One way to protect yourself, she says, is to take a B vitamin supplement — with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.
“All of the B vitamins work together in a very complicated metabolic pathway and they need each other — so if you are not going to get your source in foods, then a vitamin supplement is a must,” says Heller.
Sondike agrees and says that, “Any time you are on a weight-loss diet you need a good multivitamin, regardless of whether you are limiting your carbohydrate intake or not,” he says.
Although there has been some evidence that a low-carb diet can also take its toll on calcium levels, Sondike says that fortunately, this is usually only on a short-term basis.
“Your body will often shift metabolism when you do something different to it — but it equalizes — you see a rapid shift and a return to normal — and the longer-term studies show normal results in this area,” says Sondike. Still, he tells WebMD it’s a “smart idea” to take a calcium supplement beginning at the start of your low-carb diet to safeguard against a possible deficiency. Tofu can also be a good source of calcium.
Another mineral you may want to supplement is potassium. While there is no concrete evidence that a dramatic potassium loss occurs on a low-carb regimen, Sondike says to ensure against problems he recommends patients use Morton’s Light Salt — a potassium chloride product that he says can add back any of this important mineral that’s lost. Eating a few almonds is also a good way to supplement this mineral without adding carbs to your diet.
Finally, if you stick to your low-carb diet via the use of prepackaged foods, experts say read the label carefully to avoid ingredients that are notoriously responsible for gastrointestinal upsets, and especially excess gas. Among the worst offenders: sugar alcohol, found in sweeteners such as sorbitol.
“Anything above 10 grams or more of sorbitol at a time has been shown to cause gastrointestinal upset — and some of these low-carb diet foods have as much as 30 grams a serving,” says Heller. While it won’t make you violently ill, she says, it can make you — and those in the same room — pretty uncomfortable.
Is a no carb, low carb or moderate carb diet the best choice for someone living with diabetes? This is a question I’m asked almost daily, and today I will try to answer it by sharing my experiences with all three diet types.
Before I jump into the different diets, let’s get the obvious answer out of the way which is “it depends”. The diet that is best for you will always depend on your goals and activity level – the diet that works for you might not work for me, and vice versa. If you are trying to build strength and muscles, you shouldn’t follow the same diet as when you are trying to lose weight.
In the same way, someone who runs every day has different dietary requirements to someone who sits in an office all day and doesn’t exercise.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into the details of the different diets!
- The moderate carb diet
- The low carb diet
- The no-carb (ketogenic) diet
- Low-carb meal plan
- Your 7-day low-carb meal plan
- The weekly overview
- About low-carb diets
- How much food is 20 or 50 grams of carbs?
- Keto Carb Limit: How Many Carbs Can You Eat On a Keto Diet?
- Carbs & Ketosis
- The Keto Carb Limit
- How To Eat For Ketosis
- Get Your Carb Count Right
The moderate carb diet
The general recommendation for a non-diabetic person is to get 40-60% of their daily calories from carbs. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, that’s between 200 and 300 grams of carbs a day.
For people with diabetes, this is generally too many carbs, but I do get pretty close to this when I exercise a lot and am trying to build muscle mass. During my last building phase, I averaged about 200-250 grams of carbs a day, but I was also lifting heavy weights 5-6 days a week. As long as I stick to low glycemic carbs (except right after my workout), I can eat that many carbs and still have very good blood sugar control.
The great thing about the moderate carb diet (aside from eating lots of tasty carbs) was that I managed to lean out slightly while adding some nice muscle mass. However, I wouldn’t consider this a weight loss diet by any means. Most people, myself included, won’t be able to “keep it clean” all of the time, and there’s really no room for error on this diet, as you can easily start putting on some fat as well.
My “standard” diet when I am not trying to gain muscle or lose weight is around 100-120 grams of carbs a day for a 2000-calorie diet. You can see exactly what my typical diet is like in this post.
The low carb diet
There is no clear definition of exactly what a “low carb diet” means, but when I talk about low carb diets, I refer to a diet consisting of approximately 50-75 grams of complex carbs a day (not including vegetables).
