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Myths : What You Can Eat

If you have type 2 diabetes, it is important to get the facts about what you can eat and how much. This is especially important because what and how much you eat has a direct effect on blood glucose, blood pressure, lipids, and your weight..

The following are some common myths and misconceptions about diabetes and eating.

Myth 1: If you have diabetes, you can’t enjoy food

FACT: It is a complete falsehood that if you have type 2 diabetes you must give up eating the foods you most enjoy. If you have diabetes, you can enjoy a gourmet menu of wonderful foods. However, since losing excess weight is a key part of your diabetes care plan, you will need to adopt an energy-appropriate, nutrient-dense pattern of eating. A healthy eating pattern should be based on recommendations for the general public in the US Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for American, 2010 and should include a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and dietary fiber and a low intake of total fat, saturated fat, and added sugars. For example, when it comes to carbohydrates, you should choose whole grains, legumes (peas and beans), vegetables, and fruits (especially those high in dietary fiber). For protein, animal- and plant-based source can be part of a healthy eating plan. However, some animal-based protein sources contain saturated fat, so low-fat, non-fat, or lean sources should be selected. For fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in seafood, nuts, seeds, and oils should be selected.

Learn more about recipes for healthy eating

Myth 2: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes

FACT: Although eating too many calories which in part may be contributed by too much sugar/added sugars can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, eating too much sugar without excess calories does not cause diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is thought to result from a combination of genetic susceptibility (if you have certain genes that put you at higher risk) and some environmental factor (such as a virus or some dietary exposure) that triggers the disease. Type 2 diabetes is thought to result from a combination of genetic susceptibility and lifestyle and other factors (for example, obesity, food choices, age, physical inactivity).1,2

Myth 3: If you have diabetes, you should stay away from (or eat small amounts) of starchy foods (eg, bread, potatoes, pasta)

FACT: Starchy foods, including bread, potatoes, and pasta, can be included as part of your healthy eating plan. In fact, these food types add some important nutrients to your meals. You should stick to breads, cereals, and pastas that are made of whole grains. You should also incorporate root and other starchy vegetables, such as yams, potatoes, peas, and corn, into your meals and snacks. The key is getting the portion size right. Aim for about 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal. However, you may need to adjust this amount, depending on how you manage your blood sugar and according to your height, weight, and level of activity. Work with a dietitian who is also a diabetes educator to make slow and steady changes to your eating plan to eat healthfully.3

Myth 4: People with diabetes should not eat sweets, including chocolate

FACT: People with diabetes can indeed enjoy sweets, including chocolate, as long as they are eaten in small portions on special occasions, in the context of a healthy, well-balanced eating plan. Just remember that if you are aiming for a certain amount of calories in your eating plan, by eating sugar you are displacing more nutrient-dense carbohydrates. So, make sure to keep your sugar consumption to a minimum.

Myth 5: If you have diabetes, it’s OK to eat as much fruit as you want

FACT: Fresh fruit is an important part of a healthy eating plan. However, as with other food types, the key is moderation. Fruits provide fiber as well as essential minerals and vitamins. However, they are a source of carbohydrates and without being offset with sufficient blood glucose lowering medication, they can result in elevated blood glucose. However, fruit also contains carbohydrates, which means that if fruit is eaten in excess it can result in high blood glucose. Work with a registered dietitian to determine the amount, frequency, and kinds of fruit that you should have in your healthy eating plan.

Myth 6: Eating healthy foods won’t increase your blood sugar

FACT: When it comes to eating, one useful rule of thumb is to practice moderation. Even healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, when you eat too much, can cause your blood sugar to rise.

Written by: Jonathan Simmons | Last reviewed: May 2014.
1. McCulloch DK. Patient information: Diabetes mellitus type 2: Overview (Beyond the Basics). Nathan DM, Mulder JE, eds. UptoDate. Wolters Kluwer Health. Accessed at: 2013. -- 2. McCulloch DK. Patient information: Diabetes mellitus type 1: Overview (Beyond the Basics). Nathan DM, Mulder JE, eds. UptoDate. Wolters Kluwer Health. Accessed at: 2013.-- 3. Diabetes myths. American Diabetes Association. Available at: Accessed on 012814.--