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

  • Marry

    I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes and put on Metformin on June 26th, 2014. I started the ADA diet and followed it 100% for a few weeks and could not get my blood sugar to go below 140. Finally i began to panic and called my doctor, he told me to get used to it. He said I would be on metformin my whole life and eventually insulin. At that point i knew something wasn’t right and began to do a lot of research. On April 13th I found this book on
    w­j­e­5­9­2­.­com/Cure-Diabetes-Naturally.html . I read the book from end to end that night because everything the writer was saying made absolute sense. I started the diet that day and the next morning my blood sugar was down to 100, the next day was in the 90’s and now i have a fasting blood sugar between Mid 70’s and the 80’s. My doctor took me off the metformin after just one week of being on this lifestyle change. I have lost over 30 pounds in a month. I now work out twice a day and still have tons of energy. I have lost 6+ inches around my waist and I am off my high blood pressure medication too. I have about 20 more pounds to go till my body finds its ideal weight. The great news is, this is a lifestyle I can live with, it makes sense and it works. God Bless the writer. I wish the ADA would stop enabling consumers and tell them the truth. You can get off the drugs, you can help yourself, but you have to have a correct lifestyle and diet. No more processed foods.

    • Ez Acosta

      It pays to advocate for our own health. The standards of health in conventional medicine is atrocious. Im glad you found the path out of sickness. So much of this countries ills goes back to nutrition and clean living and food. The truth is out there.

  • Kimberly Ryan

    In 2007, I was diagnosed with severe fibromyalgia, placed on narcotic therapy, extremely active, petite, until three years ago. Cannot take Lyrica or gabapentin due to severe allergies and Cymbalta doesn’t help. I was taken off these medications because of all the studies contraindicated their effectiveness. Now I’m not on anything. I’ve gained almost 50 pounds, due to decreased activity, in severe pain, have increased neuropathy and muscle weakness, all of which are not being addressed. To add fuel to the fire, I had a brain aneurysm in 4/2000 which left me with traumatic brain injury, as well as, physical side effects. I’ve kept these to a minimum by staying physically fit and active. Because my health has deteriorated and by not being as physical, these side effects are becoming more apparent again. There is no one treating fibromyalgia in my area and I also live in NYS with the strict regulations of narcotics. I don’t fit the “normal” treatment for this diagnosis, nor do I have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, yet I cannot get help. It’s unfortunate that someone who goes from being highly active all their life, athletic, loves the outdoors, lives alone, owns their own house, used to be an RN, becomes someone who struggles to get through the day. It’s not right.