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How many carbs do I need? A guide to carbohydrate needs for people with Type 2 Diabetes

Have you ever been told to eat a low carb diet, and then sent off on your own without any more advice?


This leaves you very confused or overwhelmed, so you start your own internet research. And suddenly you’re even MORE confused because every article you read or influencer who’s ad pops up has something different to say.


The worst part is, there’s no way to tell what is good information or misinformation.


You’re not alone.

I get questions every day about how many carbs are appropriate per day, or meal. Or even what carb foods are “safe” for people with Type 2 Diabetes.


People tell me that if they just knew exactly how many carbs to eat, they could control their blood sugar and lower their A1c.


But the reason that an easy answer is hard to find...is that there is no easier answer. No person needs exactly the same nutrition - even when we’re talking about carbs and blood sugar.


But let me break this down for you!



How to determine how many carbs you need:


Everyone is different (that’s right, no two people with Type 2 are the same). Your body is not the same as your neighbor’s, your brother's, your Facebook friend’s, or anyone else’s.


You have unique nutrition needs based on numerous factors:

  • Metabolic rate

  • Insulin resistance level

  • Carb sensitivity at different times of day (circadian rhythms)

  • Sex, race, height, build.

  • Past experiences (diet, trauma, emotional state, etc.)

  • Activity level

  • Other health factors


So it’s important to find the ideal carb level for your body.



Where do I start?


Most people thrive on between 15-30 grams per meal, and snacks vary. But if you happen to be highly carb sensitive or insulin resistant, you may need less. On the flipside, if you are less insulin resistant (or are lowering it using methods that I teach) you may need more carbohydrate.


A safe place to start is 20 grams per meal, and 10 grams per snack. Then increase or decrease this based on:


  • Blood sugar level

  • Feelings and symptoms

  • Hunger level


Now does this seem daunting to figure out? Maybe - but it doesn’t have to! Using the strategies that I walk my Drop Diabetes participants through, you can find your “sweet spot” and eat to your needs, not just to control blood sugar, but also so your body can THRIVE and you can feel healthy and more carefree. Need help with this? Email me - I promise I’m listening.


But it’s not all about GRAMS of carbohydrates…



The most important part! There’s more to it than counting GRAMS.


Nutrition is a complex and multi-faceted topic. So it’s crucial to know that you are NOT going to fully control your blood sugars if you are only counting grams of carbohydrate. There are a few other factors that play a huge role in blood sugar stability.


The nutritional quality of the food. If a carbohydrate food is wholesome and contains blood sugar stabilizing nutrients, its going to affect blood sugar differently than a carbohydrate food with poor nutritional value (E.G. whole grains or strawberries versus white bread or chewy candies). To learn more on that, check out this article.


What you eat or drink with the carb food. Protein, fats, and fiber stabilize blood sugar. Eating 1 C of pasta will raise blood sugar more than 1 C pasta with chicken (protein) and asparagus (fiber). Eating 1 C grapes will raise you more than 1 C grapes with a cheese stick.


Portion of the food. Of course portions are important in carbohydrate foods. 3 C of watermelon at the summer BBQ will certainly raise your blood sugar. But an appropriate 1 C of watermelon should do the trick.


Time of day. Are you most carb sensitive in the morning or evening? Your body’s rhythms dictate how well you digest, absorb, and utilize carbohydrates. Many of my Drop Diabetes Program participants need more carbohydrates at certain times of day, and less at others.


Type of day. Depending on your activity level, stress level, and hormone balance, you may need more or less carbs based on what your day looks like. This is especially true for women and their menstrual cycles.


Your metabolism and insulin resistance. People with Type 2 who have high insulin resistance will need a lower carb intake then those with lower insulin resistance. Ways to improve insulin resistance and restore balance include doing resistance exercise and maintaining a consistent eating pattern.





Why “no carb” is NOT the way to go.


There is a reason that carb free diet trends come and go over the years/decades. From atkins to keto, the rise and fall of these diets should be a BIG red flag for anyone, especially someone who wants to control Type 2 Diabetes and be healthy overall.


The truth is, they don’t work long term. Very low carb diets are effective in lowering blood sugar levels and weight in the first few months, but very rarely (<1% of the time) work for more than a year, or even a few years. Why? Well, there are a few reasons.


Carbohydrate foods contain many essential nutrients that just aren’t found from other sources. This creates negative symptoms such as fatigue, chronic constipation, vitamin and mineral deficiencies (which lead to many things including hindered liver function). It’s important to note that simply taking a supplement does not fix this problem.


Most people abide by “keto food lists” which is very restrictive. These food lists are never comprehensive or necessarily wholesome, and don’t take into account overall wellness (HINT: this is what leads to other health issues down the road).


Restricting can lead to binging and even sugar/carb cravings.


It’s not sustainable. Maybe you’ve heard that before, but let me expand on this. So often, I hear from frustrated people that they have tried a lot of things in the past, and nothing has worked, or they just couldn’t stick to it. This leads to large fluctuations in blood sugar, weight, and overall wellness. This not only fuels negative feelings around one’s body, but also contributes to poor heart health.


Diabetes is a long term condition. Why choose short term results?


Remember…


It is easy to get narrow sighted, and think that simply counting grams of carbohydrates will help you control blood sugar - but this will not give you lasting success in controlling Type 2 Diabetes.


To be truly successful, you need to learn and understand how foods affect blood sugar (as well as overall health), and find the methods and strategies that work best for your body and your lifestyle.



Where to go from here:


To find your ideal carb needs and learn how to eat well to not only control Type 2 Diabetes, but also conquer overall health, apply for the Drop Diabetes program. Want to learn more about it? Click here to schedule a (totally free) call with me.




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