Tag Archives: diet

Diabetes May Shrink Your Brain

20 Mar
As if having Type 2 diabetes wasn’t bad enough, there’s now evidence that diabetes contributes to a reduction in the size of your brain.

According to new research, the onset of Type 2 diabetes in middle age, especially when combined with high blood pressure, may actually reduce the size of your brain, when compared to those who do not have diabetes. Those who developed diabetes after 65 showed no significant brain impact from the disease, suggesting that the damage is caused over decades.

What’s the impact of diabetes over decades? Diminished memory and early onset of dementia.

According to researcher Rosebud O. Roberts, M.B, CH.B, of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, “Our study shows that the earlier you have these conditions, the worse your brain pathology is late in life.”

Cognitive decline goes hand-in-hand with aging. When diabetes is added to the mix, this decline accelerates. Diabetes is thought to hamper blood circulation and weaken tiny blood vessels in the brain, which causes tissue damage and necrosis (tissue death). This new research suggests that the altered glucose metabolism in the brains of diabetics may also lead to the decay of neurons, the cells which transmit signals between nerves. In either case, the progressive brain damage leads to diminished mental functions required for day-to-day tasks – like taking your diabetes medicine. Forgetfulness then creates a vicious cycle of poor blood sugar management, which in turn worsens the decline in cognitive abilities. The end resut may be dementia, Alzheimer’s, or stroke.

How big is the difference between diabetic and non-diabetic brains? On average, those who developed diabetes in middle age had brains that were nearly 3 percent smaller, and their hippocampi were 4 percent smaller than those of non-diabetics. The hippocampus is the area of the brain which controls emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system, responsible for functions like digestion, breathing, and heartbeat.

“When your hippocampus begins to shrink, you begin to lose your long-term memory and your ability to remember recent events,” said Roberts, who also is a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “If you have type 2 diabetes, you have an increased risk of brain damage, but if you control your diabetes well, it should reduce the damage that is being caused in your brain.” And people with high blood pressure in midlife were twice as likely to have damage caused by micro-strokes to the hippocampus.

The bottom line? If you develop hypertension or Type 2 diabetes around middle age or younger, you can limit its impact on your brain – and all of your other organs for that matter – by controlling your blood sugar with exercise, diet, and medication.

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Type 2 Diabetes: Easy to Prevent, Difficult to Cure

19 Feb
It’s no secret that Type 2 diabetes is at epidemic levels worldwide. In fact, China announced in the summer of 2013 that they have more Type 2 diabetics than any other nation. Type 2 diabetes is also showing up in teens and adolescents with alarming frequency. If the spread of the disease continues at its current rate, the CDC estimates that there will be nearly half a billion type 2 diabetics worldwide in 2030.

how to prevent diabetes

What’s most alarming about type 2 diabetes and difficult for the newly-diagnosed to absorb, are the devastating long-term consequences of the disease. The list of diabetes-related complications is long: cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, mild to severe nerve damage, blindness, circulation problems which lead to the amputation of a toe, foot, or leg, and many other problems. In fact, diabetes has become the 7th leading cause of death.

A remarkable fact is that 9 out of 10 cases of Type 2 diabetes are completely preventable. Simply by keeping weight under control, exercising, eating a proper diet, and not smoking, all but the most genetically predetermined cases could be avoided. But unlike many other diseases, the early symptoms of diabetes can be very subtle, and creeps up on a person over a period of years. Sometimes a patient has no idea they have diabetes until they’re laying in a hospital ER with out of control blood glucose levels.

“Information from several clinical trials strongly supports the idea that type 2 diabetes is preventable. The Diabetes Prevention Program examined the effect of weight loss and increased exercise on the development of type 2 diabetes among men and women with high blood sugar readings that hadn’t yet crossed the line to diabetes. In the group assigned to weight loss and exercise, there were 58 percent fewer cases of diabetes after almost three years than in the group assigned to usual care. Even after the program to promote lifestyle changes ended, the benefits persisted: The risk of diabetes was reduced, albeit to a lesser degree, over 10 years.  Similar results were seen in a Finnish study of weight loss, exercise, and dietary change, and in a Chinese study of exercise and dietary change.”  – Harvard School Of Public Health

The Harvard School of Public health has suggestions as to how you can prevent Type 2 diabetes

1. Control your weight. Being overweight increases the chance that you’ll develop diabetes, sevenfold. Being obese makes you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop the disease. But there’s hope, if you fall into one of those categories – lose 10% of your body weight and your chances of developing the disease decrease by half.

