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You Can Eat Carbs, and the Truth About Other Diabetes Nutrition Myths

Diabetes is a complex condition, and navigating eating well can understably be overwhelming.

Nutrition is an important part of successful diabetes management. The food that we eat directly impacts our health, and navigating the ins and outs of eating well for your condition can understandably be complicated and overwhelming. 

There is a lot of misinformation out there surrounding nutrition for diabetes, and separating fact from fiction can be tricky. Below, we tackle some of the most common misconceptions to help you better understand your condition. 

Myth: Avoid carbohydrates at all costs 

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are our body’s primary source of energy. When digested, carbs are broken down into glucose, or sugar, which fuels our cells. Evidence shows that following a well-balanced eating plan that includes the right amounts of carbs, protein, and fat, is beneficial for managing your blood sugar. Remember, not all carbs are created equal! Complex carbs, which contain fiber, are less likely to cause a rapid spike in blood sugar compared to simple, or refined carbs. For those with diabetes, the key is to be mindful of the source of carbs, and how much is being consumed, such as through the Diabetes Plate Method

Myth: You need to eat special foods 

A “diabetes-friendly” eating plan doesn’t consist of unique or special foods. As with the general population, the key to maintaining a balanced eating plan when you have diabetes is including a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, healthy fats, and whole grains. Working with a registered dietitian can help in educating yourself and developing a personalized nutrition plan that works for you and your lifestyle. 

Myth: All "sugar-free" products are calorie-free

“Sugar-free” does not equal calorie-free! “Sugar-free” foods contain artificial sweeteners that are used to mimic the presence of sugar. Additionally, some “sugar-free” foods also contain other ingredients that may increase your blood sugar levels. So while it’s true that the absence of sugar itself will lower the food’s calorie count, look at the entire product and its ingredients – remember, there is no need to purchase “special” foods as part of a diabetes-friendly eating plan. 

Myth: People with diabetes shouldn't eat fruit

All fruits contain natural sugars called fructose, which raises a common concern regarding its impact on blood sugar levels. However, fruits are also an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eating whole fruits in the appropriate portion sizes is an important part of a healthy, well-balanced eating plan. 

Myth: It’s not safe to exercise with diabetes

Physical activity is an important part of managing diabetes. Regular exercise can help boost your body’s sensitivity to insulin and lower your A1C. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine or making changes to your current routine to ensure the program is safe for you.