I’ve found this to be the sweet spot for most type 1 diabetic women (myself included) when dieting. I only go this low when I want to slim down, like when I want to drop the last few pounds for a photo shoot or fitness competition.
An added benefit of a low carb diet is that it makes good blood sugar control easier. I divide my daily carbs between several meals and combine them with lean protein and good fats, so I hardly see any blood sugar fluctuations after meals.
I know that this will be controversial to a lot of people in the diabetes community, but, in general, I don’t recommend a low carb diet as an optimal every-day maintenance diet. It’s great for weight loss and can help with blood sugar control, but it also decreases your metabolism and energy levels.
If you live an active lifestyle (and especially if you do resistance training), the moderate carb diet provides you with the energy you need to fuel your workouts, while still allowing for great blood sugar control.
The no-carb (ketogenic) diet
The theory behind the ketogenic diet is that by consuming almost no carbs (less than 5% of your total calories), your body will start converting fat into fatty acids and ketones. Ketones can replace glucose as your body’s main energy source, meaning that your body mainly relies on fat for energy. In theory, this should make it very easy to lose excess body fat if you limit your calorie intake at the same time.
Because you eat almost no carbs, you also, in theory, need very little insulin, making blood sugar control easier.
I tried the ketogenic diet and it did not work for me AT ALL! I only had 20 grams of carbs a day and my insulin sensitivity went bonkers. Since fat is released more slowly into the bloodstream than complex or refined carbs, I didn’t see any crazy blood sugar fluctuations, but my insulin needs increased by 100% in comparison to when I was eating a low carb or moderate carb diet.
Needless to say, my experience with the ketogenic diet was that I gained weight FAST. Not really what I was going for. My blood sugars were nice and stable although often trending high but since gaining fat isn’t part of my goal, I can honestly say that I will most likely never try a ketogenic diet again.
I know that some people successfully follow a ketogenic diet for diabetes management, so my experience may not be typical, but I cannot recommend a ketogenic diet at this point. You don’t need it for good blood sugar control, and the downsides can be serious.
As I wrote in the beginning, what the optimal diet is for you depends on your goals. Personally, I find a low carb diet optimal for weight loss and a moderate carb diet optimal for maintaining and building muscle mass.
As a final note, some people with diabetes also follow an all-carb all-fruit diet in which they eat over 600 grams of carbs a day and get great results. This is not something I would ever try, but it clearly shows that there are many different diets that can work well for diabetes management. The best thing for you to do is to experiment, take notes, learn from your mistakes, and find the diet that works for you and your body!
Recommended next post: How to Lose Weight When You Live with Diabetes
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Eating a small amount of carbs doubles the body’s ability to burn fat during high-intensity exercise, Phinney says. Very lean and high-performing athletes, such as runners in 50- and 100-mile events, can run totally on body fat stores if they eat a very low-carb diet, improving performance, he says.
Phinney says he is not aware that the low-carb trend has gained traction among elite athletes who run shorter distances, such as the 26.2-mile marathon or the 13.1-mile half-marathon. But he has heard from many recreational runners who compete at these distances and shorter ones who follow the keto diet and find it improves their times. And he suspects the very low-carb diet may also be catching on with elite athletes besides runners.
What about very low-carb eating for your average healthy person without seizure issues or diabetes? “I wouldn’t advocate it for someone who doesn’t have a tangible benefit,” Phinney says.
If losing body fat is your aim, cutting dietary fat lowers body fat more than restricting carbs, according to a National Institutes of Health study. Kevin Hall, PhD, an NIH senior investigator and lead author, studied 19 men and women who were obese but free of diabetes. Before trying each of two diet types, they ate a diet of 50% of total calories from carbs, 35% from fat, and 15% from protein. Then they reduced total calories by 30% — while on the low-carb plan they reduced carbs by 60%; while on the low-fat diet they reduced fat by 85%.
The reduced-fat diet was better than the reduced-carb diet at increasing fat burning, which led to body fat lossExperts agree that some carbs are better than others. Choose the least refined carbs — think whole grains, brown rice — says Lichtenstein.
