As a clinical dietitian I have come across several myths that diabetics (along with their friends and relatives) have about the disease and also about the kind/type of food that they can/should eat. Here are a couple of the most common myths:
1) Diabetics should not eat rice: One of the biggest misconceptions is that once a person is detected to be a diabetic he has to stop eating rice. This is not true. Rice can be included in a meal plan for a diabetic. The only thing to keep in mind is to stick to the quantities prescribed by the dietitian. Though brown rice/semi-polished rice is better than white rice due to the fiber present in brown rice, white rice eaten in the prescribed amounts and along with whole pulses (rajma/kidney beans, channa, moong/mung), vegetables and a salad to increase the fiber content of the meal is also fine.
2) I have ‘thoda sa diabetes’ so I don’t really need to take medicines or follow a diet: There is no such thing as ‘little diabetes’ or as they say in Kannada: “swalpa diabetes idhe”. You may be a recently diagnosed diabetic whose sugar levels may have just started to go above the normal level, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take the medication prescribed or follow a diet and exercise. If you choose to ignore the situation thinking that it will ‘go away’ then you are wrong. Once diagnosed you need to follow whatever the doctor and the dietitian have prescribed to avoid the complications associated with Diabetes.
3) I have diabetes so I must not eat fruits, as fruits are sweet: This again is a very common myth among diabetics. All fruits can be eaten by a diabetic but in different quantities/portion sizes depending on the carbohydrate content in them. Some fruits have more carbohydrates, so you may be asked to eat a lesser amount than the others. Your dietitian will be able to guide you based on the total carbohydrates that your doctor has prescribed for you.
4) I drink ‘karela/bittergourd’ juice every morning and also eat methi sprouts and ‘kala jamun(the fruit), so I can reduce the dosage of my medication: Though these are known to reduce/keep the blood sugars under control in Ayurveda, don’t try to reduce your medication on your own without first discussing it with your doctor.
5) I’m on insulin so I don’t need to be careful of what I eat. I can eat whatever I want and simply increase my insulin dosage when I eat sweets: Even if you are on insulin, you still have to follow a diet and most important- eat on time! Tampering with your insulin dosage can be very dangerous-you could go into a coma due to very low blood sugars (hypoglycemia) if the insulin you took is too much.
6) I’m eating ‘diabetic rice/atta’ and ‘diabetic rusk’ and still my sugars are not under control: These are mostly clever marketing gimmicks. Just because a label says ‘healthy’ or ‘high –fiber’ or ‘low-fat’ or ‘good for diabetics’ doesn’t mean that you can eat as much as you want and expect your sugars to be under control. Even if the manufacturer’s claims are true, how much you eat (portion sizes) is also important to keep your sugars in check.
These are just some of the myths that I have come across during my years counseling diabetic patients in Bangalore. With India on the verge of becoming the ‘diabetes capital of the world’ people will come across many more. The best thing to do if you or anyone you know has a doubt/query, is to ask your Doctor/dietitian/ health care provider and get it cleared out instead of believing what may not be true.