Nowadays, there is an epidemic of diabetes everywhere. This chronic disease affects more than 400 million people worldwide.
Although diabetes is a very complicated disease, you can greatly reduce the risk of serious complications if you manage to control your blood sugar levels. Probably the best way to achieve proper levels of blood sugar is by following a low-carb diet. In fact, before the discovery of Insulin, low-carb diet was considered a standard treatment for diabetes. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2315645/)
This article will give you detailed information about low-carb diets for managing diabetes!
What is Diabetes, and What Role Does Food Play?
If you suffer from diabetes, your body is not able to process carbohydrates effectively.
Usually, when you eat carbs, they are broken down into small units of glucose, which end up as blood sugar. When your levels of blood sugar increase, the pancreas responds by creating insulin, the hormone which allows the blood sugar to enter cells.
When it comes to healthy people, the levels of blood sugar remain within a narrow range during the day. On the other hand, this system doesn’t work properly in people who have diabetes. This is a huge problem because having both too high and too low blood glucose levels can cause serious harm to the health.
Although there are many types of diabetes, the most common are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Both of these medical conditions can be diagnosed at any age. In type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune process destroys the beta cells which create insulin in the pancreas. Diabetics must inject insulin several times a day in order to ensure that glucose enters into the cells and remains at a healthy level in the bloodstream. In type 2 diabetes, the beta cells create enough insulin, but the body’s cells are resistant to its action, which is why the blood sugar levels stay high. So, in order to compensate, the pancreas makes more insulin, trying to reduce the blood sugar levels. Over time, the cells lose their ability to produce the hormone insulin.
Of all the three sources of energy – protein, carbs, and fat, carbs have the biggest impact on blood sugar control because the body breaks them down carbs into glucose. Therefore, diabetics usually need to take large dosages of insulin and/or diabetes medication when they eat a lot of food that are rich in carbohydrates.
Can Low-Carb Diets Help Control Diabetes?
Many recent studies suggest that low-carb diets are great for the treatment of diabetes. For example, one study has found that type 2 diabetics who strictly followed low-carb diet had experienced significant improvements in the control of blood sugar levels. (Click here for more info: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18495047). Similarly, another study has also shown dramatic improvements in blood sugar levels in type 1 diabetics who followed a very-low-carb diet.
(Here is more info: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583262/)
How Many Carbs Should A Diabetic Eat in A Day?
The optimal carb intake for diabetics is an extremely controversial topic, even among the biggest supporters of very-low-carb diet.
Over the years, many studies have shown amazing improvements in blood sugar levels, weight, and other markers in diabetics whose intake of carbs was restricted to just 20 grams daily.
On the other hand, Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, who suffers from type 1 diabetes, had experienced improvements in blood sugar levels by consuming 30 grams of carbohydrates per day. He had also documented great results in his patients who followed the same regimen.
But, other studies have found that more moderate carb restriction (a diet limited to 70–90 grams carbohydrates per day) is also highly effective in managing blood glucose levels.
The ideal amount of carbs may also be different for each individual since everyone has its own unique response to carbohydrates. In order to find out how many carbs your body needs, you should measure your blood glucose with a meter before a meal and again 2 hours after eating. If your levels of blood sugar remain below 140 mg/dL (8 mmol/L), the point at which your nerves can be damaged, you can eat 6 grams, 10 grams or 25 grams of carbs per meal on a low-carb diet.
CONCLUSION: If we take into account all of the studies, the ideal carb intake is between 20 and 90 grams per day. But still, the best way to find out your personal carb limit is by measuring your blood glucose before and after meals.
Which Carbs Increase the Blood Sugar Levels?
The carbohydrates in plant foods are a combination of starch, sugar, and fiber. Of these components, only the starch and sugar raise the blood sugar levels. On the other hand, fiber (both soluble and insoluble) does not break down into glucose in the body and does not increase the blood sugar levels. Prebiotic fiber like inulin can even improve fasting blood sugar and other health markers in type 2 diabetics.