Aim for the moderate range and don’t focus only on carbs. “You have to think about the whole diet,” she says. The fat you eat should be healthy, such as from liquid vegetable oils. Protein should be lean. Within each category, choose the healthiest option, Lichtenstein says.
Follow these tips from Lichtenstein and Diekman to boost your diet’s content of ”better” carbs, fats, and protein:
- Choose less-refined carbs — whole wheat pasta over regular, whole grain hamburger buns over non-whole grain, Lichtenstein says. Grain foods such as pasta, whole grain cereals and breads, quinoa, lentils, and beans are also good fiber sources, Diekman says. Plus, they provide a good base for eating more vegetables.
- Aim to get most of your carbs from fruits, vegetables, and grain foods, Diekman says, with the rest from dairy foods such as milk and yogurt.
- For fats, choose liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, Lichtenstein says.
- For protein, go for lean meats, nonfat dairy, and plant-based protein, Lichtenstein suggests.
Deciding how many of your daily calories should come from carbs isn’t an easy decision, but one thing is sure: Although more research about the optimal balance of carbs is on the horizon, it may help you with your decision, or it could complicate it even more.
Low-carb meal plan
Your 7-day low-carb meal plan
Before starting any healthy eating programme, read how to choose your meal plan to make sure you follow the plan that’s right for you.
This nutritionally balanced meal plan is suitable for those wishing to closely manage their carbohydrate intake. It’s also calorie counted for your convenience, and contains at least five portions of fruit and veg per day.
Please note that the full nutritional information and exact specifications for all meals and snacks is available in the PDF only, and not listed below.
We’ve got more information on how to follow a low-carb diet safely.
The weekly overview
Breakfast: Wholemeal toast with scrambled eggs
Lunch: Cauliflower and leek soup
Dinner: Lower-fat cauliflower and broccoli cheese with a medium grilled salmon fillet
Pudding: Greek yogurt with raspberries
Choose from snacks including fruit, nuts and rye crackers with avocado.
Breakfast: Greek yogurt with raspberries and pumpkin seeds
Lunch: Chickpea and tuna salad and strawberries
Dinner: Beef goulash
Pudding: Rhubarb fool
Choose from snacks including granary bread with peanut butter, avocado, Greek yogurt, crudites and nuts.
Breakfast: Porridge with almonds, blueberries and pumpkin seeds
Lunch: Mackerel salsa wrap
Dinner: Chicken casserole with broccoli
Pudding: Greek yogurt with strawberries and blueberries
Choose from snacks including nuts, wholemeal rice cakes with peanut butter and crudites with guacamole.
Breakfast: Mushroom omelette with mushrooms and grilled tomato
Lunch: Creamy chicken and mushroom soup and Greek yogurt with raspberries
Dinner: Beefburger with green salad
Pudding: Summer berry posset
Choose from snacks including oatcakes with light cream cheese, nuts and avocado.
Breakfast: Scrambled egg on granary toast with mushrooms
Lunch: Beef and barley soup and Greek yogurt
Dinner: Italian-style braised lamb steaks with brown rice and broccoli
Pudding: Microwave mug: Chocolate, banana and almond cup with half-fat creme fraiche
Choose from snacks including nuts, cheese and guacamole with crudites.
Breakfast: Wholemeal toast with grilled bacon and mushrooms
Lunch: Bang bang chicken salad
Dinner: Coq au vinwith broccoli
Pudding: Hot chocolate
Choose from snacks including raspberry smoothie and nuts.
Breakfast: Scrambled egg with smoked salmon on granary toast
Lunch: Ham, leek and Parmesan frittata with avocado, celery, cucumber and lettuce
Dinner: Roast chicken, roast potatoes, green beans and gravy
Pudding: Greek yogurt with rapsberries
Choose from snacks including olives, nuts, dried fruit and oatcakes with light cream cheese.
About low-carb diets
A low-carb diet is generally defined as below 130g of carbohydrate a day.
This low-carb meal plan aims to help you maintain a healthy, balanced diet while reducing the amount of carbs you eat. Varying amounts of carbohydrate are shown each day to help you choose which works best for you. You might want to use it to lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight.
If you’re overweight, finding a way to lose weight can help you reduce your risk of complications. There are different ways of doing this, and the low-carb diet is just one option. Other options include the Mediterranean diet.
