Diabetes Care Myths and Urban Legends

The more and more I live with Diabetes, the more I discover a lot of ignorance, myths and urban legends, even among those who live with Diabetes themselves. These myths and urban legends are held in great esteem as though they are the ultimate of scientific evidences and facts. “Don’t you dare say something bad about them, or you’ll get shot back!” It’s shocking really, as we always think that it’s non-D’s who keep extending and continuing these myths.

Now, I know we are all different... and some foods will spike us more than others. Case in point: I can no longer eat hot dogs, even with low carb bread. They are the devil and just one will spike me to 170 mg/dL (a home made low carb cheeseburger doesn't even remotely come to 120 mg/dL for me). But even if we have the one food that spikes us, or alters us, that is not an excuse to say to everyone "stay away from all hot dogs." I'm sure some people can handle them perfectly fine.

Anyway, here is the list of the top Diabetic myths I have heard... and how much they annoy the right bejesus out of me.

1. Avoid all "white food." Simple carbohydrates and starchy carbohydrates have been much maligned by the 'low glycemic index' touters... The problem is that glycemic index does not teach us much of anything about a food. It doesn't say how many grams of carbs are in a food, only how fast they are absorbed. And fast doesn't always = spike. Now, if they would only move on to learning about the Glycemic LOAD instead, which does tell us how much of a certain carb we're getting, and how fast, than that would make a difference... You see, it's not so much the type of carb we have, but the quantity we have. Not that there aren't folks who are truly spiked by one food item or another, but most people who claim that they are spiked by 'white food' are probably trying to have a mountain of mashed potatoes, instead of 1/3 of a cup. (And eye measuring doesn't count!)

This is no different, in my mind as telling people that they need to ....

2. Avoid all table sugar. Sugar is sweet, and it's awesome.... And if we ignore portion principles, we're depriving ourselves of a much needed occasional form of love. lol So I plan for a half a cookie every once in a while, or I plan for 1 packet of sugar in my decaff coffee sometimes, it's fine! It is NOT a forbidden food, and it is NOT the Devil. It's just another carbohydrate, just like any other carbohydrate.

3. As long as you eat complex carbs, you are fine. NO YOU ARE NOT. Again, if you don't measure out your portions of complex carbs, you are likely to spike as much as anyone who abuses their portions of simple carbs... Only, you'll spike 2-3 hours later, instead of in 30 minutes. We really, really need to focus Diabetic education on teaching folks about how many grams of carbohydrate spike them how many points of glucose. If people learned that much, many of their problems would be resolved... This is why you see so many people at crazy out of control numbers, following a so called 'complex carb diet.' The complex carbs are good -- don't get me wrong -- but we need to treat them with as much respect as we give the simple ones. Or don't you know that many white foods are complex carbs? Aha, see... I got ya!

4. Avoid eating after 7 pm. This has been touted by not just weight loss pushers, but also Diabetics in general... And quite frankly, it is 99% untrue. While there are certain circumstances in which continuing to eat will likely affect us (we had a high carb, high fat meal and now we're coasting pretty high...) Most of the time the body needs nutrition throughout the day, and if it's signaling that it's hungry, YOU NEED TO FEED IT. There is nothing that slows down metabolism more, and spikes blood glucose levels more in the body than ignoring a hungry body after 7 pm. What we need to do... is avoid binge eating after 7 pm, and find snacks that work the best for us. (I find that a yogurt, or an 8 oz glass of milk, or even a simple carb snack like 15 grams of a cookie will return me to 70-80s morning blood glucose every single time.) Most people get into a hard to break habit of grazing while winding down from work, or watching the news, or a good movie... or just tv in general... and it's so hard to stop. This would be no different than doing the same activity during the day. The metabolism does NOT slow down after 7 pm, or while we sleep. If you have a crazed work schedule, and get home to have a dinner at 9 pm... Please, by all means... HAVE YOUR DINNER. Do not skip meals. Skipping meals does slow down your metabolism.

5. Avoid eating less carbs, your body needs 'energy for it's day.' The body does indeed need energy for it's day, and it gets a decent amount from protein and fat... as well as burning excess fat from our bodies. We need to consume a diet lower in carbs that allows the body to burn that fat that it doesn't need... that has been accumulating for ages... Honestly, spiking levels to the point of forcing the body to produce more insulin (or forcing the person to inject more insulin) will only cause more weight gain issues, and eventually, less control... I dunno just how the health community is so at ease putting us in the hands of untested artificial sweeteners, like sucralose (which god only knows their long term consequences), and not telling Diabetics that they should appropriately apportion their carbohydrates to what will not cause them to spike, and what will allow them to exercise safely. Low carb diets have been around for centuries now, and they are safe, and nutritious and good for the body... But noooooo... Any time someone asks me on an open forum how I attained control, and how I lost weight... and I reply, I get bombarded by those who want to tell me I need to consume a complex carb diet, avoid 'white foods' and sugar, and...

6. Avoid all fat. It would be shocking to some of these people to learn that many of the functions our body performs depend on fat. The thyroid, pituitary, hypothalamus area, feelings of stability and well being, etc... are all stimulated by our fat consumption. Heck, even the heart needs some fats to stay healthy. If we avoided all fat, all the time, we'd be very sickly people. Instead, have lean meats and add Omega 3 fats to your daily diet. They help with feelings of satiety, and improve our overall functions.

