Over the years, an array of diets have been developed for people with type 2 diabetes. As a result, it can be hard to gauge which diet could best suit you.

If you have type 2 diabetes, the primary aim of dietary choices is to keep your blood glucose levels well controlled. However, if you are overweight, you may be advised to adopt a low-calorie diet to lose weight.

You may also be recommended specific diets depending on your treatment plan – for example, if you have been prescribed blood glucose-lowering medication – because certain diets can increase the risk of hypoglycemia and require close monitoring of blood glucose levels.

Diet is crucial in managing type 2 diabetes, but diets can differ greatly. It can be hard to understand the benefits and cons of each diet, especially if you have only been recently diagnosed and are still getting your head around all the information.

One diet that has gained recent popularity is the low-carb diet. But, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) broadly recommends that people with type 2 diabetes have between 45-60g of carbs per meal. This conflicting information can be confusing.

To provide a more comprehensive outlook, we’ve assessed the benefits and cons of seven well-known diets that can be adopted for type 2 diabetes management.

*You should always consult your doctor and/or dietitian before considering any major changes to your diet.

1. The low-carb diet

You reduce your carb intake to less than 130g a day on the low-carb diet. Calories that are subsequently lost can be made up for eating more vegetables and monosaturated fats, which are found in nuts, avocados, olive oil and oily fish.

What are the benefits?
  • Improved glycemic control
  • Weight loss – A theory for this is due to less insulin being produced
  • People with type 2 diabetes can reduce their dependence on diabetes medication – This can be achieved because less strain is placed upon insulin cells
What are the cons?
  • Lack of concrete evidence regarding long-term safety
  • Significant carb reductions can lead to hypoglycemia – This would need addressing with your doctor

*You should discuss adopting a low-carb diet with your doctor if you have reduced kidney function or a history of heart problems.

2. Atkins diet

Also low in carbs, the Atkins Diet encourages weight loss over four phases. Lots of non-starchy vegetables are recommended, and it is widely regarded as being effective in managing type 2 diabetes.

What are the benefits?
  • Weight loss: 15 pounds can be lost in the first two weeks – This is according to advocates of the diet, but the weight is mainly lost through water. Weight loss otherwise continues throughout the diet
What are the cons?
  • Safety of long-term periods of ketosis is unknown – Ketosis occurs when the body breaks down fat for energy, and its long-term safety has not yet been established
  • Nausea and diarrhoea can be experienced early on

*The Atkins diet is not suitable for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have severe kidney disease.

3. Low-fat diet

Opposing the low-carb diet, the low-fat diet involves reducing your calorie intake by replacing fatty foods with carbs. Recommended foods include fish, lean meat, fruit and vegetables.

What are the benefits?
  • Weight loss – This occurs through reducing fat intake, which carries more calories per gram than carbs or proteins
  • Improved cholesterol levels
What are the cons?
  • More carbs can lead to spikes in blood glucose levels

4. Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet includes a strong fruit and vegetable content. The diet is low in processed foods, while fat intake includes oily fish, mozzarella cheese, nuts and yoghurts. Bread and pasta are among the carbs that can be eaten, but only eat portion sizes that won’t severely affect your blood glucose levels.

What are the benefits?
  • Reduced risk of type 2 and cancer – When the diet is combined with regular exercise
  • Improved heart health
  • Easy to follow
  • Not associated with vitamin or nutritional deficiencies
What are the cons?
  • Can take time to work out portion sizesAnd how they affect your blood sugar levels

5. 5:2 Fasting diet

The 5:2 diet involves intermittent fasting – for five days of the week you eat the advised calorie intake (according to the ADA, this is 2,600 kcal per day for men and 2,000 kcal per day for women), and for two non-consecutive days, 25 per of these values is consumed.

What are the benefits?
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced LDL cholesterol
  • Reduced insulin resistance
  • Flexibility – You can eat a regular amount of calories on most days of the week, but still get health benefits from the two days of fasting
What are the cons?
  • Long-term safety has not been established
  • Increased hypoglycemia risk

*It’s important that anyone on hypo causing medication discusses how to avoid hypos occurring with their doctor before starting the 5:2 diet.

6. Ketogenic diet

Similarly to Atkins, the Ketogenic diet involves being in periods of ketosis. Typically, you will eat a 4:1 ratio of four parts fat, and the other part a combination of carbohydrate and protein. You may eat as little as 40g of carbs per day.

What are the benefits?
  • Improved glycemic control
What are the cons?
  • Safety of long-term periods of ketosis is unknown

*A Ketogenic diet must be carried out safely. You should see a specialist before considering the diet

7. Very low-calorie diet

Very low-calorie diets, such as the short-term Newcastle diet, can be effective in coming off medication and reversing the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Patients consume 600 days a day for eight weeks – 200 calories comes from non-starchy vegetables, while meal replacement shakes make up the rest.

What are the benefits?
  • Improved glycemic control – To the extent in which type 2 diabetes is reversed
  • Significantly lower body weight
What are the cons?
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • The very low calorie intake makes the diet difficult to stick to

* A very-low calorie diet should only be conducted under medical supervision as it is an extreme form of diet.

Which diets do you have experience of either benefitting or adversely affecting your type 2 diabetes management? Let us know in the comments section below.