5 (Un)Common Myths about Diabetes

  • By Alyssa Grams
  • 14 Jun, 2017

Did you know insulin cures type 1 diabetes? You may have thought so, but you're wrong. Let's clear up other misconceptions there may be about diabetes.

Diabetes is a complex disease that millions of Canadians struggle with. In Alberta alone, there are 1 million people suffering from diabetes and prediabetes. With so many people affected, it is easy to create generalizations about what a group of people go through, even though everyone manages their diabetes in different ways.

Because of this, we want to do debunk some common and not so common myths about diabetes.

Common Myth #1: Insulin is a cure for diabetes.

Currently, there is no cure for diabetes . Insulin is only a maintenance tool that helps regulate and control diabetes. Insulin injections—which keep blood glucose levels in check—act as a substitute for individuals who cannot produce insulin on their own or are insulin intolerant.

Common Myth #2: Only overweight or old people get diabetes.

You are at an increased risk for type 1 diabetes [CJ1]   if you have a parent or sibling who has diabetes because type 1 is genetic—a predisposition pattern is passed down through families, although the inheritance pattern is unknown. Weight and age factors do contribute to your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. However, you are also at risk of type 2 diabetes with any of the following factors: a family member has diabetes, you are part of a high risk group (Hispanic, Native American, South Asian, Asian, or of African descent), or if you have high blood pressure, to name a few.

Many people don’t realize that type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas; it isn’t caused by poor diet or lack of exercise. Type 1 diabetes is believed to be genetic or brought about through exposure to certain viruses. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t properly use the insulin that is released or when the body doesn’t make enough insulin. Although weight and age do contribute to your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, there are other factors, including diabetes history in your family, descendency (Hispanic, Native American, South Asian, Asian, and African descents have a higher risk), and blood pressure, to name a few.

Common Myth #3: You must avoid sugar at all costs if you have diabetes.

A diabetic’s recommended diet is not all that different than one recommended for a non-diabetic. People living with diabetes can still have sugary foods, carbs, and starches; however, it is important to look at how much of these foods you should consume—as a diabetic or non-diabetic. People with diabetes are recommended to have no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake come from sugar, while a person without diabetes may have up to 25% .

Uncommon Myth #1: There are only two types of diabetes.

The most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. But did you know there is a third type called gestational diabetes ? This happens temporarily during pregnancy and increases both the mother’s and the child’s risk of developing diabetes (2% to 4% of pregnancies by non-aboriginal women experience gestational diabetes). There is prediabetes, which occurs when your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Diabetes UK even suggests that there are 12 forms of diabetes!  

Uncommon Myth #2: Diabetes is a physical condition only.

Diabetes and denial: there’s more to diabetes than just it just being a physical affliction. There is no denying the mental health issues that diabetes can cause.

Constantly dealing with diabetes management, stressing over blood glucose levels, and worrying about the many complications that diabetes brings (such as heart attacks, blindness, and kidney disease) can also have a significant impact on a person’s mental health.

People struggling with diabetes are more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. 30% of Canadians living with diabetes were affected by depression, and 10% experienced major depression. Poor mental health can have a snowball effect on your physical health. Just imagine how much harder it can be to work at getting your health in order when you are feeling depressed on top of your physical symptoms.


Uncommon Myth #3: Diabetes is easily detectable.

There is no one sure way to know if you have diabetes. It can mask itself under a variety of common sickly symptoms like fatigue, unusual thirst, or weight change. Look for symptoms such as tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, blurred vision, or cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, as these may be more specific to diagnosing diabetes.

While there are symptoms , there are individuals who display no signs of type 2 diabetes , which makes annual health checks and blood-work a good habit.

Diabetes is a complicated disease that affects approximately 1 million Albertans which was 25.6% of Alberta’s population as of 2016. Even more, this amount is estimated to double by 2026. 


With the numbers of Canadians estimated to have diabetes only increasing in the coming years, taking preventative measures will put your health ahead of the game.   Diabetes Canada provides a   short questionnaire   you can complete to see if you are at risk of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

#ABfoodfight

By Alyssa Grams 21 Jun, 2017

Last week’s article touched on the different types of artificial sweeteners that are meant to work as sugar substitutes. We also talked about some of the reasons it may be a good idea for diabetics to stay away from artificial sweeteners. Now, we will dive a little deeper into the problems these sugar substitutes could have on your health and the balance of the good bacteria in your gut.

