Have you heard that eating too much sugar causes diabetes? Or maybe someone told you that you have to give up all your favorite foods when you’re on a diabetes diet? Well, those things aren’t true. In fact, there are plenty of myths about dieting and food. Use this guide to separate fact from fiction.
1. Eating Too Much Sugar Causes Diabetes.
MYTH. The truth is that diabetes begins when something disrupts your body's ability to turn the food you eat into energy.
2. There Are Too Many Rules in a Diabetes Diet.
MYTH. If you have diabetes, you need to plan your meals, but the general idea is simple. You’ll want to keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Choose foods that work along with your activities and any medications you take.
Will you need to make adjustments to what you eat? Probably. But your new way of eating may not require as many changes as you think.
3. Carbohydrates Are Bad for Diabetes.
MYTH. Carbs are the foundation of a healthy diet whether you have diabetes or not.
They do affect your blood sugar levels, which is why you’ll need to keep up with how many you eat each day. Some carbs have vitamins, minerals, and fiber. So choose those ones, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Starchy, sugary carbs are not a great choice because they have less to offer. They’re more like a flash in the pan than fuel your body can rely on.
4. Protein Is Better Than Carbohydrates for Diabetes.
MYTH. Because carbs affect blood sugar levels so quickly, you may be tempted to eat less of them and substitute more protein. But take care to choose your protein carefully. If it comes with too much saturated fat, that’s risky for your heart’s health. Keep an eye on your portion size too. Talk to your dietitian or doctor about how much protein is right for you.
5. You Can Adjust Your Diabetes Drugs to ‘Cover’ Whatever You Eat.
MYTH. If you use insulin for your diabetes, you may learn how to adjust the amount and type you take to match the amount of food you eat. But this doesn't mean you can eat as much as you want and then just use additional drugs to stabilize your blood sugar level.
If you use other types of diabetes drugs, don't try to adjust your dose to match varying levels of carbohydrates in your meals unless your doctor tells you to. Most diabetes medications work best when you take them as directed. When in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
6. You'll Need to Give Up Your Favorite Foods.
MYTH. There’s no reason to stop eating what you love. Instead, try:
- A change in the way your favorite foods are prepared. Can you bake it instead of deep-frying it?
- A change in the other foods you usually eat along with your favorites. Maybe have a sweet potato instead of mashed potatoes?
- Smaller servings of your favorite foods. A little bit goes a long way.
- Not using your favorite foods as a reward when you stick to your meal plan. Do reward yourself, but with something other than food.
A dietitian can help you find ways to include your favorites in your diabetes meal plan.
7. You Have to Give Up Desserts if You Have Diabetes.
MYTH. You could:
- Cut back. Instead of two scoops of ice cream, have one. Or share a dessert with a friend.
- Consider using low-calorie sweeteners. Keep in mind, there might be a few carbs in these.
- Expand your horizons. Instead of ice cream, pie, or cake, try fruit, a whole wheat oatmeal-raisin cookie, or yogurt.
- Tweak the recipe. For instance, you can often use less sugar than a recipe calls for without sacrificing taste or consistency.
8. Low- and No-Calorie Sweeteners Are a No-No.
MYTH. Most of these sweeteners are much sweeter than the same amount of sugar, so you can use less.
Opinions about them are conflicting, but the American Diabetes Association approves of the use of:
- Saccharin (Sweet'N Low, Sweet Twin, Sugar Twin)
- Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)
- Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Stevia/Rebaudioside A (SweetLeaf, Sun Crystals, Steviva, truvia, Pure Via)
You can ask a dietitian which ones are best for which uses, whether you’re drinking coffee, baking, or cooking.
9. You Need to Eat Special Diabetic Meals.
MYTH. The foods that are good for people with diabetes are also healthy choices for the rest of your family.
With diabetes, you do need to keep a closer watch on things like calories and the amounts and types of carbohydrates, fats, and protein you eat. A diabetes educator or dietitian can show you how to keep good records.
10. Diet Foods Are the Best Choices.
MYTH. You might be paying more for "diet" food that you could find in the regular sections of the grocery store or make yourself.
Read the labels to find out if the ingredients and number of calories are good choices for you. When in doubt, ask your doctor, diabetes educator, or a dietitian for advice.