Best and Worst Foods?

Updated on September 27, 2016 in Diet
14 on April 6, 2016

Best and Worst Foods?

I don’t usually write about diet issues. Everyone talks about food too much already. But a recent article I read on WebMD, “Diabetic Food List: Best and Worst Choices,” upset me. It tells people to eat lots of carbohydrate and little fat, advice that has been damaging people with diabetes for decades.

WebMD follows the American Diabetes Association’s food pyramid. Here’s what they say:

 

The Diabetes Food Pyramid starts with breads, grains, and other starches at the base and rises to fats, oils, and sweets at the top. Here’s the full list of categories from bottom up:

  • Breads, grains, and other starches
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Meat, meat substitutes, and other protein
  • Dairy
  • Fats, oils, and sweets

Your goal for shopping and preparing meals is to choose more food from the base of the pyramid and less as you move toward the top.

What is wrong with this picture? I mean, it’s essentially the same as the food pyramid for the general public. It’s nice in a green-living, easy-on-the-planet kind of way.

But does it work for people with diabetes? Diabetes is a disease of carbohydrate metabolism. Because of problems with insulin production or insulin resistance, people with diabetes tend to have trouble using carbohydrates. And grains are the most concentrated sources of carbohydrates. So why do the ADA and WebMD tell us to eat so much of them?

 

Thirty-Eight Foods Not to Eat

“Best and Worst Foods” then lists 38 “bad” foods and their “good” alternatives. I seriously question how bad or good some of these foods are. Under “Breads or Grains,” they list “best choices” as whole grains and “worst choices” as processed grains and fried foods. Well, whole grains are definitely better than refined grains for most people, but they’re all grains. They’ll all raise your blood glucose — I hardly think they can be classed as “best” and “worst.”

Under “Vegetables,” they rate fresh, raw, or lightly cooked vegetables “best,” and canned or heavily sauced or buttered ones are “worst.” OK, can’t argue that fresh is better, but from here on, the whole list is all about reducing fats. This is questionable advice, isn’t it? Fats have been demonized by health promoters for years, but the new accredited reports say that our bodies need it. You have to get your calories somewhere, and if you are going to reduce carbohydrate, you will need to eat more fat and protein.

But then, they are not advising anyone to reduce carbohydrate. Their advice is all about reducing fats, and also about eating less processed, more natural food, which I am all for. I also like the idea of eating less meat, or no meat, but not because of the health benefits, which are unclear. I just don’t like abusing or killing animals or wasting resources. And eating animals uses many times the resources of plant-based diets, and contributes to global warming as well.

But health experts like those at ADA and WebMD don’t just advise eating less meat; they want you to reduce all kinds of fats and oils, and anything fried. To me, it’s clear that more calories from protein, fats and oils, and less from carbohydrate makes sense for many people with diabetes. And among carbohydrate, more fruits and vegetables and less/no grains is likely to be healthier.

Of course, all those nongrain sources of calories tend to be more expensive. Grains are subsidized, which is why breads and grain-fed meat are relatively cheap. Let’s face it; the food environment is unhealthy, and it takes some work to eat well here. But advice like WebMD’s does not help.

I don’t claim to know what the right diet is. The best diet varies from person to person, and you should find out what’s right for you. Pay attention to how you feel after eating (not just one minute later, but hours later.) Check blood glucose levels after eating until you know how different foods affect you. (Once you know, you don’t need to keep doing it.)

In researching my article on diabetes, I interviewed four people who told me they could not get their blood glucose under control with the ADA’s guidelines. They got better when they tried low-carb approaches. I’m not saying that’s right for everyone. But I wish the ADA and WebMD would stop calling grains “best” and fats “worst” for diabetes. They know that’s not right, but they keep saying it. How can we get them to stop?

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1 on April 6, 2016

Very interesting. You should write more.

on April 8, 2016

Thank you Nisha.

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1 on April 6, 2016

My body doesn’t need any carbs?

on April 8, 2016

Your body can use fats far more efficiently for energy if you’re a diabetic. Read up on it.

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2 on April 6, 2016

Hi. Nice work

on June 13, 2016

Hey, thank you!

on July 19, 2016

Haha, that was for Anita Jhanviv 😛

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1 on April 8, 2016

Hi Anita, I love your article but I wonder why whole grains are not so healthy. I have been seeing a lot on how unhealthy they are…any specific reasons to be pointed out??

on April 8, 2016

Saira, whole grains e.g.. wheat has a GI of 72 while Sugar is 59. (Refer to GI book)
This in itself is reason enough for no diabetic to consume wheat!

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1 on June 13, 2016

Great post Anita!

on June 13, 2016

Thanks Harman, I read a few interactions of yours on this rhymes site and learnt a lot from you. 😀

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1 on August 9, 2016

Ketone bodies are the end result of fat break down. The Ketone bodies need to enter the carb cycle and be further metabolized. Our bodies need a ratio of 1:4 of carb is to fat. Accumulation of Ketones will lead to keto-acidosis and is dangerous.

on August 10, 2016

Our bodies and physiologies are wonderful at countering shortfalls in nutrition quite efficiently, it is the excess sometimes that creates more trouble… 😊 You are right, diabetes ketoacidosis can be very dangerous and is mostly seen in people with uncontrolled blood sugars, infection, injury, a serious illness, surgery, etc. I don’t think that diet per se (high in fat, carb or protein) are directly responsible for ketoacidosis. Plenty of studies show that people with HbA1c below 6.5% have had little to no long-term complications that including ketoacidosis as well. Its a no brainer, to achieve and maintain a 6.5% HbA1c would mean not eating foods that spike the blood sugars out of whack and we know the culprits here.  

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0 on September 27, 2016

helpful info, thank you

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