Social Hysteria and Diabetes-Compatible Eating

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This guest post was written by type 2 diabetic and chef Ward Alper. It originally appeared on his website, The Decadent Diabetic, and was republished on Information About Diabetes with permission.

Very often the media will carry a piece on how some food or food group is good/ bad for you. It makes you stop and think that I need to cut down on this or eat more of that. It then takes on a life of its own. You hear people talking about it, arguing about it, getting militant about it. I call this SOCIAL HYSTERIA.
Just so you are clear, I am no different than most people. I hear some piece of information and too often, without checking the source and the science, take it as gospel. Is it because I hope it is true, or that I thought it was too good to be true?

When I was growing up people were told to eat liver. It was supposed to be a “miracle” food. To make it taste “better”, mothers smothered it in onions and bacon (?). MAJOR weight loss plans had a recipe using liver simmered in tomato sauce to both flavor and tenderize the liver. Well, folks, times have changed. A few years ago we were told that liver and other internal organs (what will the British do without kidney pie?) are very bad for you. They increase your bad cholesterol. OOOPS!


Far and away one of MY favorite foods is the egg. It seems a miracle to me that an egg can do so much and taste so different just by preparing it a different way. To me, fried eggs taste totally different than scrambled or hard boiled. I love them all. So what was I supposed to do when the medical establishment said: “Limit your egg consumption?” Egg white omelets do less than nothing for me. The products that came out using egg whites colored yellow looked better but tasted just as BORING, unless I added cheese (defeating the low fat purpose). But now that same medical establishment shyly admits that eggs may not be as bad for you as they once thought, and perhaps still one of the best sources of protein. Thought? They THOUGHT that eggs were bad and sent the world into a tailspin of not eating eggs! Were they wrong then or are they wrong now. Which science is RIGHT?

No one is suggesting that you sit down to a dozen eggs at a time. Much as I love eggs, even I could not do that…well maybe if they were deliciously deviled and JUST sitting there on a plate in front of me and nobody was looking…no, not even then.

Butter vs. margarine

AGAIN, several years ago the prevailing science was don’t eat or at least severely limit your intake of butter. A few more years have gone by and it is “don’t eat margarine.” So, what are you supposed to do if:

1- You are concerned about the animal fat in butter
2- You can’t afford to buy butter
3- You are worried about the chemical make- up of margarine but don’t want to eat butter
4- You know that trans-fats are a bigger problem than animal fat…maybe?

Out front I like to use butter rather than margarine because I am someone that wants a certain flavor, however, unless I leave the butter out on the counter overnight, it is a pain to try and spread it on my breakfast toast. I did find a product that I liked for a long time that claimed it would assist in lowering bad cholesterol. The product tasted ok, not quite butter, but ok. It has no trans-fats. What happened is the company decided that GMOs were also a problem and went GMO free. I applaud them for the social consciousness of their efforts, but the taste changed so much I can’t use it. When I have the time I have to look into why the non GMO product tastes different than the other. In the meantime I am back to butter.

White vs. whole Wheat

Is whole wheat flower better for you as a person with Diabetes? It only has a few less grams of NET carbohydrates but is still loaded. Neither one may be the best choice but for many recipes, you need some kind of flour. For me it is a matter of taste. For example: when I make my Diabetes-Compatible breakfast pancakes or my Baked Zucchini pancakes, I like to use a little whole wheat flour. No, it is not because I think that the wheat flour is better for me than the white, it is because the wheat lends a really delicious and subtle flavor to the dishes that the white flour does not. Most of what makes up the “flour” part of both recipes is either toasted (tastes better than untoasted) and ground nuts or in the case of the zucchini pancakes, parmesan cheese. A recipe started out as a take on a Jewish holiday dish, latkes, and turned out more Italian than Jewish in the final product. Hey, I grew up in NYC and the two communities were living side by side. You could get a Knish or a pizza in the same block.

Miracle foods ?

We have all seen advertisements and “articles” on how eating this food item or that food item will do this or that for your Diabetes. I beg all of you to really check on the science of these claims. I am NOT a medical person. I do my research the same way you do, on line. We all WANT to believe in miracles especially when they suggest it is a cure. Before you run off and waste your money and get your hopes up, make certain there is REAL SCIENCE behind the claims.

Dare I say it…Sugar Substitutes?

A newspaper used one of my Diabetes-Compatible dessert recipes last week. The editor pressed me for what sugar substitute I used in the recipe. For those of you that read my recipes you might have noticed that I NEVER mention a brand name. three reasons:

1-I do not endorse any product unless it makes a unique difference to a recipe or a meal. Products like herb or spice combinations, certain vinegars, and bread products.
2-There are enough sugar substitutes out there, natural, semi natural, and artificial that are interchangeable enough to work in most recipes. I want to give each reader the ability to choose the one(s) that work best for them in terms of: ease, cost, flavor, and their sense of product safety.
3- I don’t want to get caught up in the controversy of which is better in terms of flavor or safety. Sugar substitutes are one of the biggest categories for social hysteria.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you start eating this and stop eating that. But before you START eating liver or GIVE UP eggs, I just want you to find the truth in what you hear and be confident enough to do what works for you.

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, find the truth, and BE DECADENT! –w

Ward Alper, The Decadent Diabetic