Learning to eat healthier starts with understanding what you are putting in your mouth. I used to think that all vegetables were the same – that there was no difference in an ear of corn versus a bunch of broccoli in terms of nourishing my body. They are both veggies so what’s the big deal? There is certainly nothing wrong with eating a couple of ears of corn with your meal, but combine that with some watermelon, bread with your BLT and maybe a spoonful of potato salad and all of a sudden you have a TON of carbs on your plate and a nap will soon follow.
That carb load will cause a glucose spike stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin. Eating this way over time stresses the pancreas – especially in someone with a family history of type 2 diabetes ( a more inheritable form of diabetes) or of a certain race: Pacific Islander, American Indian, African American or Asian American. These races have what we call the “thrifty gene” meaning their bodies adapted to periods of famine in the past by slowing down their metabolism in order to survive. When these races are exposed to a heavy carb diet, this thrifty gene works against them by putting a strain on the pancreas, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, this extra insulin leads to weight gain since insulin causes our bodies to store fat.
And diabetes is closely related to heart disease. People with diabetes not only have a problem with their insulin but they also have a problem with fat metabolism. It is just as important to reduce the amount of saturated fat in the diet since the liver can not handle too much saturated fat.
When you look more closely at some common food choices at dinner you will understand how to reduce the amount of carbs, increase the fiber and reduce some of the unhealthy fat that can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
Eat This Instead: Brown Rice Instead of White Rice
1/4 cup dry brown or white rice, which is 1/2 cup cooked, delivers about the same amount of carbohydrates – 35 grams. But look at the difference in fiber. Brown rice has 4 grams of fiber while the white rice has none. Getting enough fiber is part of feeling full. It also reduces the amount of time that cancer causing substances stay in the GI tract. It also has many of the B vitamins, the powerful antioxidant selenium, and manganese and helps to lower the bad LDL cholesterol. .
Eat This Instead: More Broccoli, Less Corn and Peas
The picture to the right: peas, then corn, then broccoli, are nutrition values for about the same gram weight. However there is a big difference in total grams of carbohydrates between them. Corn and peas have 21 gms and 12 gms respectfully, in a 2/3 cup serving, while broccoli has only 4 gms of carbohydrates in 3/4 cup. The extra carbs in peas are mitigated by the ample fiber – 4 gms in one serving. That extra fiber helps to slow down the spike in blood sugar. In the end, it comes down to portion sizes and how many other carbs are on your plate. Other carb sources are milk (lactose in milk is a sugar) and sweetened drinks, fruit, breads and grains, beans, starchy veggies like potatoes and winter squashes, and obviously desserts.
How Many Carbs Should You Eat?
The percent daily value (PDV) for carbs for someone eating about 2000 calories a day is 300 mg. This amount of carbs should be divided over the course of the day, so about 100 mg a meal. A 20 oz coke has 65 gms, a medium banana has about 30 gms, a piece of bread has about 20 gms. A cookie can have about 20-30 gms depending on the size. You can see how carbs add up. And if someone has any prediabetes or diabetes then the amount of carbs consumed should be reduced even further in order to take the work load off the pancreas. Talk to a dietitian if you need further recommendations if you do have diabetes.
Eat This Instead: More Ground Turkey, Less Ground Beef
ground turkey vs 85% ground beef
In a 4 oz serving of turkey, there is only 1 gm of fat. In 4 oz of ground 85% lean beef there are 17 gms of fat with 7 of those being the heart unhealthy saturated fats. Because there is more fat – delivering 9 calories per gram – there are twice as many calories in this beef than turkey! On top of it notice that the ground turkey even has more protein and protein is the third component to the feeling of fullness. Most Americans do not get enough of it at all their meals but it is a critical component to maintaining muscle mass and metabolism. It just needs to be lean and should come mostly from fish, poultry, eggs, and plant protein.
Eat This Instead: Hummus Instead Of Cheese
Cheese has much more fat than hummus – 9 gms vs 1.5 gms per serving. One ounce of cheddar cheese also delivers 6 gms of heart clogging saturated fat and 110 calories. And how many people just eat 1 oz? Two tablespoons of hummus only delivers 40 calories and zero saturated fat.
Eat This Instead: Edy’s Slow Churned Ice Cream Instead of Hoods
Edy’s slow churned ice cream on the left.
Edy’s Slow Churned has much less fat, therefore fewer calories than regular ice cream. In 1/2 cup of Edy’s there is 100 calories, with 3 gms of fat. The same serving of Hood’s delivers 140 calories with 7 gms of fat – with twice as much coming from saturated fat. Saturated fat is what sticks to the walls of our arteries, narrowing them and making them more rigid, therefore decreasing the amount of blood flow.
How Much Saturated Fat?
The American Heart Association advises that we keep saturated fat to no more than 5-6 % of our total daily calories, that amounts to 11-13 gms for a 2000 calorie diet. A cup of Hood’s ice cream would deliver 9 gms, almost the daily limit. Add a little butter on that corn and the limit has been reached. Can you imagine what those arteries would look like in someone who is regularly eating beef and cheese on top of ice cream? All the Lipitor in the world is not going to unclog those pipes.
How These Changes Can Add Up
Let’s compare two meals making the recommended changes versus not. Let’s compare someone who has a hamburger, with white rice, corn, snacks on cheese and has Hood’s ice cream for dessert vs someone who has the exact same portions but substitutes it with ground turkey breast, brown rice, hummus, broccoli and 1/2 cup of Edy’s ice cream. The first person would be eating more than 230 more calories, 27 more grams of total fat and 14 gms of it coming from saturated fat (more than the AHA recommendations), 15 more grams of carbs, 5 fewer gms of fiber while getting the exact same amount of protein. Even if you made your burger with half turkey breast and half 85 % lean ground beef and skipped the cheese you would cut down your saturated fat by over 9 gms.
Making these substitutions don’t have to happen all at once. Personally, I would start where the change is easiest then branch out from there. Reduce the portions of foods with unhealthy fats and gradually add more foods with healthy higher fiber carbs from whole grains and vegetables. Look at your desserts and find ones with fewer saturated fats and be mindful of portion sizes. And some days of the week, skip the desserts and just have some sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon. That might be radical, but so is having diabetes and heart disease.
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