Category Archives: Eating For Health

campfire

This may be your best way to lose weight

You want to lose weight, but your insulin might not be working well. You’re not alone. Almost a third of our country is in the same boat.

Impaired insulin function is genetic. It’s the precursor to diabetes that may go undetected for years. It gradually damages the insulin-producing pancreas to the point it stops making enough insulin and blood sugars rise eventually to the diabetes range. In the early phase of impaired insulin function, the pancreas makes extra insulin. This extra insulin causes our body store more fat.

If you have a family history of diabetes, then there is a good chance your insulin levels are high. Diabetes is often not diagnosed. You may not think you have a family history of diabetes, however if you have a family history of stroke or heart attack, there was probably undiagnosed diabetes lurking in the background as well. Diabetes is a vascular disease, so strokes and heart attacks are complications of diabetes.

The best way to lose weight if you have high insulin levels

The best way to lose weight for people with high insulin levels, in addition to regular exercise, should focus on limiting carbs, getting adequate protein and fiber, and topping it off with good fat to keep you full between meals.

When it comes to eating this way, the best metaphor comes from a friend. If you’ve ever sat by a campfire and observed how different types of wood burn, you will understand.

If you don’t add any wood to a fire, the flames will fade away. Add soft wood like pine to the fire and “snap, crackle, pop” sparks will fly, the flames will roar and the wood will disappear in no time. Add hardwood like oak and you’ll get a nice even burn that will last much longer than soft wood.

Skipping meals is like not adding any wood to the fire. Your energy level will slowly fade away.

Eating a meal consisting of a heavy dose of simple carbs with little protein or fiber is like the soft wood fire. You may get a surge of energy but it will quickly flame out leaving you tired and ready for a nap. Examples of meals like this might be a few bowls of Corn Flakes or heavy portions of Chinese food with white rice or a bag of chips or pretzels with a soda.

But make your meals mostly “hardwood” and you will have more energy and stay fuller longer between meals. You will also keep your insulin levels lower which will aid in weight loss.

Getting your meal planning to burn like hardwood

Don’t worry, eating this way won’t taste like hardwood. You can still enjoy your favorite foods, just do so in moderation and plan for it in how you combine your foods.

My recommendations are based on information from the American Diabetes Association, the 2015 dietary guidelines, the 2015 Protein Summit  and the Institute of Medicine.

The ADA recommends people with diabetes limit their carbs to 45-60 g of carbs per meal and carbs from snacks limited to 15 gm. Some of the people I worked with preferred eating even fewer carbs in order to avoid going on medicine to manage their blood sugars.

The 2015 Nutrition Guidelines recommend getting at least 130 g of carbs daily. Eating fewer carbs than this will zap your energy if you are trying to do any strenuous work or workout – carbs are the gasoline for your body, you just want to learn how to make them the premium carbs.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 10-35% of total daily calories come from protein. For a 2000 calorie diet that’s about 50 – 175 g.

The 2015 Protein Summit recommended a higher level of dietary protein, particularly in older adults, for improved muscle health and satiety and to aid in weight management. Furthermore, they suggest:

“Emerging science supports a protein intake for adults of 25–30 g/meal”

When you put all this information together your daily total of carbs, fiber, protein and fat should look like this:

daily carbs, protein and fat

Impaired insulin function?  This is your meal goal

You want each meal to burn like hardwood. That means you want to get the right amount of carbs, fiber, protein and fat each time you eat. Most people fail on getting adequate protein and fiber at most of their meals. Each of these components is essential not only for health, but for satiety. The goal is to slow down digestion so you stay fuller longer and reduce the demand for insulin.

Each of your meals should contain just a serving or two of carbs, no more than 60 g per meal. Your carb choices should be high in fiber to slow down the rise in blood sugar, decreasing the need for insulin.

Your protein goal at each meal should be at least 25 g per meal. An ounce of meat, fish and even an egg is about 6-7 g.

Since dietary fat takes longer to digest and helps with satiety, you should also try to get about 10 g per meal with the focus being on heart healthy unsaturated fat.

The ideal goal for each meal should look something like this:  

  • 50 g of carbs
  • 8-10 g of fiber
  • 25 g of protein
  • 10 g of heart healthy fat.

That’s the hardwood that will help you lose weight. Now, let’s look at the big picture at what kinds of foods will meet the “hardwood” criteria.

