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10 diabetes diet myths

" Diabetes diet." Simply hearing these words may be enough to make you feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

Perhaps you have said, or heard someone else express, one of these thoughts:

  • Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
  • There are too many rules about choosing foods that are OK in a diabetes diet.
  • You have to give up all your favourite foods when you're on a diabetes diet.

These three statements are all myths about diabetes diets. Take a closer look at these and other myths to find out the facts about diabetes and diet.

Myth 1: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

How does diabetes happen? The causes are not totally understood. What is known is that simply eating too much sugar is unlikely to cause diabetes. Instead, diabetes begins when something disrupts your body’s ability to turn the food you eat into energy.

To understand what happens when you have diabetes, keep these things in mind.  Your body breaks down much of the food you eat into glucose, a type of sugar needed to power your cells. A hormone called insulin is made in the pancreas. Insulin helps the cells in the body use glucose for fuel. 

Here are the most common types of diabetes and what researchers know about their causes:

  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas cannot make insulin. Without insulin, sugar piles up in your blood vessels. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin to help get the sugar into the cells. Type 1 diabetes often starts in younger people or in children. Researchers believe it occurs when something goes wrong with the immune system.
  • Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not make enough insulin, the insulin does not work properly, or both. Being overweight makes type 2 diabetes more likely to occur. It can happen in a person of any age.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy in some women. Hormone changes during pregnancy prevent insulin from working properly. Women with gestational diabetes usually need to take insulin. The condition may resolve after birth of the child.

Myth 2: There are too many rules in a diabetes diet.

If you have diabetes, you will need to plan your meals. But the general principle is simple: following a ‘diabetes diet’ means choosing food that will work along with your activities and any medications to keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.

Will you need to make changes to what you now eat? Probably, although perhaps not as many as you anticipate.

Myth 3: Carbohydrates are bad for diabetes

In fact, carbohydrates are good for diabetes. They form the foundation of a healthy diabetes diet - or of any healthy diet.

Carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood sugar levels, which is why you are asked to monitor how much carbohydrate you eat when following a diabetes diet.

However, carbohydrate foods contain many essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fibre. So one diabetes diet tip is to choose those with the most nutrients, like whole-grain breads and baked goods, as well as high-fibre fruit and vegetables. You may find it easier to select the best carbohydrates if you meet with a dietician.

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