Should I Cut My Carb Consumption?
I am a 23-year-old woman with type 1 diabetes. I’m 5-foot-2 and about 115 pounds. I’ve lowered my A1C from 8.6 to 7 in the past year through exercise and cutting out refined sugars and processed foods. I’d like to reduce it to 6. I now eat roughly 30 percent fat, 50 percent carbohydrate, and 20 percent protein for 1,800 calories a day. Are there risks in reducing my carb intake to 40 percent and boosting my fat and protein a little? Penelope Peaches, Los Angeles
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, responds:
What to Know
There is no ideal percentage of calories from fat, carbohydrate, and protein. However, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends 130 grams of carbohydrate daily to meet the needs of the central nervous system, including the brain. You will meet that minimum even if you cut your carbs back to 40 percent of your total calories.
I am most concerned about the quality of your food choices and whether or not you are meeting your nutritional needs. In addition to eating for blood glucose control, you must eat for the health of your heart, to keep your energy up, and to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases. This means that your carbohydrate budget should include fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. My other concern is that aiming for an A1C of 6 may put you at risk for frequent hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).
Find Out More
First, talk to your health care provider to learn if an A1C of 6 is ideal for you. Second, make an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD or RDN), one who ideally is also a certified diabetes educator (CDE). This person can help you tailor a meal plan to your specific needs. Additionally, discuss the signs of hypoglycemia and the proper treatment of it.
No one’s diabetes or lifestyle is exactly like yours, so it stands to reason that your medications and diet will be unique as well. Your health care team can help you determine your ideal blood glucose and A1C targets and a meal plan that fits your health goals, food preferences, and lifestyle.