fiber in fruits and veggies

The inside scoop on your poop

Your gut environment impacts your brain. Recent research links specific gut bacteria types with chronic fatigue syndrome, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS). Scientists at Columbia University’s Center of Infection and Immunity at the Mailman School of Public Health have discovered that the type and amount of bacteria in your intestine is associated with ME/CFS. ME/CFS is a debilitating autoimmune disorder that causes extreme fatigue, body aches and even impaired thinking. It turns out that 90% of people with this condition also have irritable bowel disease (IBS), also a condition that has been linked with an overgrowth of bad gut bacteria.

Gut-brain connection

One would like to think that everything that ends up in the large intestine doesn’t have any other business with the rest of our body at that point. Mission accomplished, body nourished. But that’s not the case. Even worse, the contents of our colon, specifically the bacteria in there, still communicate with our brain even from the large intestine. Furthermore, the more impaired this gut microbiome or microorganism environment, the worse the symptoms of ME/CFS.

The bacteria in the gut affect normal metabolic pathways between the brain and the gut. Lead researchers in the Mailman School of Public Health study state:

“Much like IBS, ME/CFS may involve a breakdown in the bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut mediated by bacteria, their metabolites, and the molecules they influence”. 

In other words, the bacteria in your gut talks to your brain. Higher amounts of “good bacteria” leads to positive health outcomes while larger amounts of “bad bacteria” or insufficient good bacteria lead to negative health outcomes.

What’s in your gut?

Bristol Stool Chart

photo from Cabot Health

Your poop says a lot about your general health. The Bristol Stool Chart was developed in 1997 by Dr Ken Heaton from the University of Bristol in England to better understand diseases of the bowel and as a communication tool.  A healthy stool should look like type 3 or 4 in the chart. If yours doesn’t and you have no known digestive issues, then you might want to consider doing some housekeeping on your microbiome. You can even be part of the American Gut and have your stool sample analyzed.

Improving your gut microbiome

Jeff Leach, from the Human Food Project, in an NPR interview, states that even though understanding the gut microbiome is in the early stages of research, dietary fiber is very important. Dietary fiber feeds the good gut bacteria. Leach also recommends:

  • Eat garlic and leeks. These are high in a prebiotic called inulin which feeds the good gut bacteria. Garlic also may kill some of the bad bacteria.
  • Eat more vegetables. Leach believes that they are the best source of fiber and that they should be eaten as whole as possible.
  • Boost your dietary fiber to as much as 50 gms daily in order to really change the gut microbiome. If you decide to do this, increase it gradually and boost your water intake.
  • Increase your intake of fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut and yogurt.

You are what you eat

The nutrients from your diet impact every cell in your body: their function, structure and integrity. And now we know that the bacteria in our body can turn on and off certain metabolic pathways. Boosting the good bacteria in your colon while limiting the bad bacteria through diet could prevent inflammatory conditions like ME/CFS and perhaps even improve symptoms in those with these conditions.

You have to wonder, are we creating these diseases ourselves by the foods we eat?

The cells in our body are constantly dying off and new ones are being made. Could it be that the overgrowth of bad bacteria is changing the DNA in this process of cell development and creating these inflammatory conditions which also include autoimmune disease like lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis? Could the 23.5 million people in the U.S. with these conditions improve their symptoms through their diet?

Could the answer to improving and preventing these autoimmune conditions lie in dietary choices? All I know is that if I suffered from pain, chronic fatigue, poor sleep and impaired thinking, I would much rather try to tackle it through what I eat than through a pill. Improvement of symptoms might not happen overnight, but I can imagine the battle going on in my gut. Now, I think I’ll plant my vegetable garden this week.

low fiber diet linked to breast cancer

Is your daughter’s diet increasing her risk for breast cancer?

Is your daughter’s favorite meal a nice steak with mashed potatoes? Or is picking up a burger and fries on the way home from sports practice a frequent habit? Or is her idea of fruit and veggies, ketchup and relish? These foods may be tasty – who doesn’t love a nice steak or crispy fries dipped in ketchup? But these food choices could increase your daughter’s risk for breast cancer down the road.

The Nurses Health Study II

The original Nurses’ Health Study, funded by the National Institute of Health, looked at the long-term impact of oral contraception on women’s health. Female nurses were selected for their health awareness and appreciation of filling out an accurate health history. The 121,700 returned questionnaires shed light not only on the cancer and heart disease risk with the use of oral contraception, but also the impact of smoking. The Nurses’ Health Study II in 1989 focused on additional lifestyle factors and behaviors and their connection to over 30 different diseases in a younger population – 116,430 women aged 25-42. This second study has provided insight to the link between diet and breast cancer risk.

