Myths About Eating and Type 2 Diabetes
Navigating the world of food with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is tough. What foods should I eat? What foods are bad for me? What foods should I avoid? A search on the Internet is not much help—with all kinds of contradictory tips, diets, products, and methods. Some claim to lower blood sugar or even cure diabetes.
People want an easy fix, and they may try non-traditional treatments such as natural supplements. Elizabeth Snyder, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, says that some non-traditional treatments may be harmless, but others could potentially be harmful. Managing a diet is a lot more than just avoiding certain foods, or limiting our diet.
Common Myths About Diet and Diabetes
Myth: Diabetics cannot eat carbs - Many people think that diabetics must give up carbohydrates, but this is not true. Carbs are an important source of energy, and they are also the best source of fiber. Carbs are divided into two categories.
Effect on Blood Sugar
Sends blood sugar levels up and down
White bread, juice, candy, processed foods
Keeps blood sugars level
Beans, potatoes with skin, whole grain bread
If you are not sure how much carbohydrate you can consume, start with approximately 45-60 grams per meal, and then monitor and adjust as needed. A healthy meal plan can include small portions of vegetables such as corn, peas, potatoes, and yams, as well as other starchy foods such as beans, fruit, milk, yogurt.
Myth: Diabetics cannot eat sugary foods - In general, a lot of sugar is not good for anyone. According to everydayhealth.com, however, sweets can be included in the diet of people with diabetes as long as they are consumed in small portions. Fruits are healthy sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but they contain carbohydrates. Some carbohydrates can be saved for special occasions. A dietitian can help to plan the amount of carbohydrates in your diet that is right for you.
Myth: Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar - According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the causes of this condition are not so simple. Type 2 diabetes is caused by an interaction of genetics with lifestyle factors, whereas type 1 is caused by genetics and unknown triggers that spark the onset of the disease.
Research has also found an association between drinking sugary drinks and type 2 diabetes. The ADA recommends that people lower their risk of developing diabetes by avoiding the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks such as:
- Soda (non-diet)
- Fruit drinks
- Fruit punches
- Energy drinks
- Sport drinks
- Sweet tea
Myth: Diabetics should eat special diabetic foods - Diabetic and dietetic foods do not offer any special benefits and may still raise blood glucose levels. These foods are often more expensive than regular foods. The special products contain sugar alcohols and may have a laxative effect. Sugar alcohols have less impact on glucose levels than regular sugar, but they can elevate glucose levels when consumed in large quantities. It is important to read labels and look at the grams of carbohydrates as well as the grams of sugar.
Myth: Green vegetables will lower blood sugar levels - Green vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, and green beans are healthy, but they do not bring down blood sugar on their own. People who make this claim may have engaged in some type of exercise after eating, such as going for a walk or mowing the lawn. It was probably the activity that helped stabilize the blood sugar to normal levels, rather than the simple act of eating green vegetables.
Myth: "Sugar-free" foods will not raise blood sugar levels: A product that is labeled sugar-free may also be high in carbohydrates, which can raise blood sugar levels. Consumers should check the label for the total number of carbs per serving size.
Myth: Diabetics should not eat too many starchy foods - Some people avoid these types of food because starch raises blood glucose levels and can lead to weight gain. These foods, however, are sources of fiber and carbs, which are the body’s source of energy.
According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, everyone needs some carbs in their diet. Carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, cereal, milk, yogurt, fruit, and desserts are nutritious options. Some are high in fiber.
Myth: Cleansing can get rid of diabetes - Some claim that cleanses (such as celery root, citrus, or vinegar) can lower blood sugar or get rid of diabetes. The remedies are probably not harmful, but they are not the healthiest choices to manage glucose levels, and they do not cure diabetes.
Myth: Eating fat Is okay because fat does not have much effect on blood glucose - Eating fats such as oils, margarine, and salad dressings do not directly cause glucose levels to go up or down, but they do slow down digestion. When digestion slows, it is harder for the body to use insulin to process sugars in the body, causing a spike in blood glucose.
What Works for Diabetes
There are no magic cures. However, experts at Ohio State University recommend having a balanced meal with:
- A lean protein
- A non-starchy vegetable
- A carbohydrate such as whole grains or fruit
Consult a Health Professional
When making decisions about managing diabetes through diet, always consult your doctor or dietician.
Finding a Balance
People with diabetes should also avoid skipping meals. When they do eat after skipping a meal, their bodies must work harder to process the foods and may not be able to use all the carbohydrates. The carbs are then stored in the body.
The key to managing type 2 diabetes is to follow a diet of mainly whole foods and limited simple sugars and processed foods. Consulting a dietitian—and careful monitoring—can help keep glucose levels within a healthy range.
Where to Find More Info
There is a lot of information online claiming that certain diets or pills cure diabetes. For the most up-to-date and high-quality advice on eating and diabetes, there are several reputable websites, such as the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases or the American Diabetes Association.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Carola Finch