Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan

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Always read the nutrition panel and the ingredients list on the package to know exact amounts and to help you choose brands low in sugar or with no added sugar. And don’t forget that milk adds to the carbohydrate count; an 8-ounce glass of milk contains another 15 grams of carbohydrates. To get started, you’ll want to figure out how many carbs you are eating at your meals and snacks now. When foods and drinks with carbs are digested, the carbs break down into glucose to fuel our cells, and the body’s blood glucose, or blood sugar, level rises.

Ketosis usually occurs at a daily intake of fewer than 50 grams of total carbs (9). However, the ADA now promotes an individualized approach in which your ideal carb intake should take into account your dietary preferences and metabolic goals (7). The body takes more time to digest, or break down, starches than sugar, and it can’t digest fiber at all. However, a growing number of experts believe that people with diabetes should eat far fewer carbs. An individualized approach is often best when it comes to carb intake for diabetes management.

According to the ADA, non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce, and cauliflower have very little carbohydrate in them — and therefore little effect on your blood glucose. For example, white and sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and winter squashes have about 15 grams of carbohydrates per source 1/2 cup. Nonstarchy vegetables average just 5 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw, and since much of that is fiber, one to two portions will satisfy your hunger, according to the ADA. Some people who live with diabetes use the glycemic index to select foods, especially carbohydrates.

While people with type 2 diabetes who don’t take mealtime insulin may not need detailed carb counting to keep their blood sugars in line, some prefer to do it. While some choose to stick with traditional carb counting, there are others who do a more basic version of carb counting based my sources on “carbohydrate choices,” where one “choice” contains about 15 grams of carb. Still others use the Diabetes Plate Method to eat a reasonable portion of carb-containing foods at each meal by limiting whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits or dairy to a quarter of the plate.

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Although there are very few studies on carb restriction in people with type 1 diabetes, those that exist have reported impressive results (20, 21, 22, 23). Beyond needing clinical guidance, very low calorie diets are not sustainable long term. And restricting they said calories that low will inevitably lead to fatigue, along with the potential for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The recommendations listed are for a moderately active individual. If you live an active lifestyle, add an additional 200 calories per day.

However, it’s important to note that most of these diets weren’t directly compared with low carb diets, but rather with standard low fat diets often used for diabetes management. For example, some studies suggest that low fat vegan or vegetarian diets may lead to better blood sugar control and overall health (28, 29, 30, 31). In a 2010 study of 259 people with type 2 diabetes, those who followed a Mediterranean diet providing 35% or fewer calories from carbs experienced a significant reduction in HbA1c. Over the course of 12 months, HbA1c dropped 2.0% on average (27).

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