There is a lot of information about diabetes—many conflicting claims on the internet, advice from friends and family, and plethora of opinions from “health experts.” It's often challenging for individuals with diabetes to navigate this world of information (or misinformation), whether they are newly diagnosed, starting a new medication or simply trying to manage their blood sugar better. Today we're going to dispel a few myths to clear up the water.
Myth: “If I have diabetes I can’t eat carbs.”
Fact: Evidence suggests that a balance of healthy carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat can help control blood sugar. So, yes, you can have carbs. But it is important to choose healthy carb options (vegetables, whole grains, whole fruit and legumes) and consider your portions sizes.
Myth: “I have ‘a touch of sugar’”
Fact: When someone says that they have "a touch of sugar," it may mean a couple of different things. It could mean that they have prediabetes, which is when someone's A1C falls in the 5.7-6.4 range and they are at risk for developing diabetes. It may also mean that they have crossed the threshold into diabetes (an A1C of 6.5 or above), but they feel that their A1C or blood sugar is relatively low. The term "a touch of sugar" is not clearly defined, but there are definite and clear lines that define prediabetes and diabetes:
- Normal: A1C < 5.7%
- Prediabetes: A1C= 5.7-6.4%
- Diabetes: A1C = 6.5% +
Myth: “Going on insulin means that I failed”
Fact: For many people, diabetes is a progressive disease and there are many factors at play, including environmental factors, socioeconomic factors and genetics. Physical activity, good nutrition and taking non-insulin medications (if prescribed) are often adequate for managing blood sugar, but sometimes they're not. If insulin is needed to keep blood sugar in good ranges, then insulin is a good thing.
Myth: “I don't have to worry if I only have a little bit of diabetes”
Fact: Again, diabetes is a progressive disease for many people. Without proper attention, an A1C that looks good can increase and require more aggressive medical attention down the road. Steps to modify nutrition habits, increase physical activity and take oral medications (if prescribed) are critical first lines of defense, even if your A1C is relatively low. It is far better to address the issue early in the game before it progresses into complications that cannot be undone.
Myth: “Cinnamon, hibiscus and apple cider vinegar can lower my blood sugar”
Fact: As much as we would like one, there is no magic pill for diabetes. No single food or spice is going to magically fix your blood sugar. However, there is some evidence that suggests that cinnamon supplementation (a high or concentrated dose) may lower fasting blood sugar.1,2,3 If you do decide to use a cinnamon supplement it is important to consult with your physician to make sure that it will not interfere with any other medications you are taking and to make sure that your liver is in good condition. For hibiscus and apple cider vinegar, there have been some studies showing benefit, but the evidence is weak and many studies have shown no benefit. But for any supplementation you try, always consult with your physician before you start.
Myth: “If I have diabetes then I need special food”
Fact: Those with diabetes can control their blood sugar very well with everyday foods—expensive specialty products are not needed. Following the plate method for diabetics is a simple way to balance everyday foods in the right portions to help control blood sugar. The plate method for diabetics includes filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, making protein about a quarter of your plate and keeping your carbohydrates to about a quarter of your plate (see diagram below). This method helps you to enjoy everyday foods in proper balance to manage blood sugar without going hungry.
There is not a one-size-fits all for individuals managing blood sugar. It is always an individual journey. But education and practice of sound nutritional principles can help. If you have more questions about diabetes, the American Diabetes Association website and your local dietitian or diabetes educator can help you.
- Kizilaslan N, Erdem NZ. The Effect of Different Amounts of Cinnamon Consumption on Blood Glucose in Healthy Adult Individuals. Int J Food Sci. 2019;2019:4138534. Published 2019 Mar 4. doi:10.1155/2019/4138534
- Castro, MR. Is it true that cinnamon can lower blood sugar in people who have diabetes. Mayoclinic.org. Published 2019 Feb 20. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-answers/d...
- Safdar M, Khan A, Khattak MM, Siddique M. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Pakistan J of Nutr 3 (5): 268-272, 2004. Published 2003 Dec. DOI: 10.2337/diacare.26.12.3215