5 common diabetes food myths debunked

Good nutrition is important for managing diabetes. But there are some food myths that may be wrongly influencing your food choices.

Here’s what true about salt and nighttime eating, along with clarity on three other common misconceptions:

Myth: Sea salt is healthier than table salt.

Sea salt and table salt have the same nutritional value—about 2,400 mg of sodium per teaspoon.

The only difference between the salts is how they are processed. Sea salt is made from evaporated ocean water or salty lake water with minimal processing, and so there’s still some mineral content which gives it its flavor and color.

Table salt, mined from underground salt deposits, is more heavily processed and contains additives that prevent clumping. But nutritionally, these salts are the same.

True salt substitutes are made from potassium salt. Potassium salt, though, tends to have a bitter, metallic taste.

“I would encourage people with diabetes to try and keep their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day,” says Melissa Kinstlinger, outpatient dietitian and certified diabetes educator at The Diabetes and Nutrition Center at Northwest Hospital.

“For instance, you can swap cold cereal for old fashioned oats, which contain zero milligrams of sodium.”

Myth: Eggs from brown shells are better for you than eggs from white ones.

Eggs with brown shells and eggs with white shells have the same nutritional value. The color of the eggshells, quite simply, depends on the breed of the hen that lays them.

White Leghorn chickens lay white eggs; Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rocks lay brown eggs. But eggs from brown and white shells are both healthy.

A typical egg contains lots of vitamins and minerals (such as vitamins D and B12 and riboflavin) and is an excellent source of protein, and it’s only about 80 calories.

Myth: Late-night snacking makes you gain weight.

Always keep in mind that regarding weight loss or weight gain, it does not matter what time of day you eat.

It is about what and how much you eat (as well as how often you’re exercising). Eating more calories than you need is what causes you to gain weight.

There’s nothing wrong with eating a light snack after dinner as long as you plan for it.

For example, if you’re supposed to have 1,500 calories for the day and you plan a snack within that range, that’s fine, even if you eat the snack at night.

A snack in the 100 to 200 calorie range is ideal. Some good options are packaged 100-calorie snacks, low-fat yogurt, fruit or small servings of light butter popcorn. Some ice cream bars are low in calories.

Eating every 3 to 4 hours can help regulate your hunger as well as your blood sugars.

Myth: You should wash raw meat to eliminate bacteria.

Cooking food at the right temperature is what kills bacteria.

Washing raw meat or poultry before cooking is not recommended in large part because bacteria in the juices can cross-contaminate other foods, utensils and surfaces. Some bacteria are so attached to meat they can’t be washed away.

With regard to consuming meat, Kinstlinger recommends that people with diabetes “choose meats that are labeled 90% or more lean.”

“Remove skin from chicken. Bake, grill, lightly sauté—maybe try an air fryer for crispy meat with less fat,” she says.

Myth: High-fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar.

From a chemical standpoint, high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar are similar.

High-fructose corn syrup is a mix of glucose and between 42 percent and 55 percent fructose. Table sugar is also a combination of glucose and fructose in amounts similar to what is in high-fructose corn syrup.

Some studies have shown that people metabolize high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar differently. But the goal for people with diabetes is to cut back on sugar in general, no matter what kind it is.

“A quick way to decrease sugar in your diet is to drink zero-calorie beverages instead of sugared sodas,” Kinstlinger says.