Posts Tagged ‘nutrition for diabetics’

Be Smart and Eat Your Vegetables

October 11, 2009

If you need yet another reason to eat your vegetables, research suggests they might make you smarter, particularly as you age. A new study has found that a higher daily consumption of vegetables and fruit is associated not only with higher antioxidant levels, but also higher cognitive scores in healthy middle-aged and older adults. Furthermore, another previous study  found that older adults who consumed the most vegetables had the lowest incidence of Alzheimers, while fruit did not have the same positive association.

So what’s so great about vegetables?  Well, they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, prevent cancer, heart disease and yes, even dementia. Vegetables have the highest nutrient density of all foods. In other words, they have the most nutrients for the fewest calories. Most vegetables are also low on the Glycemic Index so they’re helpful in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Vegetables are the one “all you can eat” food category for optimal nutrition as well as weight loss.  

OK, so now you know vegetables are good for brain and your body, but how do you get more  into your diet? Vegetables can be delicious as well as nutritious, you just have to know how to prepare them. For ideas, here are links to my previous blogs on How to Love Your Veggies, Part I  and Part II.

Be Well,


America’s Sugar Epidemic – Part II

September 15, 2009

In my last post I discussed the recent findings and updated guidelines of the American Heart Association regarding American’s sugar consumption and I recommended looking at your own diet for hidden added sugars. Some sources of sugar are easy to spot, but some aren’t. For example, a 6-oz container of non-fat fruit yogurt contains 32 gm of sugar – that’s the equivalent of 8 tsp!! Breakfast cereals are another big source of sugar. There are at least 11 popular breakfast cereals with more than 12g of sugar per serving.

As to whether sugar is truly addictive – the research isn’t conclusive. It seems that the more sugar a person consumes, the less sensitive they are to sweet tastes and it appears this desensitization begins early on in life. Thus, when children are raised on a sweetened diet they get conditioned to the taste. This is similar to what happens when people reduce their salt consumption for a period of time. When they resume eating salty foods, these foods taste saltier than they did prior to curtailing their salt intake. 

When you’re feeling the need for a sweet treat, naturally sweet foods such as fruit should be favored over cookies and candy.  It’s the added sugars you need to be concerned with. Active kids may be able to handle the empty calories sugar provides while they’re young, but they’re missing out on nutrients they could be getting from other foods. Furthermore, in excess these empty calories can eventually lead to obesity in adolescence and later in adulthood.

Examine your diet – is sugar a main ingredient in the packaged food you eat? See where you can cut back. Eat fewer packaged, processed foods and you’ll automatically reduce your sugar intake. It won’t be easy, but you’ll find that life can actually be sweeter with less sugar.

Be Well,


How to Love Your Vegetables: Part II

July 11, 2009

Recently I wrote about the importance of eating vegetables – how they have the highest nutrient density of all foods, but they are the category most people fall short nutritionally. Vegetables can be delicious – it’s just a matter of knowing what to do them. Here are more ideas for getting more into your daily diet:

If you’re not a vegetable fan or your kids aren’t, try adding vegetables to other dishes. Vegetable purees are a  great way to go. Try mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes – it has a nice, sweet flavor to it. Add pureed carrots or zucchini to meatloaf, casseroles, pancake batter, muffins and quick breads, and chopped broccoli, mushrooms, or green beans to spaghetti sauce. Vegetable purees can even be snuck into desserts  thereby enhancing their nutrition as well as their flavor. There’s a great book called “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld with great recipes for kid-tested desserts and snacks using butternut squash, cauliflower, spinach, carrot and banana purees. I also recommend keeping a can of pumpkin on your shelf year-round, not just during the holidays. It’s loaded with betacarotene and potassium – great for blending into smoothies, home-made soups, pancakes or puddings.

Dip into vegetables. For snacking, instead of chips and salsa, dip raw or lightly steamed veggies in salsa, hummus, mashed avocado or home-made guacamole, marinara sauce or a lowfat yogurt cucumber dip. This is another way of getting kids to eat more vegetables – just find a topping they like (ketchup and mustard work, too!).

Add vegetables to egg dishes. If you’re scrambling eggs or making an omelet, toss in some mushrooms, chopped onions, bell pepper and cooked asparagus.

Serve chicken or fish warm over a bed of wilted greens instead of rice or pasta.

Pile vegetables into your sandwiches.  And don’t stop at lettuce and tomato –add cucumbers, shredded carrots, onions or peppers to name a few. Or, make a lettuce wrap instead of a regular sandwich (substitute romaine lettuce leaves for the bread).  

Top your pizza! This another great way to sneak more veggies into your kid’s diets. Whether you make your own pizza, buy it frozen, or get it as takeout, load it up with extra veggies, including broccoli, tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, red onions, and mushrooms.  If you’re making your own, go easy on the cheese to reduce saturated fat, but load on the tomato sauce for extra lycopene.

