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Diet and Diabetes

 For most people who don’t feel well, a visit to the doctor can diagnose and fix the problem. Simple, right?

But some diseases can be silent predators, offering few or no warning signs to alert you early on that help is needed. One such disease is diabetes.

Not only does diabetes affect almost 24 million people in the United States, but 25 percent don’t even know they have it.

What Is Diabetes?

As food is digested, it is broken down into glucose (also known as sugar), which provides energy and powers our cells. Insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, moves the glucose from the blood to the cells. However, if there is not enough insulin or the insulin isn’t working properly, then the glucose stays in the blood and causes blood sugar levels to rise.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Type 1 results from the pancreas no longer being able to make insulin and is usually found in children, teens, and young adults. Gestational diabetes can occur near the end of a woman’s pregnancy

High Blood Pressure Diet

 If you have high blood pressure, it’s best to eat meals low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

This is, of course, good dietary advice for everyone, regardless of their blood pressure.

Salt and High Blood Pressure

Too much salt or sodium can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure, this is why your doctor will recommend limiting how much salt you eat to no more than about 1 teaspoon per day.

Another rule to follow, according to the American Heart Association, is consuming 1,500 milligrams a day of salt if you have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, or if you are African-American or 51 years of age or older.

Healthy people can aim for 2,300 milligrams a day or less.

To stay on track, choose low-sodium and no-added-salt foods and seasonings, and read nutrition facts labels carefully to determine the amount of sodium added to packaged and processed foods.

Get Plenty of Potassium

Since potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells,

Say No to Soda, Yes to Healthy Drinks

 Sodas are sweet, sparkling and tasty — but don’t confuse them with a healthy drink. Doctors have discovered a ton of health risks connected with drinking soda pop. Worse, you’re robbing yourself of a healthy drink alternative brimming with needed vitamins and minerals every time you chug down a soft drink.

“If you’re choosing a soda, chances are you aren’t choosing a healthy beverage,” says Keri M. Gans, a nutrition consultant in New York City and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. There are a number of healthy drink choices you can make instead.

Why Say No to Soda?

  • Soda is truly worthless to your body. “In my opinion, there’s really one major reason to not drink soda,” Gans says. “It has absolutely no nutritional value. Soda is filled with sugar and calories and nothing else.” Even diet sodas — low to no calories and sugar — don’t have any redeeming virtues, nutritionally. Healthy drinks, on the other hand, have vitamins and minerals the body can use. Even plain water can rehydrate your body without adding extra calories

Diet After Colorectal Cancer

Unlike many other cancers, colorectal cancer sends out advance warnings of its arrival. A precancerous polyp detected in the colon during a preventive screening can help motivate you to adopt a colon-healthy diet.

If you’ve had a polyp or a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, you’ll want to know how to structure a diet to prevent a recurrence of your condition. “There isn’t nearly as much research on survivorship and recurrence as there is on prevention, but from what we’ve seen so far, our best advice is for our cancer survivors to follow our prevention guidelines,” says Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society.

Unless extraordinary health conditions dictate some variance, the standard cancer prevention guidelines hold sway for two reasons. First, the prevention guidelines are based on extensive analysis of diet and cancer, and frequently describe the best-known strategies for avoiding a recurrence.

Second, a generally well-balanced cancer prevention diet can help prevent a return of the disease not only in the colon, but also elsewhere in the body. “Survivors of a particular type of cancer can still be at risk for other types of cancers,”

7 Life-Enhancing Reasons to Eat Fish

Fish has a reputation for being low calorie, high protein “brain food,” thanks to the long strands of polyunsaturated essential omega-3 fatty acids (popularly referred to as “omega-3s”) found in fish oil.

The human body can’t naturally produce omega-3s, but yet they’re needed for a healthy body, inside and out. Although the link between omega-3s and heart healthhas long been known, several new studies present even more evidence that fish high in fatty acids is essential for total-body wellness.

The good news is if you’re not a fish fan, most new research indicates that eating fish only once or twice a week can be enough to reap the benefits. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Health recommends that people consume at least 2 percent of their total daily calories as omega-3 fatty acids, which equals about 4 grams per day. One four-ounce piece of salmon (one of the highest natural sources of omega-3s) contains about 1.5 grams of the fatty acid. Other fish, such as tuna, sardines, and halibut, also contains high levels. If you don’t eat animal products or have trouble fitting fish into your diet, you can get your daily recommended amount of fatty acids

Are Fruits and Vegetables Less Nutritious Today?

