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Is A Low-Carb Diet for Diabetes Management Effective?

Is A Low-Carb Diet for Diabetes Management Effective?

A very interesting conversation I had with my sister lately, (who has not studied nutrition) opened my eyes to how little people understand nutrition. 

She mentioned, while sitting around the dining table, "So I heard you talking to a client about reducing fats, but honestly, I don't even know what is fats on my plate. What is carbs? Is daal protein? Or is it carbs?"

Her innocent question made me reevaluate a lot of processes we follow when we on- board new clients. 

Its true though isnt it, who even knows what is Carbs? Sure as dietitians we do, but for someone reading this desperately looking for answers for diabetes management, you might not know what carbs is.

So let's start from basics, all food that we eat has all three nutrients, namely:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates (carbs)
  • Fats

Sure, the proportions will differ, but all foods will have all of the above.

  1. Now most foods coming from plants namely whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes/ pulses will be higher in carbs, but lower in fats and proteins. 
  2. Nuts/ seeds are an exception. They come from plants but are higher in fats.
  3. Soy is an exception too, being high in proteins. 
  4. Animal products are mostly high in fats and proteins. 

A low carb diet essentially requires you to avoid eating whole grians, fruits, pulses and some vegetables too! 

Does this help? 

The theory is that diabetes is a disease of excess glucose (sugar) in your body. And sugar is a breakdown product of carbs. Cut carbs, to not allow the sugar to form, to manage diabetes. 

Welll.... Let's Explore. 

Introduction: Rethinking Diabetes Management

Diabetes is a chronic lifestyle disease. Thus, with enough attention given to modifying lifestyle factors, diabetes can very well be reversed. Here is one of our client's experience:

Diabetes is known as the 'sugar disease' in so many local dialects. This tells us a lot about how much people associate this disease with sugar intake, blood sugar levels, and carbohydrate consumption.

But sugar, is essential for running all the organs and tissues in the body. Your body run's on sugar. Not fat's or proteins, but sugar. In a diabetic patient, the sugar's do not breakdown to be utilised for energy. It just stay's as it is in the blood stream. This can put you at the risk of coma or even death.

Essentially, the disease is the inability by the body to breakdown sugar for consumption. Now there are two possible ways to treat diabetes:

  • Stop consuming carbs (that breakdown sugar)
  • Understand why your body is not able to breakdown sugar as well as a healthy body.

There is a dire need to raise awareness about the scientific reality of diabetes, its pathology, and what dietary components contribute to its worsening. Watch this to understand the pathology of diabetes:

Sure one should avoid sugar, but fiber is also carbs. Fiber is the fundamental nutrients that is essential in diabetes reversal. 

In reality, diabetes is basically a fat-toxic disease, not carb- toxicity. The more fat you consume, the more your muscle cells are clogged with fatty acids, thus, leading to sugar built up in your blood. 

These inflammatory fat- cells create a background for decreased tissue sensitivity for glucose and worsening cardiovascular markers. Scientific research has revealed that weight management, dietary planning, low- fat diet, and consistent exercise go a long way than cutting down dietary carbohydrates only.

Dr. Brian Carlson, a plastic surgeon, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was in his third year of medical school. He shares how adopting a low- fat whole- food diet helped him manage his condition more effectively while excelling in a high-stress career such as surgery. 

This is a clean fuel. If you are eating plant-based foods, you do not have to worry about your fiber intake. It takes a lot of stress off of your shoulders.

The changes I experienced after going vegan were dramatic and very motivating. I have been very consistent with my plant commitment, and I can safely say that I have seen it dramatically changing my life with diabetes.- Dr. Carlson.

The Low-Carb Conundrum

Getting on a low-carb diet might seem like the perfect way out; after all, diabetes is essentially the lack of proper carbohydrate processing. The disease should go away when you stop eating carbs. 

But no. That does not happen.

As Dr. Kapler talks about the 'low carb conundrum', he tells how the apes and chimpanzees never get diabetes. The reason for that is they thrive on a plant-based fiber rich diet, that is extremely low fat.

The menace to human diet and health is not the carbohydrate, but the high fats. High-fat dairy, cheeses, butter, ghee, and dark chocolate, without whole grains, legumes, beans, and green vegetables, is the wrong answer to damaging diabetes. Rethinking Ghee? Watch this:

A low-carb diet will not allow you to eat starchy vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, beets, peas, corn, and several healthy fruits. But vegetables and fruits are what also give you essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C/ B/ A and K. 