7. Avoid all foods with cholesterol... Eggs are the devil. NO THEY ARE NOT. Eggs are nature's multivitamin, contain necessary Omega 3's, and it's cholesterol is one of the easiest for the body to break down. It's also pretty minimal compared to that 'complex carb power bar' you're probably having. An egg contains 100% to near 100% of most of the vitamins we need for our daily functioning, and nearly ALL of them are in the yolk. If you ate just 1 egg a day, in most cases, you would not need to take a multi vitamin!

8. The Doctor is always right. Don't do anything that your doctor doesn't advice you to... OR do everything your doctor says... OR the Dietician or Nutritionist is always right. This one makes me livid, honestly. People put medical professionals in such a pedestal, and forget that they are people too. In like every single profession, there are going to be good medical professionals, and bad medical professionals... And some very uninformed medical professionals. We need to learn to be our own assertive advocates, do plenty of research, and do what is right for us... That back in the day "I had no way to measure my glucose, and I walked a mile, to a clinic, to get it tested, uphill, both ways, and we turned out just fine..." is NOT going to cut it anymore. Honestly, the doctors of yesteryear are not the doctors of today. The doctors of today are over-scheduled with patients, have little time or memory to visit with all of them, or to research what they're doing, and many of them... yes, many of them could CARE LESS.... And many, many nutritionists and Dieticians -- instead of teaching people how to measure how they react to carbs throughout the day,and in each meal -- put people on 60 grams of carbs per meal, and 30 for a snack, each day. So shop carefully for a physician, or a Dietician, and be your OWN pilot (with the doctor or dietician being the co-pilot), and don't be afraid to fire anyone who is not working for you.

These have only been but a few of the top myths which have cropped up for me as of recently, especially among many Diabetic communities like this one. There is much we can learn from each other, and through this wonderful medium... However, me must work hard to help squash these myths, and educate ourselves as much as we can so that we don't pass our own choices of living as Diabetic Laws to to others. Feel free to share your own myths. :)

I thought the part about learning how many carbs spike your BG is a great point. I have yet to figure out how many grams of carbs raises my BG and I would dearly love to know. It would make things SOOOOO much easier for me.

Great blog Liz! I hate that whole “don’t eat after a certain time thingy” I could never not eat after 7pm! I usually have my dinner sometime between 7 and 8 but I sometimes end up eating as late as 9. I am night owl and I swear I am more alert at night - no matter how hard I try to be a morning person and change it- I am always a huge crab in the AM!.

When I was first diagnosed, I was freaked and I went searching on the net and found this ridiculous site that said something like “Diabetics should never have water with their meals.” and I was like “No! Now I have to watch when I drink water too?” Ugh! Thankfully someone on another D forum told me that is ridiculous and a myth. Thank God.

I think this the site I got it from. Lots of dumb myths on there:


Tom and Devon, I would LOVE To know that answer to that too! But I am noticing that I can eat the EXACT same meal (a complex carb one at that!) and have a nice low spike many times and than one time it will go double - this happened to me last night and I was like “No way, the dang meter went to sleep.” and I stuck my tongue out at it.:slight_smile: Which sucks because I thought I had it figured out for for how many carbs were in that meal how many points my BG would go up. So, I think because of other random things like hormones, stress that could differ from one day to the next, we may never have an exact number every time. Although I will say for certain meals which are very low carb I can almost always predict the rise but some others that are a bit higher who knows. I still have more of a lower percentage in my favor so I ignore those goofy random high ones and try to freak about them too much.

I am still avoiding the “white” foods that you mention Liz. Mostly because, they were a such BIG part of my diet before and I am sure they are a big reason for high readings since I rarely at anything sugary but I thinking now I am better off without them because they don’t really have much nutrtional value anyhow - they are basically empty foods(except were the carbs are concerned!). I am happily looking into making my own low carb healthier versions of some of these things (the baked White foods) - as Gerri has given so many nice recipes and tips.

Doctor is always right! Yeah right! (roll eyes) That one is definately a myth! If they were that perfect, we would have a cure by now. People seem to forget that doctors are just normal people like the rest of us except they have a huge amount of debt from med school and make to much money (hehe) - I hate that some people look at doctors like they are God or something.They are not all knowing. I think I pissed my first D doctor off because I knew more about nutrition than he did - I am sure he is glad I am gone now! :slight_smile:

I ate 8 scotchmallow chocolates (Sees Candy) last night and Bg only went to 163. Think it was the magic of the marshmellow or something. I’ve found that chocolate candy doesn’t make me spike nearly as much as baked goods. I loved your list, Liz. It’s all so true.

great post! I consider myself fairly well educated but you got me on #3.

In re how many carbs raise BG, I’m not sure it’s a quantifiable thing - I know that some foods with X carbs will raise Eric by, say, 50-100 points, but other foods with the same number of carbs shoots him sky high. And still others affect him a lot sometimes, not so much others - same food, same insulin, but different outcome in the BG. It’s probably related to time of day/weather/activity level/other foods eaten in the same meal… in short, it’s never going to be a simple equation.