2. Get moving. Inactivity increases your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. Working your muscles regularly improves their ability to utilize glucose and insulin, but this doesn’t necessarily mean pumping iron in a gym. In fact, studies have shown that walking briskly for 30 minutes every day reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 30 percent.

Are you a television junkie? New research concludes that this particular form of inactivity – sitting motionless, staring at the screen for hours – actually increases your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes by 20 percent (not to mention the potential cardiovascular issues you’ll develop). We also tend to eat more when we’re parked in front of the TV, spurred on by all of the suggestions in the commercials.

3. Improve your diet.

a. Choose whole grains over highly processed white flour/white sugar products. In the Nurses’ Health Studies for example, researchers looked at the whole grain consumption of more than 160,000 women whose health and dietary habits were followed for 18 years. Women who averaged two to three servings of whole grains a day were 30 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who rarely ate whole grains. When the researchers combined these results with those of several other large studies, they found that eating an extra 2 servings of whole grains a day decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 21 percent.

Whole wheat doesn’t contain a magic ingredient – it’s the opposite effect. White rice, white bread, mashed potatoes, donuts, bagels, and similar foods cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which over time can lead to type 2 diabetes. Substitute whole grains for white, and they break down more slowly in your gut, which slows down the speed at which your blood sugars rise. You’ll also eat less of them compared to white flour products, because the fiber will make you feel full.

b. Skip the sugar in beverages. Since the beginning of time, your body’s preferred beverage was water, followed a thousand years later by tea, and then coffee. Beverages with high amounts of sugar – sodas, fruit juices**, fruit cocktails, energy drinks, Kool Aid, and the like – spike blood sugar quickly and put a load of stress on insulin levels. There is also mounting evidence that sugary drinks contribute to chronic inflammation, increased insulin resistance, high triglyceride levels, and lower “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels, all of which are risk factors for diabetes.

c. Swap good fats for bad fats

Good: liquid vegetable oils, nuts, seeds.

Bad: margarines, fats used in packaged baked goods and fast food, and products which include “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on their label.

d. Avoid red meat and processed meat. Many people believe that they can’t live without a serving of meat every day, yet nothing is further from the truth. While it’s true that we need plenty of protein in our diet, we can easily substitute beans, nuts, and whole grains instead. You’ll also feel a bit lighter and less bloated doing so.

New research has indicated that red meat and processed meat may actually increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. It’s not completely understood why this is so, but scientists believe that the high iron levels in red meat may be to blame, or the sodium and preservatives in processed meats.

4. Kick the habit. In addition to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease, smoking cigarettes is now linked to Type 2 diabetes as well. Smokers are 50% more likely than non-smokers to become diabetic, and heavy smokers are at an even higher risk.

To sum it up, diabetes in most cases can be prevented by eating right and getting regular, moderate exercise, both of which will keep your weight under control.

**Note that fruit juices are included in the list, but this is not to say that juice fresh-squeezed by you from an orange or grapefruit is bad for you. Bottled fruit juices – even those that are labeled 100%fruit juice – in most cases have had their sugar content boosted by partially dehydrating the juice. When the water is reduced, the sugar content goes up. Notice the difference between the juice you squeeze from a fresh orange and the o.j. that comes in a carton. Night and day.

How much sugar is hiding in your food?

7 Feb

You may have cut out adding white sugar to your cereal or coffee, but did you know that you’re still getting loads of sugar in many of the products you buy?

sugars hidden in food

Sure, you realize that there’s sugar in the obvious things like candy, soda, snack cakes and cookies. But do you also know that there’s lots of added sugar in products like spaghetti sauce, tonic water, fruit cocktail, fruit punch, frozen pancakes, baked beans, canned soup, ketchup, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, flavored popcorn, energy drinks, and even granola?

These added sources of sugar multiply quickly in your diet, but are quite mysterious to most consumers. When food manufacturers add sugar to a product, the label doesn’t always list it as “sugar”, because it takes many forms: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, corn starch, dextroglucose, evaporated cane sugar, maltodextrin, or dozens of other names. And on “natural” labels, you might see brown rice syrup, agave nectar, or pear juice. Yep, they’re added sugars, too. Here’s an excellent primer on sugars from Colorado State University.

So how do you know if sugar is added to your food?

