Diet and Recipes

The Low Carb Guide for Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most concerning diseases on the face of the earth.

Primarily, the main reason why doctors are so concerned with the number of reported cases of diabetes is the fact that it has now reached epidemic proportions. 

More than 400 million individuals are affected by diabetes, and that number continues to grow by the day.

Put simply: something has to be done.

Thankfully diabetes, both type-1, and type-2 can be effectively managed by making smart dietary choices. Today we’re going to focus on carbs. As you may or may not be aware, carbohydrates play a key role in the progression of this disease.

Some people, therefore, will tell you to swear off of carbs completely. Others, however, will advise you to moderate and regulate your carbs and adopt a lower carb approach.

Statistically, low carb diets for diabetes have been very effective, which is what we’re looking at in today’s guide.

The effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar

As mentioned, carbohydrates play a key role in the progression of diabetes, which is why switching to low carb diets is so beneficial.

Put very simply, with diabetes, your body is unable to efficiently process carbohydrates.

In normal circumstances, once carbs are consumed, your body will break them down into smaller-sized glucose molecules, which then make their way into your blood.

Once blood glucose levels increase, the pancreas responds by producing and secreting a hormone called insulin. You see, our cells utilize glucose for energy.

The glucose is shuttled from the blood and into the mitochondria of our cells, where it is used for fuel.

So why do we need insulin? We need insulin because the blood glucose is unable to enter the cells without it. Insulin is the equivalent of the key that unlocks the cells and pushes the glucose inside.

With diabetics, however, the pancreas is either unable to produce any/enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, or the body gets so used to having high levels of insulin that it builds up a resistance to it – rendering the insulin useless.

Needless to say, as carbohydrates are easily broken down into glucose, these are the macronutrients which need to be carefully monitored and regulated when facing diabetes.

The benefits of low carb diets for diabetics

Now it’s time for us to look at some of the main benefits associated with low carb diets and diabetes.

Stable blood sugar

This is by far the most important benefit associated with diabetes, and it is one which we’re focussing on first. As we just looked at above, carbohydrates play a crucial role in determining how high or how low our blood sugar levels are.

If you are diabetic and you consume high levels of carbs, especially refined simple carbs which are fast-absorbing, your blood sugar levels will become dangerously high.

This means that your health will be at risk because you won’t be able to get your sugar levels down quickly enough to keep them stable.

By following a low carb diet however, your carb diets will remain stable, which in turn means your health will likely improve.

Weight management

Limiting your carbohydrate intake is an effective way to lose weight. One of the most prominent risk factors of developing type 2 diabetes is being overweight, so by reducing your waistline, you can reduce your likelihood of developing the disease, to begin with. 

Studies show that people on low-carb diets lose more weight, faster, than people on low-fat diets… even when the low-fat dieters are actively restricting calories.

One of the reasons for this is that low-carb diets tend to get rid of excess water from the body. Because they lower insulin levels, the kidneys start shedding excess sodium, leading to rapid weight loss in the first week or two.

Carbs to avoid

When it comes to managing diabetes, it’s important to know what you should and should not eat and drink.

We’ll be looking at the beneficial carbs in just a few moments, but for now, let us talk to you about some common carbs to avoid. These include, but are not limited to:

  • White bread, pasta, and refined grains

  • Juice, soda, and sugary beverages

  • Desserts

  • Beer and alcohol

  • Fruits

  • Candy

  • Chocolate

  • Starchy vegetables such as white potatoes, etc

  • Cereal

  • Processed foods

Low carb foods to include

If you’re a bit of a carb-lover, the good news is that it’s not all doom and gloom.

We’ll now be taking a look at some low carb foods for diabetes which are not just considered to be okay, they are actually considered to be good. These include the following:

  • Dark chocolate

  • Flax seeds

  • Berries

  • Medium-sized sweet potatoes

  • Winter squash

  • Greek yogurt

  • Wholegrains

  • Brown rice and pasta

The goal of a low carb diet is to prevent blood sugar levels from spiking up and down throughout the day.

Stable blood sugar levels give your pancreas steady signals to release insulin in small quantities throughout the day.

Conclusion

Going low carb is a great solution for many diabetics. While it may sound hard to reduce your carb intake, it can have a positive impact on your health. 

However, it is important that you speak to your doctor before significantly lowering your carbohydrate intake.

This is especially important if you are on medication that can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), such as insulin, sulphonylureas or glinides.

Sources

  1. Nielsen JV, Joensson E. Low-carbohydrate diet in type 2 diabetes. Stable improvement of bodyweight and glycemic control during 22 months follow-up. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006;3:22. Published 2006 Jun 14. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-3-22
  2. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/
  3. Brouns F. Overweight and diabetes prevention: is a low-carbohydrate-high-fat diet recommendable? [published correction appears in Eur J Nutr. 2019 Apr 16;:]. Eur J Nutr. 2018;57(4):1301–1312. doi:10.1007/s00394-018-1636-y
  4. Oh R, Uppaluri KR. Low Carbohydrate Diet. [Updated 2019 Mar 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.

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