Diabetic Living Australia

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT FOOD (but were too afraid to ask)

If you’re unsure about what to eat, you are certainly not alone. There’s plenty of confusing and conflicting information out there when it comes to good nutrition, particularly when you have diabetes. Fortunately, healthy eating doesn’t need to be hard. We cut through the jargon and got the straight talk on how to eat well.

Should I go low carb if I have diabetes?

There’s certainly some evidence to show low-carb diets can help with improving blood glucose levels and blood fats, and reducing medication needs in people with type 2 diabetes.

But other diets, including Mediterranean and low-fat vegetarian diets, have shown similar benefits. And we don’t know the long-term effect of a very low-carb diet. Those in favour of low-carb diets for diabetes say cutting carbs is the answer because these are the foods that directly affect our blood glucose levels. But if you have type 2 diabetes, the reason you don’t deal with carbs in the same way as someone without diabetes is because of underlying insulin resistance. So the aim of any dietary or lifestyle changes should be to improve how insulin works in your body. And there is evidence low-fat, high-fibre, plant-based diets improve insulin resistance while high intakes of saturated fat and red meat can worsen insulin resistance. So, while a very low-carb diet may work in the short-term, it may not be the best way to manage diabetes in the longer term.

What about if I want to lose weight?

Like any eating plan that cuts out major food groups, low-carb diets do help most people to lose weight. However, studies show that while low-carb diets often lead to more rapid initial weight loss, in the longer term (more than 6-12 months) they don’t appear to be any better than low-fat, or other energy-restricted, diets. In fact, a large study comparing four different diets, from Atkins (very low-carb) to Ornish (vegetarian, low-fat, high-carb), found weight loss was similar on all four diets and what predicted success was cutting kilojoules and being able to stick to the diet. And, a major downside to low-carb diets is they can be pretty hard for most people to stick to.

But shouldn’t everyone be cutting down on carbs?

There are definitely some carbs that shouldn’t feature regularly in a healthy diet. These include refined carbs (think biscuits, cakes, pastries, highly processed breakfast cereals and white bread) and added sugars (such as confectionery and sugar-sweetened drinks). But there are also many carbs we know are beneficial for good health, including wholegrains, legumes, fruits and

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