Nutrition Misconceptions in Diabetes

Nayla Abi Antoun, Dietitian
Hotel Dieu de France Hospital
Diabetes Education center

Medical nutrition therapy is a therapeutic approach that is used in the treatment of patients’ medical conditions through following a specifically tailored diet, as is the case for diabetes. It indeed plays a major role in the prevention and management of this disease.

Lifestyle and changes in dietary habits are considered as the cornerstones of the therapy applied for diabetes, especially for type 2, as they were proven to limit the negative impact of diabetes on the human body. Therefore, therapeutic diet education and awareness should be an integral part of the management of diabetes.

Besides the fact that sticking to dietary recommendations, especially for the long run, can be a tough and frustrating exercise for people with diabetes, their situation can be compounded by having to deal with common misconceptions and erroneous widely-held beliefs. And since misinformation about diabetes is everywhere, a first important step towards the treatment of the condition is learning the facts.

Here are some myths:

1- Sweet fruits have to be avoided.

Fruits are an important source of carbohydrates (sugar), vitamins, minerals and fibers. People with diabetes can eat all kinds of fruits while respecting the serving. Indeed, one fruit serving contains 15g of sugar. 2 portions of fruits could be taken daily.

1 portion of fruit = 1 apple/ 10cherries/ 2 plums/ 16 strawberries/ 10-15 grapes/ 1 slice of watermelon/ 1 peach...

On the other hand, one has to be careful with juice, even if it is fresh as it has a high sugar content. (1 glass of juice = 3-4 portions of fruits, which sums to 45-60g of sugar taken in one shot).

2- Whole-wheat bread and the so-called diet bread is good
for diabetics and hence can be consumed in larger quantities.

If it’s true that whole-wheat bread is richer in fiber, an essential nutrient, it’s nevertheless made out of flour, which is also a source of carbohydrates. Just like normal bread, proportions have to be carefully reviewed and integrated in a well-balanced diet.

30g of any bread contain 15g of carbohydrates.

3- Sugar-free cookies and biscuits are safe for diabetics.

In this type of food, natural sugar is replaced by artificial sugars to preserve the sweet and yummy taste. Careful there because not only is their main component flour (which is a source of carbohydrate as stated earlier) but they also contain butter and fats. This is why quantities should be limited.

4- “Diet chocolate” is safe for diabetics.

Same as for cookies, the sweetness in this type of products is provided by artificial sugars. Not only do people tend to forget sometimes that chocolate contains fat, but they are unaware about the fact that at times, these chocolates do contain carbohydrates. Careful when reading the labels!

5- Sweets (real sweets!) should be banned.

Wrong again! Nothing is completely forbidden as long as it’s consumed in moderation and integrated into a healthy diet plan. Even though taken in isolation, sweets cause a poor regulation of blood glucose, it’s still possible to consume them for time to time and in small quantities.

However, beware of the fact that the most common sweets we consume such as chocolate, pastries, cookies... are a combination of sugar and fat, be cautious with that.

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