Is it really possible to judge a food based on its color? Often people with diabetes are told white foods should be avoided but there are good white foods and bad ones. It is important to recognize the difference for a diverse and healthy diet.
- We hear about the “bad white foods” often. Typically they are made with white flour or refined sugar. Also referred to as processed carbohydrates, people who eat too much of them are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity. Those with diabetes may be unable to control their blood sugars when eating processed or refined foods. Less processed carbs usually do not cause insulin spikes and are more satisfying so you don’t feel hungry in an hour.
- Bread, crackers, cake, cereal and cookies made with white flour and sugar are all examples of poor choices in white foods. Substitutes such as sugar-free cookies and whole grain bread can be eaten in moderation. It is important to monitor your blood sugar levels throughout the day. Include plenty of fruit and vegetables in your daily diet and fewer processed carbohydrates. Limit eating out of bags and boxes which are mainly processed.
- Rice and pasta are also poor white food choices. Brown rice is a better choice than white rice. Choose low carb pasta over pasta made with white flour. Think of grains like quinoa, lentils, or wild rice. Steer clear of creamy sauces with a higher fat content. Use a light tomato sauce or olive oil instead of full fat cheese and butter. Add plenty of fresh herbs such as oregano, rosemary and garlic for flavor and antioxidant power.
- The third poor choice of white food is refined sugar. While we recognize sugar in processed sweets such as candy and cookies, it is also lurking in our beverages, sauces, salad dressings and prepared foods. A recent estimate revealed Americans drink 22% of our calories. Avoid beverages sweetened with sugar or high fructose sugar, such as regular soda and ice tea. Don’t add refined white sugar to coffee or tea. If you need to add a touch of sweetness, try Stevia or an artificial sweeteners instead. Always read the labels on food you buy to check the sugar, fat and carbohydrate content.
- There are also healthy white foods. They fall into the categories of recommended foods for diabetes. A healthy diet includes vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Some of these foods can be white. They are healthy to eat when you don’t smother them in sour cream, cheese or butter. Never deep-fry your foods. Steam, boil or broil them instead. Choose low-fat milks and cheeses over full-fat varieties.
- Apples and pears might have colorful skins by their flesh is white. Apples have phytonutrients called polyphenols that are excellent antioxidants. They lower the risk of heart disease, asthma and lung cancer as well as help regulate blood glucose levels. Pears have plenty of fiber and also contain antioxidants. A small apple only has 77 calories and a small pear contains just 81 calories. These are two white winners!
- Vegetables such as cauliflower and mushrooms and are good guys in the white food category. Cauliflower has plenty of vitamin C and antioxidants to ward off inflammation-related diseases such as cancer or heart disease. Mushrooms contain copper, potassium, selenium, B and D vitamins and antioxidants. They also have beta glucans, a carbohydrate that helps manage blood glucose and boost the immune system. One cup of white mushrooms only contains just 21 calories.
- White potatoes are vegetables that often get a bum rap but it depends on how you eat them and how much you eat at one sitting. Avoid French fries, potato tots and mashed potatoes. A baked potato is a white food containing potassium, vitamins C and B6, fiber, iron and antioxidants. It is on the high glycemic index but that can be countered by eating a small amount or nibbling on the skin, which contains fiber. Eat potatoes with a source of fat, protein or acid (such as vinegar) to lower the glycemic impact.
- Cannellini beans, also known as kidney beans, are another white food which offers benefits. They are low fat, high fiber and contain protein, vitamins and minerals. These beans have soluble fiber which can help lower blood glucose levels and cholesterol as well as reduce belly fat.
People with diabetes can eat white foods if they know the right ones to choose. Some white foods are less healthy for people with diabetes while others offer a host of health benefits. Eating better choices of white foods can help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol and even reduce inflammation.