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Monthly Archives: November 2016

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 and Diet: Best Foods for Sustained Energy

Complex carbohydrates such as high-fiber cereals, whole-grain breads and pastas, dried beans, and starchy vegetables are the best type of foods for prolonged energy because they are digested at a slow, consistent rate. “Complex carbohydrates contain fiber, which takes a longer time to digest in the body as it is absorbed slowly,” says Rifkin. Complex carbs also stabilize your body’s sugar level, which in turn causes the pancreas to produce less insulin. This gives you a feeling of satiety and you are less hungry.”

Also important in a healthy, energy-producing diet is protein (preferably chicken, turkey, pork tenderloin, and fish), legumes (lentils and beans), and a moderate amount of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (avocados, seeds, nuts, and certain oils).

“Adequate fluids are also essential for sustaining energy,” says Suzanne Lugerner, RN, director of clinical nutrition at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. “Water is necessary for digestion, absorption, and the transport of nutrients for energy. Dehydration can cause a lack of energy. The average person needs to drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.”

Energy and Diet: Foods to Avoid

Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, should be limited. Ranging from candy and cookies to sugary beverages and juices, simple carbs are broken down and absorbed quickly by the body. They provide an initial burst of energy for 30 to 60 minutes, but are digested so quickly they can result in a slump afterward.

You should also avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is a depressant and can reduce your energy levels, while caffeine usually provides an initial two-hour energy burst, followed by a crash.

Energy and Diet: Scheduling Meals for Sustained Energy

“I always recommend three meals and three snacks a day and to never go over three to four hours without eating something,” says Tara Harwood, RD, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “If you become too hungry, this can cause you to overeat.”

Also, try to include something from each food group at every meal, remembering that foods high in fiber, protein, and fat take a longer time to digest.

Even if life is hectic, it’s important to make wise food choices that provide energy throughout the day. Your body will thank you.

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 and usually disappears after the baby’s birth.

The most common form of diabetes is type 2. Risk factors include being overweight; not getting enough physical activity; having a parent or sibling with diabetes; being African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander; being a woman who had gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds; having high blood pressure, having low HDL (good cholesterol) or high triglycerides; and having pre-diabetes.

Diabetes: Why Is It Dangerous?

“When poorly controlled diabetes causes blood glucose levels that are too high or too low, you may not feel well,” explains Claudia L. Morrison, RD, outpatient diabetes program coordinator at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. “Diabetes that is poorly controlled over time can lead to complications that affect the body from head to toe.” Issues can occur with everything from one’s eyes, kidneys, and nerves to reproductive organs, blood vessels, and gums. But the most serious problems are heart disease and risk of stroke.

Diabetes: What Role Does Diet Play?

“Food can either promote diabetes or help prevent it, depending on how it affects the body’s ability to process glucose,” says Elizabeth Ricanati, MD, medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lifestyle 180 Program in Cleveland. “People should avoid foods that increase blood sugar and those that raise cholesterol, such as processed foods, foods high in saturated fats or with trans fats, and foods with added sugars and syrups.”

Processed foods as well as items high in fat or sugar not only can disrupt the balance between glucose and insulin, resulting in inflammation, but can also contribute to risk factors such as being overweight.

Carbs, too, need to be watched. While they are necessary to fuel the body, some carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels more than others. “The glycemic index (GI) measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose,” says Morrison. “Foods are ranked based on how they compare to a reference food such as white bread. Dry beans and legumes, all non-starchy vegetables, and many whole-grain breads and cereals all have a low GI.”

Diabetes: What Is a Healthy Diet?

A healthy diet for diabetes is virtually the same as a healthy diet for anyone. Eat reasonably sized portions to avoid gaining weight, and include fruits and vegetables(limit juice to no more than eight ounces a day); whole grains rather than processed ones; fish and lean cuts of meat; beans and legumes; and liquid oils. Limit saturated fats and high-calorie snacks and desserts like chips, cake, and ice cream, and stay away from trans fats altogether.

Thirty minutes of exercise most days of the week and losing 5 to 10 percent of body weight, if a person is overweight, are also crucial in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Finally, anyone experiencing frequent urination, extreme thirst or hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurry vision, or frequent infections should see a doctor for a blood test to check for diabetes. With careful attention and healthy lifestyle choices, diabetes can be kept under control.

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, not getting enough can lead to too much sodium in your blood.

Hence, getting plenty of potassium can help prevent and control high blood pressure.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, even if you don’t have hypertension, so everyone should monitor alcoholic intake.