And if you have Type 2 diabetes, we now know that aiming for 15kg weight loss (especially nearer to your diagnosis) can improve your chances of putting your Type 2 diabetes into remission.
If you have Type 1 diabetes, it’s important to know that the best way to keep your blood sugar levels steady is to carb count rather than following a particular diet.
It’s important to know that if you treat your diabetes with insulin or any other medication that puts you at risk of hypos (low blood sugar levels), following a low-carb diet may increase this risk. Speak to your healthcare team about this so they can help you adjust your medications to reduce your risk of hypos.
Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you might need to lose, gain or maintain your current weight but it’s important to make healthier food choices while you’re doing this. Research suggests that the best type of diet is one that you can maintain in the long term, so it’s important to talk to your healthcare professional about what you think will work for you.
How much food is 20 or 50 grams of carbs?
To go into ketosis, and stay there, most people need to eat fewer than 20 net grams of carbs each day. What does that look like on a plate? On this page your find some simple pictures.
What looks more appetizing and filling: a plate overflowing with above ground vegetables, or a half of a hamburger bun – naked?
It is easy to see how consuming 20 grams of vegetables, even with the sweet taste of cherry tomatoes or sweet peppers, is not only very satisfying but also chock full of vitamins and minerals. See our keto vegetables guide.
But that naked half bun? Add the other half, the ketchup, and other fixings and soon it is easy to see that you will be well over your daily carb count. That is why regular bread is never a recommended part of a keto diet. It is pretty much impossible to eat it and stay below 20 grams of carbs. We do have recipes, however, for delicious keto breads that have much lower grams of carbs.
High carb foods: here’s 20 grams
So what does 20 grams of carbs look like for potatoes, pasta, rice or bread?
It is one potato, a small serving of pasta (about 1/2 cup), about 1/2 cup of white rice, and that half bun.
It won’t take much of any of these foods to exceed your daily carb limit and take you out of ketosis.
What to eat instead? Try cauliflower – riced, mashed, au gratin and many other ways — which makes a great replacement for rice or potatoes. For bread replacements, try making any of Diet Doctor’s delicious bread and cracker recipes. Craving a sauce on a bed of pasta? We have keto pasta recipes or just spiralize a zucchini for a fresh veggie take on a noodle bed for a zesty sauce.
Low-carb food: here’s 20 grams
Compare that half of a hamburger bun or miserly portion of pasta to 20 grams of various vegetables, nuts and berries.
Betcha can’t eat 20 grams of spinach in one go! That plate on the bottom right isn’t even 20 grams, it is about 5! It was all we could fit on the plate. Spinach has 1.4 grams of carbs in 100 grams of leaves. You would have to eat about three pounds (1.5 kilos) of spinach to get to 20 grams.
Berries and nuts do have more grams of carbs per serving, so be careful:, they can add up to over 20 grams if you munch mindlessly.
Keto fruits and berries guide
Keto nuts guide
Moderate low carb eating: What does 50 grams look like?
If you occasionally want to come out of ketosis, or “carb up”, eating 50 grams of carbs means you’re still staying relatively low carb.
Here’s 50 grams of refined or higher carb foods: three slices of bread, three potatoes, a cup of rice and a cup of pasta.
50 grams of carbs in low-carb foods
Here’s 50 grams of lower carb foods like vegetables, nuts and berries. That a lot of food on a plate.
Keto Carb Limit: How Many Carbs Can You Eat On a Keto Diet?
If you’re on the keto diet, you know the goal is ketosis. This is when your body doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy so it burns fat for fuel. Restricting carbs is the fastest and safest way to achieve ketosis, so you should understand what your keto carb limit should be.
Keep reading to learn more about how many carbs you can eat on a Keto diet.
Carbs & Ketosis
First, let’s break down how carbs (or lack thereof) work with ketosis. Your body naturally runs your metabolism on glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar that is broken down from carbs. This simple sugar enters your body’s cells from the help of the hormone insulin, where mitochondria are used for the production of energy.
