The CCHO diet refers to the consistent, constant, or controlled carbohydrate diet. Doctors recommend it as a way to manage the number of carbohydrates in their diet.
This article explores what the CCHO diet entails, who may benefit from it, and the possible risks.
This diet involves eating the same number of carbohydrates every day, and the purpose is to help people manage their blood sugar levels throughout the day.
A person can choose from a variety of carbohydrate sources at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as for snacks. Following the CCHO diet involves counting the number of carbs at each meal, and eating the same number each day going forward.
Doctors and dieticians cannot determine a single ideal number of carbohydrates in each meal because everyone has different needs.
To make the calculations easier, some people on the CCHO diet talk about carbohydrate “choices,” and each choice has 15 grams of carbohydrates.
To add variety and help with planning, it can help to have a list of foods and their carbohydrate contents handy.
Carbohydrates are a type of nutrient, an energy source that can affect blood sugar and insulin metabolism.
Carbohydrates can contain several chains of sugars. The digestive tract breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars. The simplest form of carbohydrate is called a monosaccharide. Glucose and fructose are monosaccharides.
Two monosaccharides bound together are disaccharides, and one example is lactose, which is present in many dairy products.
Polysaccharides have long chains of monosaccharides. Oligosaccharides have 3–10 monosaccharides. The more complex the structure of a carbohydrate, the more work it takes for the digestive tract to break it down.
The different types of carbohydrate include:
- simple carbohydrates
- complex carbohydrates
- soluble fiber
- insoluble fiber
Below, we describe these types in more detail.
|simple||– monosaccharides or disaccharides|
– energy source
– cause a quick rise in blood sugar
– cause a quick rise in insulin release from the pancreas
|complex||– oligosaccharides or polysaccharides|
– take long to digest
– gradual rise in blood sugar
unrefined whole grains
|starch||– a complex carbohydrate with many sugar molecules|
– comes from plants
|soluble fiber||– does not break down in the digestive system|
– encourages healthy bacterial growth in the colon
– helps with passing stool
– helps lower blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein levels
– slows blood sugar hikes after eating
|insoluble fiber||– same features as soluble fiber|
– absorbs water in the intestine
– softens and bulks up stool
– helps with bowel movement regularity and decreases the risk of diverticulitis
Examples of food servings that each contain 15 grams of carbohydrates are below. To eat the same number of carbohydrates each day, a person might choose from these examples.
|1/4 cup of granola cereal|
1/2 cup of hot cereal (oatmeal, grits, etc.)
1/2 cup of bran cereal
1 cup of cow’s milk with any fat percentage
2/3 cup of Greek yogurt, either plain or artificially sweetened
|2 slices of reduced-calorie bread |
half a hot dog or hamburger bun
half a pita
1/3 cup of barley
1 cup of mixed vegetables with corn or peas
1 cup of winter, acorn, or butternut squash
1/3 cup of baked beans
|1 ½ cup of cooked vegetables |
1/2 cup of cooked or canned beans
1/2 cup of yam or sweet potato
1/2 cup of pasta sauce
|1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce |
1 extra-small banana
1 small apple
1 ounce of unfrosted cake
1/2 cup of regular ice cream
3 cups of popcorn
3/4 ounce pretzels
To note the carbohydrate contents of favorite foods, a person can check nutritional labels on packaging.
The CCHO diet would be simple to follow if meals only contained carbohydrates. But a person also needs to consider proteins and fats, which can affect how well the body absorbs carbohydrates.
There is no single ideal number of carbohydrates in each meal because each individual has different needs.
Factors that influence the best number for each person include body size, activity level, and appetite.
A less intensive plan is the Diabetes Plate Method. This helps a person visualize the right amount of carbohydrates in each meal. It involves limiting portions of whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, and dairy to one-quarter of the plate.
Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that causes persistent high blood sugar levels. In a person with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce a hormone called insulin, which helps reduce blood sugar. A person with type 2 diabetes produces insulin, but it does not work as well to lower blood sugar.
For anyone with diabetes, counting carbohydrates is an important way of keeping blood sugar levels in a recommended range.
People without diabetes do not benefit from the CCHO diet because their body’s insulin responds appropriately to a rise in blood sugar after a meal.
Insulin and other medications
If a person takes medication for their diabetes, being mindful of the carbohydrate intake can help prevent blood sugar spikes. The CCHO diet, in particular, may be especially useful for people who take a synthetic form of insulin.
People with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes need to adjust their insulin doses based on what they are eating. By strictly controlling the carbohydrates in their diet, they can better manage their insulin doses and control their blood sugar levels.
Some people with type 2 diabetes who are not using insulin may also choose to follow the CCHO diet. A more basic form of carbohydrate counting may be right for people with diabetes who take other medications.
Eating a consistent number of carbohydrates every day may be challenging and can significantly limit the diet. A person may get bored or frustrated and consume more carbohydrates than is recommended, which can have negative effects on health.
The CCHO diet is best suited for people who use intensive insulin therapy. They use an insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio to calculate how much insulin they need to inject.
A person also needs to consider other factors when calculating the right dose, such as recent or expected physical activity and previous glucose data.
Anyone with diabetes should speak with a healthcare professional about the benefits of changing the diet. The American Diabetes Association recommends that everyone with diabetes receives an individualized nutrition plan.
Doctors and dieticians can help with carbohydrate counting and insulin dosing. Dieticians can also help people plan meals that are varied and satisfying while following the CCHO diet.
The CCHO diet is restrictive, and it involves eating the same numbers of carbohydrates every day. People with diabetes who use insulin may benefit most from this diet, and it is not suitable for people who do not have diabetes.
The diet can be very difficult to maintain, but a doctor and particularly a dietitian can help a person plan meals.