By Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE If you’ve recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, or even if you’ve had diabetes for a long time, you may be confused about how to eat to manage your blood glucose levels. It seems that everyone has an opinion, and many of these opinions contradict each other. So what are you to believe? And what truly works at helping you keep your glucose levels in a healthy range? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest diabetes diet myths, why they don’t work, and what actually will. Myth No. 1: If You Have Diabetes, You Must Avoid All Sugar The Truth: A lot of sugar isn’t good for anyone’s diet, regardless of whether you have diabetes or not. But just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean that sugar and sweets are entirely off limits. All carbohydrates, including simple sugars as well as complex carbohydrates, are broken down into glucose during digestion. This glucose is then used as energy in your cells. Because all forms of carbohydrates break down into glucose and therefore raise your blood glucose levels, you need to monitor your total carbohydrate intake — especially what you eat within one sitting — for optimal glucose management. Although you must be careful not to overeat carbohydrates at one sitting, you can still indulge in a few sweet treats on occasion. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat milk are the best choices for everyone due to their rich nutrient and fiber content. But as long as you keep portions under control, you can still enjoy foods containing simple sugars (such as cookies) in moderation without spiking your glucose levels. Keep in mind, though, that when it comes to simple sugars, moderation is key for everyone — not just people with diabetes. Myth No. 2: All White Foods Are Bad for People With Type 2 Diabetes The Truth: When you think of white foods, what comes to mind? White flour, white sugar, and white bread? What about white potatoes, cauliflower, and onions? Are all of these white foods bad for glucose levels? Definitely not! Sure, some white foods are highly processed, such as enriched flour and sugar. But just because a food is white in appearance doesn’t mean it will be rapidly converted into glucose in the body and spike your levels. In fact, white vegetables such as cauliflower and onions are excellent for blood sugar control because they’re very high in fiber, and low in both calories and carbohydrates. White potatoes get a bad rap as well. It’s true that sweet potatoes are digested more slowly and prompt a smaller elevation in glucose levels after eating than their paler counterparts, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid white potatoes altogether if you have diabetes. In moderation and as part of a balanced meal — with vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats — you can enjoy white potatoes as your starch and still maintain healthy glucose levels. Myth No. 3: The Only Way to Lower Glucose Levels and Body Weight Is to Follow a Low- or No-Carb Diet The Truth: If you are newly diagnosed with diabetes, you may feel as if everyone around you is telling you to steer clear of all sources of carbohydrates. Since carbohydrates are found in everything from fruit to bread to milk and even vegetables, you may feel as though there’s nothing left to eat. But the good news is that you can actually still eat carbs. Managing diabetes is about keeping your glucose levels in a healthy range. Glucose levels that are too high can damage your body, but very low levels can be dangerous as well. Eating carbohydrates as part of a well-balanced diet will help you keep your levels within a healthy range. Instead of avoiding carbohydrates, focus instead on choosing the healthiest types. Space your carbohydrate intake out throughout the day by balancing your plate with carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat at each meal. A balanced diet will not only help you achieve optimal glucose levels — it will also improve your overall health. Myth No. 4: Sugar-Free Foods Won’t Impact Blood Sugar Levels The Truth: Sugar-free doesn’t necessarily equal carbohydrate-free. Many foods marketed as sugar-free have replaced sugar with sugar alcohols, which provide fewer calories and make less of an impact on glucose levels than regular sugar — but can still elevate glucose levels if you consume them in large amounts. In addition, bread-based sugar-free foods, such as sugar-free desserts, are typically rich in carbohydrates from sources such as flour and grains. It’s essential to read labels carefully on sugar-free foods: In particular, look at the total grams of carbohydrates, not just grams of sugar. If you focus only on the marketing claims such as “sugar-free,” you may struggle to lower your glucose levels without knowing why. As you can see, there are many diet myths surrounding diabetes. But managing your glucose levels doesn’t have to be complicated. A balanced diet rich in whole foods and limited in processed foods and simple sugars — the same diet that we should all follow, regardless of whether or not we have diabetes — can help you keep your glucose levels in a healthy range. Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, is a nationally recognized nutrition and fitness expert who has contributed to national media outlets such as The Doctors, and the Chicago Tribune. She serves as a media spokesperson, nutrition consultant, and speaker. Erin is the author of multiple publications, including Belly Fat Diet For Dummies and the 2-Day Diabetes Diet, and coauthor of the Flat Belly Cookbook For Dummies. She specializes in the areas of diabetes, adult and child weight management, sports nutrition, and cardiovascular disease.