When it comes to diabetes and diabetes management there are many misconceptions around food and nutrition. Here are five common diabetes food myths and how to address them.
Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.
A diet high in calories from any source, including food with added sugars and high saturated fat (cookies, cakes, candy, pies, donuts, etc.), may contribute to weight gain. Weight gain can increase your risk for diabetes.
We may also eat these foods instead of whole grains, lean proteins, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Which means instead of nutrient-rich foods we’re having empty calories offering little to no nutrition. Filling our meals and snacks first with nutrient-rich foods is ideal for overall health and wellbeing and decreasing not only our risk for diabetes, but for other diseases and conditions as well.
Only people who are overweight have diabetes.
Being overweight can be a risk factor for diabetes. However, many people who are normal weight or moderately overweight also have diabetes, which means being overweight is not the only risk factor for diabetes. Other risk factors include physical activity level, family history, having diabetes during pregnancy, having heart disease, or age.
People with diabetes need to eat special foods and a special diet.
The recommendation for people with diabetes is the same as the recommendations for everyone else—eat nutrient-rich foods. We want meals and snacks that are based on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, dairy and healthy fats. We want to limit foods high in saturated fats and added sugars.
Foods which are labeled “sugar free” often still have carbohydrates, and these still raise blood sugar levels. These foods may also cost more, and have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols.
So there is no need for a special diet or special foods. We should all make the best nutrition choices as often as possible.
Fruit has sugar in it, so people with diabetes cannot eat fruit.
As with any food, when it comes to fruit balance is key. While fruit does contain carbohydrates and can raise blood glucose, it is a healthy food containing fiber, vitamins and minerals. Fruit can often be a sweet treat, packed with nutrition, which can balance out a wonderful meal or serve as a delicious snack.
Often we hear that fruit has sugar in it, so we shouldn’t eat it. Again, fruit it is a carbohydrate, but one that is nutrient-rich! Fruit is a great part of a balanced diet. When we limit “sugars”, we should look at added sugars/high saturated fat foods first.
If you have questions on how to add fruit to your diet you can work with your doctor, registered dietitian, or certified diabetes educator.
A person with diabetes cannot eat desserts.
When eaten as part of a balanced healthy meal plan, all people, including those with diabetes, can have sweets/desserts. We do not want to have foods that are off limits, we just want these foods to be eaten less often and in smaller portions so we can focus on nutrient-rich meals and snacks.
If you have questions or concerns about diabetes, especially about food and nutrition, you should speak with your doctor to review the best options for you.