So, as long as the body is steadily getting an influx of glucose, it will use this as fuel. But if the body isn’t getting glucose, like if you are fasting or on a keto diet, then your body will make a metabolic shift. During this shift, your body will start using a ketone metabolism instead of glucose metabolism.
Ketone is molecules that work as a glucose alternative and is made up of Beta-hydroxybutyrate, Acetoacetate, and Acetone. When your body switches to a ketone metabolism there is more ketone and enhanced fat oxidation.
This change becomes ketosis which is the goal of a ketogenic diet. During ketosis, your body burns fat to make ketones that help boost weight loss along with other
The Keto Carb Limit
With most ketogenic diets it’s recommended that you only have 40 to 60 grams of carbs a day. This also includes carbs from fiber and dairy that should have a low GI (glycemic index) of less than 50. However, this can depend on the person, as with other carbs can be limited to 10 to 20g a day.
Carb intake on keto diets isn’t strictly determined, but it should still be low enough so you can achieve ketosis. Most keto dieters consume less than 50 grams of total carbs a day or 30 grams of net carbs a day.
It seems like this golden rule works for everyone. Keep in mind total carbs are all carbs in food, which includes fiber, while net carbs are carbs without fiber.
If you want to adjust your keto carb limit to meet specific needs and goals, you should use a Keto Calculator. This will measure your daily calorie expenditure to find out the number of carbs you should eat based on your activity levels and physique.
Athletes and people that are highly active can eat more carbs without getting off ketosis. This is because their muscles use up glycogen faster and at higher amounts than people that are less active.
Often athletes will do something called carb cycling, which keeps them on ketosis while following a keto diet. This includes periods where they do carb refeeding, which is up to 130 grams of carbs as well as periods of keto eating.
How To Eat For Ketosis
To meet your daily carb limit for ketosis, you want to eat the right kinds of carbs. Keto guidelines lay out some simple rules for you to follow to reach ketosis. Here are those rules.
Stick To Low-Carb, Low-GI Foods
Low-carb foods are foods like peppers, eggplants, leafy greens, cauliflower, and many others. These foods tend to have less than 10 grams of net carbs per servings. These foods also are low on the GI scale.
The GI scale is how food is ranked based on how it affects your blood sugar. The food with the lowest ranking is cheese which is a zero, while pure glucose has the highest at 100.
Avoid High-Carb, High-GI Foods
Incorporate Low-Carb Alternatives
To add some variety, you’ll want to now replace your high-carb kitchen staples with low-carb or no-carb counterparts. This includes using almond, coconut, and other nut flours instead of wheat flour.
You will also want to use coconut and almond milk as a low carb alternative to dairy milk. For desserts with fewer carbs, you can use non-nutritive sweeteners like erythritol and stevia.
You also need to eat a lot of fat on a keto diet to boost ketosis. This includes butter, fatty cuts of meat, sour cream, olive oil, and nuts, which your liver will use to make ketones.
If you lower your calorie intake, your body will use its own fat to make ketone bodies that boost weight loss.
Mind Your Protein Intake
Yes, eating fewer carbs on keto is key for ketosis, but your protein intake also matters. Your body can convert several amino acids from protein-rich food into glucose.
This process is known as gluconeogenesis which is a metabolic pathway that prevents you from getting hypoglycemia on a low-carb diet. At the same time, if you intake too much protein, you can get kicked off of ketosis, so it’s all about finding the balance.
You want to know how much protein boosts gluconeogenesis. A moderate intake of one gram a day per kilogram of body weight should be safe on keto as long as you are also getting enough fat (65-80 percent of your daily calories). If you go about this, it can throw you off ketosis, and the same is true if you eat high-carb foods.
You want to have a moderate intake of protein, which is also key to your functioning and health. While protein can repair and build tissue, it also is needed for the production of hormones, enzymes, and the immune system’s cells.
Proteins are basically nutrients that your body can’t live without, unlike carbs. Which is why you cannot cut protein out of your diet.
Get Your Carb Count Right
Now that you know your keto carb limit, start making these changes in your diet today. The keto diet can not only help you lose weight but also has many other benefits, as long as you’re doing the diet properly. For more keto resources, check out our blog!