A diagnosis of diabetes means that your body doesn’t properly process the sugars in food and you need to adopt a diet plan that can also provide the body with energy and growth. The three types of diabetes include type 1, type 2 and gestational. Each requires a different medical plan of action.
A low-carb diet is considered best for most diabetics, but a complete diet plan for your diabetes condition may be totally different from another diabetic’s. Be sure you do the research, discuss your condition with your doctor and develop the right plan for you.
How Carbs Impact a Diabetic’s Blood Sugar
The impact of carbs on a diabetic’s blood sugar is simple to understand. Your body breaks down the sugar and turns it into energy when you’re not a diabetic, but when you are, is accumulates in your blood – causing high blood sugar count if you consume too many carbs.
High blood sugar can cause serious complications when you have diabetes. A low carbohydrate diet can improve your blood sugar count because your body is consuming less sugar, making it easier for the body to produce natural insulin to process blood sugars.
Evidence is strong that a low carb diet can help to control type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Even if you take insulin for your diabetes condition, it’s easier to control the amount needed if you consume fewer carbohydrates.
When a person with type 1 or 2 diabetes lowers carbohydrate count, insulin absorption is reduced, which reduces the amount of insulin needed in injections. Blood sugar management is essential for diabetics to keep from having severe complications.
Diabetics are urged to pay close attention to the amount of carbs they’re consuming because they can affect blood sugar levels much more rapidly than fat or protein. One way people count carbs is to split the carbs you eat and drink at each meal.
You’ll know that you’ve consumed more carbs than needed if your blood sugar goes up. You know you’ve given your body more than the insulin can handle. Too few carbs will lower your blood sugar.
If the count is too low, you need to increase carbs. The trick is finding a balance. It helps if you know how to count carbs and fortunately, you can get information on the label of almost any food item.
If you need to count carbs because you use insulin several times per day or have an insulin pump, keep in mind that the type of insulin you were prescribed may impact your meal planning.
There are several ways to develop a low-carb diet plan. Generally, you’ll be counting carbs you consume and attempting to lower the count by adjusting your diet. You may want to ask your health care provider about a diabetes food exchange list that you can quickly access rather than having to count carbs at each meal.
Exercise is part of the strategy to lower blood sugar count and should also be a part of your lifestyle plan to fight diabetes. Exercise and diet, when used together to combat the disease, can greatly impact the severity of symptoms and future complications.
If you’re like the normal person in Western civilization you’re probably consuming about 50% carbohydrates (or more) in your diet and much less fat and protein. Those who are trying to control diabetes through a low-carb diet plan may eat very few carbs per day while others consume a bit more and both are able to manage their diabetes.
That’s why it’s important to individualize your low-carb plan as much as possible. Trial and error usually works until you know how many carbs you’ll need according to your taste, energy and blood sugar levels.
The Best Carb Count for Type II Diabetes
A wide range is used to define the best carb count for type 2 diabetes. You must first test your ability to handle carbs and then decide on the right number for you. The general range of carb consumption for diabetics is between 20 and 90.
If you’re new to carb counting, there are a few things you need to know about the process. It’s important for diabetics to count carbs because of how they may affect your blood sugar and the medications or insulin you’re taking.
Diabetics with type 1 or 2 diabetes who are required to take insulin to balance blood sugar levels should be able to match the amount of insulin you must take with carbohydrates that you consume from eating and drinking.
Those with type 2 diabetes who are not required to take insulin can count carbs to balance the carbs consumed with blood glucose levels, weight issues and any prescriptions you may be taking.
Counting carbohydrates must be done diligently if you’re going to have success in adjusting your insulin or diabetic medication to keep blood glucose levels balanced. The impact that carbs have to convert what you eat into glucose is tremendous and must be balanced.
Carbs can be found in such foods as breads, pasta and other grain-based items, fruits, root vegetables such as potatoes and yams, desserts and other types of sweets, some vegetables and most dairy products.
All sugars containing fructose, maltose, dextrose and sucrose also have high carb count. Carbohydrates are usually counted using the measurement of grams. You’ll find that certain foods are all carbs while others are partially carbs, protein or fats.
The carb count is the same whether you’re counting from bread, fruit or other food items. Use labels on food items, a good reference book, scale and lists of carbohydrates to gather information about carb content.
There are also computer programs that offer lots of information and guidance on counting carbs. Once you get the hang of it, carb counting is easy. There are two ways you can count carbs – basic and consistent.
In each method, you’ll calculate the total carbs in a food item and then match those carbs to the number that you can safely consume. Then, it’s easy to figure the portion size and medications that have an impact on the count.
If you’re using the basic carb counting method, you’ll be able to learn how your blood glucose levels react to certain foods. The goal of carb counting is to consume a daily carb count that is consistent in helping the blood glucose levels remain balanced.
Most individuals who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (non-insulin) use the basic method of counting carbs. The consistent method of carb counting is extremely important for those with type 1 diabetes (with insulin).
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin, so carb count becomes extremely important and you should check with your physician or dietitian for the best way to count carbs.
Making the Right Carb Choices for a Diabetic Diet
While diabetics do need to keep track of the carbs they eat, there are certain carbs that can help create a balanced diet plan that will work for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. There are two types of low-carb diets – high protein and high fat – and some people combine the two into a low carb (high protein), high fat diet.