Dietary fiber and breast cancer

A prospective study reported in the March, 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics looked at the connection between dietary fiber intake during high school years and premenopausal breast cancer risk. After statistical analysis they found a connection between the amount of dietary fiber intake, particularly fruit and vegetable fiber, and risk of breast cancer. Higher consumption of dietary fiber was associated with reduced breast cancer risk. In fact they found:

 “a 13% lower breast cancer risk per 10 g/day fiber increment during early adulthood and 14% lower breast cancer risk per 10 g/day fiber increment during adolescence.”

In other words, for every 10 g of dietary fiber eaten daily, there was a 13% lower risk of breast cancer. The American Heart Association (the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines do not state specific dietary fiber intake) recommends that females between the ages of 14-18 get 26 g of fiber daily, and males consume 38 g. Foods highest in fiber are nuts and seeds, legumes, foods made with whole grains, and fruit and vegetables. An example excellent dietary fiber: a half cup of beans delivers at least 8 g of fiber depending on the bean type. Topping salads, adding to soups or having as a side dish will give you a great dose of cancer prevention.

Red meat consumption linked to breast cancer

A study reported in the October, 2014 International Journal of Cancer looked at the connection between consumption of different protein sources and risk of breast cancer, also looking at data from the Nurses’ Health Study II. They found that the more red meat consumed during the adolescent years, the greater the premenopausal breast cancer risk. They also found that replacing some of the red meat with other protein sources like fish, poultry, nuts and beans reduced the risk for breast cancer.

Less red meat, more fruits and veggies

The answer is pretty obvious. Red meat is high in saturated fat, expensive and has a large carbon footprint, and now there’s a link to red meat consumption and breast cancer. Additionally, not consuming enough fiber from fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, and whole grains, also puts your daughter’s breast health at risk.

Food is health promoting…or health stealing

It really comes down to a mindset. It’s finding the balance between food that is nurturing and nourishing. I don’t expect to love everything I eat, but I try to prepare them in ways to make them tasty. I feel sorry for the kids who never grew up eating vegetables and only ate meals that came out of a box from a fast food restaurant. If that’s the only way someone has eaten, then the concept of learning how to plan and prepare a meal, let alone try new foods, can be daunting.

Tips For Eating Health Promoting Foods

  1. Keep it simple.  Make something in a crock-pot, make a soup or try some of these one pan dinners. Find 5 recipes that you like, write them down on index cards or on your phone notes along with the list of ingredients, and keep them with you so you always have them available when you shop.
  2. Make this an automatic thought: “how can I add more veggies to this meal?” I add extra frozen or fresh veggies to soups, casseroles and even to my breakfast smoothie. i always have at least a box of frozen spinach and broccoli in my freezer. I add cabbage (which has a really long frig life) to wraps, salads, and even soups. I keep cut up fresh veggies in my frig to snack on with humus all the time. I even mash steamed cauliflower to add to my mashed potatoes. I try to get at least 3-4 cups a day.
  3. Cutting down on red meat really comes down to finding other fish, poultry or meatless recipes you like. If you take the time on the first suggestion, you will find that beef disappears, or will be eaten less often.
  4. Your freezer is your way to convenience.  Double or even triple recipes. There isn’t one dinner that I’ve made that hasn’t frozen well. You can even portion extras servings into individual containers to take on the go, or when you don’t have time to prepare a meal.
  5. Know that you are eating this way for you and your daughter’s health in the future. Many of us make regular deposits in retirement accounts for a happy future; how many of us are making regular deposits in our daily lives for our or our family’s future health? What’s the point of having money if you don’t have good health to enjoy it? At least take these steps for your daughter’s sake.
low carb diet

And you think Adkins and Paleo diets always work?

Are you eating a low-carb, high-fat fad diet like Adkins or Paleo in order to lose weight? Do you have a family history of diabetes or have you been told you have prediabetes? If so, then you really need to read this.

Low-carb diets like the Paleo or Adkins diet are still really popular. Many people lose weight following them, but others don’t. Furthermore, for those with prediabetes these low-carb, high-fat diets don’t reduce the risk of advancing from prediabetes to diabetes.