Sugar alcohols like xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol, erythritol are usually used to sweeten sugar-free candy and other dietary products. Some of them, especially maltitol, can greatly increase blood sugar levels in diabetics.
Here is a carb counter which will provide you a data about the amount carbs, net carbs, fiber, protein and fat for hundreds of foods.
Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid!
You can eat the following low-carb foods until you are full. Make sure to get enough protein from each meal.
- Coconut oil, Olive oil, butter, cream, and cream cheese
- Non-starchy vegetables (except for those that are listed below).
- Seafood, poultry, and meat
It is recommended to eat the following foods in smaller quantities, depending on your personal tolerance to carbs.
- Berries – No more than 1 cup
- Flaxseeds or chia seeds – 2 tbsps
- Nuts and peanuts – Between 30–60 grams
- Winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti and) – No more than 1 cup
- Plain, Greek yogurt – No more than 1 cup
- Cottage cheese – No more than 1/2 cup
- Dark chocolate with at least 85% of cocoa – No more than 30 grams
- Liquor – No more than 50 grams
- Red or white wine – No more than 120 grams
These foods contain high amount of carbs and can increase the blood sugar levels in people who suffer from diabetes:
- Pasta, bread, pasta, corn, cereal and other grains
- Fruits except for berries
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro, and yams
- Legumes, such as beans, lentils, and peas (except green beans and snow peas)
- Desserts, candies, and ice cream.
- Juice, soda, and sweetened tea
A Sample Day of Low-Carb Meals for People Who Suffer From Diabetes
This is a daily menu that contains 15 grams (or less) of digestible carbs per meal. You can adjust the serving size depending on your personal tolerance to carbs.
Breakfast: Eggs and Spinach (a number of digestible carbs: 10.5 grams)
- 3 eggs cooked in butter (1.5 grams of carbs).
- 1 cup of sautéed spinach (3 grams of carbs).
- 1 cup of blackberries (6 grams of carbs).
- 1 cup of coffee with cream
Lunch: Cobb Salad (a number of digestible carbs: 12.5 grams)
- 90 grams of cooked chicken.
- 30 grams of Roquefort cheese (1/2 gram of carbs)
- 1 slice of bacon
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes (5 grams of carbs)
- 1/2 medium avocado (2 grams of carbs)
- 1 cup shredded lettuce (1 gram of carbs)
- Olive oil and vinegar.
- 20 grams of dark chocolate with 85% of cacao (4 grams of carbs).
- 1 glass of iced tea
Dinner: Salmon with Veggies (a number of digestible carbs: 14 grams)
- 4 oz. of grilled salmon
- 1/2 cup of sautéed zucchini (3 grams of carbs)
- 1 cup of sautéed mushrooms (2 grams of carbs)
- 1 oz. of chopped walnuts (6 grams of carbs)
- 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries with whipped cream.
- 120 grams of red wine (3 grams of carbs).
TOTAL AMOUNT OF CARBOHYDRATES – 37 grams!
Here is a list of 101 healthy low-carb recipes (https://authoritynutrition.com/101-healthy-low-carb-recipes/)
Talk to Your Doctor before Deciding to Change Your Diet
People who follow a low-carb diet usually experience a reduction in blood sugar levels. Therefore, the dosages of insulin and other medications may need to be reduced. In some cases, the patients may even need to stop taking medications.
If the use of insulin (and other medications) is not adjusted for a low-carb diet, patients may develop dangerously low blood sugar levels, also known as hypoglycemia. For that reason, it is of utmost importance for people who take insulin or diabetes medication to consult with a doctor before starting a low-carb diet.
Other Ways to Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
- Regular physical activity (a combination of resistance training and aerobic exercise is extremely beneficial)
- Quality sleep (between 6.7 and 7.5 hours)
- Stress management (yoga and meditation can be very helpful)