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Is Keto Diet Good for Diabetics?

The keto diet, short for the ketogenic diet, is a widely known way to lose weight. It consists of eating foods that focus on getting more calories from fat rather than from carbohydrates.

It emphasises eating healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein, and very minimal amounts of carbohydrates. Recently, it has been getting noticed for its benefits for controlling Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a severe public health problem with a growing prevalence and approximately 537 million diabetic adults worldwide. It is considered one of the significant contributors to morbidity and mortality due to a higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetic neuropathy. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to treat and manage diabetes.

One of the ways is by following a keto diet and an active lifestyle. There is growing evidence suggesting that it might help control diabetes because it allows the body to maintain glucose levels at a low level and prevents a rise in blood sugar levels.

How Does the Keto Diet Work for Diabetes?

The primary energy source for the body is carbohydrates. When your carb intake is deficient and there is no glucose availability, the body goes through a metabolic state called ketosis and starts to break down fats for energy instead.

When fats are broken down in the absence of carbohydrates, a product known as ketone bodies are formed. In this state, the body uses ketone bodies for energy instead of glucose until you start eating carbohydrates again.

The keto diet provides additional benefits such as:

Lowering blood pressureImproving insulin sensitivityReducing dependency on medicationImproving levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol, without adding to low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.

Indian diets are rich in carbohydrates, the primary energy source for many bodily processes. When you consume carbohydrates, it breaks down into sugars in the digestive system, entering your bloodstream.

The higher the sugar content in your bloodstream, the more insulin you need. Insulin plays a role in using the sugars for energy or energy storage. However, in a diabetic person, insulin is absent or does not function properly, which disrupts the body’s ability to use carbohydrates as energy effectively.

As a result, it leads to an increase in blood sugar levels which can be detrimental. So, if a person eats a high carbohydrate diet, it leads to a spike in blood glucose. Thus, a lower intake of carbohydrates in the diet can help eliminate large spikes in blood sugar, reducing the need for insulin.

Best Keto Diet Foods for Diabetes

The keto diet aims to consume a balance of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre, and the proper amount of calories and healthy fats. Here’s what you can eat if you have Type 2 Diabetes and are on the keto diet:

Low Carb Vegetables

Having low-carb vegetables over starchy ones reduces your carbohydrate intake and puts you into a state of ketosis. A study concluded that eating non-starchy vegetables at every meal is best.

Examples of low carb veggies include cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and bell peppers.

The nutritional values of some low-carb vegetables per 100 g of serving are:

Cauliflower

Energy: 25 kcalCarbohydrate: 4.9 gProtein: 1.9 gTotal fat: 0.2 gTotal dietary fibre: 2 g

Zucchini

Energy: 18 kcalCarbohydrate: 3.1 gProtein: 1.2 gTotal fat: 0.3 gTotal dietary fibre: 1 g

Low Carb Proteins

Limiting your carb intake is the first concern on a keto diet. However, you cannot neglect the importance of protein intake. Protein plays an essential role in the optimal functioning of organs, preventing unnecessary muscle loss and repairing and building body tissues. 

Consuming too much protein may lead to an increase in a process called gluconeogenesis and throw you out of ketosis. Gluconeogenesis is the metabolic process wherein your liver and kidneys make glucose from non-carb sources such as protein to meet the energy needs.

Studies confirm that you should keep your protein intake moderate and less than 1g per kg of body weight; that is, only 10-20% of your calories should come from protein.

To fulfil your protein requirements, foods you can eat are:

Whole Eggs

Eggs are a staple in a keto diet. They are low in carbohydrates and are an excellent source of protein. Egg whites are low in calories, high in protein and good sources of minerals such as riboflavin, selenium and potassium. 

On the other hand, egg yolks contain healthy fats, good cholesterol, protein, iron, and other minerals. In addition, eggs are easy to cook with and can be used in a wide range of dishes. However, you should consume one tablespoon of healthy fats equal to each egg. 

The nutritional value of one whole egg is:

Energy: 63 kcalCarbohydrate: 0.3 gProtein: 5.5gTotal fat: 4.1gTotal dietary fibre: 0 g

Meats

Meat like chicken breasts and steaks are high in protein content that help in achieving ketosis. Even though keto is a low-carb, high-fat diet, it doesn’t mean you should be eating an excess of meat.

The nutritional values of some meats per 100 g of serving are:

Chicken Breast

Energy: 143 kcalCarbohydrate: 2.6 gProtein: 24 gTotal fat: 3.1 gTotal dietary fibre: 0 g

Fish

Fish is an ideal option to include in a keto diet since it is naturally high in protein and free of carbohydrates. Moreover, it contains healthy omega-3 They are also high in vitamin B, selenium and potassium. Examples include anchovies, salmon, tuna, halibut, herring, and sardines. 

