A low-carb diet can help people with diabetes better manage their blood sugar levels. A person’s doctor or dietitian can provide them with a low-carb food list or eating plan recommendations.
Carbohydrates or carbs raise blood glucose more than other foods, meaning the body must produce more insulin to digest them.
Reducing carb intake can help stabilize blood glucose. It may also counteract some other effects of diabetes, such as weight gain and heart disease.
Despite this, low-carb diets also carry some risks, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies. For some people, low-carb diets are challenging to stick to over time.
In this article, learn more about a low-carb diet for people with diabetes. People should remember to speak to a doctor before making significant dietary changes, especially ones that affect diabetes management.
A low-carb diet may be one of the most effective diabetes management strategies, especially for people who might be able to avoid medication.
Carbs elevate blood glucose more than any other food. For people with insulin resistance, blood glucose may remain elevated for hours after eating carbs.
For those with type 1 diabetes who do not produce enough insulin, carbs can also cause blood glucose spikes, so a low-carb diet may help people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Carbs can also affect a person’s health in other ways. Carb-rich foods tend to be high in calories but low in some important nutrients, such as protein. Eating too many of these “empty calories” can lead to weight gain.
Research shows that people who eat carb-rich foods may also feel more hunger between meals, causing them to overeat.
A low-carb diet may also:
- give a person more energy
- lower average blood glucose, or HbA1c levels
- reduce food cravings, especially for sugar
- lower the risk of hypoglycemia
- aid weight loss efforts
- decrease the risk of long-term diabetes complications
- lower cholesterol
Most of the calories in a low-carb diet should come from healthful, natural sources, including:
- lean protein, such as eggs, fish, nuts, and tofu
- good fats, such as olives or avocados
- fruit in moderation
People following a very low-carb diet may wish to limit fruit intake since fruit also contains sugar. For most people, however, fruit is a healthful substitute for sugary snacks and processed foods.
As part of a healthful, low-carb diet, people should avoid or limit intake of the following:
- processed foods, such as prepackaged meals and salty snacks
- sugar-rich foods, such as cakes, candies, pastries, cookies, sodas, and juices
- starches, especially white bread or bagels
- alcoholic beverages
- potatoes, including potato chips
- other starchy vegetables
- white pasta
Whole-grain bread, lentils, and beans are also high in carbs, but they can be a vital part of a healthful diet. Eat these foods in moderation or as a substitute for unhealthful carbs, such as cakes and pies.