Having diabetes doesn’t mean having to follow a completely sugar-free diet. People with diabetes should eat a healthy, balanced diet. You should still be able to enjoy a wide variety of foods too, including some with sugar. The odd small slice of cake won’t affect your health or long-term diabetes management significantly. Sugary drinks, on the other hand, are best avoided.
Top diabetes myths
Here are some other myths surrounding living with diabetes and their diet;
“Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar”
This is probably the most commonly shared, but this isn’t necessarily the truth. Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that helps your body get the energy it needs from the sugar (glucose) in your food. Diabetes develops when your pancreas doesn’t make any or enough insulin, or when insulin is resistant and does not work properly
“You can’t eat carbohydrates if you have diabetes”
This isn’t true either. Whether you have diabetes or not, eating the right type of carbohydrate is essential for good health. Carbohydrates provide your body with its main source of energy, plus there’s some evidence that wholegrain carbohydrates – such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta, oats, fruit and vegetables – are important for health, particularly where your heart is concerned. Foods containing refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, have little to no nutritional value (these include sweets, chocolate, cakes, pastries etc), which is why you should only have them occasionally.
“In fact, people with diabetes can’t eat any of their favourite foods”
It goes without saying that if you have diabetes you should eat healthily – but that doesn’t mean giving up your favourite treats altogether. You could, for instance, have much smaller portions (as they say, the first two bites are the best anyway), or try sharing a pudding with a friend. If you like to bake, try reducing the amount of sugar in a recipe – most of the time, you probably won’t notice much difference.
“People with diabetes should eat ‘diabetic’ foods”
So-called ‘diabetic’ foods are usually sweet foods where the sugar has been replaced by sweeteners. However, experts don’t generally recommend ‘diabetic’ foods for people with diabetes because these foods can be high in fat and calories, and still affect blood glucose levels.
“Everyone with diabetes has a weight problem”
While being overweight increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t mean everyone with diabetes is overweight (or that everyone who’s overweight will develop diabetes). In fact there are lots of other risk factors that play an important part, such as age, family history and ethnicity.