5 diabetes-related diet myths to stop believing now, according to doctors

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body cannot regulate the amount of sugar in the blood, of which cases have skyrocketed in India over the last few years. Research shows that the diabetic population in the country is likely to hit 69.9 million by 2025 and 80 million by 2030. While it is so common, misinformation about how to treat and keep it under control is rife.

Shubhda Bhanot, chief diabetes educator, Max Hospital, Gurgaon cautions against keeping it business as usual when it comes to your diet. The amount of carbohydrates we eat through the Indian diet is much higher than the recommended levels, which is one of the leading contributors for diabetes in the long run, observes Bhanot. She explains, “For instance, a regular Indian breakfast would be poha, upma, or aloo paratha, which are very high in carbs, and have little protein. If we start eating more complex carbohydrates and if the protein intake is adequate along with fruits and vegetables, then a balanced diet is good to keep diabetes in control. It is a recommended norm for a balanced diet that half the plate should be fruits and vegetables, ¼ should be proteins and ¼ should be cereals that are not refined.”

However, an important first step especially for the newly diagnosed is to realise that you can be a healthy person living with diabetes, says Bhanot. “Even though a few lifestyle changes can help you manage your blood sugar and make you feel better, it’s essential that you first learn to free yourself of all the prevailing food myths related to diabetes,” she adds.

Myth 1: Diabetics cannot eat potatoes

Potatoes are a starchy vegetable, which means that they are rich in carbohydrates and can raise blood sugar levels quickly. Still, “It doesn’t make sense to look at an ingredient or a particular food in isolation at all,” says Mumbai-based doctor and nutritionist Dr Vishakha Shivdasani. “It’s the quantity of carbs which creates a problem for a diabetic, not the actual carb of choice,” she says. “Mix your simple carbs (potatoes) with complex carbs to prevent a blood sugar spike.”

Myth 2: Diabetics can drink fruit juices as long as there is no added sugar

“You don’t want to consume more than 50g of simple sugar at one time,” says Dr Shivdasani. When fruits are juiced, the fibre is lost, and the sugars are consumed and absorbed more quickly, leading to a rapid blood sugar spike. But this doesn’t mean you have to skip fruits completely. Eating them whole will ensure a better digestion process. “Apple, pears, guava, pomegranate, oranges are all okay. Grapes, lychees and custard apples can be avoided,” she confirms.

Myth 3: Diabetics need to eat six small meals a day

This is much-discussed, but some doctors say that two or three full meals a day is better than snacking through the day. “Every time you eat anything, you do have a small spike in blood sugar, which you don’t want as a diabetic. Eating complete meals with complex carbs, proteins and fats can cause lesser blood sugar fluctuations,” she says.

Myth 4: Diabetics need to stay away from eating fats

“Nothing balances hormones better than fats as they create the least insulin surges. All cells in our body have a fat lining. When you eat a low-fat diet, the cell lining gets weak and is more vulnerable to infections. Also, a lot of vitamins are fat soluble, so if you go low fat, you are also inhibiting their absorption.” Instead, load up on good fats like avocado, ghee, coconut oil, mustard oil and olive oil. “You have to get a mix of your monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, so you must use a mix of oils. So, it’s a good idea to try ghee for tadkas and frying, mustard oil for the greens and olive oil for stir-fries, soups and salads,” says Dr Shivdasani.

Myth 5: A high-protein diet is key

The body uses protein to build and repair most of the body’s tissues and organs. It is also necessary for immune system function, making it a must-have in anybody’s diet. However, eating too much of it too often can be harmful for diabetics, especially for those with diabetes-related kidney issues. Plus, it can cause inflammation. Dr Shivdasani is a proponent of eggs being part of a balanced diet. “It’s the most bioavailable, has all the amino acids and has great quality fat. It doesn’t cause sugar fluctuation, which keeps the insulin balanced,” she says.

The article was first published in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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