Note to Reporters: The following column is written by Melissa Wdowik, an assistant professor at Colorado State University, director of the Kendall Anderson Nutrition Center and a CSU Extension affiliate. Wdowik will write the university’s monthly nutrition column, previously written by Shirley Perryman, who retired this fall.
Does what you eat cause diabetes? Does what you drink effect your blood sugar?
In honor of American Diabetes Month, I decided to shed light on recent findings and dispel popular myths about diabetes for your health and peace of mind. Test your diabetes knowledge with the top 5 questions I hear on a regular basis.
1. What can I eat on a Diabetic diet? There is no one diet for diabetes. Smaller portions of the foods you love can assist with blood sugar control and weight management, but you can still eat the same foods as your family and friends. Recommendations for the everyone – with or without diabetes– include eating a variety of low fat foods from all food groups, including whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and possibly low fat dairy.
2. Is it true that eating too many sweets causes diabetes? It is tempting to conclude that too much sugar leads to weight gain, which can lead to diabetes. Certainly, intake of sweetened beverages in the U.S. has risen along with average weight, and fructose is often seen as the root of all evil. It’s important to note, however, that sugar also tends to take the place of foods that provide health benefits such as whole grains, lean protein and vegetables. To help prevent diabetes, or manage it once you have it, replace sugary drinks with water and trade a fast food dinner for grilled fish served with half a plate of your favorite vegetables.
3. Can I prevent or control diabetes if I drink coffee every day? Research has found an association between a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and a daily coffee habit. If you don’t already drink it, however, there is not conclusive evidence to recommend you start, but it sure makes a good excuse. It’s important to limit the cream and sugar that often goes into coffee, and be sure to weigh the potential benefits against possible negative effects, such as stomach pain, frequent bathroom breaks, irregular heartbeat, shakiness and insomnia.
4. Should I avoid all white food, especially white sugar, flour and rice? These white foods have been highly processed. As a result, they are quickly digested and quick to raise blood sugar. Limit sugar and choose whole wheat flour and brown rice. Reduce other carbohydrates (including grains, fruits and starchy vegetables) to less than half of your calories, and make sure what you choose is high in fiber and low in glycemic index.
5. Is it true I should avoid fruit because it is too high in sugar? Fresh or frozen unprocessed fruits (no sugar added), can be high in fiber, antioxidants and vitamins that are good for your overall health and weight. Limit canned and dried fruit and fruit juice, but include a couple of servings of whole fruit each day. Small portions eaten along with nonfat yogurt or an ounce of nuts will have only a small impact on blood sugar.
It is important — and possible — to successfully manage diabetes with a healthy lifestyle and positive attitude. It’s not as hard as you might think!
Melissa Wdowik is an assistant professor at Colorado State University, director of the Kendall Anderson Nutrition Center and a CSU Extension affiliate.