“Hardwood” foods

Some foods are combination foods. Quality carbs are also high in fiber. Whole grains, citrus fruit, and beans are all examples of quality carbs. Fatty fish is both an excellent source of protein and healthy fat. Other protein, like white chicken and fat-free Greek yogurt have little to no fat, so you will need to get your fat from other sources. And there are some foods that contain a small amount of protein, carbs, fiber and healthy fat. They are like “hardwood” bark mulch😊

This is how I breakdown food categories(it’s not a complete list – just some of my favorites). I compose my plate according to how much protein, fat and carbs a food offers. If one food is a combination of carbs or protein or fat, I would combine it accordingly. Most veggies, other than the starchy ones are free territory. Eating as much as you can will help blood pressure, brain function and health in general.

healthy food list

Breakfast

People with high insulin levels should stay away from cereal in my opinion. Cereal does not contain enough protein considering the carbs in a serving. Adding milk only increases the carbs – there are 12 g of carbs in a cup of milk. You are much better off eating your leftover dinner than eating a bowl of cereal. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Smoothie made with 3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, 2 tbsp chia or flax seed, 2 cups baby kale, ¾ cup frozen berries and enough water to blend.
  2. ¾ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt with ½ cup fresh chopped fruit, and 2 tbsp chopped walnuts or almonds.
  3. ¾ cup low-fat Greek yogurt sprinkled with ¼ cup Uncle Sam’s Cereal, 2 tbsp chia seeds and ¼ cup fresh blueberries.
  4. 2 eggs or egg white combination omelet with spinach and 1 slice of swiss cheese served with one piece of toast.
  5. ¾ cup bean salad with ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese.
  6. ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese with ½ cup chopped fruit and 2 tbsp chia seeds.

Lunch/Dinner Ideas

  1. Salad topped with chicken, beans and balsamic dressing and a piece of fruit.
  2. Turkey and arugula sandwich on whole grain bread with mayo and mustard along with celery and carrots and hummus.
  3. 6 oz Greek yogurt, apple and sliced cucumbers.
  4. Tuna and whole grain pasta salad mixed with chopped carrots, celery, cabbage, mayo, salt and pepper
  5. 1 cup lentil or some other bean soup with 2 celery and peanut butter.

Or make your plate look like this:

healthy plate

Emphasize vegetables and limit the carbs most of the time and you will lose weight. If you miss something sweet, then skip the carbs at dinner and have the dessert instead – ideally eating it right after your dinner so you can slow down the blood sugar rise with the fiber and protein from your dinner.

This is the hardwood that will help you lose weight by preserving your muscle mass and keep your metabolism at a steady even burn – even while you’re roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

breakfast1

Are your carb choices slowly killing you?

Jelly donuts, pancakes with syrup, Devil Dogs, French fries, potato chips, and candy bars – especially Zero bars. Not exactly healthy carbs. As Julie Andrews sings, “These were a few of my favorite things.” I never had a weight or “sugar” problem in my younger years but then getting older happened. Something that none of us can escape.

Now I look at food much differently. I still love my carbs, even the unhealthy ones, but I keep them at bay. I look at each carb splurge as a “bruise” to my body. My favorite sweet potato ginger donut from Holy Donut is only going to spike my blood sugar. I know that once that big bag of potato chips comes into the house, I can’t stop at a serving size. I learned that my former pancake recipe made with white flour and covered with syrup was like a kick to my pancreas telling it to work double time.

Learning to break old habits took time and many bumps along the way. I eventually developed a three-pronged approach.

  1. Add more of the healthy carbs to my diet
  2. Boost my non-starchy veggie intake by experimenting with roasting, sautéing and adding extra to soups, stews, salads, and sauces.
  3. Eat fewer unhealthy carbs.

It’s not rocket science, but it did launch me on a sustainable trajectory that brought my A1c down, helped me lose weight, and gave me more energy.

With over 50% of the nation being insulin resistant, making better carb choices is essential to keeping insulin levels to a healthier level. High insulin levels are linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

What are carbs?

Carbs are found in grains, starches and sugar.

