I would not start this article without first thanking Dr. Cirino for the opportunity to write here at Your Health Forum. It’s one of the safest places where I get to share my passion for health and nutrition, especially the low-carbohydrate lifestyle! This article is my 7th post, and I look forward to providing more value to this great community.
Tiffany Joy Yamut, RN
Table of Contents
Overview: Go Low-Carb and Natural
Today’s topic is about managing diabetes (or reversing it if you have Type 2 Diabetes) through food. Food, indeed, is a powerful tool for healing your body from the inside out.
But while many of us already know this, unfortunately, we’re not taking advantage of an optimal diet. Instead, we take a reactive approach by being too dependent on medication.
Are you diagnosed with diabetes and seeking natural ways to regulate your blood sugar, have more stable energy, and feel better overall? Then most likely, you’ve asked yourself: “What should I eat?”
The answer is plain and straightforward: A low-carbohydrate, natural diet.
Yet, it’s easy to dismiss it as nonsense because we’ve heard the standard guidelines that we need between 225 and 325 grams of carbs per day. This amount creates excess glucose in your blood and damages your blood vessels. But worse than that – this way of eating does not address the underlying problem.
Thankfully, there are plenty of research studies nowadays that support the effectiveness of a low-carbohydrate diet. Before we dive into the best foods for diabetes, let us first check out some of these studies:
- A 70-day non-randomized, parallel-arm study done on adults with Type 2 Diabetes showed that adequate carbohydrate restriction improved blood glucose control and reduced medication use while promoting weight loss. (See: NIH)
- Swedish researchers did a study in 2012 where they had 48 people with Type 1 Diabetes reduce their carb intake to 75 grams or less per day. The participants who followed the diet achieved a reduction in their HbA1c from 61 mmol/mol to 46 mmol/mol. (See: Diabetes.co.uk)
- Overweight, diabetic individuals underwent a 12-month dietary intervention where they were randomly assigned 1 of 3 types of diets. Those who followed a low-carb Mediterranean diet significantly reduced their HbA1c while improving their cholesterol. (See: NIH)
There are still more out there. Please feel free to do your research to understand further its effectiveness, safety, methods, risks, and more.
A Personalized Approach Is Important
The best low-carbohydrate diet plan is one that makes you feel your best and meets your goals. As someone who has diabetes, you need to work with your healthcare provider to determine the optimal amount of carbs to eat while adjusting to your current medication.
The reason is that people tolerate carbohydrates differently. For example, one person may need to lower their carbs to 50 grams per day, while another can handle 150 grams per day.
Regardless of your tolerance, the goal is to achieve better blood glucose control and avoid diabetes complications by eating fewer carbs.
Meat, Seafood, Poultry, and Eggs
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As you can tell, a diet that’s great for diabetes is nutrient-dense. There are lots to choose from under meat, seafood, and poultry. These foods contain very few to no carbs, depending on your choice of cut or type.
Meat and poultry are healthy sources of protein that have minimal effect on your blood glucose compared to carbs. They contain micronutrients such as B vitamins, iron, zinc, and phosphorus. On the other hand, fish and seafood provide omega-3 fatty acids that promote brain and heart health.
1. Pork – chops, belly, ribs, ground, loin, shoulder, steak, bacon
2. Beef – chuck, round, ground, loin, rib eye
3. Chicken – breast, wings, drumsticks, ground
4. Turkey – thighs, fillet, steak, escalope
5. Venison – rump, tenderloin, striploin, knuckle
6. Lamb – chops, shoulder, neck, rump, shank
7. Goose – drumsticks, breast, thigh
8. Bison – chuck, brisket, rib, loins, flank, round
9. Eggs – chicken eggs, duck eggs
10. Fish – salmon, mackerel, cod, mahi-mahi, sardines, trout
11. Crustaceans – shrimp, prawns, lobster, mussels, clams, squid
Does the source of the protein matter? Studies have supported grass-fed over grain-fed beef, wild-caught over farm-raised salmon, and pasture and free range over caged chicken (and eggs) as the preferred sources of protein. Of course, you should always choose fresh meat over processed meat. A lot of processed meats contain sugar and are heavy on preservatives.
Image from Pexels
Whether milk and dairy products are healthy has been a subject of intense debate, particularly between vegan and keto diet groups. A meta-analysis (2016) of observational studies and randomized controlled trials showed that the intake of dairy to recommendations may protect against chronic diseases, like diabetes.
