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There’s a few things you should know.
1. Practically all carbs turn to glucose once ingested, so not just straight sugars, but starches too. Food doesn’t have to taste sweet to make your blood sugars skyrocket.
2. A meter helps you know what foods agree with you, and which don’t. Test before and 2 hours after the first bite. If you go up more than 2.0 mmol/l, the meal was carbier than you could handle. (It’s easy to remember, as you’re a T2: all 2’s, all over the place!)
3. In case you didn’t know already, this isn’t your fault. It’s genetics, medication, decades of bad dietary advice, and basically all manner of things, but nothing you can actually blame yourself for.
4. Diabetes T2 is a progressive condition, unless you (also) change your diet. So you have options. Diet-only, diet with medication, or medication only. But that last option will most likely mean more medication over the years. (And there is more than just metformin, so if it doesn’t agree with you, there’s lots of others to try). So even if going really low carb isn’t for you, you might consider moderately low carb an option, with meds to assist.
5. Are you overweight? 90% of T2’s are. Yeah, that means 10% are slim and always were.* If you did gain weight, it was the precursor of this metabolic condition. We make loads of insulin, but become insensitive to it. So carbs we eat turn to glucose, and normally, insulin helps us burn that glucose for fuel. When it doesn’t, that glucose is stored in fat cells instead. When those fat stores are full, the glucose remains in our bloodstream, overflowing, into our eyes, tears, urine, saliva… And then we’re T2’s. So weight gain is a symptom, not a cause. This also means that “regular” dietary advice doesn’t work for us. The problem lies in our inability to process carbs. And most diets focus on lowering fats and upping carb intake. Which is the direct opposite of what a T2, or prediabetic, for that matter, needs.
6. There are 3 macro-nutrients. Fats, protein and carbohydrates. Those macro’s mean we get the micro-nutrients we need: that would be vitamins and minerals. So… If you ditch the carbs, you should up another macro-nutrient to compensate, to make sure you don’t get malnourished or vitamin deficient. Carbs make our blood sugars rise. Protein too, but nowhere near as bad as carbs do, so they’re alright in moderation. Fats however… Fats are as good as a glucose-flatline. Better yet, they’ll mitigate the effects of any carbs we do ingest, slowing down their uptake and thus the sugar-spike. Contrary to what we’ve been told for decades; fats are our friends.
7. Worried about cholesterol? On a low carb diet, your cholesterol may rise a little as you start to lose weight. That’s a good thing though. (Believe it or not). What was already there, stored in your body, is starting to head for the exit, and for that it’ll go into your bloodstream first. So when you have lost weight and it stabilises, so will your cholesterol. And it’ll probably be lower than what it was before you started out.
8. You’ll lose weight on a low carb diet. Weight loss will help with your insulin-resistance, and not only that… Going low carb might help with other issues as well, like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and depression.
9. Always ask for your test results. You don’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been.
10. Last, but certainly not least: If you are on medication that has hypoglycemia listed as a side-effect, like Gliclazide for instance, do NOT attempt a LCHF diet without a meter nor your doctors’ knowledge/assistance. You can drop blood glucose levels too far, too fast, if your dosage isn’t adjusted accordingly. This could mean a lower dose in stages or even stopping medication completely. Never do this without discussing it with your doctor first!
So what raises blood sugars? Aside from the obvious (sugar), starches raise blood glucose too. So bread, and anything made with grain/oats flour, rice, potatoes, pasta, corn, cereals (including all the “healthy choices”, like Weetabix and muesli), most beans and most fruits. So you’ll want to limit your intake, or scratch them altogether.
Which food items remain on the shopping list? Well, meat, fish, poultry, above ground veggies/leafy greens, eggs, cheese, heavy cream, full fat Greek yoghurt, full fat milk, extra dark chocolate (85% Lindt’s is great!), avocado, (whole) tomatoes, berries, olives, nuts, that sort of thing… Meal ideas? Have a couple:
Scrambled eggs with bacon, cheese, mushrooms, tomato, maybe some high meat content sausages?
Eggs with ham, bacon and cheese
Omelet with spinach and/or smoked salmon
Omelet with cream, cinnamon, with some berries and coconut shavings
Full fat Greek yoghurt with nuts and berries
Leafy green salad with a can of tuna (oil, not brine!), mayonnaise, capers, olives and avocado
Leafy green salad with (warmed goat's) cheese and bacon, maybe a nice vinaigrette?
Meat, fish or poultry with veggies. I usually go for cauliflower rice or broccoli rice, with cheese and bacon to bulk it up. Never the same meal twice in a row because of various herbs/spices.
Snacks? Pork scratchings, cheese, olives, extra dark chocolate, nuts.
Of course, there’s loads more on the web, for people more adventurous than I. (Which is pretty much everyone). Just google whatever you want to make and add “keto” to it, and you’ll get a low carb version. There’s a lot of recipes on the diabetes.co.uk website, as well as on www.dietdoctor.com where you’ll also find visual (carb content) guides and videos. And I can wholeheartedly endorse Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Diabetes Code. It’ll help you understand what’s going on in your body and how to tackle it, whilst not being a dry read. Not only that, but you’ll know what to ask your doctor, and you’ll understand the answers, which is, I believe, quite convenient.
*If you can't afford to lose weight, do NOT go for Intermittent Fasting/One Meal A Day. Sticking with three meals a day, 3 snacks a day, all low carb, high fat, moderate protein, should keep your weight up to par while keeping your bloodsugars in check.