given by the American Diabetes Association.

Plate Method

• Include more non-starchy vegetables and smaller portions of everything else. No special tools and nothing to count or read (see for more information).

Carbohydrate Counting

• Carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood glucose (sugar) levels. By keeping track of how many carbohydrates you eat and setting a limit for your maximum amount to eat, you can help to keep your blood glucose (see for more information).

Glycemic Index (GI)

• The amount and type of carbohydrate affects blood glucose levels. Choose most of your foods with a lower glycemic response as a way to assist with your carbohydrate counting (see for more information).


People with diabetes are at high risk for heart disease and limiting your saturated fat can help lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels.

Foods containing saturated fat include:

• High-fat dairy products such as full-fat cheese, ice cream, whole milk.

• High-fat meats like regular ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage and bacon.

• Lard

• Butter

• Coconut and coconut oil

• Poultry (chicken and turkey) skin

One of the important diabetes nutrition guidelines is to eat less than 7% of calories from saturated fat, roughly about 15 grams of saturated fat per day. About 1 oz. (25 g) cheese can have 8 g saturated fat.

Some fats you can see

cooking oil, ghee, butter, margarine fat on meat and skin on chicken

Some fats you cannot see

whole milk, ice-cream, corn curls, nuts, cakes, fried fish, fried eggs, mayonnaise, sausage and fried chicken

Trans Fat

Like saturated fat, trans fat tends to increase blood cholesterol levels. It is actually worse for you than saturated fat and for a heart-healthy diet, you want to eat as little trans fat as possible by avoiding all foods that contain it.

Trans fats are produced when liquid oil is made into a solid fat. This process is called hydrogenation. Trans fats act like saturated fats and can raise your cholesterol level.

Sources of trans fat include:

• High-fat dairy products (whole milk, ice cream, full-fat cheese)

• Egg yolks

• Liver and other organ meats

• High-fat meat and poultry skin

Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated fats are called “good or healthy” fats because they can lower your LDL cholesterol.

Sources of monounsaturated fat include:

• Avocado

• Nuts like cashews and peanuts

• Olive oil and olives

• Peanut butter and peanut oil

• Sesame seeds

Polyunsaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated fats are also “healthy” fats.

Sources of polyunsaturated fats are:

• Corn oil

• Soybean oil

• Soft (tub) margarine

• Mayonnaise

• Salad dressings

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent clogging of the arteries. Some types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat non-fried fish 2 or 3 times a week.