5 Popular Diets & Their Effects on Type 1 Diabetes

The pursuit of a healthier lifestyle has given rise to a lot of dietary trends. The landscape of popular diets is constantly changing, ranging from adopting a plant-based diet to fasting intermittently. But within this ever-changing reality, a specific group of people faces an especially difficult challenge: those who have type 1 diabetes. 

For people with T1D, every dietary choice becomes crucial, requiring careful consideration of how it will affect insulin requirements and blood glucose stability. 

Navigating through different dietary approaches is a delicate process for those who have diabetes. 

Hoping to shed some light on which diet can be better suited for you as a type 1 diabetic, we’ve gone through 5 popular diets to analyze the pros and cons of each, particularly when it comes to glycemic control.

An essential component of properly managing diabetes is understanding how different diets affect it.  To assess each diet’s impact on type 1 diabetes, it’s essential to understand its basic principles and list of allowed foods. 

1. Keto Diet

The goal of the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet is to consume more healthy fat and fewer carbohydrates to force the body into ketosis, a metabolic state. When ketosis is induced, the body burns fat for energy and not glucose. In this diet, fats make up 70–75% of daily caloric intake.

Foods Allowed and Restricted

  • Allowed: Foods high in fish, eggs, avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Foods low in carbohydrates (like leafy greens, cauliflower, and broccoli), fatty meats and seafood.
  • Restricted: Foods high in carbohydrates, such as grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, legumes, sugars, and the majority of processed foods.

Impact on Glycemic Control & Type 1 Diabetes

  • Blood Sugar Levels: The keto diet, characterized by a significant reduction in carbohydrate intake, may lead to lower blood sugar levels and reduced insulin requirements in people with type 1 diabetes.
  • Insulin Adjustments: People with type 1 diabetes on a keto diet must adjust their insulin dosages to account for the diet’s carbohydrate restriction to prevent hypoglycemia.
  • Ketone Monitoring: Although ketosis is a normal metabolic state, people with type 1 diabetes should routinely check their ketone levels, particularly if they’re on a diet with very few carbohydrates, like the ketogenic diet. 
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2. Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet, also known as the Paleolithic diet, is based on the assumed food habits of our prehistoric ancestors. The fundamental concept is to mimic the kinds of foods that early humans consumed, with an emphasis on complete, unprocessed foods.

Foods Allowed and Restricted

  • Allowed: A wide variety of fruits and vegetables along with lean meats like poultry, fish caught in the wild, and meats fed on grass. Nuts, seeds, avocados and other healthy fats like olive oil.
  • Restrictions: Processed foods and additives, along with grains, legumes, and dairy.

Impacts on Glycemic Control & Type 1 Diabetes

  • Steady Blood Sugar Levels: A balanced Paleo diet that includes protein, good fats, and fruits and vegetables high in fiber can help people with type 1 diabetes achieve stable blood sugar levels.
  • Nutrient Density: Packed with whole foods high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the Paleo diet is high in nutrients and may help with glycemic control as well as general health.
  • Reduction of Inflammation: The emphasis on complete, unprocessed foods is associated with a lower level of inflammation and may help reduce insulin resistance.
  • Increased Intake of Fiber: Including fruits and vegetables increases your intake of fiber, which can help control blood sugar levels.

3. Vegan Diet

A plant-based diet known as a vegan diet forgoes any animal products, such as dairy, eggs, honey, and meat. The main goal is to eat foods derived from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. A vegan diet is based on ethical, environmental, and health-related principles.

Foods Allowed and Restricted

  • Allowed: Vegans eat a wide range of foods made from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes (like beans and lentils), and plant-based oils.
  • Restricted: Dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat.

Impacts on Glycemic Control & Type 1 Diabetes:

  • Increased Insulin Sensitivity: Diets high in plants can increase insulin sensitivity, which makes it easier for the body to use insulin and improves blood sugar regulation.
  • Decreased Inflammation: Eating a vegan diet may help the body’s inflammation levels. Since insulin resistance and chronic inflammation are linked, a vegan diet may improve glycemic control by reducing inflammation.

4. Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet, developed by Dr. Robert Atkins, is a low-carbohydrate diet that emphasizes protein and healthy fats while cutting back on refined carbohydrates and sugar. Its four stages are designed to change the body’s metabolism so that fat reserves are burned for energy instead of carbohydrates.

Foods Allowed and Restricted

  • Allowed: People are advised to eat plenty of fish, poultry, and meat as well as healthy fats like olive oil and butter. Also allowed are low-carb veggies, such as cruciferous and leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and limited fruits, such as berries.
  • Restricted: Sweet potatoes, corn, and peas are examples of high-carb vegetables that should be avoided. There are restrictions on legumes and beans as well as grains and cereals like wheat, rice, and oats. Dairy products, processed and refined foods, and sugars and sweets are all forbidden.

Impacts on Glycemic Control and Type 1 Diabetes

  • Blood Sugar Control: The diet’s focus on foods high in fat and low in carbohydrates helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. Reduced consumption of foods that quickly raise blood sugar levels may help people manage their diabetes more effectively.
  • Increased Insulin Sensitivity: Restricting carbohydrates may increase insulin sensitivity, which would improve the body’s ability to utilize insulin.
  • Weight Loss: Weight loss is one of the main advantages of the Atkins Diet for those who have this as a goal. For those with type 1 diabetes, losing extra weight is essential because it frequently improves glycemic control and insulin sensitivity.

5. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting is a pattern of eating that alternates between times of eating and fasting. The basic concept is to set aside specified times for eating so that the body can go through phases of fasting. There are various ways to practice intermittent fasting. 

Some well-liked ones are the Eat-Stop-Eat strategy, the 16/8 method, the 5:2 diet, and alternate-day fasting.

There are no strict lists of foods that are permitted or prohibited during intermittent fasting. Rather than prescribing what foods to include or avoid, it focuses on when you should eat. However, here are some general guidelines

  • Include: Whole foods such as legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, lean protein sources like chicken, fish, tofu, legumes, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Sip on lots of water, herbal teas, and black coffee.
  • Restrict: Processed foods, added sugar, white bread, and other highly refined carbohydrates.

Impacts on Glycemic Control and Type 1 Diabetes

  • Insulin Sensitivity: By increasing insulin sensitivity, intermittent fasting may facilitate the body’s use of insulin. Those with type 1 diabetes or those at risk for the disease may benefit most from this.
  • Blood Sugar Levels: Varying your fasting intervals can help control blood sugar. The body uses fat and glycogen that has been stored as fuel during fasting periods, which may cause blood glucose levels to drop.

Eating to Maintain Glycemic Control

Although there isn’t a single diet that works for everyone with diabetes, there are some general guidelines that can help choose foods that generally lead to better blood sugar management. 

To achieve this, people with diabetes should focus on:

  • Whole, unprocessed foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Complex carbohydrates with low glycemic index.
  • Lean proteins like fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy. 
  • Healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
  • Foods high in fiber. 

Also, maintaining adequate water intake is crucial to prevent dehydration and lower blood sugar levels.

There’s no One-Size-Fits-All Diet

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the relationship between popular diets and type 1 diabetes. 

It’s critical to recognize your body’s responses to certain foods and diets and understand how different diets impact your blood sugar levels and general health. 

Gluroo can help with that. It’s a free diabetes management app that aside from other features, works as a food log. If you want to try new foods, you can log everything you eat into the app, and if you connect your CGM to Gluroo, you can see how each food affected your BGL both in real-time and in the past.

This, combined with the advice of your endocrinologist or dietician, will ensure you create a dietary plan that’s 100% suited for your individual needs and helps you better control your diabetes.

You can download Gluroo for free today.

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