The most popular study to make this claim happened in 2014. The study showed that mice who ate saccharin (a component of some artificial sweeteners) developed a glucose intolerance. The sweeteners created an imbalance in the gut bacteria of the mice. These bacteria are responsible for converting food to fuel or fat.

The team wanted to make sure this also applied to humans, so they continued the study on seven healthy people who consumed the maximum serving of saccharin suggested by the FDA for six days. Four of these individuals were on the road to glucose intolerance—a step towards a diabetic diagnosis.  

The team concluded that this was only a preliminary study but did create grounds to explore this research further.

By Alyssa Grams 19 Jun, 2017
Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Dr. Andrea Haqq eagerly anticipated bisects to her pediatrician -- and not for the sticker at the end of the appointment. "I was always really interested in medicine," she explains. While her peers clambered off the examination table at the end of check-ups, Haqq lingered with questions about paediatric medicine and her doctor was more than happy to chat with his curious patient. By the time Haqq reached high school. her paediatrician was lending her medical texts on paediatrics and medical education, and had become a mentor as she considered her career path. 
By Alyssa Grams 14 Jun, 2017

Diabetes is a complex disease that millions of Canadians struggle with. In Alberta alone, there are 1 million people suffering from diabetes and prediabetes. With so many people affected, it is easy to create generalizations about what a group of people go through, even though everyone manages their diabetes in different ways.

Because of this, we want to do debunk some common and not so common myths about diabetes.

By Alyssa Grams 12 Jun, 2017

Sugar. Glucose. Fructose. These days it seems like there’s sugar lurking in so many things we eat. From the expected candies, juices, and cereals, to the unexpected spaghetti sauces, canned soups, and salad dressings, the amount of sugar we consume can be staggering. Sugars are carbohydrates that can affect your blood glucose (sugar) levels, weight, and blood fats, so people living with diabetes must consume added sugars in moderation. Easier said then done, especially when you want to treat yourself to something sweet..

In comes artificial sweeteners. These sugar substitutes are used in place of sugar (sucrose) and are classified as non-nutritive, non-caloric sweeteners. They are extremely sweet, so you only have to use a fraction of what you would in table sugar.

But what if you are sick of that overly sweet taste? What if you have already used your suggested serving of Splenda for the day and don’t want to consume anymore for fear of an upset stomach? What about those questionable ingredients in your Splenda—dextrose and maltodextrin—that Diabetes Canada says will increase bloods glucose levels?

By Alyssa Grams 07 Jun, 2017

You never think you’re going to get it. You never think that you will have to adjust your whole life for a short statement told to you by your doctor in a flat manner “You’re A1C test results came in back this morning, I’m afraid to tell you that the diagnoses is diabetes.”   This might be another day for the doctor, but this is the defining day with one simple diagnoses that will impact every minute of the rest of your life.

You’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes. Now what?

Well, there’s no one right answer on what you should do, as everyone’s story and situation is different. But here are 5 steps you can take that will lead you in the right direction.

By Alyssa Grams 06 Jun, 2017

If you live with diabetes, or you have recently been diagnosed, you understand how much of a struggle food can be. This is especially true when it comes to keeping track of your carbohydrate intake. Blood glucose levels can spike if you consume too many carbohydrates or sources of glucose in high amounts in one sitting. That means pie, chocolate, and those beloved brownies are better left off your plate, which can be disheartening for those of us with a sweet tooth.

Is there any possible way I can have my cake and eat it too?

The common answer? Yes, thanks to sugar substitutes called artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes, but may be derived from naturally occurring substances including herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than regular sugar.

The FDA has approved artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute in healthy individuals and those living with diabetes. With the stamp of approval, a variety of sweeteners are on grocery store shelves in the form of tablets, quick dissolve pills, liquid drops, and the most popular: single-use sugar packets. The most popular brands of artificial sweetener include Sweet ‘N Low, Splenda, and Sugar Twin.

Other sugar substitutes include sugar alcohol-based products. Sugar alcohols are a family of sweetening agents that naturally occur in small amounts in fruits and vegetables, but are mainly manufactured for large scale commercial use.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular sugar substitutes for diabetics.

