Ms Kala Adaikan, Senior Principal Dietitian from the Department of Dietetics at Singapore General Hospital, a member of the SingHealth group, lists common diabetes diet myths and sets the record straight.
Myth 1: Starchy foods are off limits and should be avoided
Carbohydrate foods, particularly starchy foods such as rice, bread, noodles and cereals, form a major component of the body’s energy source. All starchy foods break down to glucose, which is the body’s preferred source of energy. The key is knowing how much your personalised requirements for carbohydrates are.
Choose starchy foods that are high in fibre such as wholegrains.
Myth 2: All ‘sugar-free’ products are calorie-free food
Not all ‘sugar-free’ products are calorie-free. Some sugar-free products such as sugar-free biscuits also contain carbohydrate in the form of starch and can still increase your blood glucose levels upon consumption. Don’t fall trap to marketing gimmicks. There is no need to purchase specialty ‘diabetic products’. You may be able to consume regular food as part of a sensible eating plan.
Myth 3: People with diabetes should never consume sugar
With good diabetes control (evidenced by good HbA1c and overall good capillary blood glucose levels), and
by learning carbohydrate counting with the added knowledge of your personalised requirements, you may be able to include some sugar as part of your daily eating plan, without compromising on your glycaemic control. Work with your dietitian.
Myth 4: Bitter-tasting food will help lower blood glucose levels
Bitter-tasting foods such as bitter gourd will not help lower your blood glucose levels. Glucose levels in your blood are driven by the amount of carbohydrates consumed. The key to controlling your blood glucose levels is to have a good understanding of your individualised carbohydrate requirements and keeping to it.
Myth 5: Switching to wholegrain rice means I can eat more rice
The carbohydrate content of wholegrain rice is similar to regular rice. Wholegrain rice provides more fibre, making it a better choice for diabetes.
Myth 6: I can eat as much protein as I want, as long I cut down on my carbohydrate intake
Excessive intake of any nutrient can lead to weight gain. Increased protein intake will also invariably increase your intake of fat. The key is to have a good understanding of your personalised requirements for protein and to keep within limits.
Myth 7: It’s ok to eat my favourite sweets when I have hypoglycaemia
Hypoglycaemia should be treated appropriately with only 15-20 g of carbohydrates (for a blood glucose reading of < 4.0 mmol/L. This carbohydrate should be fast-acting carbohydrates in the form of juice, soft drinks, sugar or appropriate jellied sweets.
A hypoglycaemia episode is not an excuse to eat your favourite sugary snacks uncontrollably. You will be at risk of over-treating and causing a spike in your blood glucose levels.
Myth 8: Fat does not matter, so I can ignore the fat content in my meals
Fat does not have a direct impact on blood glucose levels.
However, a large amount of fat in a meal can delay stomach emptying and slow the digestion of carbohydrate, keeping your blood glucose levels elevated forlonger, making it difficult to keep your blood glucose levels within the desirable range.
Fat provides nearly twice as many calories than carbohydrates and protein (gram for gram). This is not helpful for individuals hoping to shed some weight. Consuming too much saturated fat may also lead to undesirable lipid profiles, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Myth 9: People with diabetes shouldn’t eat fruits
People with diabetes should eat fruits. Though fruits contain carbohydrates, they should be eaten as they are
rich sources of antioxidant vitamins, minerals and are also a source of fibre.
There is no ‘best’ or ‘worst’ fruit to eat for diabetes. Learning carbohydrate counting techniques will allow you to fit any fruit into your daily eating plan.
- Consume 2 portions of fresh fruit a day.
- Choose fresh fruit instead of canned fruit and juices.
Myth 10: Losing weight will definitely cure my diabetes
If you are overweight, losing weight may not definitely cure your diabetes. Losing 5-10% of your initial weight may help you control blood glucose levels by improving insulin resistance. In addition, keeping the weight off may also help control your blood lipids and blood pressure.