Tag Archives: Healthy Diet

Want to Feel Better? Lower Your blood Sugar Now!

It’s Simple — Take Care of Your Body Every Day

You recently found out that you are prediabetic or moving in that direction with higher than acceptable blood sugar levels.

You are concerned and do not want to go on medication.

You have heard that blood sugar can be controlled through diet and believe it is worth a shot.

Your intel is correct. The most direct way to impact blood sugar levels is through a healthy diet.

Rather than think in terms of “diet” think it terms of “lifestyle.”

Make Smart Choices

Living a healthy lifestyle and making smart food choices will minimize the risk of high blood sugar and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Making smart choices is not complicated. All that is required is a commitment to taking care of your body so that it can serve you for many years to come — as it was meant to do.

The following are seven important pieces of information to remember.

All Carbs Are NOT Created Equal

Blood sugar or blood glucose is directly affected by the foods you eat — especially carbohydrates. They are converted into glucose and enter the bloodstream as blood sugar.

Because carbohydrates have the largest impact on blood sugar levels, it is important to be aware of your intake.

When you consistently consume large amounts of sugar, the pancreas will secrete extra insulin. Eventually, it won’t be able to produce enough to keep blood glucose at normal levels.

Sometimes carbs get a bad rap, but they are actually good for you and necessary for the body as fuel. They also protect against disease and help control weight.

But . . . all carbs are not created equal.

Each carb has a Glycemic Index (GI) or ranking based on how they affect blood glucose. Carbs with a GI index of 55 or less digest slowly, creating a lower and slower rise in blood glucose. These are called “complex carbs.”

Carbs with a GI index closer to 100 are broken down and enter the bloodstream quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar. They are called “simple carbs.”

Consuming low GI carbohydrate sources can keep blood sugar levels within the normal range.

Foods with a low Glycemic Index (GI) include:

  • Meat
  • Oats
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Legumes
  • Sweet potatoes and yams
  • Corn
  • Some fruits (cherries, apples, oranges, plums, grapefruit)
  • Vegetables (celery, asparagus, broccoli, avocados, cauliflower)

Choose wisely the types of carbohydrates you include in your diet.

  1. Eat fiber-rich, whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables without added sugar.
  2. Always eat whole grains. Refined grains (white flour and white flour products) are stripped of most of the nutrients and fiber.
  3. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, plus many other vitamins and minerals. Watch for added sugars like sweetened yogurts.
  4. Legumes — which include beans, peas, and lentils — are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. They are typically low in fat and high in protein (making them a good substitute for meat), folate, potassium, iron, magnesium, and they contain beneficial fats and fiber.
  5. Read labels carefully and avoid added sugars – less than 10 percent of calories you consume every day should come from added sugar.
  6. Avoid processed foods of any kind as much as possible. Processed, sugary items have been stripped of all-natural fiber, leaving it to be rapidly metabolized into glucose.

Fiber Is Critical

Fiber in your diet is a big YES — it is good for you for many reasons.

— Feeds gut bacteria.

— Nourishes the colon wall.

— May help you lose weight.

— Lowers cholesterol levels.

— Decreases the rise in blood sugar after high-carb meals

There are 2 different types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Both are important for health, digestion, and preventing diseases.

Soluble fiber slows the absorption of sugar and improves blood sugar levels by controlling glucose and insulin spikes. Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables.

Insoluble fiber helps the food pass quickly though the stomach and intestines. It is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.

High fiber foods include — pears, berries, apples, bananas, carrots, broccoli, beets, legumes, quinoa, nuts and seeds, oatmeal, popcorn, and dark chocolate. (Great Choices!)

National fiber recommendations (for individuals over 50) are:

— 30g to 38g daily for men

— 25g per day for women.

Another guideline is to simply consume 14g of dietary fiber per every 1,000 calories in your diet.

The bottom line is . . . More fiber = lower blood sugar.

