As a dietitian who spent five years working as a diabetes educator, I’ve seen my fair share of patients feeling completely exhausted and confused after googling “diabetes diet.” There are few medical diagnoses with more inaccurate, misleading and conflicting dietary advice.
Of course, as with all medical diagnoses, nutrition for diabetes is highly personal. If you have diabetes, you should work with a dietitian to figure out what works for you. That said, here are three of the most common myths about diabetes nutrition. Hopefully this shows that eating for diabetes is a lot more flexible than the internet makes it seem!
You can’t eat fruit if you have diabetes
Fruit contains naturally occurring sugars, which give fruit its yummy sweet taste. While sugar (and all carbohydrates) do go into the blood stream and increase blood sugar, that doesn’t mean fruit is off limits. Everyone needs some amount of carbohydrates, including people with diabetes, who benefit from small to moderate amounts evenly spaced throughout the day to prevent low blood sugars. In fruit, those naturally occurring sugars come in a whole food package. Fruit contains fiber, which slows the release of sugar into the blood stream, preventing spikes and drops. You’re also getting other diabetes-fighting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you notice your blood sugar is a bit more sensitive to fruit, aim to keep portions moderate (a small to medium piece or a cup) and pair it with fat and/or protein, like cheese, nuts, plain yogurt, or avocado.
Sugar free foods are best
Most foods labeled sugar free are sweetened with artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. While these noncaloric sweeteners don’t break down into glucose and affect blood sugar in the short run, there is some research that suggests these sweeteners could have a long term effect on blood sugar control. Also, many sugar free foods are not carbohydrate free. While people with diabetes still need carbohydrates, seeing “sugar free” on a label is often read as an all-you-can-eat pass. Also, most sugar free foods are also free of the satisfaction factor. Just like you have to scratch an itch to make it go away, you have to satisfy a craving to make it go away. Many people find a small amount of the real thing to be a better strategy!
“If it’s white, don’t bite”
This common saying always sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me! While it’s supposed to mean avoid white flours and added sugar (which should be limited for diabetes management), it’s often interpreted to everything white, which scratches off a lot of incredibly nutritious foods. Potatoes are a rich source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Cauliflower is low in carbohydrate, and packed with nutrients. Onions contain prebiotic fibers that help keep your gut healthy.
Were you falling for any of these common diabetes myths? Share your comments below!
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