  1. Grains – Since flour is made from grains, anything that contains flour is a carbohydrate – things like cereal, crackers, and pasta. Most food manufacturers like to use the cheaper white flour, the starchy endosperm stripped from the wheat berry, and then resuscitate it with fortifying vitamins and leavening agents to make it into something the typical American “pampered palate” will tolerate.
  1. Starchy – Some carbs are naturally starchy like winter squashes, peas and beans. These foods are also high in fiber so they don’t cause a sudden blood sugar rise like the processed carbs do. A half cup of cooked beans can have as much as 7 gms of fiber. That fiber slows down digestion, and slows down the workload on the insulin producing pancreas.
  1. Sugar – all types of sugar are carbohydrates whether it’s brown, agave, syrup or honey. A teaspoon of any of these sugars has 4 gms of carbohydrates.
  2. Foods naturally with sugar – Foods like fruit and milk contain sugar naturally. A cup of milk, regardless of fat content contains 12 gms of carbs, coming from the sugar lactose.  Make it chocolate milk and the carbs go up to 24 gms. Fruit contains fructose. Fruits vary in their amount of fructose and ripening can enhance the sugar content. Ripened bananas are much higher in glycemic index than green bananas. Watermelon and strawberries are much lower carbohydrates than tropical fruits like pineapple, mangoes and bananas.

Desserts are a double whammy

Cakes, cookies and pies are made with flour (which comes from grains) and sugar – both carbs. One Oreo contains 27 gms of carbs. And that’s not double-stuffed!

Don’t get fooled by “sugar-free” desserts. Unfortunately, most brands make up for the lack of sugar by adding extra fat, like palm oil or partially hydrogenated trans-fat to maintain texture that the sugar normally provides.

You’re much better off just having one higher fiber cookie, like an oatmeal cookie. Or better yet making a cookie using a small amount of real sweetener and a non-grain flour like flax, coconut or almond meal. Here is a good peanut butter coconut cookie recipe.

How many carbs should you eat daily?

Even with the emphasis on “no added sugars” on the new food label, the carbohydrate recommendation is still about 285 grams of carbs daily for a 2000 calorie diet. Eating sweets like candy, cake, cookies, ice cream and soda adds up quickly.

I hate to think of the number of people who eat a donut and chocolate milk or juice for breakfast. An apple fritter from Krispy Kreme has 42 gms of carbs and their Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate has 57 carbs, 48 of it coming from sugar. That’s 100 gms of mostly insulin spiking carbs along with 19 gms of saturated fat to keep the spike going for hours. I can just hear that pancreas sputtering, whirling and choking. I love my donuts, but I love my pancreas more.

Healthy carbs – the low-glycemic ones

I don’t believe in eliminating carbs from one’s diet, but the ones you choose should not put your pancreas into overdrive. Grains, beans, starchy veggies and fruit are full of fiber that feed the immune-strengthening bacteria in your gut and maintain satiety between meals. These healthy, low-glycemic carbs like beans, barley, quinoa and winter squashes don’t cause the insulin spike that high-glycemic carbs like white bread, donuts, most crackers, “instant foods”, rice cakes, bagels and most cereals do. Here is a good list put together by Oregon State University.

Glycemic Index

That eliminates a good portion of the grocery store.

What works for me

I use oat or wheat flour when I bake. I don’t eat any cereal other than Uncle Sams Cereal or steel-cut oatmeal the rare time I eat cereal. I keep my favorite “trigger” foods like potato chips to single portion sizes. Instead of rice, I eat barley or bulgar. In fact, their nuttier, crunchier flavor and texture stands up better to my sautés and soups. And the only crackers I buy are Triscuits Thin Crisps which are made from only whole grain wheat, canola and salt, and Wasa crackers also made with whole grains, a fat and salt. And desserts or sweets are a once or twice a week splurge.

Elevate fruit; it’s nature’s treat

Lately, my new dessert, thanks to my husband, is sliced apples. No kidding. My husband has fond memories of his grandmother cutting up apples for him when he was a child. We’ve started this habit ourselves and it hits the sweet spot perfectly. Around 8 o’clock, when we both need a little something-something, he’ll go out to the kitchen and get a cold new variety of apple called Juicci, and slice it up into about 20 slices. They are a juicy, crunchy, hit-the-sweet spot kind of treat that satisfy the urge.

I know that the few minutes of pleasure I got from eating my favorite foods were not going to make up for the longer-term damage to my body caused by eating them on a regular basis. It’s been a journey of self-exploration and recipe experimentation. This is my version of Julie Andrew’s song, My Favorite Things:

Julie Andrews

If you enjoy my tips, please share with your friends and family. You can get healthy on your own with good information and a desire to live a healthier life. Please make a donation to the Saint Vincent De Paul Soup Kitchen. They are in great need of your financial support while they provide over 10,000 meals a year to Portland, Maine’s neediest population.