Excess Weight Must Go

Being overweight or obese has been clearly linked to high blood sugar and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Even though you may not like the idea and consider it a “pain in the you-know-what” — the surest way to lose weight is by eating fewer calories than you burn (calorie counting).

The perfect partner to calorie counting is portion control, which is not easy to do when everything these days is “oversized.” Think about often are you are served enough food to feed two people.

Portion control is not a precise science, but it has been proven to be an effective way to lose weight.

For more information on portion control, check out my book, WOW! You Look Fantastic(available through Amazon).

The best ways to make counting calories and portion control easier are:

  • Use a food scale: it can be difficult to accurately determine caloric intake without determining precise serving sizes
  • Use an app: there are several easy-to-use free apps that will record calories and servings.
  • Learn to read food labels: They provide calories per servings — but the servings can be misleading (you think a package is one serving when it’s actually two or three.)
  • Eat slower: Studies have shown the speed at which you eat can have a direct effect on obesity, BMI, and waist circumference. Eating slower may also prevent weight gain.

Four Additional Steps

Diet may be the most direct and obvious way to keep your weight within healthy levels and help you control blood sugar.

But, there are four other factors in the success formula for building and sustaining a healthy body and help prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

Sleep More

Getting enough good rest is essential for overall health and well-being.

Sleep lowers stress, strengthens your immune system, and decreases blood pressure. It is also critical for good mental health including alertness, memory, and mood regulation.

Poor sleeping habits also affect blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

Studies show when people do not get adequate quality rest they have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The benefits of a good night’s rest are important for maintaining hormonal balance and glucose regulation.

Exercise Regularly

The most important part of exercise is making the time to do it. Regular exercise (at least 5 days a week) in conjunction with a proper diet can help you maintain or lose weight.

When you exercise, blood sugar is more effectively used for energy and muscle contraction. A single bout of exercise can increase insulin sensitivity for up to sixteen hours.

Monitor Blood Sugar Levels

Glucose levels can vary significantly depending on many outstanding factors, like diet, sleep, and exercise. It’s important to continually monitor levels on a regular basis to get a clearer picture of health — especially if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels will help determine where you stand. If you are pre-diabetic, it’s important to get levels down to the normal range to prevent full diabetes from occurring.

If you already have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes you must regularly check and log blood sugar levels to prevent seizures or a diabetic coma.

Discuss monitoring your blood sugar levels with your doctor and select the best method for you.

In Conclusion

Keeping your blood sugar within normal recommended ranges is important for everyone’s overall health.

By effectively controlling these levels you are less likely to develop diabetes.

Make smart lifestyle decisions — maintain a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.

There are no acceptable excuses when it comes to your health.

Stay healthy.  Stay strong.  Stay happy.

 

Additional Reading:     Are You at Risk for Diabetes?

This article was originally published on MEDIUM – it has been removed from that platform.

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

Since grade school we have known about the food pyramid, but the food pyramid I want to discuss today is quite different: The Mediterranean Food Pyramid.

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

The pyramid is used by countless health organizations, clinics, doctors and many others to guide people to eat in a healthy manner. It is the standard to live by and health professionals unanimously agree that by following this diet pyramid, your health will benefit tremendously.

The pyramid is a wonderful synopsis of what the Mediterranean Diet entails. It shows four different food groups and the optimal number of servings of each group that should be consumed.

The pyramid was created based on research of the diet that the people in the Mediterranean countries consume. The area was selected as the model because of the low incidence of heart disease and high life expectancy found in the region.

One of the primary reasons for the healthy results of the diet is that the people not only use fresh, unadulterated ingredients, they also cook their meals in very healthy ways.

They are among the minority of the world’s population that have not embraced the fast food culture that dominates the US and Australia. It should be noted that both countries are battling an obesity epidemic.

You Will Eat Fresh, Healthy Foods

There are no processed foods, colas, white flour products, pizzas or any unhealthy food in the food pyramid. There are only categories of fresh, healthy foods: fruits and vegetables, nuts and grains, beans, fish and seafood, and healthy oils (primarily olive oil) – plus a little red wine.

