Impacted by a recent natural disaster? We have resources to help. Learn more. When you eat or drink foods that have carbohydrate—also known as carbs—your body breaks those carbs down into glucose a type of sugar, which then raises the level of glucose in your blood. After your body breaks down those carbs into glucose, your pancreas releases insulin to help your cells absorb that glucose. A low blood glucose is known as hypoglycemia. In short, the carbs we consume impact our blood sugar—so balance is key! There are three main types of carbohydrates in food—starches, sugar and fiber.
If you’re living with type 2 diabetes, you may be wondering if you should follow a low-carb diet. In fact, some recent studies suggest that an ultra-low carbohydrate may be able to reverse diabetes. Carbohydrates include sugars and starches and together they make up one group of macronutrients; the other two are protein and fat. This triggers the release of insulin, a protein that helps move glucose out of your blood and into your body’s cells so it can be used for energy. You need to consume carbohydrates every day because they are your body’s primary energy source. For people with diabetes, the amount of recommended daily intake of carbohydrates has a roller coaster history and remains somewhat as an area of controversy. Before insulin or diabetes medications were available, eating a low-carb diet was the only treatment available. That changed with both the discovery of insulin and medications and when we began to learn about the role of fat in heart disease. Since a low-carb diet means more fat, it was not recommended. Now we are learning that the amount of fat in our diet is much less important than we once thought. In addition, eating a low-carb diet became the new way to achieve weight loss, also important with diabetes. Next we’ll take a look at the current arguments both for and against a low-carb diet for people with diabetes.
What should you eat if you have diabetes? Although diabetes medications can temporarily slow the blood sugar rise, they cannot reverse the underlying problem. Going back to the time-honored approach of eating low-carb foods can help control blood sugar in type 1 diabetes and potentially reverse type 2 diabetes, while reducing the need for medications. Disclaimer: Medication reduction may be necessary, and you may initially need to check your blood glucose more frequently when eating to control diabetes. In particular, insulin doses may need to be lowered to avoid low blood sugar, and SGLT2 inhibitors may need to be deprescribed. Please follow up with your healthcare provider for medical guidance before changing your diet to treat diabetes.