Study showed weight gain and no change in risk for diabetes

A 2016 study reported in Nutrition and Diabetes magazine found that New Zealand Obese mice with prediabetes fed a low-carb, high-fat diet gained weight, and did not see an improved function of their insulin-producing pancreas. The mice were fed a low-carb diet consisting of 13% protein, 6% carbs and 81% fat, with over half of the fat calories coming from saturated fat. Even though their triglycerides and HDL(the good cholesterol) improved, they gained weight and their was no improvement to the health of their pancreas. In other words, they got fatter and their prediabetes did not improve.

Researchers believe that a low-carb, high-fat diet causes an accumulation of fat in the liver causing the liver to keep making glucose. In healthy people, higher insulin blood levels halt the production of glucose in the liver. This normal process goes awry when someone with prediabetes eats a low-carb, high-fat diet. Keep in mind, the CDC reports that more than 1 out of 3 adults in the U.S. have prediabetes.

Caveats to the study

The diet used in the low-carb, high-fat diet study consisted of a very high fat diet – over 3/4 of the calories were coming from fat and half of those were from the heart-clogging saturated kind. I wonder what the results would have been if the diet had consisted of slightly less fat and the heart-healthy unsaturated kind – the mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Would there have been weight loss and improved pancreatic function?

Paleo and Adkins Diet premises

adkins diet

From Adkins.com

The Adkins and Paleo diet depending on what you choose to eat could have you consuming a diet low in carbs but really high in fat – the saturated kind if you are not careful. There are a few differences in the two diets. The Paleo diet forbids dairy, meaning cheese, yogurt, and milk and encourages only grass-fed meat.

From the Paleodiet.com

It also emphasizes heart-healthy fats mainly from fish, seeds, oils like olive and flax seed, and avocado. The Adkins diet does not discern between saturated fat and healthy fats. It also allows cheese and only full fat dairy after phase 1. Both diets encourage lots of non-starchy veggies, but the Paleo diet allows fruit from the start and expects that 35-45% of your calories come from non-starchy fruits and veggies.

The proof is in the pudding

You have to use some common sense when it comes to dietary choices. Why not use some of the dietary tips from the Omniheart study that protects heart health while still eating a lower carb diet? Here are some other tidbits:

  1. Know your blood cholesterol and glucose levels. If your LDL, triglycerides and fasting blood sugars are going down, as well as your weight, then it’s working!
  2. People don’t gain weight from eating too many non-starchy veggies. The more the merrier. They are low-calorie (as long as the toppings and dips are used sparingly), they have plenty of vitamins and minerals, and they are high in fiber. They give you volume that will fill you up. Try roasting them, blending them in smoothies or adding a variety of them to soups and casseroles. Diet or not, veggies are the key to keeping weight off.
  3. Don’t go hog-wild over bacon and sausage. I heard stories of people on the Adkins diet eating a pound of bacon for breakfast. Even if you are losing weight with Adkins (Paleo discourages processed meat), your arteries have to be screaming. The same goes for eating large portions of cheese and beef fat. Just don’t do that!!
  4. Emphasize the heart-healthy fats. This just makes sense. It’s like walking through an old battle field zone with landmines – wouldn’t you want to stay on the proven path and not veer off??? Ketosis or not, why play with so many saturated fats that will only put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke?

Make sustainable lifestyle changes to lose weight

Fad diets like Adkins and Paleo may seem like a prescription to a lovely destination, but are you losing weight? And if you reached your goal are you going to keep maintaining on that diet? You most likely still have to learn how to keep old habits at bay. Find a path to health that is sustainable. NutritionAction.com, a nonprofit group that has consumer’s interests at heart (they are the ones that got trans-fats listed on food labels), has a wonderful guide that will help you lose weight in a sensible way and keep your heart healthy.

You can get other health tips if you ‘like me’ on my facebook page.

stats on cancer

Derail cancer, get this tested

What if there were one blood test that could tell you early on that your health was heading down the wrong path? Like a railway crossing signal, there are early warning signs that our body is in danger. The danger doesn’t happen quickly, but like the rails of a train, once it has started it has a predictable path towards an unwanted health destination. The warning sign is insulin resistance; the test is an insulin fasting blood test or Immunoreactive Insulin. People may know about the connection between insulin resistance and diabetes, but how many know about the connection to cancer?

