Is a low-carb diet right for me if I have Type 2 diabetes?

Learn more about why many people with Type 2 diabetes find that following low-carb meal plans help them control their blood sugar levels, as well as realising other health benefits.

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Making good food choices is important for people with type 2 diabetes

Having Type 2 diabetes means that it’s important to really focus and think about both your diet and exercise, since this directly affects your blood sugar levels. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, that includes all food groups combined, while remaining physically active are great ways to keep your diabetes under control. Some people have found that following a low-carb diet – a diet that is very low in carbohydrates, generally less than 130g per day – can help to further lower their blood sugar levels. Other health benefits include losing weight if they are overweight or obese. Some people have also found that they are able to reduce the diabetes medications they are taking.


Talk to your healthcare team before making any major changes to your diet

Healthcare teams advocate following a low-carb diet if that’s right for you but it’s important to discuss it with them first. They will be able to guide you further on what it may mean for you, how you may need to change your diabetes medication and consider how much you exercise. It’s important that you don’t change your diabetes medication without talking to your healthcare team first. There are side effects associated with following a low carb meal plan, so take a look at our FAQ section for more details.

 

Carbohydrate is the food group with the biggest impact on your blood sugar levels

Out of all the different food groups in our diet, eating carbohydrates has the greatest effect in raising your blood sugar levels. Insulin is released to lower these high blood sugar levels. If you have Type 2 diabetes, there is a greater need to release your body’s own insulin, which is in limited supply. If you lower your carbohydrate intake, you lower the insulin need in your body.

What to eat, what not to eat

In short, low-carb diets are missing foods like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cakes, biscuits, porridge and other cereal. They are, however, rich in meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, and it’s important to ensure that your meal plans are balanced and provide all the other nutrients that you need to stay healthy. There are many resources available on the web and in cookbooks that focus on recipes and meal ideas for those who wish to follow a low-carb diet, and a few are listed at the end of this article. We’ve also created a weekly meal planning template to help you plan your meals. Click here to download: Meal planner

Additional resources

There are some additional resources about low-carb diets on the Diabetes UK website: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/meal-plans-/low-carb

More information about low-carb diets and the impact on diabetes can also be found here: https://www.dietdoctor.com/diabetes

FAQs

Can I drink alcohol on a low-carb diet?

Alcohol should always be drunk in moderation, following the government’s guidelines. If you’re carb counting, drinking alcohol muddies the water a little. While a lot of alcoholic drinks contain carbs, you might not need to take your usual mealtime amount of insulin to cover them. That’s because you’re more likely to get hypos. Drinks low in carbs include champagne, white and red wines, while those higher in carbs include beer. If you wish to follow a low-carb diet and drink alcohol, speak with your healthcare team so you can discuss a plan, and any impact on your diabetes medication.

Will I lose weight if I reduce my carbohydrate intake?

Yes, an added health benefit of following a low-carb diet, as well as lowering your blood sugar, is weight loss. This can be an added health benefit if you are overweight or obese.

Are they any side effects if I follow a low-carb diet?


Some people (those with or without Type 2 diabetes) experience constipation, headaches and/or bad breath when they follow a low-carb diet. They may also feel tired, irritable and nauseous. While undesirable, these side effects not harmful, and are usually temporary. Drinking plenty of water, and adding a little extra salt to your meals, can help reduce these side effects. If these side effects do not go after a couple of weeks, and you’re concerned, then speak with your healthcare team.