The nutritional contents of some fish per 100 g of serving are:

Mackerel

Energy: 205 kcalCarbohydrate: 0 gProtein: 18.6 gTotal fat: 13.9 gTotal dietary fibre: 0 g

Sardine

Energy: 208 kcalCarbohydrate: 0 gProtein: 24.6 gTotal fat: 11.4 gTotal dietary fibre: 0 g

Tofu

Tofu is made from soybeans. While soybeans themselves are not suggested on a keto diet, tofu works well since it is relatively low in carbs and high in protein. Tofu does contain estrogen-like nutrients, which can affect hormone levels over time if consumed in very large amounts. Therefore, it can be keto-friendly if you’re careful about how much you consume.

The nutritional contents of tofu per 100 g of serving are:

Energy: 94 kcalCarbohydrate: 2.3 gProtein: 9.4 gTotal fat: 5.3 gTotal dietary fibre: 2.4 g

Dairy Products

You can have dairy in your keto diet as it has minimal carbohydrates and is without added sugar. However, synthesised dairy products like ice cream or flavoured yoghurts may disturb your ketosis since they contain a high amount of carbs or have an abundance of added sugar. 

Dairy contains fat that takes longer to digest and helps us stay full for a long time. Moreover, it offers nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. 

Dairy products you can eat are butter, cheese, paneer, ghee. Ensure you are choosing healthier versions of these as often as possible, like paneer, low sodium cheese and home made ghee.

The nutritional values of some dairy products per 100 g of serving are:

Paneer

Energy: 321 kcalCarbohydrate: 3.5 gProtein: 21.4 gTotal fat: 25 gTotal dietary fibre: 0 g

Butter

Energy: 717 kcalCarbohydrate: 0.0 gProtein: 0.8 gTotal fat: 81 gTotal dietary fibre: 0 g

Healthy Fats

A high percentage of calories in a keto diet comes from fats which shift your body into ketosis. However, it is essential to include primarily healthy fats as some fat types bring health risks. Sources of healthy fats include fatty fish, nuts and seeds along with  nut butters and avocado.

In addition, you must avoid unhealthy fats such as bacon, sausage, red meat, and fried cheeses. Prioritise monounsaturated fats (like the examples mentioned above) and cook foods in coconut oil, homemade ghee or for quick saute olive oil that support a keto diet without excessive health risk. 

Let’s have a better look at the sources of healthy fats.

Avocados

Avocados are a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, making them a perfect addition to a keto diet. In addition, they offer fibre, which enhances digestive health. Moreover, they are a great source of potassium, folate and vitamins C, E, K, and B6. 

The nutritional contents of avocado per 100 g of serving are:

Energy: 160 kcalCarbohydrate: 8.5 gProtein: 2 gTotal fat: 14.7 gTotal dietary fibre: 6.8 g

Nuts and Nut Butters

Nuts are one of the richest sources of healthy fats, making them ideal for a keto diet. Furthermore, the fibre present in the nuts may provide anti-diabetic properties. You can consume them as a go-to snack or as nut butter. Stick to nuts like walnuts and almonds which are lower in carbs and avoid nuts like cashews, chestnuts and pistachios which are too high in carbohydrates for the keto diet. they can be consumed in a variety of ways, like just a fistful of mixed nuts at tea time or roughly chopped on your oats porridge in the morning, but do watch out for how much you consume, only 1 fistful is your daily quota! 

The nutritional contents of some nuts per 100 g of serving are:

Walnuts

Energy: 654 kcalCarbohydrate: 13.7 gProtein: 15.2 gTotal fat: 65.5 gTotal dietary fibre: 6.7 g

Almonds

Energy: 579 kcalCarbohydrate: 20 gProtein: 29.3 gTotal fat: 50 gTotal dietary fibre: 21.6 g

Seeds 

Seeds are another source of healthy fats that make an excellent addition to your keto diet. They provide low to moderate carbohydrates. In addition, they are high in fibre, which does not disrupt ketosis. Fibre isn’t digested and absorbed in your small intestine, thereby not increasing blood sugar. Seeds will also help you lose weight without having to starve yourself. 

