7 Mistakes to Avoid in a Low-Carb Diet for Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that occurs as a result of high blood sugar levels. Proper nutrition is extremely important for diabetics to keep their blood sugar levels under control. That’s why low-carb diets are often preferred by diabetics. However, diabetics need to be cautious and avoid certain mistakes, as improper implementation of this diet can lead to serious health problems.

Not Exploring All Options for a Low-Carb Diet

The concept of “low-carb” can vary from person to person and from researcher to researcher. According to Patti Urbanski, RD, CDCES, a clinical nutritionist and diabetes educator at Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, there is no universally recognized recommendation for how many carbohydrates one should consume on a low-carb diet.

However, an article suggests that consuming less than 26 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates can be considered low-carb. For someone consuming a 2,000-calorie diet, this means consuming less than 130 grams of carbohydrates per day.

“Very low-carb” diets involve consuming only 20 to 50 grams of total carbohydrates per day. Ketogenic diets, which partially overlap with very low-carb diets, often require even fewer carbohydrates per day. (Urbanski says that most Americans derive about 45 percent of their total daily calories from carbohydrates.)

Which approach is right for you? “When deciding how many carbohydrates a person should consume daily, many factors need to be considered,” says Lori Zanini, RD, CDCES, a registered dietitian in private practice in Manhattan Beach, California. “These factors include blood sugar control, current medications or insulin, additional health conditions, dietary preferences, budget, and health goals.”

Not Regularly Communicating with Your Healthcare Team

Your diabetes care team can help you find the right low-carb approach for you, but they can also help you avoid the severe, potentially dangerous, or life-threatening side effects of switching to low-carb for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

You may need to reduce or modify your medications to prevent low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Cardiovascular complications and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a health emergency, are possible risks. According to Urbanski, this is especially true for people taking insulin, insulin-supporting medications, or blood pressure medications. In addition, SGLT2 inhibitors, oral medications that help the kidneys lower blood sugar, can lead to potentially fatal DKA in some people, and low carbohydrate intake further increases this risk, she says. “It is recommended that someone taking SGLT2 inhibitors should not adopt a low-carb diet or should initially discontinue and switch medications under the supervision of their doctor,” she says. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

However, collaboration with your healthcare team should not be limited to seeking approval before starting a new diet. As Urbanski explains, Medicare covers two hours of diabetes education and two hours of nutrition services annually for people with type 2 diabetes. “Medicare typically pays for things that have been proven to work,” he says. Therefore, a good goal is to get at least four hours per year. He adds that some people may only need annual appointments, while others may benefit from seeing a registered dietitian or diabetes educator every two to three months.

To find a registered dietitian, sign up for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ national referral service. You can also search for certified diabetes care and education specialists through the Diabetes Care and Education Certification Board.

Not Keeping Track of Your Blood Sugar Monitoring

A low-carb diet can help stabilize blood sugar levels, but it does not guarantee that blood sugar levels will remain stable. Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles, explains that without careful monitoring, periods of both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia can occur.

“When transitioning to a low-carb diet, it can provide important information that you can use to monitor your blood sugar, adjust medication dosages, and meal portions,” she says. To obtain the most comprehensive information and make informed decisions, try using a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device that measures blood sugar every five minutes or less. Medicare covers CGM for individuals using insulin, as does your private insurance.

Focusing Too Much on Total Carbohydrates and Insufficient Focus on Carbohydrate Quality

For optimal health, a low-carb diet should not only be about what you eliminate but also about what you add to your meal plan. Zanini says that a healthy diet should meet all the nutrient needs of your body without exceeding your body’s calorie requirements.

However, when people make the narrow decision to restrict their carbohydrates, they may easily replace those carbohydrates with calorie-rich fats as well as chemical-rich, sugar-free foods and artificial sweeteners. In a low-carb diet, it is even better to focus more on wholefoods and quality sources of carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits should be preferred over refined carbohydrates.

Neglecting Fiber Intake

Fiber is an essential component of a healthy diet and plays a crucial role in managing blood sugar levels. However, some low-carb dieters may unintentionally neglect their fiber intake. Whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber that should be included in a low-carb diet. Adequate fiber intake can help regulate digestion, promote satiety, and stabilize blood sugar levels.

Overlooking Micronutrient Needs

While focusing on macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, it’s important not to overlook the micronutrient needs of your body. A low-carb diet can sometimes lead to inadequate intake of certain vitamins and minerals. To ensure nutritional balance, incorporate a variety of nutrient-dense foods into your diet. Include sources of vitamins, such as leafy greens, berries, and citrus fruits, and sources of minerals, such as nuts, seeds, and lean meats.

Not Personalizing the Diet to Your Needs

Every individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s crucial to personalize your low-carb diet according to your specific health conditions, preferences, and goals. Consulting with a registered dietitian or diabetes educator can help you tailor the diet to meet your individual needs. They can provide guidance, support, and recommendations based on your specific situation.

In conclusion, a low-carb diet can be beneficial for managing diabetes, but it’s essential to avoid common mistakes. Explore all the options for a low-carb diet, communicate regularly with your healthcare team, monitor your blood sugar levels diligently, focus on the quality of carbohydrates, prioritize fiber intake, consider micronutrient needs, and personalize the diet to suit your individual requirements. By following these guidelines, you can optimize the benefits of a low-carb diet while maintaining good overall health.

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