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Flax seed: the best two bites for your health

Flax seeds are the Mighty Mouse of food, smaller than a rice kernel, yet the most powerful two tablespoons of food you can put in your mouth. These tiny seeds help to combat cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, autoimmune and neurological conditions and aid in weight loss. They may even help improve symptoms of psoriasis and menopausal hot flashes. And all you need for this benefit is two measly tablespoons a day. That’s a powerful punch!

History of flax seed

Flax dates to over 30,000 years ago when the fiber from the plant stem was used to make clothing. In ancient Egypt, the fiber was used to make linen for priests and the Romans purchased it for their sails. Linseed oil, which comes from a type of flax seed, is used for finishing furniture and linseed meal, ground flax seed with the oil removed, is used for to feed livestock.

Nutritional value of flax seed

But it wasn’t until about 20 years ago research showed the nutritional value of flax seed. Flax seed is high in Alpha linolenic acid (a type of Omega 3), lignans (a polyphenol that reduces inflammation) and fiber. Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is converted in the body to two other essential fatty acids: EPA and DHA and we can only get these from certain foods.

ALA, EPA and DHA are the primary omega-3 fatty acids studied that show significant health benefits. Flax protein is known to help with heart disease and boost the immune system.

Focus on unsaturated fats, but get the right ratio

It’s important to consume more unsaturated fats from plant based foods and fish, and much less saturated fat and trans-fat from dairy, red meat and processed foods.

But it’s also important to get the proper balance of unsaturated fats in the diet. Unsaturated fats consist of mono-unsaturated fat or MUFA’s found in olive oil, nuts, avocado’s and poly-unsaturated fat or PUFA’s which include both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

The American diet tends to be high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which contributes to inflammation, and much lower in Omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation. Omega-6 fatty acid is found in many foods vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains and seeds. Whereas Omega-3’s are much harder to get because they are found primarily in cold water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, fresh tuna and flax seed.

Keep this in mind when adding flax seed to your diet

You can have too much of a good thing. Eating more than a couple of tablespoons of ground flax seed can increase your exposure to some toxins and constipate you.

You should not consume flax seed at the same time you take supplements or certain medication such as cholesterol-lowering meds, blood sugar-lowering meds or anticoagulants. You may want to discuss with your health care provider first.

Add flax seed to your diet

Flax seed is now added to many food products like pasta, cereal, crackers and chips, so consider those other sources when adding ground flax seed to your diet. WebMD and most research recommends about 2 tbsp daily or 30 gms a day. Here are some good sources of ALA, EPA and DHA:

sources of flax

You also want to keep this in mind:

  1. To get full nutritional benefit, you want to grind it in a coffee grinder or buy it ground. There are some cereals, like Uncle Sam’s that contain the whole seed.  You can still reap the health benefits if you fully chew each mouthful (a wonderful way to slow down eating!).
  2. Keep ground flax seed in the fridge or freezer since the natural oils are more exposed to air and can go rancid.
  3. Bake with it by replacing some of your flour with ground flax seed. I add it to my crisp topping, to my cakes and muffins and even to my meatloaf.
  4. Add a little at a time by putting it in your yogurt, your smoothie or your oatmeal.

Get your two tablespoons a day

You can find flax seed at most grocery stores but here in Maine I get mine at Christmas Tree Shop or Reny’s. I buy the whole flax seed, which does not need to be refrigerated, to put in my smoothie and I buy ground flax seed for baking.

I look at my daily dose of flax seed as one more health installment against my genetics. If it can help my arteries stay supple and reduce the free radicals that contribute to cancer and heart disease, then I’ll continue to chew, chomp and grind away my two tablespoons a day.

protein for breakfast

Are you getting enough protein for breakfast?

Many people start their day with a bowl of cereal.  The cereal aisle at the store has undergone so much change over the past ten years with a shift from sugary cereals to organic, whole grain and sometimes protein-enriched choices.  But, just because a cereal is organic or has added protein, is it better for you?  Are there better, simpler choices to eat first thing in the morning? Here are some things to consider.

Role of protein In your body

Protein is the workhorse of your body. Protein has a role in just about every function for survival: cell structure and function, tissue repair and is the building block or muscle, bone, skin and blood.  Dietary protein allows this to happen in order to support our immune health, hormone production and cell to cell communication.

There are 20 amino acids that make up the proteins of the body.  These amino acids are like a Lincoln Log House.  You need each piece to build a complete house.  Take out a few pieces and it will fall down.  If our body does not get all of them it can’t survive.  Eleven of them can be manufactured, but there are nine of them our bodies  can not make, they must be consumed.  Our bodies do not store protein like it does sugar and fat.  If we do not consume enough dietary protein our bodies will breakdown muscle tissue in order to get the amino acids it needs.  An indication of this is muscle wasting and increased fatigue.