Make vegetables the main dish. Plan your meal around an entree salad, vegetable soup, or stir fry. Add small servings of other foods — lean meat or poultry or low-fat dairy products — as side dishes. Entrée salads are great for summer – toss some fish, chicken or lean beef on the grill and then add it to a big salad

Legumes are a class of vegetables that include lentils, beans (including soybeans) and peas. Low in fat with zero cholesterol, legumes are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium and are an important vegetarian source of protein.  Legumes are also very versatile and inexpensive. Keep cans of beans and lentils on your shelf  and you can add accent to a salad, create a healthful soup, stew or casserole, puree them for dips and spreads or soups or combine them with rice for a main vegetarian entrée.

If you already eat plenty of veggies, good for you, but branch out and try some new ones, such as artichokes, eggplant, asparagus, Swiss chard, bok choy, beets, parsnips turnip or mustard greens and jicama. The greater the variety the better insurance that you are getting all of the phytonutrients vegetables contain. So mix it up!

Be Well,


Why are Asians At A Higher Risk for Type II Diabetes?

June 10, 2009

You may be surprised to learn that while Asians tend to weigh less than other ethnicities, they are actually at greater risk for Type II diabetes. In fact, a recent nationwide telephone health survey found that cases of Type II diabetes were 60% more prevalent in Asian compared with African Americans or Caucasian populations.

Part of the reason appears to be genetic, part due to diet and lifestyle. Genetically, while Asians typically have a lower body weight than Caucasian, they tend to carry more visceral fat (deep abdominal fat) which is associated with diabetes as well as heart disease.  

Culturally, one of the challenges Asian diabetics face is altering their diet to reduce their consumption “simple” carbohydrates which are high on the glycemic index. Unlike whole grains, refined grains such as white rice (a staple in Asian diets) lack fiber which helps stabilize blood sugar. During processing, white rice is stripped of the brown-colored rice bran, the natural fiber that slows down the breakdown of brown rice into sugar once consumed. Asian diets are also traditionally lower in protein than western diets. Similar to the effect of eating fiber, protein helps balance blood sugar levels when consumed with carbohydrates.

Asians are also less likely to exercise vigorously than diabetics of other ethnic origin. They are more apt to take a tai chi class, for example, than run on a treadmill or lift weights in the gym. Aerobic exercise and strength training can favorably alter body composition, reducing body fat and adding lean muscle tissue, further reducing risk of diabetes. 

Fortunately two new studies are specifically focusing on the prevention and treatment of Type II diabetes in Asian populations. A four-year study conducted by the University of San Francisco is currently looking for Chinese diabetic adults born outside of the US. Participants in the UCSF study will attend classes to learn to manage their disease. For more information, call (415) 476-3889.

A second, 5-year cohort study spearheaded by Sutter Health and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) is aimed at preventing and treating diabetes in California’s 6  largest Asian ethnic groups: Asian Indians, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, and Vietnamese This study will attempt to identify diabetes risk factors specific to both Asian-Americans in general and the various Asian ethnic groups in particular. For more information, contact PAMF at 650) 321-4121.

Be Well,


Nutrition for Diabetes, Part I

April 25, 2009

Did you know that within the past decade, newly diagnosed cases of Type II diabetes increased by 90 % (from 4.8 cases per 1,000 people to 9.1 cases per 1,000 people)} Furthermore, the latest statistics shows that 34 % of Americans are clinically obese which is defined as weighing 20% or more above ideal body weight. Furthermore, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that sugar now accounts for 16% of all calories consumed by Americans; 20 years ago, it supplied 11%. Soda alone supplies about one-third of this added sugar.

When I was growing up, two kids on my block had Type I or juvenile diabetes – the only kind of diabetes kids used to get. I remember my mom warning me and my sister that  if we ate too much sugar we would get diabetes, too. Now while eating sugar doesn’t cause diabetes, those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic need to avoid consuming sugars and simple carbohydrates in general.

When you consume simple, refined carbohydrates such as candy, cake or corn flakes, insulin is released in large amounts by the pancreas. In addition to converting foods into glucose, insulin also promotes the storage of fat in fat cells and protein in muscle cells. It also inhibits lipase which is an enzyme that breaks down fats in the body. Also, Insulin converts excessive sugar in the bloodstream into still more stored fat. For  diabetes prevention and management (and weight loss), it’s the simple carbs you want to avoid, not the complex ones such as whole grains, vegetables – especially legumes.

Many of the simple carbs people contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is added to commercially-processed foods such as sodas, fruit drinks, cakes, cookies, and– even tomato soup!! Food manufacturers are using HFCS in greater amounts these days because it’s cheap. The problem is, HFCS’s conversion to stored body fat is fast and efficient. Researchers theorize that it may be in part due to its effect on insulin. Eaten in large amounts, HFCS may prevent insulin from working effectively to reduce blood sugar. Also, while HFCS has the same sweetness as refined sugar, it is chemically different and requires more insulin in its metabolism. Many experts are linking the increase in HFCS consumption to the increase in diabetes and obesity.

I’ll speak more about how blood sugar is affected by the foods we eat and the difference between the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load of foods in an upcoming blog.

Be Well,


My Tips for Healthy Weight Loss Now Available on Podcast

March 29, 2009





If you missed my latest guest appearance on the Dr. Smiles Radio Show on March 14th, check out the podcast (episode 33).  The discussion centered on the growing weight problem in our country, the reasons behind it, and practical solutions for losing weight and keeping it off.

Be Well,