Food and Diabetes: Fact vs. Fiction

There are a lot of misconceptions about diabetes — especially when it comes to food. This can make it hard to figure out what you can and cannot eat.

Are carbs bad for you? Can you eat sweets? Do you have to follow a special diet? To help make things easier, let’s take a closer look and separate fact from fiction.

17 August 2021

Fiction: Eating sugar causes diabetes

Fact: People develop diabetes for many reasons, including lifestyle and genetics.

There are many things you can do to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes: eating foods low in saturated fat and added sugar, exercising regularly, watching portion sizes and eating high fiber foods. But eating sugar does not cause diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. It’s not caused by lifestyle at all.

Fiction: You can’t eat starchy foods if you have diabetes

Fact: Starchy foods like pasta, bread and potatoes can be part of your healthy meal plan. Choosing the right portion sizes is important.

You can include pasta, starchy vegetables, whole-grain bread, rice and cereals in your snacks and meals. Beans, yogurt, fruits and milk products also make good sources of carbohydrates. While it’s important to keep portion sizes reasonable, you can learn to include these foods in your meal plan.

Fiction: People with diabetes must follow a special diet

Fact: There’s no actual “diet” for people who have diabetes. Healthy eating is the same for everyone. Eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes — and it can help people who have diabetes manage blood sugar levels.

A healthy diet includes eating foods low in added sugars and high in fiber. Choose healthier unsaturated fats like avocado, olive oil, oily fish and nuts to replace saturated fats. Eat plenty of vegetables and include some whole grains, fresh fruits, lean meats and low-fat dairy. Keep sweets as foods you eat on special occasions.

You may also want to talk with a dietician after you are diagnosed with diabetes for some advice on the right portion sizes and food choices for your needs.

Fiction: You can’t eat certain fruits if you have diabetes

Fact: Many fruits — especially those that have a lot of fiber — are slowly absorbed into your bloodstream. This means they make blood sugar levels rise slowly.

You can eat any type of fruit if you have diabetes. But the important thing is your portion size. Eating too much fruit can affect blood sugar levels. A serving size of fruit is one cup of cut-up fruit, two small pieces of fruit, or one medium piece of fruit.

Fiction: People with diabetes cant eat sweets

Fact: If you’re worried about attending a special occasion and missing out on dessert, there’s good news! You can still enjoy eating sweets now and then. The key is to go with small portions. And if you’re on an insulin regimen, adjust doses to account for the extra carbs.

When you have all the facts about food and diabetes, it’s easier to manage your blood sugar. Eating doesn’t have to be complicated or overly restricted. Work with your dietician or doctor to come up with a healthy eating plan that helps you manage your blood sugar while incorporating your favorite foods.