Insulin Resistance and Cancer

Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into the cells for energy. Insulin resistance is a pathological condition where the muscles, liver and fat cells don’t respond to the insulin. The diminished response forces the pancreas to make extra amounts and increases circulating insulin. Society for Endocrinology’s review sheds light on the connection between insulin resistance and cancer. On a cellular level, insulin along with related insulin-like peptide receptor sites play a role in immune deregulation. These specific peptides impact normal cell proliferation, differentiation, metabolism and destruction and set up an environment more inviting for cancer development.

Insulin resistance is a harbinger not only for diabetes, but for cancer as well

Insulin Resistance in Children

Insulin resistance isn’t just for adults. In a retrospective study published December 2014 in the Jornal de Pediatria, 33% of 220 obese children between the ages 5-14 were found to have insulin resistance. These children had the hallmark of metabolic syndrome: high BMI, abdominal obesity, LDL and triglycerides, and low heart protective HDL. Not only are these children on their way to type 2 diabetes, but they are at much greater risk of getting cancer.

Take The Test

Insulin resistance can happen before high blood sugars or hyperglycemia develops. Anyone who is obese, has a family history of diabetes or is from one of these ethnic groups: African-American, Mexican, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or Asian American, should have their fasting insulin level assessed. Your insurance may or may not cover it, but it is very affordable if you want to have it checked.

Cancer

I don’t think there is anything more scary than getting the diagnosis of cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports that US cancer death rates have declined since 1990, primarily due to a decline in smoking, but it is projected to rise with an aging population and a rise in obesity.

Obesity, a risk factor for cancer, is also increasing.

Insulin resistance is reversible. If you knew that you had it, and now know that it’s link to cancer, would it give you extra motivation to change your diet and move a little more? Habits are hard to change, but if you knew you were on the path for derailment, wouldn’t you want to jump off that train now?

Barbara is a certified diabetes educator, nurse and health coach. She has a passion for health education and inspiring a healthy lifestyle. If you like what she writes about, please like and share her posts on her facebook page.

Most Mainers at risk for, or has diabetes

Does 48% scare you? Those are some pretty good bettin’ odds. That’s better than the overall odds at winning in Blackjack. The 2014 CDC data found 37% of Maine residents have prediabetes. Over 11% or 137,413 have diabetes and 36,000 of those people don’t even know they have it. Now that is really scary. How can people live with the common symptoms of uncontrolled blood sugars like yeast infections, extreme fatigue, erectile dysfunction, thirst and peeing all the time without going to their medical provider and complaining? Do people with these symptoms really think that life can’t get any better than that?

Metabolic Syndrome or Prediabetes- Reversible

metabolic syndromePrediabetes goes by several different names:  Metabolic syndrome, Syndrome X, and impaired fasting glucose are all names used for prediabetes. If you have central obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol, there’s a good chance you are on the road to diabetes. More specifically, if you have 3 of the 5 conditions to the left, you have prediabetes. Those odds of developing Type 2 diabetes are even greater if you have a family history of diabetes, had gestational diabetes, are older or are African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Alaska native, or Native American. You can see why the odds go up with each factor.  And just to clarify, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are really two different diseases with different causes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease associated with sudden changes in insulin production whose cause is not associated with lifestyle changes. Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease. You can learn about your odds here and talk to your healthcare provider.

A Prediabetes Diagnosis Should Imply A Sense of Urgency

Once prediabetes becomes diabetes, the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas quit working – some say as much as 50%. When the pancreas can’t meet the needs of the body not only do blood sugars rise, but other metabolic changes occur, particularly with fat metabolism. The higher blood sugars and lipid levels damage the blood vessels of the body. That’s why diabetes is really heart disease with a sugar problem. Complications of poorly managed diabetes are a result of nerve and vascular damage leading to blindness, stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, and amputation. These severe complications happen over time with earlier patient reported symptoms of depression, nerve pain in the extremities, frequent infections, sexual difficulty and a change in quality of life.

Let’s Stop Diabetes

Diabetes costs Mainers $1.6 billion every year. The costs are for treatment of severe complications like hospitalizations for heart disease and stroke, amputations and prosthetics, surgery to prevent blindness and dialysis. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could shift that money from end-of-life treatment to early detection, education and support?

Our healthcare system is changing. Where fee-for-service was the standard of care, outcome-based results is now the gold standard. Our health care system is now a team of medical providers, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, population health nurses and medical assistants all with the aid of health informatics and data analysis. Healthcare is doing a much better job with managing chronic disease but is still weak on prevention. There is not a financial incentive yet to focus on that. The days of our medical provider being the sole conductor of our healthcare are over.  The new reality is that we need to play a proactive role in our own health.  Blood sugar levels often get overlooked. There were many times in my previous job when patients saw me for health education, unaware that they had prediabetes or diabetes. Things do get missed.