By Carmen Johnson 03 May, 2017

I don’t want to sound like an old hen here, but it’s a shame how eggs have been exiled from our plates for the last couple of decades. Many have opted to ditch the yolk or shell out money for egg substitutes.

But scientists have worked hard to unscramble the facts about dietary  cholesterol  and heart disease. What they found is that eggs are far from the dietary demons they're cracked up to be.

Egg-cellent News

It’s true: whole eggs  and egg yolks are high in cholesterol. But what we didn’t know when we started clucking about eggs is that cholesterol from food has relatively little impact on blood cholesterol ( 3 ). In fact, most of the cholesterol in our blood is made by our liver, not by our lunch.

Studies show that, for healthy people, eating an egg a day does not increase the risk of heart disease ( 24 ). It’s actually saturated and trans fats that are the real culprits that can do harm to  heart health . So it's likely not the eggs, but more their wing men (think bacon, sausage, biscuits and butter) that we need to watch out for.

One more important piece of information to shell out: If you have heart disease or diabetes, speak to your Doctor or Dietitian about cholesterol and fat intake recommendations based on your specific needs.  

The Sunny Side of Eggs

When it comes to nutrition, eggs are hard to beat. One large egg packs in 14 essential vitamins and minerals, all for just 70 calories ( 1 ). Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain  vitamin D , along with  ironzinc , vitamins  AE  and  B-vitamins .

They’re also loaded with disease-fighting nutrients like  cholinelutein and zeaxanthin . The latter two help ward off age-related eye disease while choline is a key ingredient in brain function.

Another good reason to put eggs back in your breakfast is that each egg serves up 6 grams of high-quality  protein , making 2 eggs equal to a  serving of meat . Protein not only helps keep you full and energized all day long, it also helps regulate our blood sugars and staves off muscle loss as we age.

Get Cracking

There’s no shortage of local eggs with 179 registered  egg farmers  in Alberta. And there’s no such thing as a bad egg. Whether they’re white or brown, organic or conventional, all eggs have a similar nutrition profile. The only exception is eggs that come from hens fed a diet enriched in flax seeds, which has more  omega-3 fatty acids.

At around 20 cents each, eggs are an affordable way to get high-quality protein into any meal. Try some of these easy and convenient ways to add eggs to your diet.

  • Beat a raw egg with a little non-fat milk, pour it into a microwave-safe mug and heat for 30 seconds. Voila! A perfectly cooked egg in a mere minute.
  • Chop up hard-boiled eggs into quarters and sprinkle them over mixed greens.
  • Egg custards are a delicious way to add a little nutrition to your dessert.
  • Stuff a whole wheat tortilla with scrambled eggs, black beans and diced peppers for a healthy option any time of the day. Add some grated cheese, salsa and cilantro for extra flavour.
  • Frittatas and omelets are fast and easy to assemble. For a quick and easy recipe check out the  Garden Fresh Frittata recipe from the  Pure Prairie Eating Plan  cookbook

Well, what are you waiting for? Get cracking!


References

1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Egg, chicken, whole, cooked, boiled in shell, hard-cooked . Accessed April 30, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp .

2) Hu, F.B. et al (1999). A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA ; 281 (15): 1387 – 94.

3) Lecerf, J. & De Lorgeril, M. (2011). Dietary cholesterol: From physiology to cardiovascular risk. British Journal of Nutrition ; 106(1), 6-14. doi:10.1017/S0007114511000237

4) Qureshi, A.I. et al (2007). Regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Med Sci Monit ; 13 (1): CR1-8.

By Carmen Johnson 27 Mar, 2017

I know what you’re thinking: how is a Dietitian ever going to spout the benefits of the spud?

No question taters have gotten a bad wrap. Their M.O. has salty, fried snack written all over it. Plus, known associates include sour cream, bacon bits and melted cheese. That would put a blemish on anyone’s record!

But trust me when I say it’s guilt by association. When you strip away the oil, the salt and the condiments, you’re left with a tasty tuber that’s packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients. In other words: there’s gold in them thar spuds!

Nutrition Nugget

I understand the fear. Rumours abound that potatoes (and carbs in general) lead to weight gain and a slew of health problems.  But a small baked potato (128 g) has 3 grams of  fibre  and 3.5 grams of protein, all for just 128 calories ( 2 ). They are also low in sodium and have virtually no fat. That is, before we throw them in the deep fryer and douse them in salt and gravy.

