As a longtime Registered Dietitian, I have observed the patterns of belief that people hold about diabetes and its treatment; some from listening to non-credentialed sources and some from natural assumptions. The arena of nutrition, in particular, is fraught with deceptive and concocted information. Listed here are five of the common myths that most people believe about diabetes management and the facts.
Myth #1: Carbohydrate is My Enemy
Studies have uncovered nutrition mysteries of great magnitude by revealing to us the healthiest people on this planet. Surprisingly, they’re vegetarians. There are different kinds of vegetarians, but the common behavior that defines their dietary habits is the fact that they eat plenty of plant foods such as grains, fruits, and vegetables. The major nutrient found in plant foods is, you guessed it, carbohydrate. Carbohydrate foods supply our bodies with energy at the very time that we eat them because they’re quickly digested and broken down into glucose. The presence of glucose in the blood is necessary for life. Carbohydrate foods also contain fiber to keep our intestines healthy. These are the foods that are renowned for their protective properties against cancer and heart disease. Research supports this truth. We cannot be healthy without eating about half of our daily calories as carbohydrate.
Some people are willing to accept the health-giving properties of carbohydrate foods, but they believe that all fruits and starches (for example, bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, peas) are bad, while non-starchy vegetables are good. Let’s take a look at this myth within the context of needing half of our calories to be carbohydrate. Non-starchy vegetable such as carrots, broccoli, green beans, lettuce are so low in calories that the average middle-aged man would have to eat 44 serving or between 22 to 44 cups of non-starchy vegetables to meet his daily carbohydrate needs. Absurd? Yes! Carbohydrate is not your enemy!
Myth #2: White Foods are Bad for Me
This is a sweeping generalization meant to discourage you from eating refined grains (for example, white bread, white rice, white pasta) and simple sugars (for example, candy, cakes, cookies, and pies). The intention behind this adage is good, but it loses something in translation to practical application. Refined foods lose a large number of important micro- and macro-nutrients during the refinement process, while they also become mixed with a number of undesirable substances. Obesity, malnutrition, and even cancers can result from eating a diet high in refined foods. The problem with this adage, however, when misunderstood, keeps people from eating foods that are naturally white and packed with good nutrition such as white potatoes, cauliflower, white beans, mushrooms, onion, and white root vegetables. These are foods not to be avoided because of the good nutrients they offer. So, let’s do our bodies a favor and change our focus. White foods that grow white should be given a place of importance in your diet, while foods made white due to processing are best replaced with other options.
Myth #3: The Diabetes Diet is all I need to Control my Diabetes
Meal planning for diabetes is probably the most important foundation you need for glucose control, but diabetes management is profoundly more complex than that! Unless you understand the other factors that affect your glucose and know how to counteract them, you will likely have problems managing your diabetes. And diabetes mistakes can be expensive!
Glucose is in the blood for the expressed purpose of providing energy whenever it is needed. We get hungry every four to five hours because energy is constantly being used and our glucose levels are continually decline. Once we eat food, blood glucose is restored and we’re good to go. At least, that’s the way it works for most people. Having diabetes changes this process.
The diabetic body has difficulty keeping glucose levels in the safe zone without outside help. For instance, if you eat too much food, glucose levels rise above standard. If you forget to eat, your body may not be able to pull from storage sources to restore glucose to normal. Many factors affect glucose levels. Glucose readings rise when you eat, have an infection, or are under physical or emotional stress. On the flip side, low blood glucose results from taking too much diabetes medicine, forgetting to eat on time, or not properly juggling physical activity with food intake. There are also several syndromes that can lead to glucose fluctuations.
To manage your diabetes and prevent body damage, there is much you need to know. With advances taking place all the time, it is a national standard of care that people with diabetes and pre-diabetes receive Diabetes Self-Management Training (a ten hour class) every five years to obtain essential instruction.
Myth #4: The Act of Testing my Glucose Helps my Diabetes
I see it so frequently; people lancing their fingers every day and not doing anything with the results. They seem to think that the very act of testing helps them in some way. Sure, you learn whether or not your glucose is exceptionally high or low, but glucose self-testing is an activity that’s meant to tell you when your diabetes treatment regimen is or is not working. Testing enables you to tightly control glucose levels in order to prevent body-wide damage. Testing your glucose level to better manage your diabetes starts with knowing the blood glucose range that your physician has chosen for your level of disease progression. Then when you see a couple of consecutive glucose results out of range, it becomes a call to action to identify the reason and correct the problem. You receive this training and more when you take a Diabetes Self-Management Training course. Act swiftly upon your self-monitoring glucose results and you will save money and preserve your health.
Myth # 5: My Doctor Expects Me to Test my Fasting Glucose Every Morning
Did your physician really tell you to check your fasting glucose each morning or did you assume that? Morning fasting glucose gives your doctor one small peek into a full 24 hours of glucose fluctuations, making prescribing your medications more a guessing game than a matter of science. At Diabetes Self-Management Training (DSMT), you learn the importance of the gold standard of testing times which is two hours after you begin eating meals. Testing at this time is the true proof of your body’s ability, with or without medicine, to manage a glucose load because glucose levels peak within two hours of eating. When you know the goal range that your physician has chosen for your level of disease progression, the results you obtain can be used to modify your prescriptions. Another important truth DSMT teaches is the importance of varying your testing times to give your doctor a feel for your glucose levels throughout the day. Make every glucose test count so that the medications and doses you receive perfectly fit your needs.
About the Author
Laurie Van Wyckhouse, MS, RD, LD/N has developed the world’s first learner-centered diabetes training programs available at NutriTutor. As a medical clinician, Laurie has over 30 years of experience teaching people how to control diabetes and related diseases. Your life and health are worth the best!