Tag Archives: Healthy Lifestyle

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.

Positive Results of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet became popular when statistics revealed that people in Mediterranean countries actually live longer and experience less heart disease!

Mediterranean Diet
Image by lunamarina

This sparked a lot of interest among researchers who began to dig deeper into the reasons behind the statistics. They found that the type of fats eaten in this diet were actually good for heart health and the type of nutrient-rich diet the Mediterranean people enjoyed could have profoundly beneficial results.

Since you may be considering it as a possible healthy diet, I wanted to share some specific positive results of the Mediterranean Diet.

Overall Better Health

The Mediterranean Diet improves your overall well-being – and does so in several important ways.

We have already talked about the importance of the healthy fats found in olive oil and the heart benefits of resveratrol found in red wine. The diet also includes an abundance of garlic and fiber which are both helpful in sustaining healthy blood pressure.

The nutrient rich foods – fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains provide Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamins D & E, which make you look healthier. They give your skin a natural glow; plus, they make you hair and nails stronger and the whites of your eyes whiter.

Add sunshine (and sun screen) to give yourself a nice healthy tan to complete the picture. Everyone looks better when our bodies are strong and healthy.

More Energy

Just think what you could accomplish if you had energy that lasted throughout the day, with plenty remaining for evening activities. That is possible when you eat nutrient-rich foods that fuels your body with everything it needs.

A healthy diet improves the function of your mitochrondria (the structures within cells that convert food into a form of energy that cells can use), which provides the body with lots of usable energy. As a result, you will feel supercharged and ready to go whenever you need to be!

Healthier Weight Loss

If you are one of the many who is always looking for a way to control their weight, the Mediterranean Diet is a good choice. It contributes to weight loss in a healthy, sustainable and long-lasting way.

You will want to snack less and your hunger will be satisfied with smaller portions. This is primarily because you will no longer be eating empty-calorie junk food; and your body will be far more efficient at burning fat the way it was meant to.

Better Lifestyle

The Mediterranean Diet has a wonderful another benefit than you may not have thought of – an overall happier, healthier lifestyle.

You will gain a new respect for food and its importance in your life. This diet is about taking the time to cook REAL meals with REAL FOOD – about taking the time to actually enjoy what you eat. And . . . most important – it is about eating good, healthy foods.

When all of that becomes important in your life, you will find yourself spending more time with your family – and even preparing lovely romantic meals for your spouse or significant other.

Food will no longer be something you eat to live. The Mediterranean lifestyle encourages you to slow down, enjoy the process of cooking, enjoy the wonderful aromas that come from the simmering pots – and sitting down with family and friends around a lovely table with warm sunshine on your back as your eat, laugh and enjoy . . . . together!

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! 

Healthy Eating Is Not a Diet – It Is a Way of Life

This posting is critically important for anyone who wants to lose weight and keep it off. I hope that you will take it very seriously.

Image by akra38
Image by akra38

I passionately believe that healthy eating is not a diet – it is a way of life. Several previous postings have been dedicated to my philosophy of dieting, “Stay Close to Nature for Healthy Eating.

The seven basic principles are:

  • Eat as close to nature as possible (shop the periphery of the market)
  • Give up all processed foods* (including junk food)
  • Choose a wide variety of colorful fruits and veggies
  • Eat only whole grains
  • Drink lots of clean, fresh water
  • Get your body moving everyday
  • Get adequate rest (7 to 9 hours/night)

*Processed foods like white sugar, white bread, frozen dinners, and many boxed and canned foods are not good for anyone – don’t buy or eat anything with additives.

I don’t know a single person who smiles brightly and enjoys the thought of starting a diet. In fact, when the word diet is mentioned in a conversation, it usually elicits a groan from the group.

As stated in my last post, it takes times to find a diet or weight loss program that fits your needs and will be effective. The process can be frustrating, discouraging, and exhausting.  The result is that many people opt for the extreme diets, including starving themselves for a few weeks just to get the pounds off as quickly as possible. Yes, you can shed pounds that way, but they will pile back on rapidly as soon as you end the diet and often with a few extra pounds to boot.

Losing weight in a healthy way, takes time – it is a process that takes planning, focus, and commitment.  And . . . there is a way to do it without endangering your health.   Healthy eating is not a diet – it is a way of life.

There are a few simple steps to can take to move in the right direction – toward a healthier lifestyle.

Simplify Eating

Over the years, I have tried everything – counting calories, weighing/measuring portions, keeping detailed records of everything I eat, etc.  It is mind-boggling and overwhelming. Eventually, I always gave up because it was all too much! Does any of that sound familiar?