Another misconception: In many cases, if a food lacks color, it also lacks nutrition. But don’t let the pale potato complexion fool you: spuds are chock full of vitamins and minerals. One small potato has more immune-boosting  vitamin C  than a medium tomato and double the amount of blood pressure-lowering  potassium  than a banana. They’re also a good source of  vitamin B6magnesium  and  iron .

Tater Time

If you’ve been avoiding potatoes because of their high  glycemic index  (GI), it’s time to update your grocery list.

When was the last time you ate a skinless baked potato with nothing else? Never! What the GI doesn’t tell you is that as soon as you combine carbohydrate with fat, fibre or protein, the GI drops. That means a slower and steadier release of sugar into the bloodstream. Just like any starchy food, it's important to have them as part of a balanced meal and watch your portions.

This Spud’s for You

In Canada, we grow more potatoes than any other vegetable ( 1 ).  Alberta farmers  plant over 50,000 acres of potatoes each year. That’s a whole lot of hash browns! From Russet Burbank to Yukon Gold, your local farmers harvest some of the best in the world.

Potatoes are one of the most versatile and budget-friendly veggies around. Boil ‘em, bake ‘em, nuke ‘em or toss ‘em on the grill. But for heaven’s sake, put the peeler away! More than half of the fibre is in the peel.

Some tasty ways to enjoy your ‘taters:

  1. Top a baked potato with baked beans, salsa, shredded cheese and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.
  2. Make "smashed” potatoes by mashing purple, red and yellow baby potatoes with their skins on.
  3. Ditch the deep fryer and make oven-baked fries instead. Add a small amount of canola oil and your favourite spices to sliced potatoes. Toss and then bake at 450° F for about 30 minutes, flipping once.
  4. Transform leftover mashed potatoes into quick and easy salmon cakes or tasty potato pancakes.
  5. If you do peel, save your skins! By adding just a little oil you can bake them up into healthy homemade potato chips.

And when you're in the mood for comfort-food, make sure to try the potato-packed  Stovetop Shepherd's Pie by the  Pure Prairie Eating Plan  Cookbook.


References

1) Edmonton Potato Growers Ltd. (2017). Fresh Potatoes. Accessed March 21, 2017 from http://www.epg.ab.ca/product-info/fresh-potatoes/

2) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Potato, flesh and skin, baked. Accessed March 21, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do

By Carmen Johnson 16 Mar, 2017

St. Paddy's Day is just around the corner—and that means it's time to go green! If you're looking for a festive and delicious way to avoid getting pinched one fatty fruit will have you dancing a jig for joy.

When it comes to nutrition, the avocado is definitely a pot full of gold. Bright green, lusciously creamy, and full of vitamins and minerals, avocados are satisfying and good for your health.

Nutrition

If you grew up in the era of "fat makes you fat," you might still get a little squeamish when you see a bowl of the green stuff. Of course, avocados are called "nature’s butter" for a reason; they are loaded with fat. But don't let that scare you away. These babies are bursting with nutritional benefits!

Gram for gram, avocados have more blood pressure lowering potassium than bananas, are bursting with immune-boosting vitamin C and are an excellent source of folate—a B-vitamin that keeps the DNA in your cells working well ( 1 ). They also deliver lutein and zeaxanthin , two phytochemicals that keep your eyes healthy .

Unlike butter, their high fat content comes mainly from healthy monounsaturated fats  (the same type found in olive oil). Replacing foods high in saturated fats with mono- and polyunsaturated-rich foods can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase your HDL (good) cholesterol ( 2 ). If you have diabetes you're already at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, so it's especially important to make heart healthy choices ( 3 ).

Avocados also boast an exceptional amount of fibre . One avocado packs in a whopping 13.5 grams ( 1 ). For women, that’s half of your daily requirement! The fibre/healthy fat combo not only helps keep blood sugars in a healthy range, but it also keeps you feeling full for longer, which helps reduce overeating.

Go Green

If you're celebrating St. Patrick's Day and want to celebrate in style, you’ve got the luck of the Irish with this green food. Just remember, since the calories from avocado can add up quickly, it’s best to swap them in for less healthy items on your plate and watch your portions.