The nutritional contents of some nuts per 100 g of serving are:

Sunflower Seeds

Energy: 283 kcalCarbohydrate: 10 gProtein: 11.6 gTotal fat: 25 gTotal dietary fibre: 5 g

Sesame Seeds

Energy: 573 kcalCarbohydrate: 22 gProtein: 17.7 gTotal fat: 49.7 gTotal dietary fibre: 11.8 g

Low Carb Fruits

Fruits generally need to be consumed sparingly in a keto diet. They that are low in carbs and have a low glycemic index can be consumed keeping in mind that they need to be eaten in the right quantities.

Fruits such as avocados, strawberries, and watermelon are good sources of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are okay to have in a keto diet if consumed in the correct quantity.

The nutritional contents of some fruits per 100 g of serving are:

Watermelon

Energy: 30 kcalCarbohydrate: 7.5 gProtein: 0.6 gTotal fat: 0.1 gTotal dietary fibre: 0.4 g

Strawberries

Energy: 32 kcalCarbohydrate: 7.6 gProtein: 0.6 gTotal fat: 0.3 gTotal dietary fibre: 2 g

Foods to Avoid on Keto Diet for Diabetes

Now that we’ve seen all the foods okay to consume, let’s have a look at what needs to be avoided so as to keep your body in ketosis.

Starchy Vegetables and Fruits 

Starchy vegetables contain more digestible carbohydrates than fibre, increasing blood sugar levels. These include potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets.

In addition, high-sugar fruits like bananas, mangoes and chikoos can spike your blood sugar more quickly as they have a higher percentage of carbohydrates.

Baked Goods

Pastries, doughnuts, and cakes have high sugar content, leading to high blood sugar levels. Moreover, they include butter, which makes them high in saturated fat and cholesterol which then also leads to the increased risk for coronary heart diseases. 

Legumes

Although legumes are rich in nutrients such as iron, potassium, and zinc, they contain a lot of carbs which make them harmful to the ketogenic diet. 

Refined Grains

Refined grains are stripped of all nutrients and contain meagre fibre. They have a high glycemic index and hence digest quickly. It causes unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels and a build-up of fats, especially around the waistline.

The keto diet completely avoids white bread, white pasta, pizza dough, white flour, white rice, and breakfast cereals. Hence, you can opt for alternatives such as spiralised vegetables, spaghetti squash and zoodles.

Keto Diet Meals for Diabetes

Non Vegetarian Options:

Breakfast:

Spinach scrambled eggs with raspberriesOmelettes made with coconut oilScrambled eggs with oil and cheeseCheese omelette with smoked baconBoiled eggs with avocado Mushroom omeletteBreakfast salad with boiled eggs

Mid-Morning Snack:

ButtermilkPumpkin seedsBoiled eggs Strawberry smoothie

Lunch:

Chicken malai tikkaGoan fish curryMashed cauliflower in mayonnaise with mutton seekh kebabBasil chicken Egg stuffed avocadoMutton meatballsBaked chicken with cheese

Evening Snack:

Bullet coffee without sugarBlueberriesGreen Tea with almonds

Dinner:

Chicken saladMutton seekh kebab with mint chutneyCreamy fish soupAvocado and egg saladVegetable egg bhurjiZucchini “noodles” Tandoori chicken with pudina chutney 

Vegetarian Options:

Breakfast:

Cauliflower upmaStrawberry smoothiePaneer bhurjiVegetable cheese sandwichPumpkin French toastGinger smoothieKeto pancakes with berriesChia seed pudding

Mid-Morning Snack:

Lemon water with pumpkin seedsWatermelonJeera water with walnuts

Lunch:

Paneer TikkaCauliflower “Mac” and cheeseSpicy grilled eggplantGinger paneer with almond flour rotiSpinach, mushrooms and capsicum stir-fried in olive oilEggplant and mushroom soupPaneer stuffed capsicums Quinoa khichdi with a green salad

Evening Snack:

Black tea Pumpkin seedsBullet coffee without sugarCarrots

Dinner:

Cauliflower zucchini fried riceGrilled mushroom saladBroccoli soupKeto kabab roll with garlic sauceMalai paneer tikkaTomato soup with a green saladBroccoli and mushroom stir fry with cheese

Vegan Meals:

Breakfast:

Tofu bhurji with olive oilGreen smoothieCauliflower pohaLauki juiceRava idli with coconut chutneyKeto porridge with full-fat coconut milk and ground flaxseedsTofu scramble with vegan cheese and avocado

Mid-Morning Snack:

Lemon barley waterSoaked almonds Carrot sticks 

Lunch:

Mixed veggies with tofuSpinach and mushroom soupRoasted eggplant vegan lasagnaKeto zucchini bread with scrambled tofuBroccoli, carrots and green peas sabziCauliflower rice stir-fry with tofu.Grilled tofu with toasted sesame seeds

Evening Snack:

Cucumber slicesStrawberriesMethi seed water 

Dinner:

Spinach and bottle gourd soupStir-fried vegetables with tofu Coconut and cauliflower soupZucchini noodles with mushroomsVegan eggplant lasagnaCrispy tofu with a green saladVegetable and tofu salad 

Possible Health Risks on Keto Diet for Diabetes

While the keto diet has numerous health benefits, it is not magic or a miracle to cure diabetes. According to a recent study, one of the challenges of keto diets is that they support a lower vegetable, fruit and grain intake with an increased intake of fat which can be detrimental. 

