The Keto Diet Isn’t for Everyone: A Type 1 Diabetes Perspective

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Christel Oerum

I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as a “Diabetic Diet,” but that we each need to find the best diet for our bodies and mental happiness.

In the search for the diet that’s right for me, I tried the keto diet, and this is what happened.

Why I Decided to Try the Keto Diet

I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes since 1997 and didn’t pay much attention to my diet or followed any specific nutrition regime for the first 17 years. I just ate and adjusted my insulin to my food. And you know what, that worked pretty well for me.

Then in 2014, I started preparing for my first bodybuilding competition and I really had to focus on my diet in a way I never had before. Back then, my coach had me on a high protein, medium/low-carb, and very low-fat diet.

After that experience, I became fascinated with different nutrition approaches and I’ve tried out quite a few diets in the name of research and just plain curiosity.

What is so fascinating about nutrition is that every approach has its die-hard followers and I’m always curious to see if I’ll love it as much as they do.

So, in the name of research, I set out to try the keto diet on my own body.

How I Implemented the Keto Diet

The keto diet restricts the amount of carbohydrates and protein consumed, which means that you primarily rely on fats for your daily energy. The goal is to consume very few carbohydrates (~5% of your daily calorie consumption, or 20-50 grams max), thereby forcing your body to burn fat for fuel.

Fans of the keto diet usually like the approach because it supposedly helps with blood sugar management as well as weight management. And let’s face it, if you’re into bacon and cheese, it sounds very alluring.

Many say that they’ve seen weight loss even though they don’t pay attention to calories, simply because a diet high in fat is very satiating, making them feel full quickly so they eat less.

Based on all of this, I decided to eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day (including veggie carbs/fibers), about 80 grams of protein, and as much fat I needed to feel full without keeping a track of my calorie intake.

My Experience Following the Keto Diet

Christel

Image source: Beyond Type 1

At first, my experience was great. I enjoyed the cheese, nuts, seeds, and avocado that my diet predominantly consisted of.

When it came to my diabetes management, I saw a flatter blood sugar profile with fewer spikes on my Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that I often see when I eat a more carb-heavy diet (which is not surprising since carb are what gets converted into glucose the fastest in the bloodstream).

But my experiment quickly went south. I started to become increasingly insulin resistant after only about a week, which meant that I needed more and more insulin to manage my blood sugars, even though I was eating very few carbs.

I still wasn’t seeing any major spikes in my blood sugars, but since fat slows down the release of glucose into the bloodstream, my blood sugar would continue to slowly creep up. To keep my blood sugars in-range, I had to increase my long-acting insulin significantly while micro-dosing my rapid-acting insulin more often.

The reason for the micro-doses rather than doing larger doses was to adjust my blood sugar without ending up with low blood sugar.

Not only did I become more insulin resistant and had a harder time managing my blood sugars, I also started to have a lot of digestive issues and was gaining weight at an alarming rate.

None of the last two issues are really a surprise.

  1. My digestive issue was most likely related to my diet being low in fibers and volume
  2. And when it comes to my weight gain, fats are very calorie-dense compared to protein and carbs and since I wasn’t monitoring my calorie intake, I was eating too many calories for my needs. I have a healthy appetite and fats alone were just not satiating enough to make me feel full quickly.

After about a month of sticking to the keto diet, I switched back to my moderate/low-carb way of eating. At that point I didn’t feel good, I was constantly bloated, couldn’t fit in my clothes, and my endo was not impressed with how negatively it was impacting my diabetes management.

If you only take one thing away from this post, I hope that it will be this: that you can (and should) try things out, and if they don’t work for you, then “cut your losses.”

It’s Not a Failure, It’s Just an Approach That Doesn’t Work for You

So maybe the keto diet intrigues you, or the Paleo or Vegan diet sounds more appealing. My recommendation would be to research the diet, talk to others who have tried it, assess if it might trigger any unwanted eating patterns, and then try it out if you like.

There are thousands of people with diabetes who follow any of the three diets I mention above with great results so they clearly work for a lot of people – they just don’t work for all people. It may take some experimentation to find the diet that works for you.

If you’re interested in trying the keto diet, you can find a keto meal plan with recipes on Diabetes Strong.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

What to Eat for Better Heart Health

As the famous saying goes, “You are what you eat,” and it is in fact true that our diet is intimately connected to health outcomes. When it comes to something that we have a lot of control over – our diet – why not take the next steps to make it healthier!

This article focuses on research-backed tips for achieving a more “heart-healthy” diet, which is especially important for people with diabetes, since the condition can increase the risk for heart disease.

Choose Unprocessed Foods

Many researchers will agree that population-based nutritional studies can be prone to many limitations. It can be very difficult to draw accurate and consistent conclusions about the specific effects of a single food or food group; instead, it is generally accepted that the overall dietary patterns and combination of specific foods consumed paint a more complete picture. However, most studies do agree on the importance of choosing whole foods over highly processed items.