The safest thing to assume about prepared food that comes in a bottle, bag, or a box (including any and all fast food) is that sugar has been added to it, and probably in copious amounts. Manufacturers do this because quite frankly, we humans love it and can’t seem to get enough of it. But unfortunately, we’ve so overloaded our bodies with it, that new research has even linked sugar to heart disease, even in those who aren’t obese or diabetic. The study also proves a link between sugar and high blood pressure, inflammation, and unhealthy triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Very sobering.

Here’s an infographic from the Cleveland Clinic on hidden sugars.

hidden sugar in food

Click for full size

How to reduce sugar in your diet

If there is no added sugar in a product, the manufacturer will most likely note that on the front of the package, or the packaging will describe it as “100% (something)”. The simplest way to avoid added sugar in your diet is to spend more time in the kitchen cooking your own meals, just like your grandma did. It doesn’t have to be difficult – a box of 100% whole wheat pasta and a can of tomatoes (not sauce) is the start of an excellent, nutrition-rich meal. Or brown rice and a can of black beans. Roast a chicken on the weekend and pick it apart for sandwiches during the week, and throw pieces in your tomatoes and pasta for a cacciatore. Cook a big pot of soup or stew on the weekend and use it in the first half of the week. You get the idea.

And become a label reader in the supermarket. There’s no shame in it, and you and your family will get a lot healthier.

Read more: Harvard School of Public Health: Added Sugar in the diet.

How to get your diet back on track after the holidays

7 Jan
Do you feel like you’ve blown up as big as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon? Us, too.  That period between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day is full of temptation to overeat, especially when it’s unusually cold outdoors. The get-all-the-food-I-can-now primitive part of your brain is in overdrive, attempting to amass as many calories as possible to get you through winter.
overeating holidays diet

Have you ballooned to the size of Kung-Fu Panda?

Unfortunately, our evolutionary instincts haven’t kept pace with the 24/7 availability of food, so our rational mind needs to step in at times to exert some control. And of course, that’s where the plan falls apart for those of us who lack a certain willpower. Christmas cookies just beg to be devoured, as do the specialty meats, stuffing, cheeses, breads, sauces, cakes, eggnog, you name it. Sometimes it seems that your hands and body are acting independently of your mind, and there’s a good reason for that. The sugars and fats in those foods are packed with calories. At one time in our evolutionary history, foods that were calorie dense were very hard to come by, and when our ancestors were able to get their hands on them, they devoured as much as possible in case food became in short supply. That primitive part of the brain is still very active in our decision making.

Getting rid of the winter weight

When we’re carrying 5, 10, or 15 additional pounds of “winter weight”, the fastest way to drop it and get your diet back on track is to swing as far as possible in the opposite direction. Load your plate with fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and whole grains, and take a pass on foods which contain refined sugar and unhealthy fats. For protein, instead of meat, substitute low fat, PLAIN yogurt or a handful of walnuts or almonds.

Be careful on your choice of yogurt. Read the label, as many manufacturers have added so many fillers, corn syrups, and other sugars to their “yogurt” offerings, that there’s little in the way of actual yogurt in the product. Also beware of the “natural” label, as there are no government standards regulating what exactly “natural” means, food-wise. The safest bet is always to buy plain yogurt and add fresh fruit to sweeten it up.

As far as nuts are concerned, there are those who shy away because of the fear of calories. But you’re wiser to think in terms of healthy/unhealthy calories instead of obsessing over the number. Walnuts and almonds are jam-packed with nutrition, including fiber and Omega-3’s. A handful of unsalted, unsweetened nuts at 200 calories is better than a diet cookie at 150.

The bottom line is, it’s difficult to eat too much salad. That is, as long as you don’t load it with fat-heavy dressings. This is another pet peeve of ours, as food manufacturers continue to push the limits in this area  – what is perceived as a healthful food is in some cases as loaded with fat calories as a triple burger from a drive-through (seriously).You’re always best off drizzling a little Extra Virgin olive oil and organic vinegar on your salad – healthful fat and no fillers.

And speaking of triple burgers at drive-throughs, avoid fast food like the plague. Giving in to that gotta-eat-now urge will unwind a few days’ worth of healthful meals. It just isn’t worth it.

Here then are a few menu ideas to lose weight in the new year without starving yourself. Pounds will drop even faster with regular, moderate exercise like walking.

All meals: Drink a full glass of water sweetened with fresh squeezed lemon before eating. The water fills you up and flushes your cells. The lemon stimulates your liver to dispose of toxic elements. This will also prevent you from overeating, as thirst/hunger can sometimes feel identical.