How much dietary protein do you need?

The Institute of Medicine has set the Recommended Daily Allowance of protein at .36 gms per pound of weight.

Someone weighing 200 pounds will need to consume about 72 gms of protein daily.  

An estimated 45% of U.S. adults don’t get enough protein or have impaired protein utilization and experience muscle wasting as a result.

One study indicated that consuming more than 30 gms of protein at one time did not yield a higher absorption.  Thirty gms of protein is about four ounces of meat, fish or poultry.

Most of the people I work with get ample protein at dinner but not enough at breakfast unless they are eating eggs.  Most cereals, unless they have protein enhancements (usually from soy byproducts) don’t have enough protein unless the serving size is doubled.  But do you really want the doctored-up soy isolated-enhanced cereal?

Soy Isolates and Concentrates 

soy isolates

Special K protein enhances protein by using soy isolates

Soy isolates are formed by taking out most of the carbohydrates and fats from defatted soy flour, making it 90% protein.

Soy concentrates are made from removing some of the water-soluble carbohydrates from defatted soy flour, making it 70% protein.

Soy protein is being added to cereals, protein bars and just about anything stating the product has “added protein”. There’s controversy over the benefits of eating all this extra soy.  Some studies link the added consumption of soy isolates to improved glycemic control in postmenopausal women with diabetes, as well as some beneficial results in cardiovascular health in monkeys and reduced tumor incidents rats.  And there was even one study even indicated increased soy protein consumption reduced thyroid cancer risk.

But there is still some controversy over increased soy consumption and breast cancer.

There are some supportive studies, but also some that show increase in precancerous breast tissue in women who consumed too many soy protein isolates.  Furthermore, the USDA is now studying furan, a possible human carcinogen, that’s found in soy protein isolates.

The practical side of me says, why take a risk with man-made, manipulated proteins when there are plenty of non-controversial choices out there?  I’m not against soy, but maybe just stick with the real thing: edamame, soy milk, tofu, miso and tempeh, not the manufactured isolated soy proteins that could be the real culprit just through the process of manufacturing them.

Getting too much protein

Dietary protein takes longer to break down than carbohydrates so consuming enough helps with satiety which helps you feel fuller longer between meals.  One study also shows that eating 30 gms of protein per meal improved body weight management and risk factors contributing to heart disease.

Keep in mind that there is still some controversy over eating too much protein at one time and that doing so can lead to osteoporosis, increased risk of cancer, impaired kidney function and heart disease if the protein is coming largely from beef and other highly saturated fat protein sources.

What’s the best protein for breakfast?

The best sources of protein should be low in saturated fat, be whole with minimal processing, and be quick and easy to put together.  Here are some of the things I recommend for breakfast:

  • smoothie.  It delivers 30 gms of protein through the Greek yogurt, the flax seed and milk.
  • Two pieces of sprouted whole wheat toast with 3/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese.  It delivers about 30 gms of protein since the sprouted wheat contains more protein.
  • 1 cup of steel-cut oats topped with 1 tbsp on chopped nuts and berries.
  • frittata wedge in a whole grain wrap with spinach.  I often times make this frittata recipe for dinner and then save the rest for a quick breakfast.  The saturated fat is reduced by substituting egg whites for some of the eggs.  I also boost the protein by adding Greek yogurt.  Look under ingredients for words, “whole” or “100% whole” to find out if it is whole grain.  I like La Tortilla’s wraps and also Valley Bread Whole Wheat Lavash wraps.
  • two slices of whole grain bread with 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese.
  • A cup of plain, fat-free Greek yogurt topped with a half cup of fruit and 2 tbsp of chopped walnuts.  This Greek yogurt will deliver 23 gms of protein and you get some nice fiber and heart healthy omega 3’s with the fruit and nuts.  Try to move away from the flavored and fruited Greek yogurts since they have much more sugar and far less protein.
  • Leftovers from the night before!  Why not eat some left over salmon or chicken?  Put it in a wrap with some greens and you have a perfect breakfast.  Why not think out of the box.

I believe in eating “whole” foods that have not been processed, recreated or enhanced with added protein or fiber or some other doctoring.  If there are enhancements to be made, I want to do them myself in my kitchen.  I have not always eaten this way but as I have learned more about nutrition I believe the less handling and “re-creating” of what goes into my mouth, the better I feel, the more energy I have.

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.

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