Many misconceptions exist about diabetes – especially, those involving diet.
When people are first diagnosed with diabetes, one of the first things they often hear from others is that they’re going to have follow a diabetic diet, which usually means eliminating sugar or limiting severely calories.
In fact, there really is no longer a thing called a “diabetic diet”. The truth is, it’s all about healthy meal planning.
“The important message is that with proper education and within the context of healthy eating , a person with diabetes can eat anything a person without diabetes eats,” says Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, a nutritionist at Joslin Diabetes Center and co-author of 16 Myths of a Diabetic Diet.
Prevailing beliefs up to the mid-1990s were that people with diabetes should avoid foods that contain so-called “simple” sugars and replace them with “complex” carbohydrates such as those found in potatoes and cereals.
However, a major review of the research at that time revealed that there was relatively little scientific evidence to support the theory that simple sugars are more rapidly digested and absorbed than starches, and therefore more apt to produce high blood-glucose levels.
Now, many people with diabetes are taught to focus on the total grams of carbohydrate they eat with each meal and snack in order to keep their blood glucose under good control.
By working with a dietitian and a diabetes-treatment team to calculate the amount of carbohydrate they can eat throughout the day, they can decide at any given meal what they will eat.
Those with diabetes who are not on insulin need to focus on keeping consistent the amount of carbohydrates they consume throughout the day. Those on meal-time insulin can decide both what and how much to eat at a given meal and can accordingly adjust their insulin. Of course, portion sizes and calories still count!
“There aren’t any foods that are completely ‘off-limits,'” says Campbell. “Rather, one just needs to learn how to spend his or her grams of carbohydrate wisely over the course of the day.”
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