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How to Eat Carbs & Manage Blood Sugar: A Guide to Healthy Carbohydrates

Are Carbohydrates really the problem? A guide to eating carbs while managing blood sugars

At Organic Pharmer, we believe in the power of functional medicine, which looks at the root causes of chronic disease, and for type II diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels play a huge role in the progression of this disease. As of 2022, 10.5% of the US population was estimated to have diabetes, with a whopping 34.5% of the population showing signs of pre-diabetic blood glucose levels. Of the 10.5% having full-blown diabetes, the large majority, about 90-95% had type II diabetes. That’s more than a third of the population being affected or soon to be affected by type II diabetes in the US. 

Type II diabetes has genetic and environmental factors that can predispose someone to it, but studies have shown that changes in diet and lifestyle can mitigate the negative effects of the disease and in some cases even reverse its progress. This is good news, because though we may not be able to change our genetic inheritance, we can change how we eat and what we eat to positively affect our health. Even without a diagnosis of type II diabetes, having consistently high blood sugar levels can lead to serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and eye problems. Here are some simple strategies for managing and preventing high blood sugar levels that can promote or exacerbate type II diabetes and other associated health problems. 

Not all carbohydrates are created equal: processed carbs vs. whole grains

blood sugar management

Let’s face it, carbs have gotten a bad reputation over recent years, and for good reasons. Specifically, diets high in refined or highly processed carbohydrates like white rice, white flour, and refined sugars have been linked to diabetes and heart disease as well as chronic inflammation and increased signs of premature aging. Yikes! But does this mean that all carbohydrates are “bad” and should be avoided long-term? In short, no. It’s important to remember that not all carbs are the same, and unrefined carbohydrates from whole grain sources can actually be highly beneficial to the body. Whole grains are rich in minerals, vitamins, and fiber, ensuring that the body gets the nutrients it needs and feeding the gut microbiome with beneficial prebiotics. Fiber-rich whole grains are also heart healthy and can help to lower cholesterol levels, so it’s important to not write off these beneficial foods. 

Balancing Carbohydrate intake by combining Carbs with Protein, Healthy Fats, and Fiber

It’s true that consuming whole grains can still cause blood sugar spikes, especially if hormones are dysregulated in the body to begin with. And we know that unrefined carbs can be beneficial for health, so what is the best way to consume them to avoid blood sugar spikes? It turns out an easy way to lower the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar is to consume them with healthy fats, protein, and fiber. How does this work? 

Fat, fiber, and protein, all act to slow down digestion, which means that the stomach is slower to empty its contents into the intestines, and therefore glucose from your meal is slower to be absorbed into the body and enter the bloodstream. As we now know, whole grains are full of fiber, so we already have one piece of the puzzle in place. We just need to add some healthy fat and protein to complete the trinity of blood sugar stabilizing foods. When we consume carbs in this manner, we are also more likely to feel full and satisfied, making cravings less likely and lowering our chances of reaching for a sugary snack.  

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Should I change my diet to eliminate carbohydrates?

A low-carb or no-carb diet may be beneficial in the short-term for some people, depending on their health goals, but it should only be adopted alongside the guidance and care of a health professional. Rather than taking a restrictive approach to food, it can be beneficial to look at carbohydrate intake in an additive way, in other words, asking “what foods can I add to my diet to increase my health,” rather than “what foods should I take away?” Making dietary changes can be challenging, and taking this additive approach ensures that the transition toward healthier eating is both more manageable and sustainable, but also more satisfying. Yes, refined carbs should still be avoided in general, but by focusing on including healthy carbohydrates alongside other beneficial foods, we can shift our attention to a more positive outlook, rather than one that imposes restrictions that can be harmful over time.

We are more than what we eat

Knowing what and how to eat can be a game changer when it comes to preventative health and reversal of chronic disease, but it’s important to remember that diet is just one piece of the puzzle. In order to really address the root causes of chronic illness, it’s important to take a look at bigger trends in lifestyle like exercise, sleep, and stress management

Tips for lifestyle management:

blood sugar management
  • Exercise: Regular exercise has a multitude of benefits. Find an activity that you enjoy so you’re more likely to return to it, whether it’s walking, running, weight lifting, a team sport like pickleball, or even dancing. To maximize your blood sugar management, exercise after a meal to improve digestion and minimize blood sugar spikes.
  • Employ stress management for better overall health: Try out a diy video for meditation, deep breathing, or yoga a few times a week and see how you feel. Practice mindful eating to increase your satisfaction from meals and prevent overeating.
  • Connection: Having someone to talk to and connect with is crucial for emotional and mental well-being. Make time to join a community activity or sport, and have a conversation with someone face-to-face. If you have access to an outdoor park or open space, bring a friend or family member for a hike and increase your connection to nature at the same time. 


While high blood sugars can be dangerous, and should definitely be taken seriously, a diagnosis of type II diabetes does not necessarily mean that a no-carb or low-carb diet needs to be adopted in the short or long term. While each individual may have varying needs and should therefore consult with their personal healthcare provider, carbohydrates can and do provide necessary and beneficial nutrition as part of a balanced diet. 

Remember to choose whole grains whenever possible, combine carbohydrates with fat, fiber, and protein, and exercise after a meal to effectively reduce blood sugar spikes. These strategies when combined with other lifestyle changes can provide a healthy way of living that doesn’t have to be excessively restrictive and can provide freedom to choose nutritious foods that are also satisfying.


*Please note that we always recommend you consult with a healthcare practitioner for extra support and guidance, especially if you have a diagnosis like type II diabetes as this disease can be life-threatening and may require management through administration of medication and other interventions, such as blood glucose monitoring.* 

stephanie studied naturopathic medicine

About Author: Stephanie is the current fulfillment director and kitchen supervisor for Organic Pharmer. She studied Neuroscience at University of California, Irvine before studying Naturopathic Medicine for 2 years at National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. She also spent 3 years studying East Asian Medicine at the same university.


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