Dairy is good to include in your diabetes diet as long as you’re not lactose-intolerant. Different dairy products vary in their carb counts per serving, so you still have to be mindful of how much you’re consuming. For instance, while butter and ghee have 0g carbs per 3.5-ounce serving, parmesan and feta cheese have 4 grams of carbs.
What about fat content in dairy? You might think that low-fat dairy is healthier because it’s “low-fat,” but in reality, most of these products are high in sugar. As you already know, this does more harm to your blood glucose and weight. It’s best to go with full-fat.
3. Cheddar cheese
4. Swiss cheese
5. Sour cream
6. Greek yogurt
7. Parmesan cheese
8. Feta cheese
9. Blue cheese
10. Cream cheese
Including dairy in your diet not only nourishes your body with nutrients like protein, calcium, and phosphorus but also makes your meals more flavorful.
Image from Pexels
Vegetable oils, which come from seeds and nuts, are considered by many as healthy. But recent studies have shown otherwise. In a study authored by James J DiNicolantonio and James H O’Keefe, the increased intake of linoleic acid found in vegetable oils was “positively associated with coronary artery disease (CAD).”
Excess linoleic acid causes low-grade inflammation. Chronic inflammation, as you probably already know, is a driver of most of today’s diseases. These inflammatory oils include soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and corn oil.
Use these healthy fats instead for cooking:
1. Olive oil
2. Coconut oil
3. Butter, grass-fed
4. Avocado oil
6. Red palm oil
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Eating a natural diet is beneficial for your diabetes and health in general. The soluble and insoluble fibers in vegetables are shown to reduce insulin resistance, achieve satiety, and promote gut health. Taking the concept of “let food be thy medicine” literally, plants, like green leafy vegetables, are great hypoglycemic (sugar-lowering) treatments.
Yes, some vegetables can raise your blood glucose more quickly than others. These vegetables contain starch and should be avoided or consumed in smaller serving sizes. Examples are potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, chickpeas, beans, and beets.
There are a lot of non-starchy options that you can enjoy with a variety of recipes.
Check out these options:
1. Hearts of palm
Go easy on fruits. Many fruits, especially the sweeter ones like bananas, grapes, and mangoes, contain many sugar. Just because they’re natural sugars doesn’t mean they do your body good.
Fruits with the lowest carbohydrates are the following:
Here’s an interesting fact: Fruits looked a whole lot different before humans genetically modified them to make them bigger and richer in sugar! See Giovanni Stanchi’s painting during the 17th century that showed another image of a watermelon.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Nuts and Seeds
Snacks on nuts and seeds or use them as toppings for your salads. They’re high in fiber and healthy fats to keep you fuller for longer. Study shows that tree nuts lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Macadamia nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Pistachio nuts
Just don’t go nuts on nuts and seeds. Eat them in moderation – not mindlessly. Keep in mind that these foods are high in calories. If you’re not careful, you could put on more weight.
While the best drink to have (and you know it) is plain water, sometimes we want to quench our thirst with something sweet. A delicious beverage to start your day would be great as well. So, what are some of your options?
Check out these low-carb drinks:
- Lemon water
- Sparkling water
- Black coffee
- Kombucha tea
- Sugar-free soda
- Coconut water
If you have a sugar addiction, know that drinking diet or sugar-free soda does not fix that. The long-term effects of artificial sweeteners are still unknown. However, they may affect your appetite regulation, metabolism, and insulin secretion. The best way to break sugar addiction and truly heal your body? Don’t make a habit out of having something sweet now and then.
It is a fact that some people are more sensitive to carbohydrates than others. For example, two individuals who have diabetes may have a different response to eating potatoes (which are starchy). For more information on choosing the right carbohydrates, refer to this article.
Person A’s blood sugar may rise faster than person B’s – or vice versa. You get the idea. For that reason, it’s so important to follow a personalized eating plan that works for you.
Before you start this change in your diet, speak with your healthcare provider. And while you’re on low-carb, check your blood glucose about 30 minutes after eating. Doing this helps you learn how your body reacts to certain foods. You’ll be surprised.
Last but not least, complement your diet with other lifestyle changes such as proper sleep, moving more, and reducing stress.
I hope that this article has inspired you to live your best and healthiest life. Even if you don’t have diabetes, pre-diabetes, or at risk of getting it due to strong family history, I would highly recommend you take positive action today.
Tiffany Joy Yamut is a registered nurse and health writer. She is an advocate and ambassador for a healthy lifestyle, having found greater health after modifying her diet toward Keto. Her articles include topics on anything low-carb, keto, and fitness. She is also a writer on Medium and author of her website ketogenic buddies. Your Health Forum warmly welcomes Tiffany on the platform.