As a dietitian, I am often asked about the following points and/or hear these statements. This list will help you to know if you need to change your mindset about diabetes. So let’s myth bust!
- I need to follow a special diet now that I have diabetes.
Just because you have diabetes does not mean you need to eat a special way. Healthy eating still applies. That is, ‘what ‘and the ‘how’ of nutrition. The ‘what’ being the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (2013) and taking into account your personal health and circumstances and the ‘how’ to eat is your eating behaviours which affect your dietary intake.
Dietitians will also focus their attention on the types, quantities and portion sizes of carbohydrate-containing foods you are eating particularly if you have lost touch with the ‘how’ of nutrition and/or have thoughts that lead you to under or over-eat these foods. Because when this happens there is usually some misinformation that is leading you to either limit or overindulge in these foods containing this key nutrient. Carbohydrate is a key nutrient for health as it is our primary fuel source and it is the nutrient insulin acts on to help convert our food into energy. Without adequate amounts of carbohydrate-containing foods, our health and diabetes management won’t be at its optimum.
2. Diabetes can be reversed.
Diabetes cannot be reversed. Your body can manage the condition better if your diet, exercise and lifestyle are optimal. In some people with type 2 diabetes where your eating and lifestyle behaviours are balanced, your doctor may change your insulin to diabetes medication (Oral Hypoglycemic Agents (OHAs)), or if you are on OHAs you may be able to control your diabetes with diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle. In saying this there comes a time when diabetes health deteriorates and medication needs to be increased and/or changed regardless of how great your dietary intake is. Maybe one day with the discoveries of science, diabetes may be reversed – but today diabetes cannot be reversed.
3. Low GI foods will solve all my diabetes issues.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is one dietetic tool of many dietitians use. To maximise the benefit of the GI, the rest of your diet must be well managed. The GI is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods that are low in GI are digested, absorbed and metabolised into the bloodstream slowly and cause lower blood glucose. On the other hand, foods labelled a high GI are digested, absorbed and metabolised into the bloodstream fast, therefore, causing a spike in blood glucose. It should be noted that low GI foods are not healthier than high GI foods, just like food is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. For example, some foods that contain a significant amount of fat and lack nutritional value are lower in GI. An example of this is chocolate, ice-cream and meat pies. These foods should be eaten some of the time as they are ‘sometimes’ foods. If you were to eat only low GI foods this would obviously be an unhealthy behaviour as you would be eating too many ‘sometimes foods’ and limiting healthy ‘everyday’ foods like bananas, pineapple, sultanas, figs, papaya, apricots, watermelon, dates, white rice, potato and pumpkin.
4. I need to label read.
This is the case for type 1 diabetes if you are unsure about how much carbohydrate the product contains, but for type 2 diabetes this is not so important. Overall, regardless of the type of diabetes you have, you need to balance the ‘what’ of nutrition with the ‘how’ just like everyone else. The ‘what’ is understanding The Australian Guide to Eating (2013) and the essence of consuming a variety of foods from across the 5 food groups. The ‘how’ is about listening to what, when and how much food your body needs and enjoying all foods in moderation.
To be continued….. at ‘Diabetes food myths debunked – Part 2‘.
How did you go? Do you need to work on improving your diabetes knowledge? An APD can help you with this 🙂