You’ll also notice that grains in the form of bread are missing. Bread was once called “the staff of life”, but white bread in a bag was not what was meant. Breads baked from grains which lack fiber are absolutely terrible for your body and blood sugar levels. If you include bread, choose fresh-baked from a bakery and choose whole grains or sourdough only. But even here, eat just 1 thin slice until you hit your body weight target, as the bread packs a considerable carb load, and it takes time to burn off those calories and blood sugar.

Breakfast:

Water, Unsweetened coffee or tea

Whole oats cooked on stove or microwave (sweeten with 1 tsp brown sugar, if necessary)

1/4 cup of walnuts

1 cup of fresh fruit

This is one of the most satisfying breakfasts. The fiber in the oats and fruit fills you up and the protein in the nuts keeps you satisfied until lunch.

Lunch:

Water, Unsweetened coffee or tea

Egg white omelet with vegetable stuffing (no cheese, sorry)

Fresh fruit

We normally aren’t against including egg yolks in your omelette, but if you’re trying to drop weight, bypassing the yolks will reduce the fat and calorie load.

Dinner:

Mixed green salad with broccoli, asparagus, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and/or fresh green beans (as much as you like and in any combination you like)

Extra Virgin olive oil with organic red wine vinegar (no store-bought dressing)

1/4 cup almonds

As we said earlier, you can’t eat too much fresh salad, where your health is concerned. No one ever got heart disease from spinach.

Stick with meals like those above, and your extra weight should be off by Valentine’s Day. Happy eating!

Why Your Spouse Always Has Cold Feet

13 Dec

Does the temperature of your bedroom plummet when your partner crawls under the bed sheets? When their icy cold feet touch yours, do you scream?

cold_feet

Sometimes, always-cold feet aren’t attributable to any condition. This is especially true in women. In fact, it’s been reported that women are nine times more likely to have cold feet than men. Perhaps this is because men have considerably more muscle mass in their feet, and consequently, more blood flow. In women, the blood supply favors their core and trunk, not their hands and feet.

But certain conditions and diseases can cause perpetually icy feet. Usually, it’s due to poor circulation – not enough blood reaches the skin. If you get up and walk around, or put on a pair of slippers or thermal socks, you can warm them back up. But poor circulation can also be caused by smoking, low iron in the blood, a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep, shoes that are too tight, and other factors.

In women, a very common cause of cold feet is hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive. Accompanying the cold feet in this case are cold hands, hair loss, and weight gain. A blood test can determine if you have hypothyroidism, and oral medicine can in most instances correct it.

Raynaud’s Disease is usually seen in young women. It’s a rare disorder in which the lack of blood flow to the feet and hands is caused by spasms in the blood vessels.

Constantly perspiring, a condition called Hyperhidrosis, can also cause cold feet, especially if the surrounding air temperature is on the cool side. Hyperhidrosis is linked to a number of conditions, among them diabetes, anxiety disorders, menopause, and stroke. Consult with your physician to determine the exact cause of your hyperhidrosis.

Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy is a common side effect of diabetes, the result of nerve damage. Individuals with DPN may feel cold sensations in their feet, but their skin may be a normal temperature. DPN may also cause tingling sensations, numbness, and pain. Podiatrists and podiatric surgeons are experts at treating Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy and have many tools at their disposal to relieve the symptoms.

Like so many other maladies, cold feet also go hand-in-hand with aging. As we get on in years, our blood doesn’t flow as robustly as it once did. Our hands and feet are the first to feel the effects, as the capillaries that feed the fingers and toes become damaged or blocked. This is a condition called distal hypothermia.

Warm feet are a good sign that you’re healthy. If your feet are constantly cold, visit the podiatrists at PA Foot and Ankle Associates for an examination and diagnosis. Conditions identified and treated early can be more easily resolved than those that have progressed far along.

 

Coffee Found To Cut Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

22 Nov

coffee type 2 diabetesWell, if you couldn’t find a reason for drinking more coffee, you have one now. Recent studies have shown that coffee not only reduces the risk of depression and Alzheimer’s but also lowers blood glucose levels in Type 2 diabetics.

In an analysis of previous studies, researchers discovered that 2 or more cups of caffeinated coffee each day decreased your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 12 percent. “Unleaded” coffee offered some reduction, but much less than caffeinated.

Additionally, research reported by the World Congress on Prevention of Diabetes showed that 3-4 cups of regular coffee each day may reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by a whopping 25 percent. This report also showed that regular coffee was much more protective among women of all ethnic groups than decaffeinated.

What’s the secret ingredient in caffeinated coffee that lowers blood glucose?