For instance, ample evidence points to the harmful effects of highly-refined, high-glycemic load carbohydrates (e.g., corn syrup, white bread, most pre-packaged desserts), when it comes to cardiovascular health. The Cleveland Clinic recommends eschewing such carbohydrate sources and instead choosing less processed sources, like whole-grain bread and quinoa, for example.

Similarly, there has been some evidence to suggest that eating processed meats may increase heart disease risk. When possible, choosing unprocessed or minimally processed protein sources is the better choice.

Eating “clean” in this regard can also help you minimize your intake of trans fat, which has been consistently shown to increase heart disease risk.

Incorporate More Plants

Numerous studies point to the heart health benefits of a plant-based diet. Did you know that the vast majority of our pharmaceuticals are derived from plants? It’s no wonder that eating more plants can mitigate disease risk – they are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and numerous other beneficial substances.

Have you ever heard of “eat the rainbow”? Choosing a variety of fiber-rich and colorful vegetables and fruits will help you incorporate a diverse array of heart-healthy nutrients.

Of course, for people with diabetes, the carbohydrate (sugar) content matters, so be mindful and opt for lower-glycemic-impact choices, like leafy green vegetables, zucchini, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and peppers. Consider choosing berries, and high-in-fiber, lower-in-sugar fruits to get the nutrients you need while also keeping the blood sugar level steady.

Photo credit: Foundry (Pixabay)

Don’t Shy Away from Fats

For many decades, it had seemed that dietary fat was public enemy #1 when it came to heart health. In particular, saturated fats and cholesterol (and thus many nutritious foods, like eggs and meat) earned a bad rep.

However, the picture turned out to be much more complicated. Experts explain that there has been a lack of consistency in the available data regarding the effects of saturated fat and cholesterol intake on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Importantly, while some studies showed an association between red meat consumption and CVD, most of these studies were focused on processed meat products (see above).

Photo credit: GerDukes (Pixabay)

What is well-established is that incorporating “healthy-fats” (in particular, omega-3 fatty acids) from sources like fish, avocados, and nuts, appears to have favorable effects on CVD risk. This is a large component of the famous Mediterranean diet, which has been consistently associated with improved cardiovascular health. In contrast, keep trans fat intake at bay (which should be easy enough when mainly eating whole, unprocessed foods).

Choose Water

Besides choosing whole foods (read: no sugar added!), it is equally important to stay smart about beverages. We live in a society that makes it easy and normal to choose sugar-laden drinks (from the orange juice or Macchiato in the morning to the soda at lunch, to the sweetened iced tea with dinner). Choosing to forgo sugar-sweetened beverages is highly recommended for better heart health.

Summary

While many nutrition studies can be inherently messy in their design and interpretations, a few well-accepted notions regarding a heart-healthy diet have consistently emerged. Overall, whole-foods-based, unprocessed meals that are low in sugar and high in omega-3 fatty acids, incorporating a variety of plants, and drinking water or unsweetened beverages, can help reduce CVD risk.

References

Anand SS, Hawkes C, de Souza RJ, et al. (2015) “Food Consumption and its impact on Cardiovascular  Disease: Importance of Solutions focused on the globalized food system.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 66(14): 1590-1614. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4597475/

Cleveland Clinic (2018) “Heart Healthy Diet.” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17079-heart-healthy-diet

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (2020) “Preventing Heart Disease.” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/disease-prevention/cardiovascular-disease/preventing-cvd/

Kim H, Caulfield LE, Garcia-Larsen V, et al. (2019) “Plant-Based Diets Are Associated With a Lower Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, and All-Cause Mortality in a General Population of Middle-Aged Adults.” Journal of the American Heart Association 8(16). https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/JAHA.119.012865

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Six Tips: How to Cut Sugar and Processed Foods from Your Diet

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Frida Velcani

UCSF’s Dr. Robert Lustig explains how we all can reduce our consumption of sugar and processed foods and why it’s important for promoting health

As people spend more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, attitudes and behaviors around food are shifting. While some people may be making healthier and more conscious food choices, others may find themselves responding to stress (prompted by work, health, unemployment, family, or communication challenges) by snacking more often and gravitating toward processed and ultra-processed foods (more on ultra-processed food from the American Heart Association here). Experts are calling what we’re in a “syndemic” – a word coined in the 1990s to mean multiple interrelated epidemics happening at the same time – in this case, COVID-19, under-nutrition, and obesity. The word was popularized most recently in an article in The Lancet. In this article, we focus on the dangers of processed foods and how to cut down on them.

One of the main ingredients in processed foods is sugar – which is shown to cause chronic diseases and inflammation in the body. As background, inflammation occurs when something damages your body’s cells and your immune system releases chemicals that increase blood flow and support to that area. While this response is essential to fighting infections, too much inflammation for a long time (chronic inflammation) can be harmful to our health.

