Diabetes association busts nutrition myths

The Canadian Diabetes Association brings awareness about healthy living for people with diabetes.

March is Nutrition Month and the Canadian Diabetes Association is taking the opportunity this month to bring awareness about healthy living for people with diabetes.

This year’s theme is Get the Real Deal on Your Meal! and will focus on  busting nutrition myths to prevent people from making uninformed decisions about their health.  This comes at a critical time for Canadians, for while we now have unprecedented access to information, knowing which information to trust is becoming more difficult.

When it comes to choosing what food to eat and how much of it, people want to know that the information they rely on will help them to make the right choices for their health.  Common nutrition myths need to be busted, so that Canadians know the real deal. Below are some examples of correct information based on sound research that people can rely on:

• Avoid carbs if you want to lose weight.

Although lowering your intake of carbohydrates may help you to lose a few pounds in the first few weeks, you are likely losing the weight from eating less food and taking in fewer calories.

Foods like fruit, starchy vegetables and whole grains provide a number of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and fibre that the body needs to function well. In addition, they provide variety in your diet.  The best weight loss plan should consist of regular physical activity and a sensible diet. This plan is one that you can follow long-term and that will allow you to lose weight and keep it off.

• Sea salt is natural, so it’s better for you than table salt.

Too much sodium can harm your health by increasing your risk for high blood pressure, among other things. Kosher salt and gourmet salts all contain about the same amount of sodium, but depending on how it is made, the taste will be slightly different.  People with diabetes are at higher risk of high blood pressure and other heart problems, so it is best to cut the amount of salt consumed by limiting the amount of processed food and restaurant meals.  For extra flavour, consider adding lemon juice, garlic, herbs and spices to your meals.

• Cooking meals at home takes way too much time.

Simple, nourishing foods make tasty, quick meals. Planning meals in advance means that you can make big batches to freeze or use the leftovers for a second quick meal.

• Healthy food costs too much.

With some planning and careful choices, you can have tasty and nourishing meals that are affordable. To get the most value, choose foods that are big on nutrients and low in cost, such as in-season fruits and vegetables, legumes, and try buying staples in bulk (e.g. whole grains). Cooking from scratch is another way to lower costs.

• If you eat too much sugar, you’ll get diabetes.

You will not develop diabetes from eating sugar, but it is wise to limit your intake. Foods that are high in sugar, such as cookies and soft drinks, are high in calories but low in nutrients.  Consuming too many calories contributes to weight gain and being overweight or obese is a leading risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.  Other risk factors include age (being over 40), ethnicity and family history. You can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes by eating healthy and being physically active.

Accurate information can help you to make healthier food choices. Get the real deal on your meal and follow sound nutrition advice.

Visit diabetes.ca or call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464) for more information.

Sharon Zeiler BSc, MBA, RD, is senior manager of diabetes education and nutrition for the Canadian Diabetes Association.