The researchers who conducted the study haven’t pinpointed exactly why coffee has this affect, but they suspect it may be the action of one of the plant compounds found in the magic bean, chlorogenic acid (CGA). In previous studies, CGA has been shown to slow the absorption of glucose.

Dr. Joe Vinson, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Scranton (Pennsylvania), said that coffee is a major dietary source of chlorogenic acid. CGA occurs naturally in apples, cherries, plums, and other fruits and vegetables, and in copious amounts in green and unroasted coffee beans. But the high temps used to roast coffee breaks down much of the CGA, so Vinson suggests that to get the greatest benefit, one should eat the green or unroasted coffee beans, or take green coffee extract as a dietary supplement. In fact, in a previous study, Vinson found that overweight and obese people who took the extract lost 10 percent of their body weight in 22 weeks. “There was a significant dose-response effect of the green coffee extract and no apparent gastrointestinal side effects,” Vinson said. In other words, the higher the dose of green coffee extract, the more the study participant’s blood glucose was lowered. 

But researchers at UCLA have another theory. They discovered that women who drank 4 cups of caffeinated coffee each day had higher levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). This chemical regulates the body’s sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone, which are thought by some to play a role in Type 2 diabetes. They found that women who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee each day had significantly higher levels of SHBG than those who drank no coffee. These coffee drinkers were also 56 percent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. And once again, the researchers found that drinking decaffeinated coffee offered no protection.

Of course, your best defense against diabetes is a healthy diet, and perhaps now, coffee too. Make mine a vat!coffee protects against type 2 diabetes

Can Vitamin D Lower Your Risk Of Diabetes?

20 Nov

Vitamin-DPhysicians have suspected for some time that Vitamin D may play a role in the control of blood sugar and prevent the onset of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.  Studies have already shown that a vitamin D supplement taken during pregnancy or in infancy can reduce the risk of Type 1 diabetes.

Now, a new, large-scale study is getting underway funded by the National Institutes of Health, to determine if Vitamin D can control or prevent Type 2 diabetes.

What is Vitamin D’s role in your body?

You’re probably familiar with the fact that along with calcium, Vitamin D is critical for building and maintaining bone mass. But Vitamin D plays a much wider role in your body, affecting many system-wide functions. Chronically low levels of Vitamin D are associated with many chronic diseases, most famously rickets.

In the new study, scientists are examining

  • the ability of vitamin D to influence certain cells in the pancreas (pancreatic beta-cells) known to store and release insulin
  • if vitamin D influences insulin sensitivity by stimulating insulin receptors
  • if vitamin D affects insulin secretion and sensitivity by regulating calcium levels in cells
  • if vitamin D boosts the level of T-cells in your body, which would influence the steps leading to Type 1 diabetes

If vitamin D is found to influence or regulate these systems in your body, it could go a long way towards explaining why Type 2 diabetes has become epidemic. The theory goes that the typical high-carb, high in red meat, low-D diet of most Americans results in levels of the vitamin far below what’s needed for proper function. Additionally, our sedentary, mostly indoor lifestyle leaves little opportunity for our bodies to synthesize vitamin D by way of sunlight.

In an analysis from the Nurses Health Study, there was a statistically significant association with lower risk of type 2 diabetes among women who reported the highest intake of both vitamin D and calcium… A statistically significant association between higher vitamin D status and lower risk of incident type 2 diabetes was also reported among men in the Mini-Finland Health Survey. – National Institutes of Health

How can you get enough vitamin D?

The answer to that question is shockingly simple: eat the right foods and spend some time in the sun.

Many foods are rich in vitamin D, primarily those in the fish family (see below). Additionally, your body can produce much of the vitamin D it needs simply by exposing your skin to direct sunlight. Ultraviolet radiation penetrates uncovered skin and converts certain fat-dwelling substances in your cells into the precursor for vitamin D3. The season of the year, cloud cover, smog, and the amount of melanin in your skin all affect how much is produced. Fortunately, the vitamin D produced this way is stored in your liver and fat cells and can be drawn upon as needed by your body.

It’s important to note that this synthesis of vitamin D by sunlight can only happen outdoors by allowing the sun to directly shine on your skin. Sitting near a sunny window won’t help at all. Ten to thirty minutes of midday sun exposure (10 am-3 pm) at least twice each week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen is usually sufficient to build enough D reserves. Despite its importance in synthesizing vitamin D, don’t go on a massive D-quest and expose your skin to direct sunlight for hours at a time. UV radiation from sunlight and tanning beds has the potential to act as a carcinogen in your body, causing metastatic melanoma. Everything in moderation.