Healthy women of all ages and men older than 65 should limit themselves to one drink a day, while men 65 and younger can stick to up to two drinks a day.

Keep in mind that one drink is a 4 oz. glass of wine, 12 oz. beer, or a small amount of hard liquor (1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits).

Supplements and High Blood Pressure

There’s no solid evidence that any supplement can help lower your blood pressure, but a few healthcare providers believe that supplements might have some benefit.

More research is needed to determine what role, if any, supplements might play in lowering blood pressure.

Talk with your doctor before taking any of the following since some supplements can interact with medications and cause deadly side effects.

  • Fiber, such as blond psyllium and wheat bran
  • Minerals, such as calcium and potassium
  • Supplements that increase nitric oxide or widen blood vessels, such as cocoa, coenzyme Q10, or garlic
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Probiotics (though their potential effect on blood pressure is not known)

DASH Diet

Once diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, which focuses on heart-healthy foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and rich in nutrients, protein, and fiber.

Foods may include the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Nuts

DASH limits the following:

  • Red meats (including lean red meats)
  • Sweets
  • Added sugars
  • Sugar-containing drinks

While your doctor will help tailor the DASH diet to your needs, the following is an example of the recommended servings from each food group for someone on the diet who is consuming 2,000 calories a day.

  • 6 to 8 servings a day of grains
  • 4 to 5 servings a day of vegetables
  • 4 to 5 servings a day of fruits
  • 2 to 3 servings a day of dairy
  • 6 or fewer servings a day of lean meat, poultry, and fish
  • 4 to 5 servings a week of nuts, seeds, and legumes
  • 2 to 3 servings a day of fats and oils
  • 5 or fewer sweets a week

What about a Mediterranean Diet?

Common characteristics of a Mediterranean diet include the following:

  • High consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds
  • Olive oil as a common monounsaturated fat source
  • Dairy products, fish, and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts
  • Little red meat is eaten
  • Eggs are consumed zero to four times a week
  • Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts

While you may have heard of the health benefits surrounding a Mediterranean diet, the American Heart Association states that before it would recommend the diet, further studies are needed to determine whether the diet alone is the reason for lower death rates from heart disease in Mediterranean countries, or if other lifestyle factors such as more physical activity and extended social support systems contribute.

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 to your diet.
  • Sugary sodas contribute to obesity and diabetes. Soda is loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener that has been linked to obesity. Soda consumption also has been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, both due to its sugar content and its effects on the body’s hormones. And diet soda? It may not be any better. At least one study has linked artificial sweeteners, such as those used in diet sodas, to increased appetite, greater difficulty losing weight, and a harder time maintaining weight loss.
  • Soda damages your teeth. The sugar in soda coats your teeth, combining with bacteria in your mouth to form acid. Both regular and diet soda also contain carbolic acid through carbonation. These acids work to weaken tooth enamel, causing cavities and tooth decay.
  • Drinking soda can weaken your bones. Most sodas contain phosphorous and caffeine, agents that are believed to contribute to osteoporosis. Experts also worry that people consume soda in place of milk or other healthy drinks, depriving the bones of calcium.
  • Soda can harm your major organs. Research has demonstrated that increased soft drink consumption may be linked to chronic kidney disease, development of metabolic syndrome (a group of symptoms that add up to increased heart risk), and fatty liver, a chronic liver disease.

Healthy Drink Alternatives

Luckily, there are limitless options when choosing a healthy drink over a soda pop. Some soda alternatives include:

  • Water. It is the ultimate healthy drink. “It’s free in every sense of the word,” Gans says. “It has no calories and it comes straight from your tap.”
  • Fruit juice. Gans urges you not to drink straight fruit juice, which contains a lot of sugar. “Drink some seltzer with a splash of juice for a little flavoring,” she says. “Rather than drinking juice, eat a piece of whole fruit. You’re also getting the fiber in the fruit.”
  • Milk. This is another essential healthy drink, particularly for kids. “An 8-ounce glass of nonfat milk has 80 calories and nine essential nutrients,” Gans says. “You get a lot of bang for your buck.”
  • Tea. Whatever teas you prefer — green, black, herbal — they all have been shown to contain high levels of antioxidants, which are believed to protect the body from damage.
  • Powdered drink mixes. They contain no tooth-rotting carbonation, and come in sugar-free varieties. They give your sweet tooth a fix without harming your overall nutrition.

And remember that you can always cut up some fresh fruit and pop a little into a tall glass of water for an extra flavor kick. Choosing healthy drinks over soda: Give it a try. Your body will thank you.