Low-carb diet can help you lose weight initially, which is beneficial for diabetes management. But, in the long run, you will end up facing a much stronger diabetes mellitus and its complications.

Fatty acids are stored within the muscle as intramyocellular lipids (IMCL). Studies indicate that following a high-fat diet (HFD), IMCL may accumulate and affect insulin sensitivity. Increased IMCL levels were associated with glucose intolerance and insulin sensitivity.

These results indicate that shifting fat from the adipose tissue to the skeletal muscle or increasing the total body fat by increasing fat content of the diet results in poor response of the body towards insulin.

Excessive protein and very low fiber intake from plant sources can do the same: increase IMCL levels in the body. Besides, when you miss many fruits and vegetables and whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, your body gets less essential iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and several other essential nutrients.

The Power of Plants.

A plant-based diet is a powerhouse of essential nutrients. It offers all essential nutrients and vitamins, along with carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, in perfect ratios.

For example, one cup of chickpeas provides over 10 grams of protein and 71% of the daily value for folate. They’re also high in iron, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Research indicates that individuals following plant-based eating patterns tend to have:

  1. lower body mass indexes (BMIs), and,
  2. reduced risks of obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

One reason for this is the lower calorie density of many plant-based foods, which allows for satisfying meals while still promoting weight loss. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are typically lower in calories compared to processed and animal-derived foods, making them effective choices for diabetes management.

Soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, beans, and apples, can help lower cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar control, giving you long-term control over heart health and diabetes management. Fiber is only found in plants and dietary cholesterol is only found in animals. 

Insoluble fiber, commonly found in whole grains, vegetables, and nuts, adds bulk to stool, promotes regular bowel movements, prevents constipation, and supports digestive health. Fiber acts as a prebiotic, nourishing beneficial gut bacteria and contributing to a balanced gut microbiome.

Science Says Plants.

Increased muscle fatigue, frequent urination and thirst are some of the symptoms of diabetes. These can get very uncomfortable. Diabetes can also lead to the health of other organs deteriorating. Thus, early and fast action must be taken for diabetes management.

As the disease progresses, insulin becomes more and more scarce and more and more ineffective. Thus, lifestyle and nutritional interventions made at the right time are absolutely necessary. Here are a few changes that can help:

Tissues become less responsive and sensitive to insulin as the fat cells of the various tissues increases. 

Given this picture in the background, imagine a type 1 diabetes patient subscribing to a low-carb, high-fat- and protein diet. It will further increase intramyocellular lipids (IMCL), setting the body for developing complications early on. 

Alternatively, here are a few mechanisms that plant-based foods employ to curb your diabetes:

Improved insulin sensitivity: 

Plant-based diets particularly those rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes, are associated with improved sensitivity, according to various studies. This means your body can use insulin more effectively to regulate blood sugar levels.

Lower Blood Sugar Levels 

Many plant-based foods have a low glycemic index, meaning they cause a slower and more gradual increase in blood sugar levels after consumption. The body does not have to manage sugar spikes as it is already not-so-sufficient for that.

Weight Management

Plant-based diets are often lower in calories and saturated fats compared to diets high in animal products. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for managing diabetes, as excess body weight can contribute to insulin resistance.

Rich in Fiber 

Plant-based diets tend to be high in fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Fiber also promotes satiety; you stay full for longer hours and are less prone to overeating.

Reduced Risk of Complications

Some research suggests that a plant-based balanced diet may reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. These are cardiovascular and kidney diseases, common in individuals with diet. 

Superfoods for Diabetes Management

Here is a full list of superfoods that make an appearance in my client meal plans:

Plant-Based Plate Power

As per Dr. Neal Barnard, a pioneer in lifestyle medicine and disease reversal, here is how your plate should look:

My clients never calculate the calories they are having per meal. But just making sure that 14th of your plate is covered by each food group, namely,

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole Grains
  • Legumes

ensures they are eating right.

Here are some plant-based meal ideas for breakfast, snacks, lunch, and dinner. You can alternate leave your suggestions below for what your power plate would look like. 


  • Overnight oats made with rolled oats, almond milk, chia seeds, and topped with fresh berries, sliced bananas, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. A side of mung sprout salad added to this meal makes it a power plate!
  • Brown rice and lentil pongal, a South Indian delicacy with a side of fruits. Adding some shredded broccoli to the pongal is even better. 
  • A hummus and microgreen toast with whole grain or pumpernickel bread and pickled vegetables. 
  • Sprouted mung daal and rice dosa with a side of fruits and vegetable korma. 