Foods that are naturally high in Vitamin D (does not include foods fortified with vitamin D)

  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Swordfish
  • Shiitake and Button Mushrooms
  • Beef Liver
  • Mackerel
  • Sockeye Salmon
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Catfish
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Eggs

If you’re diabetic, maintain your “D”

It all once again, comes down to a healthy diet and moderate amounts of exercise. Diabetics and non-diabetics alike should be cutting down on their red meat intake, and swapping it for the fish mentioned above. It is also recommended that 1/2 of the food on your plate at lunch and dinner be vegetables, preferably fresh. You can easily get enough sunlight to produce Vitamin D by exercising outdoors a few times a week, by simply walking for 20-30 minutes and making sure the sun is hitting your face, hands, and arms (assuming you don’t have a health condition which prohibits this).

As part of your diabetes management, have your physician check your vitamin D levels to make sure they’re sufficient. If they’re lacking, start on a complete vitamin D supplement, start exercising outdoors, and follow the dietary guidelines above. However, don’t make the mistake of taking a vitamin D supplement in lieu of getting it through diet and sunlight – too much vitamin D in this form has been associated with kidney stones and other complications. Many foods not on the list are fortified with vitamin D: milk, cereals, orange juice, yogurt and cheese, but check each product’s label, as amounts differ.

The federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that “nutrients should come primarily from foods. Foods in nutrient-dense, mostly intact forms contain not only the essential vitamins and minerals that are often contained in nutrient supplements, but also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects. …Dietary supplements…may be advantageous in specific situations to increase intake of a specific vitamin or mineral.”

Holiday Meal Planning for Diabetics

14 Nov

family-cooking-thanksgiving-dinnerTurkey. Cranberry sauce. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes. Green beans. Corn. Carrots. Biscuits. Pumpkin Pie. Pecan Pie. Apple Pie.

There are a thousand ways to prepare these basic components of the holiday feast. But it’s in the preparation, with the addition of fats and sugars, where the unhealthy calories intrude, and the invariable blood sugar spikes for diabetics.

For chefs, the key to keeping your weight and blood sugar under control at the holiday feast is to prepare these foods with a minimum of added fat and sugar (nix the deep fried turkey!).  The American Diabetes Association recommends that you always roast a turkey, as it cooks in its own juices, which keeps the calories down. When you deep fry it, or glaze it, the calories shoot through the roof. Make the mashed potatoes with low-fat milk and olive oil instead of butter. Steam vegetables and serve with an olive oil and herb drizzle, instead of baking them in a casserole with creamy sauces. Bake the stuffing in a casserole instead of inside the turkey – this cuts way down on the fat. Serve fresh cranberries, one of the healthiest fruits on the planet – when sold as cranberry sauce, they become something else entirely.

If you’re a guest at the feast, choose wisely and eat modestly. At dinner time, take the skin off your turkey, and choose white meat instead of dark. The ADA says that “White turkey meat (without skin) is low in fat and high in protein. It is a good source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins. It is also one of the only parts of the Thanksgiving meal with no carbohydrate.”  Say “no” or “just a pinch” to butter and gravy, and take a big portion of fresh vegetables and a small portion of white potatoes. If you have a glass of wine, drink it with dinner, instead of before. Alcohol metabolizes much more slowly in the presence of food.

There’s really very little difference in sound diet advice for diabetics or non-diabetics. The modern American diet, the primary culprit in the diabetes epidemic, is so far off the rails, that it would do us all some good to reign it in a little this holiday. For anyone, a healthy diet is one with generous portions of fruits and vegetables, and is low in fat, sugar, and salt.

Start Thanksgiving and Christmas Day with a healthy breakfast: high fiber cereal, fresh fruit, whole wheat toast with olive oil, or a scrambled egg with smoked salmon on toast. Instead of snacking on cookies, keep a bag of baby carrots or your favorite vegetables handy and reach for those instead. High fiber foods give us a full feeling much faster than those that are low in fiber.

After the meal, go for a walk with family members – it’s a great way to catch up, enjoy some fresh air, and burn off calories and excess blood sugar at the same time. It will also keep you from falling into a turkey coma (which really isn’t from the turkey, it’s from the carbohydrates).

But whether you’re diabetic or not, we darn well know that we’ll probably eat if not too much, then more than we should. To deal with the extra calorie load, exercise more strenuously for a few days before the feast and for a few days after.

Ask your family members to support you and to help you celebrate another year of good health.

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