Jan 27, 2021

“Don’t Eat Anything White”…Really?

Those living with diabetes are often told to stay away from white foods – but is this actually good advice or just a myth?

By Janice Baker, MBA, RD, CDE, CNSC, BC-ADM

“Oh no, I can’t eat anything white,” many say as they push away the baked potato. The “nothing white” eating recommendation has been around for a few years now.

While it’s true that a high intake of refined carbohydrates may contribute to a higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t’ work to make broad generalizations about food.

It is certainly recommended to include whole grain, high fiber foods over refined flour, white rice, pasta, white bread, crackers, or sugary cereals for many nutritional benefits. Salt, butter, and cream are all white foods and also foods that some may benefit from eating less of.

Portions, cooking methods, individual needs, medical status and cultural food preferences must also be considered. Blood glucose levels can be elevated for other reasons besides food choices, such as stress, medication issues, infection, dehydration, lack of sleep and sedentary lifestyle.

That is why consulting with a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for individualized meal planning is so important. Following misinterpreted and misguided advice can lead to omitting nutritious foods such as:

  • Bananas: A large banana provides only 120 calories while packing 14% of the daily value (DV) for fiber, 20% DV for vitamin C, 25% DV for vitamin B6, 14% DV for potassium, and 18% DV for manganese.
  • Cauliflower: One cup of raw cauliflower is 25 calories and contains 77% of the DV for vitamin C, 20% for vitamin K, and 14% for folate.
  • Cheese: One ounce of part-skim mozzarella cheese will only add 71 calories to your diet while providing 22% of the DV for calcium and 14% of the DV for both phosphorous and protein. But be sure to watch your portions!
  • Chicken: One half of a chicken breast will set you back only 120 calories, but will add 27 grams of protein (54% DV) to your diet. It also carries with it 66% of the DV for niacin, 32% vitamin B6, 23% phosphorous, and 30% selenium.
  • Egg whites: One large egg white is only 16 calories and holds 7% of the DV for protein. Whole eggs are healthful as well!
  • Fish: One filet of cod is pretty darn filling for only having 95 calories, plus it adds 21 grams of protein (42% of the DV) to your menu along with 23% of the DV for vitamin B6, 17% for B12, 20% phosphorous, 13% potassium, and 60% selenium.
  • Milk: One cup of nonfat milk contains 90 calories, 17% DV for protein (8 grams), 20% DV for riboflavin, 16% DV for vitamin B12, 30% DV for calcium, and 25% for phosphorous.
  • Mushrooms: One cup of sliced oyster mushrooms is only a measly 36 calories and 20% of your DV for niacin along with 18% of your DV for riboflavin.
  • Onions: One cup of chopped onion is only 64 calories but is packaged along with 20% of your DV for vitamin C.
  • Turnips: One cup of cubed turnip is 36 calories and provides 46% of your DV for vitamin C.
  • White beans: A cup of canned beans (that is a lot of beans!) will provide your body 299 calories, 19 grams of protein (38% of your DV), 13 grams of fiber (50% of your DV), 17% of your DV for thiamin, 43% folate, 19% calcium, 44% iron, 33% magnesium, 24% phosphorus, 34% potassium, 20% zinc, 30% copper, and 67% manganese.
  • White potatoes: A large baked potato is 278 calories and 7 grams of protein (15% of the DV). It also contains 26% of your DV for fiber, 48% vitamin C, 13% thiamin, 21% niacin, 46% vitamin B6, 21% folate, 18% iron, 21% of both magnesium and phosphorous, 46% potassium, 18% copper, and 33% manganese.
  • Yogurt: One cup of plain nonfat yogurt is 137 calories and 14 grams of protein (28% DV), 34% riboflavin, 25% vitamin B12, 16% pantothenic acid, 49% calcium, 49% calcium, 18% potassium, and 16% zinc.

As you can see from the list above, it makes no sense to exclude these foods based on their color alone; they contain lots of healthful nutrients that your body needs!

Avoiding “white food” can be confusing. For example, cheddar cheese is colored yellow but is originally white. There are people who will eat cheddar cheese, but shun mozzarella, ricotta, etc. Also, brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added; sugar is sugar, and replacing white sugar with brown sugar, agave syrup or even honey makes a minimal difference of the nutritional content aside from taste and texture. You can also consider white whole-wheat bread or whole-wheat pizza crust, or quinoa and barley, also lighter in color in some cases.

Remember, nutrition is science, not sound bites or opinion, and Registered Dietitians have degrees not only in nutrition science but food science as well. Save yourself time, money and confusion and consult with a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) for sound, individualized, and science-based advice.

Medical Disclaimer
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.

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