When it comes to getting enough nutrients in your diet, one bit of information is pretty clear-cut: Everybody should be eating an abundance of different fruits and vegetables every day. Yet according to research, fruits and vegetables are less nutritious than they used to be say 50 years ago. The reason?

A number of studies have explored the phenomenon of declining nutrients in fruits and vegetables, but the one that garnered the most media attention was led by Donald R. Davis, PhD, at the University of Texas in Austin, and was published inHortScience. Among Davis’s findings, one of the most consistent was that a higher yield of crops — in other words, more crops grown in a given space — almost always resulted in lower nutrient levels in the fruits and vegetables. What’s more, the median mineral declines among a variety of fruits and vegetables could be fairly significant, ranging from 5 to 40 percent, with similar declines in vitamins and protein levels.

Higher yield is one reason behind the decline, but several nutrition experts say it’s not the only one. “The soil itself has been over-harvested, meaning that over years of use and turnover

Teens Don’t Eat Enough Fruits and Veggies

The investigators analyzed data from nearly 10,800 students in grades nine through 12 who took part in the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study 2010, and found that median consumption was 1.2 times per day for both fruits and vegetables.

Median daily fruit consumption was much higher among males than females, and much higher among grade nine students than among students in grades 10 and 12.

Slightly more than one in four (28.5 percent) of the high school students ate fruit less than once a day, and 33.2 percent ate vegetables less than once a day. Only 16.8 percent of students ate fruit at least four times a day and only 11.2 percent ate vegetables at least four times a day, the study found.

Vegetable consumption was lowest among Hispanic and black students.

The researchers said their findings indicate that most high school students don’t meet the daily fruit and vegetable recommendations for teens who do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day: 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables for females and 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables for males.

Teens who get

Why Fruits and Vegetables Are Vital

If we are what we eat, then many of us must be tripping all over the place due to a lack of balance. That’s because the average American eats about three servings of fruits and vegetables per day — a stark contrast to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new guidelines stating that we should be eating 5 to 13 servings of nature’s best, depending on the number of calories you need.

So if we want to grow to be strong like Popeye, why can’t we just down some supplements instead of devouring a pile of spinach?

Nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables work together. Kristine Wallerius Cuthrell, MPH, RD, a research nutritionist and senior project coordinator for Hawaii Foods at the Center on the Family at University of Hawaii at Manoa, says that in the past five to 10 years, many large research studies have found that vitamin supplements don’t provide the benefits that foods do. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, created jointly between HHS and USDA and reviewed every five years, say that foods are the best sources of nutrients because they contain naturally

Good Sources of Potassium

Potassium is a mineral that most of us get every day through the foods we regularly eat — and that’s a good thing.

“Potassium is a mineral necessary for good health,” explains Alexa Schmitt, a clinical nutritionist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It aids in maintaining heart health by helping to regulate the fluid balance in the body.”

Potassium is classified as an electrolyte, which means that it carries an electric charge in your body.

The body needs balanced amounts of electrolytes — including potassium, sodium, magnesium, and others — to keep the blood chemistry at the right levels so that your body can function at its best.

Potassium also helps your body put the protein you eat to work, building muscle, bones, and other cells.

Who Needs to Pay Attention to Potassium?

Even though potassium helps our bodies in many ways, Schmitt says she cannot simply make a blanket recommendation about eating more potassium. That’s because different people need different amounts of potassium, depending on their overall health.

So who needs to watch their potassium intake?

  • People with kidney disease are at risk of having too much potassium in

Best Diets for Weight Loss, Heart Health, and Diabetes

Jenny Craig may have taken top prize when Consumer Reports ranked the best diets of 2011 in May, but the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet earned best diets overall honors in U.S. News & World Report’s first-ever diet rankings, released today.

In an effort to help Americans weed through a seemingly endless array of weight-loss plan options, U.S. News recruited a panel of 22 health experts (nutritionists and specialists in weight loss, diabetes, heart health, and human behavior) to rank 20 of today’s most popular diets. “The goal of the Best Diets rankings is to help consumers find authoritative guidance on healthful diets that will work for them over the long haul,” according to U.S. News Health News editor Lindsay Lyon in a press release.

The results include the the best weight-loss diets, the best diets overall, the best heart-healthy diets, the best diets for diabetes, and the best commercial diets.

