What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates (also called carbs) are your body’s main source of energy. You can find carbs in many types of food, like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products. You can also find carbs in foods that are less healthy, like sweets and baked goods.

Why are carbs important for people who have diabetes?

It is important for people with diabetes to eat a certain number of carbs at certain times throughout the day to keep their blood sugar levels within a normal range. Eating too many carbs can cause high blood sugar levels. Not eating enough carbs can cause low blood sugar levels.

How does the body use carbs?

When people without diabetes eat carbs, their bodies release a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps turn the carbs into glucose (a type of sugar) for their bodies to use as energy.

In people with Type 1 diabetes, the body does not make insulin. Instead, people can take insulin medication to help turn carbs into energy.

In people with Type 2 diabetes, the body is resistant to insulin (does not use insulin properly). People can take medications to help their bodies use insulin and glucose properly. They might also need to take insulin.

Are there certain carbs that can help manage my child's diabetes better than others?

Yes. Healthy carbs (like those in fruits, vegetables and whole grains) can help manage your child’s diabetes.

Less healthy carbs (like those found in sweets, fried foods and baked goods) can cause blood sugar levels to become too high or too low. They can also cause extra weight gain, heart disease and other health concerns.

Who can help me learn how to count carbs and make a meal plan for my child?

A registered dietitian in Pediatric Endocrinology at Mass General for Children.

To schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian or to ask questions, call Pediatric Endocrinology at 617-726-2909.

Rev. 11/2018. This webpage is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.