There is a lot of chatter about what we all should be eating. Unfortunately, many of these conversations are based on product claims, marketing and opinions instead of science and research. Registered dietitians are constantly answering questions that stem from misinformation. To save all of us some time, here are the answers to four common questions or myths I discuss with patients everyday.
Myth No. 1: “I heard diet soda is worse than regular, so I just drink regular.”
Fact: If you have diabetes, diet soda is a much better choice over regular, since the artificial sweeteners do not affect blood sugar levels. On the other hand, if you are trying to lose weight, diet soda can lower blood sugar levels slightly, which can lead to the munchies or increased hunger. In reality, neither one has a place in a healthy diet, so find something else to drink instead, like water, natural sparkling water or iced tea.
Myth No. 2: “I avoid carrots and watermelon because they will spike my blood sugar levels.”
Fact: Carrots and watermelon are both ranked higher on the glycemic index, which is what gives them this bad reputation. The glycemic index is a measure of a food’s effect on blood sugar levels. The glycemic index helps us understand how fast a food may digest, but it is not a reliable list to determine the nutritional value of a food.
In addition, foods are measured in a standard portion for the glycemic index, which does not always reflect the actual portion an individual would actually eat. Furthermore, when we eat foods in combinations, the rate of digestion is altered by other nutrients in the meal, which can lower the glycemic effect of a particular food. Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, and contain a mere 30-35 calories per half-cup. Watermelon tops the chart for fiber, which gives us satiety and better digestive health. If you have been avoiding these two natural foods, feel free to bring them back into your diet and enjoy.
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Myth No. 3: “Bananas are too high in sugar, so I do not eat them.”
Fact: Yes, a banana contains natural sugars, just like any other fruit. It sometimes gets a bad rap because it is double the size of a typical portion of fruit and, therefore, double the natural sugar. Natural sugar does affect blood sugar levels, but not in the same way added sugars do. Since the banana is a rich source of fiber, the natural sugars absorb more slowly. The banana will still raise blood sugar, but not as significantly as added sugars. If you have diabetes, it is a good idea to have half a banana with meals that contain protein, but there is no reason a banana cannot be a delicious, energizing part of a healthy diet.
Myth No. 4: “Canned and frozen vegetables have lost their nutrients, so I have to choose fresh produce.”
Fact: All three forms of fruits and vegetables — whether canned, fresh or frozen — have advantages and disadvantages. You do not have to buy only fresh produce to be healthy. In fact, frozen vegetables are thought to be the most nutrient-dense, since they are now flash-frozen at peak ripeness. If you follow a low-sodium diet, buy reduced-sodium versions when in the canned aisle or rinse your vegetables with water prior to cooking. What matters most is that you are eating fruits and vegetables with every meal and snack in whatever form you prefer.
Niki Kubiak is a sports-certified registered dietitian, competitive runner and owner of Niki Kubiak Sports Nutrition and Weight Loss. She blogs regularly for livewellnebraska.com.
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