Does Keto Work with Diabetes?
If you have diabetes, you’re likely looking for diet options that are healthy, and can help keep your blood sugar levels in line.
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People choose a diet for a particular reason. Sometimes it’s for a weight loss goal, and other times, it’s to accommodate a health condition. If you have type 2 diabetes, you are likely looking for ways to get your blood sugar under control without having to rely on medication, or having regular insulin shots. Many diabetics turn to diets, like keto, to help manage their blood sugar. You may be wondering, “does keto really work with diabetes?”
Note: I am not a medical professional, and this answer is solely provided as a personal experience related to this question. Always seek medical advice from a qualified medical professional that is familiar with your particular health history.
I was diagnosed with diabetes in April of 2019. My A1C was over 13. To put that into context, check out this chart by Medical News Today. I was quite literally off the charts.
After the shock wore off, and began my new regiment of medication and insulin to start getting my numbers down. I also knew I needed to drastically change my eating habits. My enjoyment of sweets is well documented. I enjoyed drinking soda. My diet was terrible.
The problem with most diets is that I don’t find the food appealing. I have a hard enough time finding food that I like, and I didn’t want to go with a route I knew wouldn’t be sustainable. My wife discovered the keto diet.
The difference with keto for me was that I could still eat a lot of foods I enjoy, and there are a lot of recipes and resources available to find alternative ingredients to make things I like as low in carbohydrates. This seemed like the answer. I could have healthier food, and it didn’t have to taste terrible.
There is a perception of keto where some people think it’s just about eating bacon wrapped steak, and having lard infused vegetables. That is not accurate. Yes, you can eat meat, but like every well balanced diet, keep in proper proportion.
For me, the main thing I paid attention to was that I allowed myself 20 net carbs per day. Normally, I enjoy pizza, pasta, bread, and all the carbs. This was a huge change for me. Fortunately, I was able to find things that I could use as a suitable replacement, and still get the satisfaction of having my favorite foods. Instead of getting delivery from the local pizza place, I get Quest pizza, which is 6 net carbs for half a pizza. For bread, I switched to Sola, which has 2 net carbs per slice.
The adjustments weren’t always easy. I still can’t stand drinking almond milk instead of cow’s milk. Some things just can’t be substituted properly. There are definitely sacrifices, but after a while, certain things that were once, “must haves,” disappear from your mind, and you find other things equally as enjoyable in your mind. At the same time, you’re enjoying the health benefits of reducing carbohydrates, and by association, sugar.
Not long after I received my diabetes diagnosis, I started on a regimen of medication and insulin. I had a personal goal that I did not want to stay on medication and insulin. My stomach had adverse effects from the medication, and I get no pleasure in stabbing myself with a needle everyday.
I dove into the keto diet head first. It was an immediate change, and I did not cheat it. I first noticed weight was coming off me rather easily. Another effect of my diabetes was that I developed some neuropathy in my feet. The drastic change in sugar intake did throw my body for a loop, and my feet were in more pain than ever for a while.
Progress With Keto
The progress I saw was that when I checked my blood sugar levels, I was consistently seeing gradual decreases. At first, I was in the 150’s, then 130’s, then 120’s, and finally settled in a typical range between 100-110. All this while having regular check-ups with my endocrinologist, and reducing my insulin and medication intake. The whole purpose of going through the diet change, and enduring the increased pain in my feet was to get the blood sugar under control, and it was happening.
Fast forward to 9 months after my initial diagnosis, and I had received the best news I could have had at that point. My endocrinologist said I can stop the medication. I had already stopped taking insulin 3 months prior. I was officially off all medication to control my diabetes, and it’s considered, “controlled by diet.” My A1C was 5.6, and I had a doctor that was actually proud of me for the progress I made, and said that it was remarkable that I was able to achieve something like that, let alone in only 9 months.
Results with Keto
The keto diet works for me, and controlling my diabetes. It likely doesn’t work for everyone in the same way it did for me. The basic premise of eliminating sugar, and minimizing carbohydrates plays into the wheelhouse of what type 2 diabetics need to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, so it shouldn’t hurt.
When I started the keto diet, I weighed about 200 pounds, and was off the charts with my blood sugar. At the nine month mark, I had lost 40 pounds, and my blood sugar was under control with diet only. The weight loss wasn’t a part of why I chose the diet, it just naturally happened with the different eating habits. I had never had a BMI that was considered in the “healthy” range prior to that.
To this day, I still enjoy following the keto diet. One of the benefits of “trendy” or “fad” diets is that many companies develop products for it. There have been a great number of additions to the market of products that follow keto, which makes it easier to follow. Plus, many restaurants offer keto or low-carb menus, too. It doesn’t feel restricting because I can still enjoy many foods, and tasty desserts that are sugar free, and low in carbs. That is why this diet works for me, where others failed rather rapidly.
Short for ketogenic, this particular diet focuses on consuming a low amount of carbohydrates, and higher amounts of fat. It is meant to shift the body from relying on carbohydrates for energy to fat and ketones. The standard keto diet follows a model of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrates. Though the keto diet has gained tremendous popularity in recent years, it has a history dating back to the 1920’s, initially as a treatment to help patients with epilepsy.
Diabetes is a health condition in which a person’s blood sugar is too high. This results in a person’s natural inability to create insulin (type 1), or doesn’t use insulin well (type 2). If left unmanaged, diabetes can lead to serious health problems, and death. For more information, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases is an excellent resource.
Yes, you can drink coffee on a keto diet. However, you have to watch what kind of sweetener you use so that it doesn’t add carbohydrates. If you normally take milk or creamer, substituting with heavy cream, or an alternative milk, such as almond milk, also is a requirement.
With the standard breakdown of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrates, this equates to 20-50 carbs per day.
Depending on your health needs and reasons for starting the diet, it may be best to consult a nutritionist, or a healthcare professional that is familiar with your personal history. For general purposes of starting, this is a good guide.