In addition to exercise, nutrition is an important for managing diabetes.
Limiting foods high in sugar and salt, eating smaller portions, and counting those carbs and calories are all part of a sound nutrition plan. But there are food myths floating around that may be wrongly influencing your food choices. Here are five common myths (and what’s actually true):
Myth: Only fresh fruit is nutritious.
Actually, canned fruit is a healthy option also. So is frozen fruit.
“Canned and frozen fruits are usually preserved immediately after being harvested, so sometimes they’re fresher,” says Melissa Kinstlinger, outpatient dietitian and certified diabetes educator at The Diabetes and Nutrition Center at Northwest Hospital.
When it comes to canned fruits and heavy syrups, you’re probably worried about the sugar content. That’s why it is very important to pay close attention to the nutrition facts label, Kinstlinger says.
Choose fruit that is canned in either water, its own juice or light syrup. If you buy fruit canned in light syrup, you can drain and rinse the fruit prior to eating. Make sure frozen fruits are 100 percent fruit without added sugars.
Myth: Brown sugar is healthier than white sugar.
It is true that brown rice is healthier than white rice (brown rice is a whole grain containing several nutrients, white rice a refined grain with considerably less nutritional value). But don’t be fooled by the color of brown sugar; it’s brown, but that doesn’t make it healthy.
There is no nutritional difference between brown sugar and white sugar. Brown sugar is essentially white sugar, but with molasses, a sweetener that has insignificantly small amounts of B vitamins, potassium and calcium.
“Molasses is another kind of sugar. So, brown sugar is brown because it just has a different kind of sugar added to it. It has nothing to do with whole grains, so it’s not the same as white bread versus 100 percent whole wheat,” Kinstlinger says.
Sugar is sugar, no matter the color. “Brown sugar is the same as white sugar. Honey is the same as white sugar. Agave syrup is the same as sugar,” Kinstlinger says.
Even coconut sugar, considered by some to be a healthy alternative to regular sugar, has similar amounts of calories and carbs.
Myth: Raw carrots are healthier than cooked ones.
Carrots, which contain vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, are good for you raw or cooked. Actually, carotenoid nutrients such as beta carotene are more readily available when vegetables are cooked. But “that doesn’t mean that raw carrots aren’t a healthy choice,” Kinstlinger says. It’s perfectly fine if you want to keep snacking on carrot sticks.
Myth: You must drink 8 glasses of water each day.
Drink water when you are thirsty, or when there are other signs of dehydration (dark yellow urine, dry mouth, poor skin elasticity, etc.). The body loses about 2 liters of water a day (which is about 8 cups). But we replace much of that with the food we eat (all food has some water in it), especially when we eat fruits and vegetables. “There’s no magical number about eight glasses of water. It’s really not true, hasn’t been proven,” Kinstlinger says.
Myth: Drinking ice water is good for weight loss.
Old-fashioned exercise and balanced, nutritious meals are what will help you keep your calorie intake in check and stay at a healthy weight. There is no evidence that drinking water increases calorie burn, or that water temperature has a significant impact on calories used.
The Diabetes and Nutrition Center at Northwest Hospital, recognized by the American Diabetes Association as meeting the national standards for diabetes self-management education and support, serves people with diabetes and other medical conditions that can be improved through nutritional counseling, diet and lifestyle changes. Call 410-601-9729 to learn more.
The LifeBridge Health Diabetes Support Group meets monthly and is free and open to all. Call 410-601-5639 to learn more about upcoming meeting dates.
You can visit lifebridgehealth.org or call 410-601-WELL to learn more about scheduling an appointment with one of our physicians.