Some short-term side effects of keto, such as the “keto flu,” occur when your body adjusts to the diet.

It involves fatigue, constipation, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, headaches and nausea. However, you can prevent these symptoms by adequate hydration and electrolyte intake. Other possible health risks include nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, low blood pressure, kidney disease, and high cholesterol.

Who Should Avoid The Keto Diet?

People with kidney diseases: The keto diet is relatively high in protein which may cause kidney stones. In addition, it may worsen kidney disease in those suffering from it. Because the kidneys’ function is to filter out toxins from the blood and consume too many proteins, it’s just harder on the kidney. This is why controlling protein intake is essential.  People with Type1 diabetes: Ketones, produced by the body during ketosis, are a risk factor for diabetic ketoacidosis, which is more common in people with type 1 diabetes than people with type 2 diabetes. People With a history of heart disease: You should be cautious about the keto diet if you have a history of heart disease. It is because cholesterol levels spike during the initial stages of the diet, further increasing its risk. Women trying to conceive: The keto diet is particularly harmful to pregnant women or trying to get pregnant. On a keto diet, you’re not eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, which have the nutrition required for a healthy baby. According to research, low-carb diets link to a higher risk of neural tube defects in babies. 

Conclusion

Eating a keto diet for diabetes can be highly beneficial because by following it, you swap your body’s preferred energy source from carbohydrates to fat. However, it can create some serious health problems in the long term. Therefore, it is also important to note that you should attempt it under medical supervision.

Although the keto diet offers many potential benefits for diabetes management, following it requires a pretty serious commitment. If you want it to be sustainable, then moderation is the key. So take a beat before you take the plunge and decide whether this is the proper diet for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is the keto diet OK for diabetics?

A. Yes, keto is effective for diabetics. A keto diet includes foods that focus on getting more fat and calories than carbohydrates. Lower intake of carbohydrates in the diet can help eliminate large spikes in blood sugar, reducing the need for insulin. It also allows the body to maintain glucose levels at a low level.

Q. What can you eat on a keto diet?

A. You can eat foods with balanced nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fibre, and the proper calories and healthy fats. These foods include non-starchy vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, mint, cauliflower, and cabbage; healthy fats such as avocado and its oil, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and olive oil; and non-sugary fruits including berries and watermelon. Moreover, you should not neglect the consumption of proteins. These foods include tofu, eggs, paneer and dairy products. 

Q. Who should not do keto?

A. People who have kidney disease should not do keto as it is high in protein which may cause kidney stones. People with type 1 diabetes should avoid the keto diet because it creates a risk factor for diabetic ketoacidosis. Moreover, people with a history of heart disease should be cautious about it because cholesterol levels spike during the initial stages of the diet, further increasing the risk of heart disease. In addition, pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant should avoid the keto diet.

Q. Can you drink alcohol on a keto diet?

A. Drinking while on a keto diet isnt the best option as it can slow down the rate of ketosis and can make the effects of alcohol more severe on the body. For a diabetic on a keto diet, its definitely best to abstain from alcohol. 

Q. What vegetables should I avoid on keto?

A. In keto, you should avoid vegetables with high starch content. Starchy vegetables contain more digestible carbohydrates than fibre, increasing blood sugar levels. These include potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets. Instead, you can opt for low carbohydrate vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, and broccoli. 

Q. Can you eat bananas while on keto?

A. No, bananas are high in sugars which can beat the purpose of ketosis. High sugar fruits can spike your blood sugar more quickly as they have more carbohydrates. One banana has 20 g of carbohydrates. So you should opt for low sugar fruits such as avocados, raspberries, and lemons instead of fruits like bananas. 

Q. Are mushrooms keto-friendly?

A. Mushrooms are low in carbohydrates, making them a perfect addition to a keto diet. They also offer micronutrients such as B vitamins, phosphorus, vitamin D, selenium, copper, and potassium. In addition, they can make a delicious meat substitute, and you can add them to a stir fry. Mushrooms are one of the healthiest low carb foods you can eat on a keto diet.

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