Diabetes and Your Diet: Busting 7 Myths

Diabetes and diet myths

If you have diabetes, you’re probably watching what you eat to keep your blood sugar (glucose) levels stable. It’s the key to maintaining good health and avoiding potentially serious complications.

But many of us have misconceptions about diabetes and diet, says Andrea Dunn, RD, LD, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Cleveland Clinic’s Digestive Disease Institute. Below, she sheds light on some common myths you may have come across:

Myth 1: You need to follow a ‘diabetic diet’

Fact: There is no diabetic diet; a heart-healthy eating style that helps maintain a healthy weight is recommended. That includes a mostly plant-based diet (think vegetables, fruits and whole grains), lean meats, vegetable oils instead of butter or margarine, and low-fat dairy products.

Myth 2: You have to stop eating bread

Fact: You can still eat bread and other carbohydrates if you have diabetes — but stick to healthy portions and choose whole grains often. Learn which foods contain carbohydrates and how many carbs they contain, then spread your carbohydrates throughout the day to keep blood glucose stable. If you need help in meal planning, a registered dietitian can give you an individual assessment and help you determine the right amount of carbohydrates for your needs.

Myth 3: Avoiding sugar will help you control diabetes

Fact: Sugar is just one part of the “total carbohydrates” you’ll need to watch to keep your glucose levels stable. To determine the number of carbs you’re consuming at each meal, check the food label. Look at the serving size and compare it to the amount on your plate. Check the total carbohydrate grams per serving, and do the math.

Say the serving size on the label reads 1 cup, and the total carbohydrates per serving reads 45 grams. You have 2 cups on your plate, or 90 grams of carbohydrates. How does that fit into your carbohydrate budget for the meal, considering all the other carb-containing foods you plan to eat? Most doctors recommend 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal, depending on your calorie needs.

Myth 4: You can eat all the meat and fat you want because they have zero carbs

Fact: Eating less fat, especially saturated fat, from meat and other foods is important for heart health. This is especially true if you have type 2 diabetes because your risk of heart disease is two to four times higher than normal. Stay heart-healthy by eating a variety of mainly plant-based foods.

Myth 5: Juice is better for you than soda

Fact: Half a cup of juice contains the same amount of carbohydrate as half a cup of soda pop. Juice might contain more nutrients, but it can raise blood glucose levels just as much as soft drinks can. Switch to water and other zero-calorie drinks for your main beverages. If you drink juice at all, limit the quantity and include its carbs in your carbohydrate budget for the meal or snack.

Myth 6: If you’re overweight, you’re doomed to get diabetes

Fact: You can help delay or even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes by losing just 5 to 7 percent of your weight and by getting a minimum of two and a half hours of exercise per week. Those are findings from the Diabetes Prevention Program, a major study conducted at multiple U.S. medical centers. Small changes can add up to a big difference in your health!

Myth 7: If you take diabetes medications, you don’t have to watch what you eat

Fact: You need to take charge of what you eat and how active you are to stay on top of diabetes. Lifestyle, including what we eat and how much we exercise, is the cornerstone of good health whether we have diabetes or not. But always follow your doctor’s advice about medications and monitoring your blood glucose.

Download a guide to managing diabetes

  • T. Hopper

    My son has CRPS and completed the pediatric pain rehab program in April of last year. It was life-changing for him and restored the function to his leg. Amazing program run by amazing people!

  • ornurse32

    My son is 11 years old and is suffering terribly from a leg injury that caused CRPS. We are being treated by local physicians but NOTHING has helped. It has only been 7 weeks today but he is in CONSTANT intractable pain 24/7. Our insurance says they will not cover the Cleveland Clinic until all treatments have failed here in Michigan. Any advice? Two failed nerve blocks and max meds haven’t touched it.

    • Patient

      You should call Cleveland clinic and ask to speak with their financial department. You may find a loophole in your insurance or you may find you can cover the cost without your insurance (letting the doctors and staff know your situation, who your insurance provider is and what they told you may result in them lowering the treatment costs in your specific case) I am in no way affiliated with Cleveland clinic and am not saying they will do this but it is worth a shot! I am a patient there and can tell you they are amazing and I am no doubt alive today because of them. I hope your son is able to get the treatment he needs and can be rehabilitated and enjoy hos life. Pain is a horrible and debilitating issue and when the patient is a child its even worse. Good luck!

    • Sheila Atkinson

      Have you tried mirror therapy. The same kind they do for phantom limb pain. There are videos on YouTube showing how to make a simple one. It’s non invasive and with no side effects. You could also consider Bowen therapy as it is good for children. I also take anti epileptic medication which helps to dampen down the burning nerve pain. Hope things calm down for him. It’s hard enough trying to deal with it as an adult x

  • Elisha Wooden

    My husband has been dealing with this for 4 yrs. We drive 5 hrs to see a specialist in San Francisco who experiment on him with different meds..spinal blocks and therapy. With not much success. He cant walk far and requires a cane for assistants as his knee will just let out from under him. The meds are mostly neurologic so hes not always himself. I wish we had someone who could help him function better and be apart of our family activitys again, we have 5 kids still at home and he just cant function.

    • Sheila Atkinson

      Physical therapy and exercises in water help me. I go to a special swimming pool made for handicapped people. It has ramp access and is as warm as a bath. Walk in showers and wet rooms help with bathing. You can get inflatable bath chairs to get in and out of the bath. I have one. It’s called a Mangar. I have to use a stick now as my CRPS has spread from an arm injury 5 years ago. The first year was all about what I couldn’t do any more. The second was about what I can still do. Now I try new things and if I can’t do them at least I know I gave it a go. I don’t lose anything by trying as I know what I can still do. It’s more a case of mentally accepting that your old life has gone and saying RIP to it. I found I had to reinvent myself. It stopped me in my tracks from being who I thought I was. Dealing with the pain and physical limitations is only one part of the condition. Getting family and friends to understand that one day you may be fine to do something and the next you can’t get out of bed is difficult. Even over the day things can change. My example is when I was invited to the cinema. It was cold outside and I was travelling in a car. Even before I got in the car I had to think about whether my pain meds would last through the film, what coat to wear as I may be too hot in the car and cinema. Would I be able to take my coat off in the restricted space because of my arm restrictions. Would I get knocked by people increasing my pain. Would I be able to sit in the seat for that length of time. How would I cope with the vibrations of the car and cinema sound track. All these things are the kind of issues that go through the head of a CRPS sufferer. It makes life difficult for the person with the condition feel part of things. Whether that is family outings, social gatherings or work events. That is if you have managed to keep your job. I lost mine after collapsing at work a year after diagnosis. A positive attitude and keeping mobile is the best treatment. Break tasks down into smaller parts and rest in between. Don’t overdo things when you feel well as you will pay for it in pain later. Set realistic goals. Don’t set a deadline for things. If you have things to do don’t assign a day. Plan a list of things to do over the week. That way you don’t build in failure if you have bad days. I hope you find this useful. Many blessings for less pain in your lives, both physical and emotional x

  • https://twitter.com/TheRiddleClass TheRiddleClass

    Can this be from an injury from years ago?

    • Sheila Atkinson

      There could be more incidents where there is already a weakness but the weakness or historical injury itself is not likely to be the cause alone. A simple sprain can cause it. I had a dislocation of my shoulder when I was 17. At 44 my shoulder was dislocated again and it set off crps. I had no symptoms of crps previously. High doses of vitamin c prior to surgery have shown to reduce risk of developing crps.