Diabetes-friendly diets primarily focus on the type of carbohydrates being consumed and secondarily on the amount. Carbohydrates serve as the body’s major source of energy and are required in order for the brain and body to function. However, the wrong type and amount of carbs can raise blood sugar and contribute to weight gain, leading to a host of health complications.

Carbohydrates are broken down into simple carbs (added sugar and natural sugar) and complex carbs (starches and fiber). Although all carbohydrates eventually break down into blood sugar, the added sugars found in processed foods like desserts, soda and white bread are linked to diabetes and heart disease as they seem to contribute to weight gain and inhibit weight loss. Foods that contain natural sugar such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products are nutrient-rich and healthful but quantities also need to be watched as natural sugars can still raise your blood sugar. Foods high in complex carbohydrates like beans, peas, corn, potatoes and grains (particularly oats, barley and rice) are healthy but need to be tracked so as not to raise blood sugar too high. Lastly, fiber, the indigestible portion of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, is a type of carbohydrate that helps control blood sugar and cholesterol and promotes digestion. Daily fiber recommendations for people 51 years and older are 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men; for those younger than 50, 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men are recommended. If you have questions about the appropriate amount of carbohydrates for you, discuss it with your doctor at your next visit.
Low-carb diets began in the late 1950s. Because these earlier versions severely restricted carbohydrates and included high-fat proteins they compromised the health of those following them. Fortunately, these diets evolved to encourage high-quality carbohydrates, lean proteins and balanced nutrients. If you are considering a low-carb diet, be sure to discuss it with your physician first for proper guidance, especially since these diets can help control diabetes, manage weight, keep cholesterol levels in check and prevent low blood sugar.

The holiday season is a perfect time to try some diabetes-friendly recipes as a typical Thanksgiving meal has between 400 and 500 grams of carbohydrates, which is considerably beyond the recommended 45 to 60 grams per meal for people with diabetes. Cut your carbs to 135 grams per portion and enjoy a healthier traditional Thanksgiving menu with the recipes below.