The only thing that has worked for me is to simplify the process!  Instead of being obsessive about what I eat, I focus on eating a variety of healthy foods in small portions – three simple meals and two healthy snacks (morning and afternoon), and I never eat after 8:00 p.m. at night.

Your meals should be colorful and varied. Color ensures that you are getting the proper amount of fruits and vegetables (more nutrients). If the food you eat is essentially white or beige, you are not only jeopardizing your health, you will not lose weight. Variety adds the texture and flavors that make eating fun and satisfying.

How much you eat is important; but, rather than measuring and weighing everything, stay with portions that are about the size of your fist. The only exception to this is vegetables – eat as much as you want (just don’t get carried away dipping them into a high-calorie sauce).

Simplifying is a key factor for success – make eating simple and fun to stay on track and eliminate frustration.

Focus on What You Can Eat

Most diets focus on restrictions – what you cannot eat.  There is usually a list of foods that are “off limit.”  When you eat close to nature, there are a number of things that should be eliminated from your diet such as, junk food, processed foods, white sugar and flour products, and anything with additives.  If you truly want to be healthy and lose weight – eliminating those will be critical.  BUT . . . rather than focusing on all the things you cannot eat – focus on all the wonderful foods you can eat!

Also, if you have one particular food that falls into the one of the above categories – give yourself permission to eat it “on occasion.” (Mine is a piece of pie from Village Inn – every month or so). This will help you make healthier choices most of the time, and still have those favorites once-in a while.

If you absolutely forbid yourself to ever eat anything bad again, when you do give into the craving, you feel like you have failed, which is often an excuse to give up and slip quickly back into old habits.

Enjoy that occasional piece of pie or chocolate chip cookie, then get right back on track and eat healthy! Follow up the indulgence with a large glass of water and make sure the next meal is filled with of healthy choices and an extra serving of super-crunchy veggies. DO NOT beat yourself up!

Always Eat Breakfast

Healthy Breakfast
Image by urbanfoodie33

Breakfast means “break your fast.”  When you sleep, your body is at rest. Your metabolism slows down and goes to work – muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite.  When you awaken, the body needs water and food to replenish the systems so that you can lead an active, productive life.

You have heard, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” and it is. Without breakfast you are running on empty – like trying to drive your car without gas. For that reason it should be eaten within the first two hours after arising. Sooner is better than later.

In addition to providing energy, many breakfast foods are filled with important nutrients such as calcium, iron and B vitamins as well as protein and fiber. Research shows that when you skip breakfast, it is almost impossible to make up for the loss of those essential nutrients later in the day.

Take care of your body – starting with breakfast. You do not have to eat a lot. The best choice is to sit down and have a nice full breakfast.  However, if you are pressed for time, keep hard boiled eggs in the frig, add a glass of milk and a handful of nuts and be on your way.

There are many healthy breakfast choices for busy people such as:

Skipping breakfast keeps your body in hibernation mode and continues to store fat away for later (and causes weight gain).  Eating breakfast wakes up your metabolism and jump-starts your body’s systems for the day so that you can lead a healthy, alert, and productive life.

Eat Healthy Snacks

Image by Pakhnyushchyy
Image by Pakhnyushchyy

Some people can eat three meals a day and be perfectly satisfied. There are others, myself included who need that additional fuel in between meals – and can be a good practice for almost everyone. The in-between snacks keep your metabolism and blood sugar on an even keel and sustain your energy throughout the day.

Since we have been talking about simplifying eating, my recommendation is a nutritious breakfast, a mid-morning snack (a little protein and piece of fruit), a light lunch, mid-afternoon snack (veggies with hummus, or a handful of nuts and a piece of cheese), and then your healthy evening meal.

As noted above, a good practice is to never eat after 8:00 p.m.  The only exception to this is if you have trouble falling asleep, try eating a few cherries, a slice of turkey breast, or a small glass of warm milk with a few drops of vanilla to help you fall asleep.

A cardinal rule is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.  (This means actually physically hungry with real hunger pangs –not emotionally or stressed hungry.) It is important to feed your body when it needs to be fed so that it does not go into starvation mode and start storing fat to protect you.

Eat with Family or Friends

When you eat alone, there is a tendency to “chow down” with little thought about what you are eating or how much you are eating.  Stuffing food in your mouth while standing up at the kitchen counter, or eating in front of a computer or TV leads to mindless over-eating.

When you eat with others, there is usually conversation that allows for healthier eating habits – eating slower, taking smaller bites, taking a break between bites, and being relaxed while eating. All of which gives your mind time to process what you are eating and the body time to signal when you are full.

Do Not Rush – Eat Slowly

A fact of life is that many people live along – and as a result, eat alone most of the time.  If you are among that group, remind yourself to slow down. Allow time for your meals. Sit down at the table as enjoy the food.  Rushing through a meal is never healthy.  It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full.