  • Quinoa and kidney salad with apples, diced bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and a lemon-tahini dressing.
  • Steaming hot bisibele rice with mix lentils and brown rice. Ensure to start this meal with a handful of berries first!
  • A delicate bowl of daal- dhokli made with whole wheat and lentils. Start this meal with a bowl of salad first with one fruit added in. I love adding pomegranate to my salads to give it a crunchy- sweat punch!


  • Carrot and celery sticks with homemade hummus or guacamole.


  • Vegetable masala khichdi made with red or brown rice with a side of berries. 
  • Chickpea and sweet potato curry on a bed of foxtail millets with a cup of fruit on the side. 
  • Soba noodle stir fry with veggies of choice and sprouted mung beans. Start with a fruit first!

Reversing Diabetes on a Plant- Based Diet.

Your nutritional choices can keep you disease free. And, there certainly are ways you can eat junk on a plant- based diet. For instance, a vegan burger with an oreo milkshake is still plant- based. But not healthy for you. 

The worse combination for a meal is high carbs and high fat together. Thus, a sugary dessert that is naturally also high in fat must be avoided. 

Here are a few ways to help you stay on track:

Go for the whole:

Always prefer taking foods in a form as close to their original state as possible. For example: apples instead of apple juice or edamame instead of soy-based meat products. 

Whole grains like brown rice is better than white rice and millets in their whole form are better than flour based products like bread. 

Don't skip the Good Carbs:

Eating too few complex and fiberous carbohydrates can negatively impact your blood sugar just as much as eating too many processed carbohydrates. You need fiber to help clear intra- myocellular fats.

Fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains carry huge amounts of fiber, plant proteins, minerals, and vitamins that add to the body's overall well-being.

Find Healthy Snack Options:

Plant-based foods are laden with creative, delicious, and healthy snack options such as, 

  1. Fruit and nut butter made from blended nuts
  2. Guacamole (onion, garlic, avocado, and lime juice) and crackers
  3. Vegetable sticks dipped in hummus
  4. Fruit and vegetable smoothies (simplest, quickest, and the most refreshing snack)
  5. Homemade pita chips with white bean dip

Avoid store- bought hyper- palatable snacks. 

Work On Your Circadian Rhythm:

Your sleep and wake- up cycle can determine your disease progression. 

Dr. Satchin Panda has authored various books based on his research on circadian rhythm, eating habits, and metabolic diseases. In his podcast with Simon Hill, Dr. Satchin Panda talks about how much of a difference it brings when you stick to a healthy circadian rhythm.

The body adjusts its rate of metabolism, pancreatic insulin secretion, and melatonin secretion in anticipation of an event. Your body is less optimized to release insulin at night and more optimized in the morning. Thus, eating your heavier meal in the first half of the day is suggested. 

The pancreas responds much better to carbs in the first six hours after waking than at any other part of the day. So, the first meal of the day should be filling and hearty.

Finding Support:

Finding like-minded people who are with you on the same journey can further help you stay on track. You can join my coaching program to become a part of the  community and master and subjugate diabetes with natural, whole foods. 


There can be no greater power against diabetes than consistent, healthy, plant-based eating patterns and sticking to the circadian rhythm of your body. 

I strongly recommend consulting your doctor before changing your dietary patterns. The doctor will adjust the dosage of your diabetes medication and guide you about the best working combination of foods, daily caloric intake, and vitamin supplementation.

Alternatively, contact my team by filling the form below and we will be happy to get on an exploratory call with you. 

Let's Just Talk. No Obligations.

I do free consultations every Tuesday's and Thursday's. Either way you will get some actionable tips to reach your fitness goals faster.

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About Roshni Sanghvi

Roshni Sanghvi is an Indian plant-based sports nutritionist and body transformation specialist. She is the first Indian to represent on a national bodybuilding stage being on a 100% plant-based diet. Roshni is a holistic nutritionist, graduated from the prestigious NutraPhoria college of nutrition in Canada.

She is also an ACE-certified personal trainer, certified PlantFed gut coach, certified Bodyshred, and Animal flow instructor with a specialisation in disease reversal through food and lifestyle modification.

Her approach is more focused on helping you in adopting a healthy lifestyle. With her result-oriented holistic methods, she has managed to transform and reverse lifestyle diseases such as PCOS, Thyroid, Diabetes etc for 12k+ clients worldwide.