What You Must Do

Prediabetes develops over time. Blood sugar levels rise over many years and don’t suddenly hit the 100 mg/dl threshold. When I first became a certified diabetes educator the level was at 110 mg/dl, but lowering it provided earlier intervention.  Everyone should have a fasting blood glucose level done annually, especially if they have a family history of diabetes, are sedentary or overweight. And once it is done, get the results and know the significance of those results. There is support if you need it!

Barbara is a certified diabetes educator and health coach. She would love to help with any health questions and can be reached through her facebook page.

apple cider vinegar

Magic Potion, Right in Your Cabinet

What would you say if there was a cheap, easily available kitchen item right in your closet that could improve your blood sugars and unhealthy cholesterol, and promote weight loss?  It sounds too good to be true, but it’s probably the best kept secret that’s really worth sharing.  The magical liquid is apple cider vinegar – made from fermented crushed apples.

What’s The Good Stuff in Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar’s health benefit is mostly from the fermentation that yields 5-20% acetic acid, water and some B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals.  There are fast or slow methods of fermentation but both are healthy.  It’s the bacteria, either naturally grown over time or added for the quick method, that ferments the cider or apple must.  The vinegar is pasteurized prior to bottling to kill any harmful bacteria.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Antiglycemic Benefits

An NIH review of studies on the health benefits of apple cider vinegar are very promising. One study looked at the effects of consuming vinegar on two groups, one with insulin resistance (prediabetes) and one with type 2 diabetes. Each group drank 20 g of vinegar (4 tsp) in 40 g of water with 1 tsp of saccharin prior to consuming a meal consisting of 87 g of carbohydrates.  The insulin resistant group’s blood sugars after eating were reduced by as much as 60%. There was less antiglycemic response in the group with type 2 diabetes, but insulin sensitivity after the meal was improved. Based on this study, it’s possible that people with prediabetes could really benefit from regular consumption of apple cider vinegar. Even the Diabetes Self Management magazine supports the regular use of apple cider vinegar and you can read reviews on the use of vinegar from readers of WebMD.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Cholesterol

There is a some evidence that apple cider vinegar can improve cholesterol.  A Life Science Journal study showed that vinegar lowered the unhealthy LDL cholesterol and raised the heart healthy HDL cholesterol. And the BBC conducted their own study on 30 volunteers.  They divided them into 3 groups: one drinking a malt vinegar drink, one an apple cider vinegar drink and the last a placebo before eating a large bagel.  they did see a big difference in post-meal blood sugars in the apple cider vinegar group and were pleasantly surprised to see a drop in cholesterol as well:

“those consuming cider vinegar saw an average 13% reduction in total cholesterol, with a strikingly large reduction in triglycerides (a form of fat). And this was a particularly impressive finding because our volunteers were all healthy at the start, with normal cholesterol levels.”

Apple Cider Vinegar and Weight Loss

In a study that WebMD cites, 175 obese people consumed either vinegar or water and ate a similar diet for 3 months. The vinegar group lost about 2 pounds, while the water group lost none.  Obviously, that’s not an outstanding weight loss, but I do wonder if it might be more effective in those with prediabetes since they are insulin resistant.  Vinegar can interfere with starch absorption. If fewer carbohydrates are absorbed, than less insulin would be released from the pancreas. Insulin is a fat storage hormone; if less is circulating in the blood stream, then fewer excess calories will be stored in fat cells. I’m just curious about that possibility.

Warnings About Apple Cider Vinegar

Regular use of apple cider vinegar is not recommended for those with kidney disease because it may affect calcium absorption and could possibly have a  detrimental effect on blood pressure. Due to its acidic pH, it is also not recommended for anyone with gastrointestinal ulcers. Personally, I would use caution if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or a history of gastritis too. It can also damage teeth enamel, so it should be diluted in a cup of water and consumed fairly quickly to decrease dental exposure.

How To Consume Vinegar

There are at least 10 other benefits to making vinegar part of your life – from using it topically to help with fungal infections to even helping with foot odor.  But finding enjoyment out of downing that glass of sour liquid can be challenging.  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Switch to a lower calorie and healthier salad dressing by mixing 1 part vinegar to one part olive oil and add garlic and onion powder and a bit of salt.
  2. Mix 1 cup of water with 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp honey.
  3. Mix 1/2 cup grapefruit juice with 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar.