High protein diabetics should find their carbs in animal protein and tofu (if vegan or vegetarian). High fat diabetics should consume cuts of meat that are fatty and also consume other foods that are high in fat such as olive oil and avocado.
Both high protein and high fat diabetics should discuss their situation with their physician because some diets that are high in protein can cause kidney problems or make kidney issues worse.
Although donuts may be out of the question for a low-carb diet, those people diagnosed with diabetes can enjoy a wide variety of foods that are delicious and good for you. The low-carb diet limits your intake of high carb foods such as sweets, breads and starchy vegetables like potatoes.
You need to remember when you begin a low carb diet plan that sugar is directly converted to glucose and can raise your blood glucose levels. But, you can reduce or replace those high-carb foods by eating small portions and filling up on healthy fats, protein and vegetables that are non-starchy.
Protein and high fiber foods are nutrients that help you digest and absorb carbs, so your blood sugar levels don’t spike suddenly. Foods rich in protein and fiber include lentils and beans, but beans can be high in carbs.
Black-eyed, green and split peas also contain high fiber and also give you nutrients and vitamins such as vitamin C, K, phosphorus and folate. Berries also offer a plethora of benefits for diabetics.
Some have lower sugar content than others – such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. These powerful berries also offer phytonutrients like flavonoids and others that help boost your immune system.
Sweet potatoes are a diabetic’s dream food. They’re digested much more slowly than their white potato cousins and won’t raise your blood sugar rapidly. They also are chock full of beta-carotene, which helps your immune system function properly and aids digestion.
Plain Greek yogurt contains carbs, but they are derived from the natural sugar – lactose. And, it also contains protein and calcium to boost bone health. Greek yogurt is great for diabetics who don’t exercise or have other problems.
Apples and pears contain natural sugar, but also contain fiber. Try munching on these fruits dipped in peanut or almond butter. It’s best not to consume the juice from these or any other fruits because they have tons of sugar and no fiber.
Winter squash like butternut, pumpkin and acorn are packed with fiber that will help keep your blood levels balanced. And, they’re also full of vitamins such as manganese, beta-carotene and vitamin C.
These low-carb choices for diabetics are also great choices for those who want to manage their weight and/or become healthier. A low-carb diet can help protect your immune system and reduce risks of other diseases such as high blood pressure and cancer.
Low Carb Desserts for a Diabetic Sweet Tooth
You don’t have to be a diabetic or watching your carbs to lose weight to enjoy the delicious desserts that won’t have such an impact on your blood sugar. From cookies and cakes to pies and puddings, there are great recipes that are perfect for the diabetic sweet tooth.
Diabetics may think they need to stay far away from a Fat Bomb, but some can actually be good for you. When you think of a fat bomb, something like cheeseburger and fries with a chocolate shake probably comes to mind – but that’s not what this is about.
Fat bombs are typically made with high fat, low carb foods. You can make things like peanut butter fat bombs, chocolate mousse fat bombs and more – and they’re generally a small dessert that packs a punch in terms of satisfying your sweet tooth and also filling you up so that you’re not craving anything anymore.
Certain desserts can be turned into low-carb desserts that only have 15 carb grams or less. They contain energy rather than calories so it’s easier to maintain your weight – and they’re healthy for you too.
They can be made with dried fruit, oats, coconut, unsweetened chocolate, nut butters and more. They’re high-fat, but low-carb and very satisfying. For example, one recipe for a diabetic fat bomb is a cookie made from oats and contains coconut oil.
Then, there are the brownies made with peanut butter and chocolate made with flour substitutes, chocolate and peanut butter. When you do have a raging sweet tooth, remember that dark chocolate, sugar-free candy and ice creams such as Halo can be consumed by diabetics without fear.
High Protein, Low Carb Meals for Diabetics
When you sit down to a meal as a diabetic, you’re likely assessing the meal to figure out what you can eat. One mistake that diabetics often make is not eating enough carbs. This varies from person to person and depends on your energy level and blood sugar levels.
Quality carbs count more, too. If you only eat a dessert for your daily amount of carbs, try Greek yogurt and berries for another source. When you plan your meals, be sure to include a protein such as fish or grilled chicken.
You can then add a salad or vegetables low in carbohydrates such as green salads or broccoli. You should know how many carbs you can safely consume and if you must stay on a very low carb diet, add nuts or another high fat/low carb item.
Other diabetics may want to have a portion of legumes or a root vegetable (carrots or sweet potatoes) on their plates. A low-carb fruit would also be a good choice. Whole grains like quinoa or bulgar can be a great addition, but eliminate such foods as refined pasta or grains.
Enjoying a beverage with your meal such as unsweetened herbal or iced tea, water or even a dry red wine is okay, but avoid sweet or diet beverages (with artificial sweeteners).
It takes a lot of patience and trial and error to find foods that you like and that won’t raise your blood glucose levels to dangerous heights. Protein, fiber and some healthy fat on your plate can be very satisfying and a great way to watch your weight and get healthy, too.
Be sure to check your blood sugar levels at various times after eating to see how your body is responding. Also, pay attention to your energy level and whether you’re satisfied after the meal.
With a little adjustment here and there, diabetics can enjoy delicious and satisfying meals and manage blood sugar with very little effort. A low-carb diet is healthy for both diabetics and non-diabetics.