The Top 10 Low Carb Foods and How They Affect Blood Sugar

Controlling blood sugar is an important part of managing many chronic health conditions like diabetes, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. While medications can help lower blood sugar, making dietary changes is often the most effective long-term solution.

In this article, we’ll explore the top 10 low-carb foods and explain how they impact blood sugar levels. We’ll also discuss:

  • Different categories of low-carb foods
  • Why focusing only on blood sugar can be misleading
  • How the body adapts to using ketones for fuel
  • Tips for transitioning off diabetes medications

Understanding how these low-carb foods affect your body will empower you to take control of your health.

The 3 Main Categories of Low-Carb Foods

There are three main categories of low-carb foods:

1. Low Carb, High Protein and Fat

These foods are low in carbs but high in protein and fat. Examples include meat, fish, eggs and full-fat dairy. They provide plenty of fat to replace the calories from carbs, as well as protein to keep you full. The high protein can increase insulin slightly, but the tradeoff is worth it for the nutrients.

2. Low Carb, High Fat

Foods in this category are also low carb but have more fat than protein. Examples include oils, butter, ghee, avocado and olives. They provide fuel in the form of fat without spiking blood sugar or insulin.

3. Low Carb Vegetables

The third category includes low-starch vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and other veggies with only 2-5g net carbs per serving. You can eat larger volumes of these.

The key is minimizing carbs and utilizing fat and protein to replace those calories. This prevents blood sugar spikes while still providing energy and nutrients.

Why Blood Sugar Alone Can Be Misleading

Many doctors focus narrowly on blood sugar when assessing metabolic health. But this can provide an incomplete picture.

Blood sugar is tightly regulated and doesn’t change much until late-stage diabetes. Insulin, however, increases steadily as insulin resistance develops. Checking fasting insulin along with HbA1c provides a better metric for early trouble signs.

Triglycerides and VLDL cholesterol also rise as cells become insulin resistant. Monitoring these markers together gives a clearer view of what’s happening long before blood sugar becomes abnormal.

How the Body Adapts to Using Ketones

When carb intake is very low, the body begins producing ketones from fat to use as fuel. Many tissues like the brain can adapt to run almost entirely on ketones.

In one study, subjects who fasted for 2 months were able to maintain normal cognitive function with blood sugar as low as 9 mg/dL (normal is around 90 mg/dL)! This suggests their brains were using ketones for nearly 90% of their energy needs.

Keto-adapted people can tolerate much lower blood sugars without hypoglycemic symptoms. This is because their brains and bodies are fueled by ketones rather than being dependent on glucose alone.

Transitioning off Diabetes Medications

People with diabetes are often warned not to pursue low-carb diets because of concerns about hypoglycemia.

However, this effect is largely due to diabetic medications rather than the diet itself. As carb restriction lowers blood sugar, medications like insulin push it too low.

The solution is not to avoid dietary changes. It’s to work with your doctor to adjust medication dosages appropriately as your condition improves. This enables you to reverse the root problem rather than just treating the symptoms.

Now let’s explore the top 10 low-carb foods and how they can help optimize your blood sugar and metabolic health.

Top 10 Low Carb Foods

10. Berries

Berries like raspberries, blackberries and strawberries contain about 5g net carbs per serving. They make a great occasional treat if you want something sweet. Just don’t overdo it, since carbs add up quickly.

9. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are very low in carbs, with just 1-3g net carbs per serving. You can eat large volumes of spinach, kale, lettuces and other greens without impacting blood sugar. Add some olive oil or butter to increase satisfaction.

8. Non-Starchy Vegetables

Broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans and other low-starch veggies contain 2-5g net carbs per serving. The high water and fiber content means you can eat larger servings. Roast them in olive oil for a filling side dish.

7. Healthy Fats

Oils like olive, coconut and avocado oil provide essential fats to fuel the body without raising blood sugar. Grass-fed butter and ghee are also great options. Focus on saturated and monounsaturated fats rather than PUFAs from vegetable oils.

6. Olives

Olives provide a nutritious, low carb snack. With 3g net carbs, 11g fat and 1g protein per serving, they are high in monounsaturated fat and won’t spike blood sugar. Add them to salads or eat as a snack.

5. Avocados

With 2g net carbs and 15g fat, nutrient-dense avocados are one of the most satisfying low carb foods. Their rich, creamy texture makes them ideal for smoothies, dips and spreads.

4. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts like macadamias, pecans and walnuts provide the ideal balance of fat, protein and carbs. Flax, chia and hemp seeds are also great options. They make an easy, portable snack.

3. Full Fat Dairy

Full-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and heavy cream provide needed calories from fat rather than carbs. Stick to full-fat options and avoid low-fat versions with more carbs. Those with dairy sensitivities may need to avoid.

2. Eggs

Eggs are a versatile protein source loaded with nutrients. Consume the whole egg for the most benefits. Those with egg allergies may need to omit.

1. Meat, Poultry and Fish

Fish, poultry, red meat and other animal proteins are the most satiating foods you can eat. Prioritizing these nutrient-dense foods facilitates low carb eating, providing necessary calories without excess carbs.

Apple Cider Vinegar

The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce fasting blood sugar and HbA1c. Adding it to salads or taking 2 tbsp diluted in water daily may provide blood sugar benefits.

Monitor Insulin And Other Markers

Focusing on low-carb, high-fat foods can help gain control over blood sugar and reverse conditions like diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity. Include plenty of vegetables, along with meat, fish, eggs, full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and oils. Monitor insulin and other markers rather than blood sugar alone. Work with your doctor to adjust medications as your health improves on a low-carb regimen.

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