In a compelling recent webinar hosted by the New York Times, University of California San Francisco’s Dr. Robert Lustig discussed the negative health effects of consuming too much processed food and sugar. He cut through the nutritional clutter and described helpful steps that people can take to improve their eating habits and cut unhealthy foods from their diet. While this is easier said than done, there are many benefits to eating less sugar for people with diabetes – you can increase blood glucose stability and improve your time in range.

What makes most processed food unhealthy?

Processed foods often include substances that are not found in typical home-cooked meals – substances such as dyes, artificial flavors, non-sugar sweeteners, and preservatives. Processed foods also lack many of the key nutrients that your body needs, including fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals. For examples of processed foods and a deeper dive into how they can affect the body, read our article.

As Dr. Lustig emphasized, about 90% of the sugar we consume comes from processed foods, and 75% of packaged items in grocery stores are spiked with sugar.

Sugar can be found in many sweeteners: table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, and agave. Consuming excessive amounts of any of these sweeteners can increase your risk of weight gain and chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. While obesity can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing these diseases, Dr. Lustig said that people who do not have overweight or obesity can still be at risk for chronic conditions, particularly if they are eating more processed foods. As if the heightened risk for complications is not bad enough, sugar consumption has also been shown to speed up aging.

Simple (but not necessarily easy) ways to cut down on sugar and processed foods

A fiber-rich diet (consisting of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and nuts) can help reduce inflammation in the body by feeding helpful bacteria in your gut and keeping sugar from being absorbed into your liver. You should aim to eat at least 25 grams of fruits and vegetables per day. If you are looking for some ways to incorporate more fiber-rich foods (and fewer processed foods) into your diet, you can:

  • Shop in the fresh produce section of the grocery store and avoid shelved items if you can – we know this is not always easy with a limited budget for groceries.
    Stat

    Image source: diaTribe

    Read the nutrition facts label with an eye for added sugars, and try to avoid them.

    • There is an “added sugar” line on most labels that will show how much sugar has been added to the food during preparation.
    • If sugar (or one of sugar’s more scientific names such as “fructose,” “glucose,” or any word ending in “-ose”) is listed as one of the first three ingredients, try hard to avoid that food.
  • Include a vegetable with every meal. If you choose fruit, aim for low-carb fruits, like berries.
  • If you choose to try to quit eating sugar and cut out certain foods with sugar completely, it may help to start with eliminating it from a single meal, such as breakfast.
    • Eliminate foods high in sugar, such as cereal and pastries.
    • Try a protein-based breakfast instead of a breakfast high in carbohydrates and sugar.
  • If you’re able, purchase fresh bread from the bakery instead of from the bread aisle – and if you can, aim to limit bread as much as possible..
  • Limit yourself to one alcoholic drink (or fewer) during social events and try to avoid any alcoholic drinks with sugar.

If this article inspires you to ditch the processed foods and to start cooking more at home without sugar at all, check out our 19 low-cost, low-carb recipes from Catherine Newman!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Kitchen Makeover: What to Purge and What to Stock Up On

This content originally appeared on TCOYD: Taking Control of Your Diabetes. Republished with permission.By Dana Palermo If you had to choose the healthiest food option between a product labeled “natural” and another one labeled “healthy”, which would you pick? They both sound good, right? Well you might have to dig a little deeper because there’s actually no […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

How a Vitamin D Deficiency Affects Diabetes

This content originally appeared on Integrated Diabetes Services. Republished with permission. More studies are being done on the implications of vitamin D deficiency in persons with diabetes. As much as pharmacology and medical science are unlocking the impacts of different chemicals on our bodies, the basic vitamins on the side of our Flintstones bottles still […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

How to Get More Brightly Colored Food into Your Diet

This content originally appeared on TCOYD: Taking Control of Your Diabetes. Republished with permission.By Susan Thomas Recently I’ve become known to my clients as the “Vegetable Pitchman Dietitian.” I’ve gotten this name because I advise them to fill half their plates at lunch and supper with non-starchy vegetables. Unfortunately, this advice is not often popular […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

A Ketogenic Diet with Intermittent Fasting

This content originally appeared on Diabetes Stories. Republished with permission.While I’m typing this my right foot is in a surgical shoe. New Year’s Day I broke a bone in my toe and badly bruised my foot. For those who want the gory details: the husband and I were sleeping at my mother’s house and I […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

Eggs: Changing Dietary Advice Through the Decades

This content originally appeared on Wildly Fluctuating. Republished with permission.Recommendations on eggs seem to go from one extreme to the other, or “yo-yo egg advice.” In the 1950s and 1960s, eggs were considered healthy. Adele Davis, a popular health food guru in those days, had a chapter in her book Let’s Cook it Right titled “Serve Eggs […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

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