There certainly is a lot of evidence on the benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar.  It’s cheap, it’s tolerable in the recommended dose and there are few downsides. It’s surprising that more research hasn’t been done on the benefits, but I bet big pharma would not be too happy if their sales of Metformin and Lipitor declined.  After all, we wouldn’t want nature’s medicine to “sour” big pharma’s profits would we?

Are You A “Carb”ivore?

The saying “everything in moderation” has given our culture an excuse to become “carbivores”, meaning, “over-consumers of junk carbs”.  We don’t think twice about up-sizing or “frapping” that coffee.  I certainly was part of that crowd up until my blood sugars were in the prediabetes range.  The candy stash at work, the donut for breakfast, the chips in the afternoon, and even the ice cream in the evening – no wonder we’ve become numb on carbs – it’s become the norm.

Rise in ObesityThe NHANES or National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey looks at health and nutritional data collected from both physical evidence and surveys from adults and children.  Developed in the 1960’s, this program was organized through the Centers For Disease Control to help provide data that can help identify trends.  From 1970-2000 the percentage of total calories consumed coming from carbohydrates has increased from 42 to 49% in men and from 45 to 51% in women.  While at the same time there has been a significant rise in obesity among both sexes – nearly 30% since 1960.  Could there be a connection between eating more carbs, weight gain and diabetes?

Carbs and Insulin

Eating carbohydrates raise blood glucose or “sugar” levels.  The size of the portion directly correlates with the rise in the blood glucose.  The higher the blood sugar the more insulin the pancreas has to produce to keep blood sugars in their normal 70-140 range.  Carbs include fruits, starchy veggies, milk, and anything containing grains and/or sugar.  The real culprits are the processed carbs made with white flour and foods with added sugars.  Over time, consuming excessive amounts of carbohydrates keeps insulin levels high, overworks the pancreas, causes changes in fat metabolism and weight gain.  If you’re lucky, your healthcare provider will discover your rising fasting blood sugars before diabetes develops.  There are several blood tests used to diagnose prediabetes:  a fasting blood sugar on two occasions greater than 100, an A1c 5.7 to 6.4 or an oral glucose tolerance test(OGTT) with a result greater than 139.  Diabetes is confirmed with fasting blood sugar results on two occasions of 126 or greater, an A1c of 6.5 or greater, or an OGTT of 200 or greater.  There are 8.1 million people out there who have diabetes and do not know it.

How Many Is Too Many Carbs?

In the early 1970’s, when obesity and diabetes rates were lower, the NHANES data indicated that 42% of the calories for men and 49% of the calories for women were coming from carbohydrates.  Based on a 2000 calorie diet, that works out to 210 grams of carbs for men and 225 grams of carbs for women a day.

The new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines do not specify daily amounts of dietary carbohydrates.  They only state that less than 10% of calories should come from added sugars, half the grains from whole grains and a healthy eating pattern should include a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Not very specific, but combining the NHANES data with the new Dietary Guidelines can provide a framework.

Junk Carbs Add Up

A 16 oz Starbucks Frappuccino has 50 g of carbs.  McDonald’s Quarter Pounder has 45g of carbs and a medium french fries has 48g of carbs.  Add a coke and the total comes to 151g of carbs.  Even McDonald’s Southwest Salad with crispy chicken has 42g of carbs – and with the Southwest dressing, totals 53g.   A donut can have as much as 75g of carbs.  You can see how these junk carbohydrates quickly add up and can total 225 by noon.  Sugar is hidden in so many foods: ketchup, tomato sauce, crackers, yogurt, salad dressing, soups and many flavored waters.  Our taste buds have become so desensitized to sugar, that we don’t even notice how prevalent it is in many of our foods.

Be Carb Aware

University of California food labelLook at your food labels.  This food label from the Diabetes Education program at the University of California – San francisco explains how to read a label for carbohydrates.

I know how hard it is to slowly divest oneself from those favorite convenience foods.  I used to be a carbivore, or “chipaholic” to be exact.  Utz potato chips were my favorite.  It took me several years to realize the only serving size that can come in my house is the 3 oz individual serving that I split with my husband on rare occasions.  That 3 oz serving may cost me the same as the buy one, get one promotion, but I don’t have to deal with all the guilt after eating my size and my pancreas thanks me for it!

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word!  She also posts regularly on the Bangor Daily News blog page.