Try these tasty ideas to green-ify your St. Paddy’s Day menu:

1.    Start your day off with an energizing avocado smoothie.

2.    Spread mashed avocado on whole-wheat toast instead of butter.

3.    Replace the mayonnaise in chicken or egg salad with mashed avocado.

4.    Mash potatoes with avocado instead of sour cream or butter.

5.    Boost the fibre in your baking by using mashed avocado in place of butter.

There's a million ways to enjoy this lovable fruit. But in my opinion, none are quite as delicious—or as easy—as guacamole. For a quick and simple way to serve some green to your guests, try the Easy Guacamole  recipe from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan  Cookbook.

 

References

1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Avocado, raw, all commercial varieties . Accessed March 7, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do

2) Heart and Stroke Foundation (2017). Dietary fat, oils and cholesterol . Accessed March 7, 2017 from http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/fats-and-oils

3) Public Health Agency of Canada (2011). Diabetes in Canada: Facts and figures from a public health perspective . Accessed March 7, 2017. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/publications/diabetes-diabete/facts-figures-faits-chiffres-2011/hig...

By Twyla McGann 03 Mar, 2017

There are a lot of foods trying to reel you in with claims about their supposed health benefits. The problem with these so-called superfoods is it muddies the water when it comes to other foods that are readily available and swimming in nutrition.  

But there’s nothing fishy when it comes to salmon’s health claims. Not only is it delicious; it's also full of potent heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus it's quick and easy to cook, making it a reel winner for busy families.

A Total Catch

When it comes to fish, salmon it truly the catch of the day. Its juicy pink flesh is brimming with protein and energy-boosting B-vitamins . It's also loaded with important minerals like potassium , selenium  and phosphorus .

But that’s not all: salmon is one of the few foods that naturally contains vitamin D,  which is very important for bone health if you're living in the north, since it helps with the absorption of calcium.  

It's not a small amount, either! A three-ounce serving can contain as much as 500 international units (IU) of this superstar vitamin ( 1 ). That's more than 80% of the daily-recommended amount  for children and adults under 70.

Plus, canned salmon—with the soft edible bones—provides a generous amount of calcium. The calcium/vitamin D combo gives you a double-dose of bone-building benefits.

Mega Health Benefits

If that wasn’t bait enough, salmon is also loaded with heart-healthy, brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids . They're good for your ticker in a few ways, improving blood vessel function, reducing the risk of stroke and helping to lower triglycerides, a blood fat linked to heart disease ( 2 ). That's just the beginning. They also reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.

Omega-3 fatty acids may also guard against type-2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's disease ( 3 ). Plus, they promote healthy nerve, eye and brain development. If that isn't enough to send you straight to the fish aisle, I don't know what is!

 

From (Fish) Farm to Fork

Chinook or Sockeye, farm-raised or wild-caught, all salmon is a healthy choice. To reel in all the benefits, Health Canada  recommends you consume fish like salmon at least twice a week. Thanks to flash freezing and air deliveries, it’s easy for even land-locked salmon lovers to enjoy this delish fish all year round.

Baked, broiled, grilled or poached—the possibilities are endless when it comes to cooking salmon. Just keep in mind although salmon is healthy, eating it battered and deep-fried isn’t going to do any wonders for your heart or your waistline.

Still not hooked? Try these tasty ways to enjoy salmon:

  • Grill salmon on the barbecue with lemon and dill for a healthy and tasty dinner.
  • Top a green salad with leftover salmon for an easy lunch on the go.
  • Make a salmon salad sandwich with canned salmon, a little mayo, diced green onions and celery.
  • Whip up some baked salmon cakes and serve with creamy dill sauce.
  • Toss flakes of baked salmon with cooked pasta and alfredo sauce for rich and creamy dish.

For a recipe that never flounders, try the Orange-Glazed Salmon over Sautéed Spinach  from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan  Cookbook. It's o-fish-ally delicious!

References

1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Fish, salmon, pink (humpback), baked or broiled. Retrieved from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do

2) Heart and Stroke Foundation (2017). Healthy Eating: Dietary Fats, Oils and Cholesterol . Retrieved from: http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/fats-and-oils

3) Mayo Clinic (2013). Drugs and Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid . Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/eviden...

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