Learn why some of the common myths about diabetic diets are not exactly true and what steps you can take to control diabetes.
October 29, 2009
1 of 7Article: Anne Cain, R.D.; Photo: Jim Sheetz
Myth: One diet fits all.
Because there is not just one type of diabetes (pre-diabetes, type 1, type 2, gestational), there is no one diet that works for everyone. Many people with type 2 diabetes are obese and need a weight-control diet plan, while others with type 1 diabetes might be 17-year old athletes who need a high-calorie diet. Blood sugar control can be achieved in different approaches such as low-carb, high-fiber, low-fat, and low glycemic index diets. It's important to meet with your doctor and a dietitian to figure out what type of plan will work for you.
2 of 7Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Lydia DeGaris-Pursell
Myth: No sugar allowed.
It's okay to eat some sugar as long as it's part of a balanced, healthy eating plan and is accounted for in the total amount of carbohydrate in your diet. However, you should try to cut down on foods and drinks that are concentrated in sugars because, in large amounts, they can make blood sugar control and weight control more difficult.
Fruit is fine, but in unlimited amounts can mess with diabetes control. Along with lots of vitamins and antioxidants, fruits contain natural sugars that can increase blood glucose. Fresh fruits have a slight advantage over fruit juices because the fresh fruits contain fiber, which helps slow the rise of blood glucose. Enjoy fresh fruits, but pay attention to the amount.
Although salt does not directly affect blood sugar, a high sodium intake is linked with high blood pressure, especially in people who are "salt-sensitive". Both high blood pressure and salt-sensitivity are common in people with type 2 diabetes. And people with type 1 diabetes who have kidney damage are at high risk for high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people with diabetes reduce sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg per day.
5 of 7Photo: Beau Gustafson; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine
Myth: Leave out the fat.
Because fat in the digestive tract slows gastric emptying, a small amount of fat may slow down the rise of blood glucose after a meal and help control blood sugar. And because people with diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease, eating certain heart-healthy types of fat (in moderation) can be beneficial to health.
No foods are really off limits (even pizza!) if you pay attention to portion control and account for the amount of carbohydrate, fat and sodium. However, when you have diabetes, the emphasis needs to be on lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, and limited amounts of high-fat foods and those that are concentrated sources of sugar.
Low-carb diets can help control diabetes, but this may not be the right approach for everyone. Some popular low-carb diets are also higher in fats and may not be good for people with type 2 diabetes who are already at risk for heart disease. Look for low-carb diets that emphasize lean proteins and heart-healthy fats. Controlling carbs is important in diabetes control, but a low-carb diet may not be the plan that works for you.