Each diet was rated from one to five in the following categories: short-term weight loss (within 12 months), long-term weight loss (two years or more), ease of compliance (satiety, taste appeal, special requirements), nutritional completeness (based on the 2010 U.S. dietary

The Facts on Fad Diets

Weight loss veterans know that losing weight and keeping it off requires a long-term commitment, yet even savvy dieters can occasionally be tempted by the quickweight loss promised by fad diets. As each new “lose weight fast” gimmick comes along, some people forget about the negatives associated with most fad diets — from a lack of nutritional value to food restrictions that are hard to live with — while others might not know if the weight-loss plan they’re considering is a fad or a program that could be helpful over the long haul. Here’s how to tell a flash-in-the-pan plan from an effective one.

Beware Magical Claims and Passing Promises

“It seems to be human nature to be attracted to fad diets, which promise quick and easy results,” says Allen Knehans, PhD, chair of the department of nutritional sciences at Oklahoma University Health Sciences University in Oklahoma City. Weeding out fad diets takes a bit of effort because, Knehans acknowledges, “there is no standard definition of a fad diet.” Here are some of the red flags that indicate a weight-loss plan is an ineffective fad diet:

  • The diet promises that you will lose weight fast

Why Obesity Rates Are Rising Faster Than Ever

It seems everywhere we turn we hear about obesity. The statistics. The dangers. The effect it has on all areas of one’s life. The annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Indexsurvey released this week, which tracks respondents’ self-reported height and weight data, revealed that its tracked national obesity rate has risen to 27.7 percent — up from 25.5 in 2008. Mississippi has the highest obesity rate at 35.2 percent, while Hawaii is the only state where fewer than 1 in 5 residents are obese. And for the first time since 2008, there has been a sharp increase in the number of obese Americans ages 65 and older.

We know weight gain — especially excessive weight gain — is bad, but when you’re surrounded by all-you-can-eat buffets and communities not designed for walking, is there any hope of winning the battle of the bulge? The answer is a resounding yes, and the first step is knowing what obesity is and how it affects all of us.

Obesity: What Is It?

Over the last 25 years, obesity rates have been climbing steadily. While the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index finds 27.7 percent of Americans are obese, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate

Measuring Body Fat

Many people who are watching their weight — or trying to lose some pounds — turn to their bathroom scale. But that old familiar standby is not the only way to measure one’s size. Another possibility to consider is your body fat percentage.

Body Fat: What Are the Dangers?

When most of us hear the words “body fat” they have immediate negative connotations. However, in the right proportion, fat is actually critical to our diet and health. In the not-so-distant past, the ability to store extra body fat allowed our ancestors to survive in times of famine, when food was hard to come by. Even today it’s essential to keep the body functioning, to preserve body heat, and to protect organs from trauma.

Problems arise when our bodies store too much fat. This can lead to a variety of health issues, including high cholesterol, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and insulin resistance. Especially dangerous is fat stored at the waist, creating what is often called an “apple-shaped” body, as opposed to fat on the hips and thighs, a “pear-shaped” body.

“Normal body fat for men is around 8 to 15 percent of their total body

Several Types of Drinking Tied to Poor Diet

Spanish researchers surveyed more than 12,000 adults aged 18 to 64 about their drinking and eating habits. They found that heavy drinking, binge drinking, a preference for hard liquor and even drinking at mealtimes were associated with poor adherence to major nutrition guidelines.

Although drinking during mealtimes is traditionally associated with good health, the researchers found that this was not true if the drinkers ate carelessly.

“Our results are of relevance because they show that drinking at mealtimes is associated with insufficient intake of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and with excessive intake of animal protein,” said study corresponding author Jose Lorenzo Valencia-Martin, a doctor at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, said in a journal news release.

“In Spain, alcohol is frequently drunk during meals, particularly lunch and dinner. Because of this, and the lower prevalence of abstainers, our findings apply to most adults in Spain and in other Mediterranean countries in Europe,” he added.

Valencia-Martin pointed out that heavy drinkers were likely to develop liver disease, and that many tended to favor high-energy fast foods high in trans fat. Unfortunately, a diet high in trans fats might also contribute to

Trendy Foods With Serious Health Benefits

Food, like fashion, has its trends. And when it comes to the best foods for dieting and weight loss, trends come and go — what’s cool one day is passé the next. Usually, foods come into fashion because they’re thought to be more healthful than their more mainstream counterparts (think swapping brown rice for quinoa). Here’s what you need to know about the most recent batch of trendy foods.

