Do People with Diabetes Have to Follow a Low-Carb Diet?

Complex carbohydrates are okay for a person with diabetes.
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A person with diabetes may not be required to follow a low-carbohydrate. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, diabetic research hasn't supported any combination of carbs, fat, and protein to be any better than what's recommended for a regular healthy diet. What's more important is choosing healthful sources of complex carbohydrates, keeping your daily carbohydrate intake consistent, and losing weight if you're overweight or obese.

Carbohydrates include sugars and starches and together they make up one group of macronutrients; the other two are protein and fat. When you consume carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks them down into individual sugar units that are absorbed into your blood. This triggers the release of insulin, a protein that helps move glucose out of the blood and into your body's cells so they can be used for energy, stored for a while, or converted to fat when you eat more food than your body needs.

You need to consume carbohydrates every day because they're your body's primary energy source. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020 recommend you get about half of your daily calories from carbohydrate sources, this includes people with diabetes. Which translates to roughly 250 to 300 grams of carbohydrates every day, but it depends on your size, sex, and how active you are.

People with Diabetes don't produce enough insulin to control blood sugar level, so many people believe they need to follow a low-carb diet. Low-carb eating plans usually call for a carbohydrate intake of fewer than 150 grams per day, sometimes a lot less than 150. Some people feel that being on a low-carb diet helps them lose weight, which certainly does help diabetes, but weight the weight loss comes from consuming fewer calories while they're on the diet.

If you're interested in following a low-carb diet, our Low-Carb Dieting Expert can get you started. But speak to your health care provider and a diabetes educator or a dietitian or nutritionist who specializes in medical nutrition therapy for diabetes before making any dietary changes.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "ADA Diabetes Type 1 and 2 Evidence-based Nutrition Practice Guideline for Adults." 

American Diabetes Association. "What Can I Eat?" 

United States Department of Agriculture and United Stated Department of Health and Human Services. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020."

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