10 Diabetes Diet Myths

10 Diabetes Diet Myths

Diabetes myths
Scouring the internet for reliable information about a diet for those with diabetes can leave you confused and misinformed. There’s no shortage of advice, but it’s often challenging to discern fact from fiction. Below we debunk 10 common diabetes diet myths.

Diabetes and diet: What’s the connection?

1. Eating sugar causes diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), eating too much sugar alone doesn’t cause diabetes, but it may be a contributing factor in some cases. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and possibly an autoimmune response to a trigger. Type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and various risk factors, some of which are related to lifestyle. Being overweight, having high blood pressure, being over the age of 45, and being sedentary are just some of the risk factors that can lead to diabetes. Sugar-sweetened drinks, such as sodas and fruit punches, are high in empty calories, and recent studies have linked these to a higher risk of diabetes. To help prevent diabetes, the ADA recommends avoiding them. However, other sweets by themselves are not a cause of diabetes.

2. Carbohydrates (carbs) are the enemy
Carbs aren’t your enemy. It is not carbs themselves, but the type of carb and the quantity of carb that you eat that is important for those with diabetes. Not all carbs are created equal. Those that are low on the glycemic index (GI) scale, a measure of how quickly foods with carbohydrates may impact blood sugar levels, are better choices than those with a high GI, explains the ADA. Examples of low-GI carbs include:

rolled or steel-cut oatmeal
whole-grain bread
dried beans and legumes
low-starch vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, and tomatoes
It’s also a good idea to choose foods with a lower glycemic load (GL). GL is similar to GI, but it incorporates serving size into the calculation. It’s considered a more accurate estimate of how foods will affect your blood sugar. Examples of low-GL carbs include:

150 grams of soybeans
80 grams of green peas
80 grams of parsnips
80 grams of carrots
If you eat a high-GI or high-GL food, combining it with a low-GI or low-GL food can help balance your meal. Harvard Medical School provides a helpful list of GI and GL values for over 100 foods.

Once you pick healthy carbs, you still need to manage the portion of carbs, as too many carbs can cause higher blood sugar levels. Stick to your personal carb target. If you don’t have one, ask your healthcare team what’s best. If you use the plate method of portion control, limit your carbs to one-quarter of the plate.

3. Starchy foods are off-limits
Starchy foods contain carbohydrates, and, as explained above, they can fit into your meal plan. Choose high-fiber, less processed carbs to get the vitamins and minerals you need while still managing your blood sugar.

4. You’ll never eat dessert again
Go ahead and enjoy a slice of cake or a cookie now and then, even if you have diabetes. The key is moderation and portion control. According to the National Institutes of HealthTrusted Source, restricting yourself too much may eventually lead to binge eating or overeating.

Beware of the “all or nothing” mentality. Feel free to indulge in a small serving of your favorite sweet on special occasions. Just be sure to limit other carbs in your meal to strike a safe balance. Stick to your personal carb target. The average person should eat about 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal, advises the ADA. You can find healthier, low-carb versions of many sweet treats by exploring the plethora of recipes available online.

7 diabetes-friendly dessert recipes »

5. You can’t unwind with wine
Alcohol in moderation is OK if your diabetes is under control. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day and that men don’t go over two. One drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. It’s also a good idea to monitor your blood sugar levels for 24 hours after drinking. Alcohol can potentially cause your blood sugar to drop below normal levels, interfere with your medications, and prevent your liver from producing glucose.

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