By Anna Eliza P. Bartolata, RND
One of the goals of people with diabetes is to keep their blood sugar level within the normal or the acceptable range determined by their physicians. Controlled blood sugar is associated with improved health as well as prevention of complications associated with diabetes. Eating the right kind and amount of food, incorporating physical activities in your lifestyle and compliance with the prescribed medications are the important key factors in maintaining a good blood sugar control. Some people find it hard to follow a healthy diet designed for people with diabetes. Oftentimes they have erratic eating patterns and uncontrollable eating habits.
Some people restrict themselves too much. They eat foods based on hearsays and advice of other people who mean well but are not experts on health and nutrition. When you are living with diabetes, it is important that you make your food choices based on facts and not fiction. Some information or tips about diet for people with diabetes are misleading. Unplanned diet and consuming or avoiding foods based on hearsays may cause health problems in the long run. Here are the most common diet myths debunked.
1. I have to eat different foods/meal from the rest of my family
Diet for people with diabetes is like a regular diet. There is no need to prepare and cook especial foods for you. You can still eat the same foods on the dining table. What matters is that you control the portions of your food to help you control your blood sugar. It would be wise to plan meals which are lower in fat and salt to promote a healthier diet. You should still consume a balanced meal consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein or meat, milk and heart healthy fat used for cooking.
2. I cannot eat starchy foods like rice and pasta because they will raise my blood sugar level and they will make me gain weight
Rice, pasta, potatoes and many others are examples of foods which are rich in carbohydrates. They are oftentimes blamed for blood sugar shoot up. It is important that you still eat foods which are good sources of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy. You could still eat rice and other starchy products as long as you don’t indulge and binge eat.
Food portioning and carbohydrate counting are important factors to help you have good blood sugar control. They will not make you gain weight as long as you do not eat more what you burn off.
Some carbohydrate rich foods are good source of fiber as well. Soluble fiber can help lower your blood cholesterol and improve blood sugar control if eaten regularly and in recommended amount. Fiber rich foods include oatmeal, wheat bread and pasta.
3. I shouldn’t eat mangoes or fruits if I have diabetes.
Fruits including mangoes are essential part of a balanced diet. You should still consume fruits in a day because they are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. However, fruits also contain carbohydrates and they must be eaten in accordance to your planned meal. It is recommended that you refrain from consuming fruits which are overly ripe. Naturally occurring sugar in fruits increases as they ripen.
4. I can eat everything and as much as I want because I take my medications religiously.
Taking the medications prescribed by your doctor is an important element in keeping your blood sugar level within the desired range. This does not mean that you can eat as much as you want. If you over indulge, chances are your blood sugar level can still go up.
5. I’ll just eat more meat because they do not contain carbohydrates.
Meat may not contain carbohydrates but some may be high in fat. Examples of these are processed meats like hotdog, corned beef, hamburger patty, salami and sausages. Uncontrolled intake of meat may lead to weight gain as well as increasing your chance of developing heart diseases. Animal protein contains saturated fat and cholesterol which could increase your LDL level or most commonly known as the bad cholesterol. It is advisable that you trim off the visible fat in meat. It is also important that you consider portion sizes of meat
6. Artificial sweeteners are dangerous for me and may cause cancer.
Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes manufacturers use to add sweetness to any food. The most common artificial sweeteners that you can find in the market are Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium, Saccharin, Stevia and Sucralose. They will not bring you harm as long as the usage falls within the acceptable daily intake (ADI). For each of the mentioned sweeteners, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that the estimated daily intake even for a high consumer would not exceed the ADI.
These sweeteners can actually help you in controlling your weight because of their low to zero calorie content. Artificial sweeteners generally not cause blood sugar elevation, thus making them good alternatives to sugar. There is no concrete scientific evidence linking artificial sweeteners and cancer.
7. I should not eat snacks because my blood sugar might elevate or I might gain weight.
Snacking on healthy foods can actually help you control hunger and prevent you from overeating during your next meal. It can also help prevent a sudden decrease in your blood sugar level. What’s more important in snacking is that you much on healthier choices like whole grains, fruits or even vegetables.
8. I cannot drink alcoholic beverages
Although most people with diabetes can drink alcohol in moderation, it is still advisable to check with your physician if you will be allowed to have a few drinks. Alcohol can cause spike or drop in your blood sugar level. Heavy drinking can cause hypoglycemia or falling of blood sugar level below the desired range especially if you drink on an empty stomach. D