With the onset of the internet, there is no dearth of information available on any subject. However, with the constant flow of information from all directions, it becomes extremely difficult to figure out fact from fiction. A simple research on the net on anything may leave you utterly confused. And more so, if it is specific to the kind of diet and lifestyle you should choose once diagnosed with diabetes. In this article, we attempt to bust the top 10 misinformations or myths on diabetes.
1. Eat sugar, invite diabetes
Myth: The topmost myth about diabetes around the globe is that it is caused by sugar.
Fact: Although sugar can be a contributing factor to diabetes, it cannot cause diabetes on its own. There are various factors like genetics, lifestyle, family history, etc., involved. If you have a history of diabetes running in your family and you still chose to be a couch potato, it is highly likely that you would develop this disease at some point in life irrespective of the amount of sugar intake you have. It is, of course, healthy to avoid high sugary drinks, like colas, but sugar in other forms is not linked to causing diabetes per se.
2. Label says Sugar-free/Diabetic-friendly, I can Binge Eat
Myth: Sugar-free products do not contain ‘sugar’ and are completely safe to eat
Fact: First of all, all the sugar-free products are not calorie-free. Sugar-free products may still contain some carbohydrates which will be broken down to glucose by the body spiking the blood glucose levels. Even though you would be paying much more for that box of sugar-free snacks, in reality, it might not be very much different from the regular snack box. Be sensible! Don’t fall for the merchandising gimmicks. Fill your plate with fresh food as per your meal plan.
3. Fruits are forbidden
Myth: Because I am diabetic, I can’t eat my favorite fruits
Fact: As per the National Institute of Diabetic and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), eating fruits in moderation is perfectly healthy for a diabetic. However, processed and canned fruits or fruit juices should be avoided. Fruits contain natural sugar known as fructose which comparatively has a low glycemic index and does not sharply raise blood sugar levels. Some fruits like mango have higher amounts of fructose and hence should be eaten in moderation.
4. Boring Diabetic Food
Myth: I am stuck with a diabetes specific diet.
Fact: If you that’s what you’re thinking well you can think again. Of course, if you are a diabetic you need to watch what you are eating a bit more than the others do, but that certainly does not mean boring food. You can eat whatever is healthy. Moderation is the key. Balanced home meals are the best for you. Cheat meals are also fine if you know where to stop. Remember not to go overboard with anything and you shall do fine.
5. Carbs are a big no!
Myth: If you have diabetes, you should remove carbohydrates from your diet.
Fact: There can be no healthy meal without carbohydrates. Face this. So what can you do? You have to choose good carbohydrates that do not spike your sugar levels instantly. How do you do this? Check the Glycemic Index of the food and choose from the ones which are low on the scale, viz., spinach, broccoli, oats, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc. Alternatively, you can also check the Glycemic load of the food category to find out the foods that reduce blood sugar like bitter gourd and plan accordingly. Try to incorporate food portions of different food families in your daily diet.
6. Artificial sweetener is my best friend!
Myth: Artificial sweeteners are perfectly safe.
Fact: Although diabetics treat them as elixir, truth be told they are more hazardous than table sugar. They might appear devoid of any calories but long-term use of artificial sweeteners alters the way we taste things. Naturally sweet food like fruits may start appearing bland and food with no natural sugar like vegetables completely unpalatable. Research also suggests that the use of artificial sweeteners might increase the cravings for sweets beating its prime use as a zero-calorie alternative. The FDA has approved the following sweeteners:
Of the above, stevia is a low-calorie, natural sweetener. One important thing to note is that FDA guidelines on sweeteners are in direct contrast to the recommendations of CSPI which asks people to avoid artificial sweeteners all together esp., saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame.
7. No more alcohol
Myth: I cannot drink alcohol at all.
Fact: Adopt less drinking, more thinking when it comes to alcohol. Although alcohol is not totally off-limits when your diabetes is under control, it is certainly a good idea to talk to your doctor about when and how much you can consume. As a thumb rule, men should not drink more than two glasses of alcoholic beverage at a time and women should suffice with one. Some alcohol can actually reduce your blood levels and coupled with your insulin medication can result in a dangerous situation. It is loaded with calories and also stimulates the appetite, both of which are not desirable for a diabetic. However, by restricting the number of glasses and drinking them with food, you should be able to unwind in your evenings.
8. Keep calm and say No to desserts
Myth: Once a diabetic, desserts are off limits forever!
Fact: A cake or a cookie or a pie or ice cream is something no one can say no to. Don’t worry! Even if you are a diabetic you can indulge in these pleasures albeit in a reduced portion size. Eating a slice or bowl of a dessert on and off while balancing the carb intake is absolutely fine. In any case, too much control ultimately leads to mindless eating. Also, punch some keys on your iPad and a plethora of dessert recipes suitable for a diabetic would show up which are great for you without compromising health. Go, enjoy a piece of heaven!
9. Starchy food is my enemy
Myth: Since I have diabetes, I cannot eat starchy food like potatoes, pasta, white rice, etc.
Fact: As we know that starchy food has a lot of carbohydrates in them which may not be very good for a diabetic. But everything in moderation is safe and can be eaten. Starchy food can be a very healthy part of the meal plan if you vow to exercise restraint on portion control. Starchy food that is high in fiber makes a great choice.
10. Watching fats is not needed
Myth: Since I keep a watch on my carbohydrate intake, I can eat as much fatty food as I like.
Fact: Sorry to prick the bubble, but no, you need to watch out for your fats as much as you watch out your carbs. Type 2 diabetes is partly due to lifestyle disorders, obesity primarily being one of them. This increases your heart risk and if you still continue hogging on donuts and french fries you certainly don’t love your heart. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans clearly specify to eliminate trans fats and restrict saturated fats to 10 percent of your daily calorie intake. Lookout for sugar control foods which are not so high in fats either.
As you’ve probably figured out by now you can eat everything as long as it’s in moderation. Remember, moderation is the secret of your survival. A slice of this and a slice of that should be absolutely fine if your overall diet specifications are being met. Healthy eating is forever recommended but small adventures are permissible. Now that you know the diabetes myths and facts make your choices wisely. Have a healthy life!