Agave

This sugar substitute is made from cacti, and is thought to be a healthy alternative togranulated sugar in baking. “Cup for cup, agave and table sugar are about equal in the calorie department, but because agave is about 1.5 times sweeter than table sugar, you can use less of it to reach the same sweetness,” says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and owner of Essential Nutrition for You, a nutrition consulting firm. Agave’s main benefit, she says, is that it scores low on the glycemic index — between 15 and 30 compared with table sugar’s 65. “This means that consumption won’t result in dangerous spikes in blood sugar that table sugar so often causes, making it a possible safe alternative for diabetics,” says Batayneh.

Diet to Prevent Colon Cancer

New research into diet and colon cancer has exonerated some foods that were once thought to increase the risk of the disease. At the same time, research has confirmed that some food favorites — such as processed meats — do indeed increase the risk.

Diet and Colon Cancer: Processed Meat Alert

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined. As with many cancers, the most serious risk posed by food is simply eating too much of it. Obesity is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer, particularly among men.

Avoiding red and processed meat in your diet continues to be the mantra for colon cancer prevention. Over 10 years, high consumption of red meat increases the risk of cancer in the lower colon and rectum by 30 to 40 percent. For men, high consumption is three ounces of red meat daily; for women, it’s just two ounces.

The connection between colorectal cancer and processed meats is even stronger. Over 10 years, high consumption — one ounce five to six times per week for men and one ounce two to three times per

Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet, but there’s much discussion about the good and bad carbohydrates.

So how do you know which is which? The answer is both simple — and complex.

Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, often referred to as “carbs,” are your body’s primary energy source, and they’re a crucial part of any healthy diet. Carbs should never be avoided, but it is important to understand that not all carbs are alike.

Carbohydrates can be either simple (nicknamed “bad”) or complex (nicknamed “good”) based on their chemical makeup and what your body does with them.

Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and legumes, contain longer chains of sugar molecules; these usually take more time for the body to break down and use. This, in turn, provides you with a more even amount of energy, according to Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, a nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Ky.

The Detail on Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are composed of simple-to-digest, basic sugars with little real value for your body. The higher in sugar and lower in fiber, the worse the carbohydrate is for you — remember

The Hidden Fat Content in Your Diet

It’s probably no surprise that greasy cheeseburgers, French fries, and pizza are loaded with fat.

But did you know that even certain vegetables and healthy fish can have a high fat content?

Keep in mind that fat is an important part of a healthy diet and while not all fat is bad, the fat content of a given meal should be evaluated just as closely as its calories.

Fat Content in Your Diet: How Much Fat Is Okay?

It’s important to pay attention to how many fat grams you eat each day to make sure you’re getting just the right amount of fat in your diet and no more.

The recommendation is that no more than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat, says Anne Wolf, RD, a researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Based on the average daily total intake of 2,000 calories, this means we should eat less than 65 grams of fat each day. “Typically we’re eating well over what we need,” notes Wolf.

There are two kinds of fats, commonly considered “good” and “bad” fats. Saturated and trans fats are bad,

Can Diet Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

Little in life is as scary as the idea of forgetting our loved ones, our histories, and ourselves. Yet that is exactly what is happening to the more than 5 million people in North America suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Mild forgetfulness in the early years of the disease slowly expands to include serious problems with memory, language, and abstract reasoning until eventually this brain disorder robs its victims of the ability to function.

Despite extensive research, both cause and cure for Alzheimer’s disease remain elusive. Experts theorize that a complicated combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors result in cognitive decline, though they are still working on exactly how it happens and what can be done to prevent it.

One logical area of exploration is diet. While there have been no definitive breakthroughs yet, there are certain foods that are being carefully studied for their specific relationship to Alzheimer’s.

Diet and Alzheimer’s Disease: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and B Vitamins

“A few studies found a correlation between high dietary fish with omega-3 fatty acid intake and a decrease in developing Alzheimer’s,” says Tara Harwood, registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “However,

A Diet for Better Energy

Juggling the responsibilities of work, life, and family can cause too little sleep, too much stress, and too little time.

Yet even when you’re at your busiest, you should never cut corners when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet. Your body needs food to function at its best and to fight the daily stress and fatigue of life.

Energy and Diet: How The Body Turns Food Into Fuel

Our energy comes from the foods we eat and the liquids we drink. The three main nutrients used for energy are carbohydrates, protein, and fats, with carbohydrates being the most important source.

Your body can also use protein and fats for energy when carbs have been depleted. When you eat, your body breaks down nutrients into smaller components and absorbs them to use as fuel. This process is known as metabolism.

Carbohydrates come in two types, simple and complex, and both are converted to sugar (glucose). “The body breaks the sugar down in the blood and the blood cells use the glucose to provide energy,” says Melissa Rifkin, RD, a registered dietitian at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.

Energy