By Erin Goodrich
Recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes? For many, this can be a scary time, with an abundance of questions. As a registered dietitian and a diabetes educator, many patients say to me, “I don’t know what to eat. I’ve been afraid to eat anything!”
Indeed, that question is probably on the forefront of your mind if you or a loved one has diabetes. Patients often seek out dietary advice from various sources; however, there is a lot of misinformation about diet and diabetes on the internet and from well-meaning friends or family members. To help guide you on the right path, let’s debunk some common myths registered dietitians often hear when counseling patients:
1. “I don’t eat anything with sugar, so my blood glucose will be fine, right?”
Most people believe that if they avoid foods that are higher in sugar, glucose levels remain stable. Patients frequently avoid foods such as ice cream, cookies, soda, desserts, juice and even fruit. In reality, while these foods raise your blood glucose, they are part of a larger group called carbohydrates. Any food containing carbohydrate will affect your blood glucose.
2. “So carbs are bad for me now?”
Not true! This is usually the second question from patients once we discuss carbohydrates and their effect on blood glucose. While carbohydrates do break down and raise your blood glucose levels once digested, your body need this glucose. Glucose from food is the most readily available source of fuel for your body, and is needed for muscle and brain function (ever have a hard time concentrating once it gets close to lunchtime? This is your body telling you it needs a source of fuel). However, not all sources of carbohydrate are equally nutritious. The best carbohydrate choices are complex and unrefined. These carbohydrates are high in fiber, which is harder for your body to digest and keeps you full for longer periods. Since your body digests fiber slowly, these foods have less of the spiking effect on blood glucose that you see with refined, processed carbohydrates. Good choices of high fiber carbs are whole grain breads, bran cereals, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and whole grain pasta.
3. “Fruit is too high in sugar”
Actually, sugar found in fruit is a natural source called fructose. This differs from the processed sugar added to beverages and foods, which is predominately sucrose. Because fruit contains both fructose and fiber (which, remember, is hard for the body to break down, slowing digestion), fructose is broken down and absorbed into the blood stream at a slower rate than sucrose. Research shows that diets higher in fruit are associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Fruits choices rich in fiber include apples, strawberries, oranges, and pears.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed, seek help from reputable sources. Your health care provider can refer you to a registered dietitian to help you develop a meal plan that is right for you (remember, with diabetes there is no one size fits all). Good online sources for accurate nutrition information include the American Diabetes Association or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics websites.