Debunking diabetes myths

Published November 23, 2021, 10:00 AM

by Cheshire Que

Is a diabetic forever a diabetic?

MYTH BUSTED Diabetics are allowed to eat rice and fruits

Once a diabetic, always a diabetic. Is it true that people suffering from diabetes are doomed? Are you one of the 463 million people who have diabetes? If you are, then perhaps you already came across countless recommendations and even well-meaning unsolicited advice on how to normalize your blood sugar level. Unfortunately, some of these pieces of advice may not be backed up by science or, worse, may even be detrimental to your health. Here are common diabetes myths that have been thrown our way.

Carbs are bad! While it is true that carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, which impact the blood glucose level, carbs aren’t always the culprit. Carbohydrate that contains fiber from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains do not rapidly increase blood sugar readings as compared to refined sugars found in sweets, pastries, and other processed foods. In fact, vegetables like bitter gourd, locally known as ampalaya, contain insulin-like properties that can help lower blood sugar levels. Glucose from carbohydrate is the primary source of energy in the body followed by fat source. It is also the preferred energy by the brain. A very low carbohydrate diet will impede the activation and conversion of thyroid hormones. These T3 and T4 hormones are involved in metabolism, a process that breaks down carbohydrates and utilizes glucose as energy. Choose your carb sources carefully. Go for fiber-rich fresh produce and whole grains like brown rice and oats.

Fruits are not allowed. Contrary to popular belief, an individual with diabetes can eat fruits in moderation with meals. Fruits contain a natural sugar known as fructose. Compared to table sugar and other forms of refined and processed sugar like high fructose corn syrup, most fruits have a low to moderate glycemic index (GI), a value assigned to food based on how quickly it causes a rise in blood glucose levels. Food that has a GI of over 70 are considered high. Here are some GI values of common fruits—Banana 55, apple 36, grapes 46, mango 55, papaya 58, pineapple 66, orange 44. Portion control, however, must still be practiced when eating fruits. It is also best to eat it whole instead of juiced to get the benefits of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which are essential in maintaining blood glucose level.

No rice for diabetics. It is not the rice’s fault that your blood sugar shoots up. It is your fault for eating too much of it and being unable to burn excess calories through a physically active lifestyle. The variety of rice, however, matters when it comes to glycemic control. Brown rice has a lower GI of 55 compared to white short grain rice which has a GI of 72. Brown rice contains more resistant starch, a carbohydrate that is not digested in the small intestine but travels all the way to the colon for fermentation. Fermented fiber or prebiotic serves as food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. These friendly bacteria comprise the gut microbiome. It is crucial not only for metabolism and absorption of nutrients but also in ensuring a healthy immune system, which is compromised among diabetics. If you prefer to eat white rice, it is best to consume cooled and reheated rice (bahaw na kanin) to reduce the absorption rate of the sugar and increase the resistant starch content.

A very low carbohydrate diet will impede the activation and conversion of thyroid hormones.

“I will have diabetes because it runs in my family.”  Diabetes is genetic but also lifestyle related. You may have inherited the genes but you also have the power not to manifest your genes. You are not doomed because the science of epigenetics exists. It is the study of how your behavior and environment can cause alterations that affect the way your genes work. If you eat healthy, are physically active, able to manage stress effectively including spiritual health, avoid toxins, and get adequate rest, you are likely to have a normal blood glucose despite diabetes being present in your genes. Even individuals with a full-blown diabetes can go into remission through successful lifestyle change and behavior modification.

At the end of the day, keeping your blood sugar level at bay entails a holistic approach instead of just starving and restricting yourself from eating carbohydrates. It also helps to practice portion control and to be mindful about your movement throughout the day to make your cells more sensitive to insulin, the hormone responsible for sugar absorption and energy utilization.

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