Your fat consumption should be moderate along with consumption of dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. Eggs can be consumed daily.

Fish (seafood) is preferred over meat and should be consumed twice a week. Poultry is also preferred over red meat and should be consumed once a week. Red meat should only be consumed 3 to 4 times a month. The rest of the time, vegetables, legumes, and/or pasta should be the focal point of your meals.

Fruit and vegetables (7 servings) should be consumed daily.

Get rid of your salt shaker and start seasoning with fresh herbs and spices. Don’t forget the garlic and onions.

Cook primarily with olive oil. Butter should be used minimally, if at all.  NEVER use margarine or hydrogenated oil products.

The use of unhealthy hydrogenated oils is very rare in Mediterranean cooking – and they rarely eat red meat or sweets (other than fresh fruit)

Avoid all foods that contain processed sugar. That means chocolate, candies, and most rich desserts are to be consumed minimally.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the Mediterranean diet is red wine. This is not an open invitation to include all alcoholic beverages such as beer, vodka or bourbon in your diet. The Mediterranean diet advocates ONLY wine. About 1 glass for women and no more than 2 glasses a day for men and usually, consumption is after dinner.

The food pyramid is just a guideline to help you eat in a healthy way. You do not need to be overly strict and get upset if you do not follow it exactly. As long as you eat the foods on the pyramid and stop eating the healthy damaging junk/processed foods that are typical on the American diet, you will be doing well. If you make those changes, you will be giving yourself one of the greatest gifts possible: Good Health!

Photo from: https://www.unitypoint.org/madison/filesimages/News%20Article%20Images/mediterranean-diet-pyramid.jpg

From the same site, check out the 7-day Mediterranean Menu (Autumn/Winter).  Not only does it suggest full menus for all meals, it includes recipes and calorie count for the day.  ENJOY!

Mediterranean Diet – Excellent Choice for Women

Lead researcher, Cecilia Samieri, DVM, PHD, Boston University School of Medicine stated, “Women with healthier dietary patterns at midlife were 40% more likely to survive to age 70 or over.” That is proof that a diet does affect your longevity. But you already knew that.

But, why is the Mediterranean Diet specifically an excellent choice for women?

Mediterranean Diet - Excellent Choice for Women
Image by lunamarina

The average American woman’s diet is filled with highly-processed foods, high in unhealthy fats, high in refined sugar and white flour, filled with additives, and low in nutrition.

Continual consumption of such an unhealthy diet wreaks havoc on a woman’s skin and her body.  It causes her to age more quickly; it weakens her muscles; her energy levels drop; inactivity sets in; and she eventually loses her natural sense of well-being.

The Mediterranean Diet is primarily a natural food diet made up of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts, and a little red wine. It is high in monounsaturated fats due to the use of extra-virgin olive oil which is extremely beneficial to the body. Processed foods, fast foods, high sugar content and unhealthy fats are not part of the eating plan.

A Different Way of Eating

The Med-Diet is a different way of eating – you will be feeding your body natural foods that are healthy for the body and mind!

Most women who are struggling to lose weight generally reduce their food intake and start exercising vigorously. While both of these things can be helpful, reducing your food intake, but continuing to eat unhealthy foods is not a wise choice.

It is much better to choose a healthy diet and to eat in moderation to lose weight.  You could possibly eat junk food in moderation and stay slim; but, think about what are you would be doing to your body in the process. You may be choosing to lose weight at the cost of your good health.

It isn’t difficult to see that it would be much better to eat healthy foods like salmon drizzled in olive oil, Greek yogurt with a little honey, stir-fried broccoli, or Quinoa Pasta Primavera, etc.

That is what makes the Mediterranean diet so fantastic. The food you get to eat is actually delicious, nutritious and beneficial to your health.  No more forcing yourself to eat another bland steamed chicken breast or chalk-like protein shake – or caught between feeling half-starved or binge eating when no one is looking.

