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Do You Have Diabetes? Buyer Beware: The Low-Carb Diet is Back Again

By Donna Moodie, RD CDN CDE

Recent newspaper headlines and cable news networks have stories about some of the newest trends in dieting, and the low-carb diet is back. There are many claims made about the low-carb diet curing or reversing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. It advocates eating very small amounts of carbohydrate each day, and appears to demonize healthy foods such as beans and whole grains.

Some studies have shown that this diet can cause weight loss, and lower cholesterol and blood sugar. The low-carb diet advocates eating large amounts of proteins and unhealthy fats, however, which potentially can strain the kidneys and promote heart disease.

In reality, carbohydrates are not to blame for the obesity epidemic and increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes, pre-diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease in this country. Rather, it is the type of carbohydrate and the types of foods which are eaten, combined with sedentary behavior, that cause these problems. People are consuming too much juice, soda, fast food, processed food, fried food, chips, and sweets, and are not moving and exercising enough. Children and adults are looking at screens all day, and only interacting on phones and computers. People watch TV and movies when taking a break, rather than taking a walk. These are the real problems we need to address. We need to move more, interact with others, and choose healthy carbohydrates like beans, sweet potatoes, quinoa, lentils, whole wheat, and fresh fruit. These foods provide many vitamins and minerals, and are also a good source of fiber. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy!

According to the “Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes: 2018” by the American Diabetes Association: “the role of a low-carbohydrate diet is unclear……., improvements tend to be in the short term and, over time, these effects are not maintained.” So, don’t give up healthy carbs, and try to include a small amount of food like lentils, beans, sweet potato, quinoa, etc., in each meal. You can work with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to determine the correct portion size, but a good place to start is to fill up ¼ of your plate with a healthy carbohydrate. This type of carbohydrate breaks down more slowly in the body compared to a refined carbohydrate such as white bread or juice, and causes blood sugar to more slowly rise. It gives your body the energy it needs with an extra nutritional bonus of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

This article was not meant to take the place of medical advice, talk to your doctor before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle and avoid all foods you are allergic to.

Donna Moodie is a Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at dm258@cornell.edu

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