Tag Archives: Whole Grains

Foods that Keep Your Blood Sugar Steady Throughout the Day

If you struggle with blood sugar spikes and dips, you should take a look at your diet and eat foods that will keep your blood sugar steady.

Food that are high in carbohydrates and have a Glycemic Index of 70+ will affect your blood sugar adversely, which is not good for anyone. However, if you eat foods throughout the day that have a low Glycemic Index, your blood sugar will remain steady.

In case you do not know, the Glycemic Index (GI) ranks foods by how much they raise blood sugar. Anyone who lives with Type 2 Diabetes, hypoglycemia, or have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes are probably aware of the Index, but everyone should be familiar with it.

A roller coaster ride of blood sugar levels rising and falling throughout the day can make you feel pretty bad. It is important to recognize the symptoms and do something about the problem.  Awareness is not enough. Prevention is critical in order to reduce the increased risks for some health problems that can result if the spikes and dips are not controlled.

Melissa Li-Ng, MD, endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio states, “Keeping blood sugar stable can help prevent the long-term consequences of fluctuations.” She goes on to explain that high blood sugar can cause a number of symptoms, including: frequent urination, thirst, fatigue, and blurred vision.

On the other hand, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can cause headaches, irritability, weakness or fatigue, dizziness, sweating, and lack of coordination.

Christy Parkin, MSN, RN, CDE, Health Management Resources, Inc. Diabetes Education and Consulting Services,  Indianapolis, Indiana states, “Blood glucose levels that fluctuate wildly up and down are more dangerous than high blood glucose alone…it leads to damage of the cells known as oxidative stress. This damage is a predictor of cardiovascular disease in diabetes.

Foods to Control Your Blood Sugar Levels

Fruits and Vegetables

There are some very tasty fruits with low GI numbers: apples, cherries, grapefruit, pears, plums, and strawberries. The same is true for some wonderful vegetables:  artichokes, asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, and onions. All of these are low GI; plus they are low in calories, and packed with fiber, which keeps you feeling full longer. The result is that eating these foods will help stop the craving for snacks between meals.

Good Fats

Poached Salmon
Image by HLPhoto

The fats in your diet should be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. They taste good and are good for you. You need them in your diet. In general, nuts, olive oils, avocado, and fish are sources of unsaturated fats. On the other hand, it is important to avoid saturated fats and trans fats.

Olive oil and peanut oil are unsaturated, contain no carbohydrates, and have a GI of zero.  This means they have no effect on blood sugar and can be used in food preparation without concern about impacting your blood sugar.

“Fatty” fish such as: trout, herring, tuna, mackerel, halibut and salmon are also good unsaturated fats – and good for you. These fish provide Omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels in the blood stream.

Protein

Protein fills you up and keeps you feeling full longer.  Good sources of Low GI protein are: legumes, nuts, lean meat and fish. When you have plenty of protein in your diet, you are less likely to want snacks.

Try mixing nut butters with fruits or vegetables like apples and celery for a high protein, but low GI snack. Vacuum-packed tuna or low-fat cheese on 100% whole-wheat crackers are also good. And, one of my favourite snacks is crisp celery or carrot sticks dipped in hummus.

Whole Grain

Quinoa and Broccoli
Quinoa and Broccoli

Avoid all refined flour (white, enriched in particular). Stick with minimally-processed whole grain products. They have a low GI value and add rich flavors to breads and pasta.  Replace your white rice with quinoa (reasonably priced, filled with protein, and tasty) or wild rice (delicious, but expensive). Other whole grains you may also want to try are: spelt, rye and barley.

In Conclusion

If you are a diabetic, or have trouble controlling your blood sugar, eating the aforementioned foods will help you keep it steady. A steady blood sugar level means less cravings, which not only reduce the number of calories you would normally consume, helps you stay away from high GI foods.

Photo Credit: (Quinoa and Broccoli Wednesday’s Dinner via photopin (license)

Food Allergies – Real or Imagined?

Whole Wheat Bread and Grains
Image by Oliver Hoffman

Food Allergies – Do You Really Have Them?

There is so much hype today about food allergies; it is easy to get caught up in the frenzy. One of the biggest topics in this area is allergies to gluten and wheat products. The food industry has also jumped on the band wagon and is rolling in the dollars with their “gluten-free” products, which adds to the frenzy. Plus, everywhere you look there are new gluten-free and grain-free diet books being published.

Are the allergies real or imagined, or is having food intolerance a fad?

Yes, some people have food allergies, but the majority do not. In fact, only about 8 percent of children have food allergies and 4 percent of adults.

When it comes to gluten intolerance, Celiac Disease affects less than 1% of the population. If you are among that 1%, you should, without a doubt, avoid gluten. In fact, eating it could be life threatening.  On the other hand, if you are among those who have eliminated, or are thinking about eliminating whole grains from your diet, you really need to reconsider. The decision to eliminate an entire food group without sound reason is fool hardy and dangerous to your health.

In case you have forgotten, whole grains are one of the major food groups for good reason. In addition to providing critical nutrients (protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, and several B vitamins), they are a primary source of fiber, which is important for digestion, helps avoid constipation, and lowers the incident of colorectal cancers in adults.

Why deprive yourself of those benefits, for no reason. Those with true problems will see immediate results giving up gluten, but those without problems usually don’t even lose weight despite the rumors to the contrary. Instead they are more likely to end up bloated, constipated, and craving a lot of other foods in an effort to replace the grains. Why do that when it is not necessary?

