Diabetes Diet

Why You Need to Cut Your Carbs

More and more of us are beginning to follow a low-carb diet as the American medical establishment is starting to accept the wisdom of this way of managing diabetes. But if you have diabetes, why should you cut your carbs? And anyway, what do we mean when we say  “low-carb?”


A critical review of “Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management,” in the journal Nutrition early this year presented the evidence for its several big benefits:

The Advantages of Eating Low-Carb

1. Such diets reliably reduce high blood glucose, the most salient feature of diabetes.

2. Benefits do not require weight loss although nothing is better for weight reduction.

3. Carbohydrate-restricted diets reduce or eliminate need for medication.

4. There are no side effects comparable with those seen in intensive pharmacologic [drug] treatment.

Because I have followed a low-carb diet without using any diabetes drugs ever since 2007, I have been able to keep my A1C level below 5.7 on a continual basis. I also lost weight this way and have kept my body mass index, or BMI, below 20.0 since 2008. I know from my own experience that the big benefits of eating little carbohydrates works.

How Low Is Low?

The advantages of a low-carb diet now seem to be beyond dispute. But the definition of the term low-carb itself remains somewhat unclear.

The official position statement of the American Diabetes Association in its most recent “Nutrition Therapy Recommendations” states this problem well:

“There is no consistent definition of ‘low’ carbohydrate.” It adds that definitions in research studies range from 21 to 70 grams of carbohydrate per day for a “very low-carbohydrate” to a total diet of 30 to 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates for a moderately low-carbohydrate diet.

My Very Low-carb Diet

The more recent study in Nutrition defines a low-carbohydrate diet as one that has fewer than 130 grams of carbohydrate per day or less than 26 percent of total energy. But the leading advocate for a low-carbohydrate diabetes diet to help us achieve a normal blood sugar level doesn’t appear to have offered a definition in the fourth edition of his key work, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, at least with my search of my Kindle edition of the book.

Dr. Richard K. Bernstein has prescribed a very low-carb diet to thousands of his patients with diabetes since he opened his practice in 1983. He has diabetes himself and has followed a very low-carb diet since 1970 when he became the first diabetes patient to use a blood glucose meter. Dr. Bernstein encourages his patients to set carbohydrate limits for each meal of no more than 6 grams for breakfast, 12 grams for lunch, and 12 grams for dinner. This is a total of 30 grams of carbohydrate per day. This is certainly a very low-carb diet and one that I usually follow myself.

Eat to Your Meter

But whatever you call a low-carb or very low-carb diet, the key to diabetes management is this definition that “Calgary Diabetic” offers: “the amount of carbs per day that you can safely eat and maintain your blood sugar in the normal range at all times.” When you have diabetes, you need to “eat to your meter.”

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Michael at

    Recently I received an IV with lots of vitamin C (w/o glucose) to help shake a nasty cold. It definitely helped. However, I have type I diabetes so I had to inject about 4 units of Humalog at the start because of the spike in blood glucose caused by vitamin C itself.

  • ana at

    Have you seen the latest info on whey?
    I’m curious what you think about it, especially in relation to low-carbing. US Wellness blog (the meat people) had an interesting study about it.

  • Valerie at

    Yes, I remember the article. That’s why I’m asking the question. Are you able to eat more carbs if they come from chana dal than if they come from other sources?

    • David Mendosa at

      Yes, Valerie. The same amount of chana dal will raise our blood sugar much less than the that amount of anything else that has that amount of carbs.

  • Valerie at

    What about chana dhal?
    How much can you eat without getting high BS?

    • David Mendosa at

      By coincidence, I just ate some chana dal for my dinner this evening, Valerie! Did you read my article about chana dal here?