Even though it is a meal for one, arrange your food nicely on a plate. Always sit at the table, maybe with a hot cup of coffee in the morning and a nice glass of wine in the event.  Eat at the table – not in front of the TV.

Choose a variety of foods with lots of flavor. Take time to chew slowly and savor the different flavors. When you eat slowly and take breaks in between bits, it give the stomach and the brain time to catch up and send a signal that you are full.  This helps prevent overeating (if you can learn to stop eating when you are full.) Eating in a rush negates that entire process – and you will over eat.

Final Thoughts

If you follow these six steps for healthier eating, you will begin to establish a healthier lifestyle – and lose weight at the same time. The weight loss will take time; and once it is off, if you continue to eat this way, it will stay off.

Think about eating a healthy diet in these small, manageable steps rather than trying to do it all at once in a short period of time will lead to success.

Remember – losing weight and eating healthy are not all or nothing propositions.  A key element in all of this is moderation.  Your diet is more than the food on your plate, it is about taking care of your body and how you think about food.

These few changes in your eating habits, can put your on the path to reaching your ideal weight and staying there for a long, long time.

Good luck!  ENJOY the journey!

P.S. There is an excellent article written by Lindsay Brustein Rosen, MS. RD that you should read. It was posted on Grandparents.com:   7 Healthy Foods that Are Worth the Hype.

Can You Stop Smoking?

Smoking Cigarettes
Image by Andra MIhali

Can YOU stop smoking? Everyone knows the dangers and all the negative effects of smoking, yet people continue to smoke!  WHY?

A few statistics from Centers of Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Overall mortality among both male and female smokers in the United States is about three times higher than that among similar people who never smoked.
  • The major causes of excess mortality among smokers are diseases that are related to smoking, including cancer and respiratory and vascular disease.
  • Cigarette smoking causes about one of every five deaths in the United States each year (including deaths from secondhand smoke).
  • Life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers.
  • Quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90%. (Encouraging)

The potential health risks are enough to scare some people into quitting, but why not everyone?  It doesn’t seem logical that anyone would willingly put themselves at risk for lung cancer, heart problems, cancer of the larynx and even a severely increased risk of heart attack or stroke – and yet by continuing to smoke that is exactly what people are doing.

In spite of all the warnings, those who continue to smoke either believe they cannot stop, they think they are invincible (nothing bad will happen to them), or (as in the case of my son), they do not want to stop.

Unfortunately, by the time many smokers decide too quit, it is often too late. The damage has been done and the result is often a death sentence. The consequence of their addictive habit is they are forced to give up their lives, rather making the choice to give up their daily pack (or packs) of cigarettes.

I lost a brother, a sister and a father-in-law as a result of their choices to continue smoking. I know that none of them consciously chose to die, yet many people make that choice every day by clinging to their cigarettes.

If you decide to quit, be clear about “why” and make a full commitment to do so. If you decide to quit on a whim or a dare, it may be exciting for a short time, but your effort is not likely to be successful. In fact, in the end you may even be upset or a little sad that you did not actually stop.

Letting go of your addiction is never easy; so, why put yourself through it? There are many reasons to stop in addition to the physical impact on your body. In this series we will look at the most compelling reasons to stop smoking; but, today, there is one that I want to mention.

YOUR FAMILY – How do you want your family to remember you?  Do you want to leave the legacy of smoking to your children?  Of all the smokers I have known in my life not one of them has encouraged their children to smoke. In fact, they would be upset, or at least disappointed if their children became smokers.

Children love and idolize their parents and follow their lead. When you continuously smoke around them, you are sending a message that is far more profound than anything you can ever say about smoking – plus, you are endangering their health through secondhand smoke.

When parents smoke, there is a much greater chance that their children will smoke.  The best thing you can do to prevent that is to stop smoking immediately.

Making the decision to quit is personal – and must be something you WANT to do.  No one can force you to stop; but, at the same time ignoring the warnings and advice from your doctors puts you at risk for serious health problems.  The negative effects on your health can be devastating to you – and to you family – debilitating emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease can be life-threatening and heartbreaking. Your loss is also their loss.

We are in an era when people are more focused on living healthier lifestyles. If you are among that number and searching for ways to improve your life, one huge step forward would be to stop smoking. That alone can make a significant improvement in your health. You will also be showing your family that you love them and want to be around for a long time.

Your family relies on you for guidance, support, and love.  Make sure you are there to provide all of that, and more.

The answer to the question – Can you stop smoking? – is YES if you choose to. Taking the time to look at the reasons you want to quit and making an absolute commitment to do so is critical to your success.

Photo Credit: Maddie13_pp via photopin (license)