Reap the Rewards

  • Fresh vegetables and fruits will ensure your body has adequate fiber and vitamins.
  • Calcium rich foods such as kale, Brussel sprouts and spinach will prevent the dreaded osteoporosis.
  • Legumes and potatoes, which are rich in potassium, will prevent you from losing muscle tone and will also lower your blood pressure.
  • Olive oil will reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • The healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in the fish that you eat will do wonders for your health. The modern day diet is too high in omega-6 fatty acids and too low in omega-3 fatty acids. The Mediterranean diet will reverse this awful trend.
  • Honey as your natural sweetener along with generous servings of fruit will help minimize your sugar intake and help avoid Type 2 Diabetes.

Unlike the Atkins Diet, Paleo Diet or Cabbage Soup Diet, the Mediterranean Diet is not too restrictive, which makes it much easier to follow and to sustain over the long-haul.  You will be able stay on the diet because you will be enjoying yourself rather than suffering and staying on track through pure will power.

The Mediterranean Diet is a way of life. It will work wonders for your health and peace of mind. All it takes is a desire to be healthy and a willingness to prepare and eat the wonderfully delicious foods in moderation and daily exercise to start living a healthier lifestyle.

Mediterranean Diet - Excellent Choice for Women
Image by Mike Baird

To all women, I say, “ Make this choice as soon as you can and enjoy the health benefits and sense of well-being that come from being on a nutritious, well-balanced diet.”

The Mediterranean Diet Controversery

I love the Mediterranean Diet. With all the fad diets whirling around the Internet, it is easy to get confused. This is one diet that you do not have to worry about. It does not require changing your eating habits to any kind of extreme, starving yourself for long stretches, or making dramatic lifestyle changes.

In fact, the Mediterranean Diet is not only one of the safest and healthiest ways to eat, it is practical, as well.  Basically, all it requires is eating a healthier, natural diet and enjoying the food you are eating.

It is a way of slowing down, developing a healthy relationship with food, and appreciating food. The diet is time-tested because people in many parts of the world have been eating this type of diet for centuries.

And yet . . . in spite of all those powerful points, there is still some controversy about the diet, which I want to address and dispel today (if at all possible).

Inclusion of Fats

Mediterranean Diet
Image by AngelSimon

Sounds surprising – and yes, the Mediterranean Diet does not shy away from “healthy” fats, even though that is out of the ordinary for most diets. In fact, many of the recipes are prepared with large amounts of olive oil or with feta cheese sprinkled on top.

Your first instinct may be to question how that could possibly be healthy. We have heard from the experts for years that fat creates bad cholesterol and leads to heart disease and weight gain.

Fat does contain more calories per gram (9 to be exact – verses 4 grams in carbs or protein). BUT . . . the upside is that fat releases energy much slower, which keeps you feeling full longer and alleviates the craving for sugar and the damage that sugar causes in your body, such as the risk of diabetes.

Regions of the world where this diet is prevalent has a much lower incidence of diabetes among the population.

Another fact you may not know is that fat does not actually cause high cholesterol or heart disease. Recent studies have looked at this theory and found just the opposite.  Healthy fats lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and improve the good cholesterol (HDL).

Fat also has other direct health benefits. It increases testosterone, which leads to greater physical strength and weight loss; and, it also enhances nutrient absorption that is important for a healthy brain.

Inclusion of Wine

In addition to the unusual inclusion of fats, wine and carbs are also part of the Mediterranean Diet. If you have been paying attention

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

to articles about carbohydrates, you are probably aware that carbs provide a sudden sugar hit, which some of the experts have declared as very bad. There is some truth to that information, but it is tempered by the types of carbs eaten, plus the overall diet consumed.

The Mediterranean Diet contains fewer simple carbs than most typical Western diets. The emphasis is on “natural foods” and the avoidance of processed foods that are filled with additives, high sugar and high unhealthy fat content – foods such as prepared meals, chocolate, candy, sodas and highly-caffeinated drinks.

The emphasis of the diet is to stop thinking of food as something you inhale on the run – grabbing the most convenient items available. The goal is for you to actually start eating regular, planned meals of healthy foods that will dramatically improve your over-all health.

