Not all calories are equal

Dr. Pouya Shafipour, a board-certified family and obesity medicine physician, of Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, told MNT that the trick to a sustainable low-calorie diet is in the types of calories reduced.

“When we talk about [a] low-calorie diet, it depends on what type of calorie you’re reducing because everyone’s body has fat reserves that if we can eat, in a sense, […] then we don’t necessarily need a lot of calories,” he detailed.

“So if the low-calorie diet takes into consideration the correct macronutrients, if you’re cutting calories mostly from carbohydrates, but not necessarily from protein and fat, then it forces the body to start utilizing the stored fat reserves when it runs out of glucose. And then it becomes more sustainable because hunger won’t be an issue,” Dr. Shafipour explained.

“If you’re just cutting calories but still kind of eating preservatives, starch, and sugar, then it doesn’t become sustainable because you’re constantly hungry,” he further explained.

How can people with type 2 diabetes use diet to help improve their condition?

When it comes to dietary changes for people with type 2 diabetes, Richard said that in general, it is helpful for many people to decrease the amount of excess sugar in their diet from processed foods, which naturally decreases calories and makes room for more nutrient-dense choices like fruits and vegetables.

Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) are specifically trained in medical nutrition therapy (MNT) which offers specific nutrition interventions for specific disease states,” she continued. “For those with type 2 diabetes, meeting with an RDN would be beneficial to understand what nutrition and lifestyle modifications may be most appropriate, applicable and practical for the individual to implement.”

Dr. Shafipour said that a lower carbohydrate diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, can be sustainable.

“If the diet is something that at least you’re having 10–12 ounces [approximately 283–340 grams] of some type of a healthy protein, 30–40 grams of fiber — the carbohydrates could be grains and fruits and vegetables — and some fat, then it will be very filling, it would be very satiating, and it will really help with diabetes,” he added.

Dr. Taylor suggested looking at the Newcastle diet and his own book, Life Without Diabetes.

“But then discuss it with spouse/partner/friends before starting because support really helps during the short weight loss phase,“ he added. “And plan when to start to avoid family events which might make it difficult to stick to. But if [you are] on medications from [a] doctor, do discuss with her or him beforehand.”

“Your diet is always important, as is regular physical activity,” Dr. Axen summed up. “Relying only on drugs will result in increasing need for the drugs over time, and this can worsen your disease.”

“You can improve the quality of your life — diet is not just about how many calories you consume, but about the fiber, plant nutrients, minerals, and types of fat you consume,” she added. “Educate yourself about the care of your body. It’s the only one you have.”