The main benefit of a gluten free diet for people who are NOT gluten-intolerant is that it requires giving up treats that are full of fat, sugar and salt, sugar, such as donuts, cookies, etc.

If your goal is to lose weight and get healthy – forget about eliminating whole grains from your diet, just give up the junk food. Choose a diet of whole, fresh food that is as close to nature as possible (including whole grains) – and does not contain added fats, salts and sugars. With that change, you will immediately increase your nutritional levels and start enjoying better health.

How to Eat Whole Grains

Every grain is different in that it contains its own special combination of critical nutrients. As a result, in order to get the greatest benefit from whole grains, you should eat a variety of grains rather than sticking to only one or two. Also choose unprocessed grains – as close to nature as possible. For example: steel cut or rolled oats are a better choice than instant oatmeal. Also, as a side note, avoid refined white sugar. If you must have sweetener with your cereal use natural sweeteners such as fresh real maple syrup, finely chopped dates, and fruit.

Be smart in your choices and portions. You do not have to eat a lot of whole grains to get the benefits. Remember they are carbohydrates and excess carbohydrates will pack on the pounds. You only need three to five servings a day to get the fiber and nutrients you need. If weight is an issue – go with three servings, if you are on the thin side, five servings would be a better choice.

Serving sizes vary depending on the type of grain.  For example: ½ cup cooked portion is usually a good serving for brown rice, whole grain pasta and oatmeal; 1 slice whole grain bread, and 1 small muffin (you do not need the giant muffins – more is not better in this case).

Closing Thoughts

  • Be careful! If you are not actually allergic, you could be hurting yourself by eliminating grains from your diet.
  • DO NOT make an uninformed decision to remove grains from your diet.
  • If you think you may be allergic – ask your doctor to test you.

 

Why Eat Healthy Grains

Why Eat Healthy Grains

Whole Wheat Bread and Grains
Image by Oliver Hoffman

Over the years the scientific community has discovered many things that help us live better lives. Unfortunately, even the scientific community does not agree on many points and leaves us to weigh both sides of an issue and make the best informed decision we can.  Today’s post will explore a very critical “healthy food” issue:  Carbohydrates

Should you eat carbohydrates? How much? How often? Which are the healthy carbs? Which are the ones you should avoid?  It is a conundrum. So, if you are trying to eat properly for optimal health, what should you do?

Carbohydrates are a major source of energy for the body and most people eat some carbohydrates in the form of bread or rice with every meal. Should we stop eating them? Are they making us fat and unhealthy?

The bottom line is that bread and rice cannot be the sole reason for obesity or poor health. In fact, they are beneficial even though the carbohydrate content is over 70% in both bread and rice. There is no need to be a human guinea pig and take it upon yourself to eliminate them from your diet. The better approach is to seek out the healthiest grains available.

Whole Grains Are a Better Choice

The basic rule for good health is to avoid all white grains and white flour products. Discover the health treasure chest of whole-grains and whole grain products – including rice, pasta, and bread.

Bread

When grains are refined most of the bran is removed from the raw grain, which is why bread made from whole wheat flour is far superior health wise to

Whole Grain Sourdough Bread
Image by Sarah R

white bread that is made from refined wheat flour.

The bran contains essential minerals and some vitamins, plus dietary fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

Another important factor is the glycemic index (GI), which measures the speed at which carbohydrates break down into glucose inside the body. Foods with high GI cause a spike in blood sugar which crashes quickly, making you feel hungry again. Bread made with 100% whole grain wheat flour has a much lower GI than bread made with refined white flour.

When buying bread it is important to read labels. Choose breads made with 100% whole wheat flour. Word of caution: Never buy bread based on color alone.  It is not uncommon for manufacturers to add food coloring to 50% whole wheat bread in order to fool the consumer into thinking that it is 100% whole wheat.

Pasta

Since pasta is also made with flour, it is important to choose whole wheat pasta rather than the standard white flour pasta.  You have probably seen the words “enriched” on white flour products, which means vitamins and minerals have been added.  There are some questions about the impact of fortified foods, so the better choice is to side-step that issue by buying whole wheat pasta.

Rice

White rice is refined in a similar manner to white flour. The process removes the germ, bran and husk of the raw grain – then, it is polished. With brown rice only the husk is removed, which ensures that most of the nutrients are retained.

U.S. law requires white rice to be enriched with vitamins B1 and B3, and iron. Even then, brown rice is more nutritious and has a lower GI, more dietary fiber, and more vitamins and minerals than white rice. Using brown rice is simply the smarter choice.  Basmati brown rice is particularly tasty.

What Are the Health Benefits?

According to the Whole Grains Council, studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases. While benefits are most pronounced for those consuming at least 3 servings daily, some studies show reduced risks from as little as one serving daily. The message: every whole grain in your diet helps! The benefits of whole grains most documented by repeated studies include:

  • stroke risk reduced 30-36%
  • type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%
  • heart disease risk reduced 25-28%
  • better weight maintenance

Other benefits indicated by recent studies include:

  • reduced risk of asthma
  • healthier carotid arteries
  • reduction of inflammatory disease risk
  • lower risk of colorectal cancer
  • healthier blood pressure levels
  • less gum disease and tooth loss

There is no doubt in my mind that whole grains are a much healthier choice!