But . . . what about the wine? Over-indulgence in alcoholic beverages of any kind is not a good thing. But, alcohol in small quantities has been shown to actually increase the human lifespan – especially red wine, which contains the all-important ‘resveratrol’ for strengthening the mitochondria.

The key words in the above paragraph are – taken in “small quantities.” This is not permission to “drink all you want.”

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

To sum it all up in the words of Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, a certified doctor of natural medicine:

Considered by many nutrition experts to be one of the most heart-healthy ways of eating there is, the base of the Mediterranean diet is loaded with anti-inflammatory foods and built upon plant-based foods and healthy fats.

Based on much research, this particular diet can protect against the development of heart disease, metabolic complications, depression, cancer, type-2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The best part is, even with all of these benefits, it still provides the opportunity for people to “eat, drink and be merry.”

Read his entire article for the 8 Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.

Image by tepic
Image by tepic

If you really want to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy your food, the Mediterranean Diet is a choice I encourage you to explore. 

 

 

What to Do to Get Started Walking

In my last post we looked at eight reasons why you should walk for your health: to lose weight; for heart and brain health; to get happy endorphins flowing, for more energy and general well-being. Hopefully, you were inspired to include walking as part of your daily activities. Today, we are going to talk about what to do to get started walking.

There are a few important things your should do to get started with a walking routine that will lead to a healthier life:

Check with Your Doctor

Image by wavebreak_media
Image by wavebreak_media

Starting any kind of exercise regimen should include a physical check up by your doctor. You want to make sure that what you have planned will be good for you – and not detrimental in any way.

Chances are your doctor will be completely supportive of your plan, but s/he may want to check your heart, your blood pressure and other vitals before you begin just to make sure your body can handle increased physical activity.

He may also request that you return for a follow up after a specific period of time, to make sure everything is going well.

Start Slow and Steady

For anyone starting a new physical exercise routine, starting out slow and steady is a good idea.  It is important to let your body adjust to the rhythm and energy you will be exerting.  This is particularly true if you are not accustomed to exercise, are terribly out of shape, and/or have been living a sedentary life for quite a while.

Start as slow as necessary – just be sure that you are moving your body a little each day, and that you are committed to increasing your time or distance every three or four days.

Listen to your body. Trying to do too much too fast can create serious problems.  You could strain muscles, have muscle cramps, feel weak from too much exertion . . . and also take away your motivation to continue walking daily.

Do what you can each day – be persistent – stay with it. I promise, you will begin to enjoy the process and your body will thank you.

Have a Schedule that Works for You

For most people it is a good idea to have a walking schedule. Each day after you have finished your walk, check it off. This reinforces the feeling of satisfaction that comes from having accomplished something important.

You may want to buy a special calendar for this purpose and write out your walking goals for each week.

Set up your schedule – start slow and gradually increase how far you walk or how long you walk. You can choose which of those things you want to use as your measure. For me, it is how long I walk.

If you are a complete novice at walking (and exercise), start with 5-10 minutes at a time for 3 to 5 days.  Then, increase it by 2-3 minutes and gradually add more days.

Continue until you reach a level that seems a good length of time for you.  My recommendation would be to work up to 30 minutes if at all possible; with 15-20 minutes at least 5 days a week as your minimum goal.

A Healthy Diet Is Part of the Plan

Image by klenova
Image by klenova

Walking is wonderful for your health, but you should also be eating healthy foods as part of your new routine. Even if you walk everyday (which is great), but continue to fill up on fried, fatty, sugary, processed foods, it will be more difficult to sustain the energy you need to walk regularly and for any extended period of time.

Feed your body fresh, whole foods, lean protein for energy, fruits and vegetables, and lots of whole grains. These foods will keep you feeling satisfied, they are good for your body, and provide the energy needed for walking (and everything else you want to do).

Do what you need to do the get started walking. Then, plan your new walking routine beginning today – and stay with it for the long-term!