You may have seen that a wrote an article for JDRF recently on the importance of exercise and the benefits it can have on our diabetes management as well as a whole host of other upsides.
This article was published on the JDRF UK Facebook page and received a very good response for which I am very grateful for – being given the opportunity to produce content for a charitable organisation like JDRF is something I am very proud to be asked to do and receiving positive feedback is incredibly humbling. I’ll link it at the bottom of this post.
There was a comment left on the Facebook post that got me thinking however. It was left by someone who made the claim that ALL carbohydrates are bad and that she couldn’t understand why Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics go near carbohydrates or sugars at all.
This got me thinking.
Carbohydrates have undergone a bit of a bashing in the last few years. It’s very “in” right now to be low-carb but a lot of why people choose to adopt this diet approach is often for the wrong reasons.
Now I’m going to try and produce this post from the view point of a diabetic because a lot of my readers are exactly that. However, the advice can be applied to both diabetics and those with a perfectly functioning pancreas (you lucky lucky people).
The majority of carbs are not
Well good carbohydrate sources such as vegetables, potatoes, some breads, whole grains, pulses and beans are loaded with the vitamins we need as human beings in order to have a good micro-nutrient intake.
They are also incredibly important to keep your thyroid, heart and digestive system regulating properly as well as exercise performance, especially when you need a short, sharp burst of energy.
If fact – they can be an incredibly useful macronutrient. As well as being a very delicious one.
So Why We See So Much Promotion of Low-Carb Diets?
The reason why many people find success with losing weight by adopting a low-carb diet is because they’ve (in some cases dramatically) reduced their overall calories intake. This is seen in both diabetics and the general population. Carbs are easy to leave out as they’re not an “essential” food source (like protein and fats) for us to survive however this does not mean they should be just removed from our diet.
When it comes to nutrition and losing weight it can be broken down into one incredibly simple fact.
If you are burning more calories than you are taking in – in the majority of cases – it is very, very likely that you will lose weight.
Simple thermodynamics really. If energy out is greater than energy in the body will use its own fuel sources. Sustain this over a period of time and you’ll lose weight.
Therefore, if you are tracking your calorie intake and are aware of how many calories you use throughout the day an overall reduction of protein, carbs & fats slightly below maintenance levels will see a body weight decrease.
Carbs & Blood Glucose Management – What Do I Do?
I completely understand why carbs are seen as a bit of a nightmare for diabetics. Managing glucose levels usually comes down to the level of sugars from complex or simple carbohydrate sources you have eaten.
What I have found is that using app tracking tools like MyFitnessPal or the fantastic Cook&Count makes things a lot easier. You can precisely tell the amount of carbohydrates that you are consuming and therefore adjust the amount of insulin required so you’re not high or low.
Now I’m not for one second that it’s as easy as that. This adjustment takes time and effort and a level of understanding of what you are eating above what most of the general public know. However, it isn’t as difficult as you might think. You can simply scan a barcode on your phone using (for example) MyFitnessPal and it’ll usually have the macronutrient profile stored already.
From there you can learn to adjust your insulin injections to suit and be able to include the carb sources you want and enjoy.
It does take time and a little bit of effort but you soon get the hang of it.
Obviously you can’t just gorge on cakes and sweets all day – but the carb sources mentioned previously with a treat thrown in for good measure should stand you in good stead.
I hope this has helped just explain why you don’t need to eliminate this food group from your daily nutrition (unless you have a diagnosed allergy from certain grains or carb sources).
It’s worth mentioning that you should always discuss your diet choices with your registered dietitian which should be part of your diabetic team.
Until next time.
Oh and here’s that link to the JDRF UK article.