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The truth about diabetic diets

By Anne Cain, R.D., MyRecipes.com
No food is forbidden, but diabetics should pay attention to portions and amount of carbohydrate, fat and sodium.
No food is forbidden, but diabetics should pay attention to portions and amount of carbohydrate, fat and sodium.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • There isn't just one type of diabetes (pre-diabetes, type 1, type 2, gestational)
  • Sugar is permitted in balanced, healthy eating plan, but try to limit intake
  • Eating health types of fat might is beneficial for people with diabetes
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(MyRecipes.com) -- Having diabetes doesn't mean having to eat a spartan diet of bland, tasteless foods. But it does mean you have to pay close attention to portion control. Learn why some of the common myths about diabetic diets are not exactly true and what steps you can take to control diabetes.

Myth: One diet fits all.

Because there is not just one type of diabetes (pre-diabetes, type 1, type 2, gestational), there is no one diet that works for everyone. Many people with type 2 diabetes are obese and need a weight-control diet plan, while others with type 1 diabetes might be 17-year old athletes who need a high-calorie diet. Blood sugar control can be achieved in different approaches such as low-carb, high-fiber, low-fat, and low glycemic index diets. It's important to meet with your doctor and a dietitian to figure out what type of plan will work for you.

MyRecipes.com: Defy diabetes

Myth: No sugar allowed.

It's okay to eat some sugar as long as it's part of a balanced, healthy eating plan and is accounted for in the total amount of carbohydrate in your diet. However, you should try to cut down on foods and drinks that are concentrated in sugars because, in large amounts, they can make blood sugar control and weight control more difficult.

Myth: Eat all the fruit you want.

Fruit is fine, but in unlimited amounts can mess with diabetes control. Along with lots of vitamins and antioxidants, fruits contain natural sugars that can increase blood glucose. Fresh fruits have a slight advantage over fruit juices because the fresh fruits contain fiber, which helps slow the rise of blood glucose. Enjoy fresh fruits, but pay attention to the amount.

MyRecipes.com: Browse all healthy fruit salad recipes

Myth: Salt doesn't count

Although salt does not directly affect blood sugar, a high sodium intake is linked with high blood pressure, especially in people who are "salt-sensitive". Both high blood pressure and salt-sensitivity are common in people with type 2 diabetes. And people with type 1 diabetes who have kidney damage are at high risk for high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, so the American Diabetes Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,400 mg per day.

MyRecipes.com: 10 easy ways to reduce sodium

Myth: Leave out the fat

Because fat in the digestive tract slows gastric emptying, a small amount of fat may slow down the rise of blood glucose after a meal and help control blood sugar. And because people with diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease, eating certain heart-healthy types of fat (in moderation) can be beneficial to health.

MyRecipes.com: The skinny on fats

Myth: Many foods are off-limits.

No foods are really off limits (even pizza!) if you pay attention to portion control and account for the amount of carbohydrate, fat and sodium. However, when you have diabetes, the emphasis needs to be on lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, and limited amounts of high-fat foods and those that are concentrated sources of sugar.

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Myth: Low-carb is the key.

Low-carb diets can help control diabetes, but this may not be the right approach for everyone. Some popular low-carb diets are also higher in fats and may not be good for people with type 2 diabetes who are already at risk for heart disease. Look for low-carb diets that emphasize lean proteins and heart-healthy fats. Controlling carbs is important in diabetes control, but a low-carb diet may not be the plan that works for you.

See: MyRecipes.com: Are you getting enough protein?