Diabetes is a chronic disease that can lead to many serious medical conditions if not managed properly. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), about 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, with another 8 million undiagnosed and 86 million considered pre-diabetic. Following a healthy eating plan that is naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories is a critical component of diabetes management. This does not mean you have to sacrifice your favorite foods – what’s important is to make smart choices about eating to prevent or control diabetes. There are many diabetes diet myths and to eat right, you need to know the facts.
Myth 1: People with diabetes must follow a special diet
Fact: There’s no such thing as ‘special diet’ for people with diabetes. A diabetic diet simply means eating healthy, same as for people who are not diabetic. It should include whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). You just need to be alert and aim for moderate and consistent portion sizes for each meal.
Myth 2: Diabetes is caused by eating sugary foods
Fact: With a proper diet, exercise and medication, you can fit sweets into your diet plan. The ADA recommends eating smaller portions or saving sweets for special occasions. The ADA also says that eating sugar alone doesn’t cause diabetes, but that it can be a contributing factor in some cases. If you have diabetes, it is important to avoid sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas that are high in empty calories.
Myth 3: Alcohol is off-limits
Fact: Some medications like insulin or those that help increase insulin levels can make you prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and alcohol may make that worse. Though moderate drinking may be safe for most people with diabetes, it is important to consult your doctor on the matter.
Myth 4: Carbs are bad for people with diabetes
Fact: You can have carbs in moderation. It is the type of carbohydrates you eat as well as portion size that matters. Focus on whole grain carbs instead of starchy carbs since they are high in fiber. Less processed carbs are digested slowly, keeping blood sugar levels more even.
Myth 5: Protein is better than carbs for people with diabetes
Fact: Studies have found that consuming too much protein, especially animal protein, may actually cause insulin resistance, a key factor in diabetes. You should stick to a balanced diet that contains the right amount of protein, carbs and fats.
Myth 6: Fruit is healthy, so you eat as much of it as you want
Fact: Fruit is a healthy food but some fruits contain more natural sugars than others. According to the Mayo Clinic, one serving of any type of fruit has about 15 grams of carbohydrate. Stick to the proper portion size and enjoy eating fruit without overdoing it. Fresh, whole fruits are best. Frozen and canned fruits without added sugars are also a good choice.
Myth 7: Sugar-free products are fine
Fact: Don’t assume that a sugar-free label on a product makes it healthy. Sugar-free products may also contain a lot of carbs, fat, or calories. Check with your doctor before you try any sugar-free products.
Myth 8: You can eat whatever you want while on medication
Fact: Even if you are taking medication for diabetes, it’s important that you follow a healthy diet to keep your diabetes under control. With a healthy, balanced diet you can reduce or manage your weight, which could help with diabetes control.
Talk to your doctor or dietitian before you make any changes to your diet to ensure that you’re making the best choices for your health.