Monday, October 31, 2016

How Carbohydrates Affect Blood Sugars for Diabetics

How Carbs Affect Blood Sugars for Diabetics
How Carbs Affect Blood Sugars for Diabetics

Keeping blood sugar levels stable is important for those who suffer from diabetes. Doctors are likely to mention to diabetics the role that carbohydrates play in the diet. But which foods are actually classified as carbs, and how do they affect blood sugar? Here is some important information for diabetics when it comes to monitoring carbohydrate intake.

The foods we eat contain nutrition to provide energy to the body and a large contributor to that energy is carbohydrates. There are two forms of carbohydrates, including sugars and starches. While sugars refer to things like fructose, lactose, and glucose, starches are foods like potatoes, corn, rice, grains, and bread.

The body breaks down most carbs and converts them into glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream and used for energy. Glucose and insulin work together to maintain a proper blood sugar level in healthy people after they eat a meal or consume sugar.

People with diabetes, however, cannot decrease their blood sugar levels once they have risen because they have problems with their insulin. Type 1 Diabetes causes the pancreas to lose the ability to make insulin, while Type 2 Diabetes prevents the body from having a healthy response to its insulin.

Because the body transforms carbs into glucose, eating carbs raises the level of blood sugar. This does not mean that carbohydrates must be avoided, but they need to be consumed with care. Carbs are an essential part of an overall healthy and nutritious diet.

Some carbs are healthier than others. There are two additional categories: complex carbs and simple carbs.

Complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber and may be called a dietary starch. They are made of sugar molecules that are branched or strung together like a necklace or a coil. Their fiber content makes them a satisfying food that is beneficial to health. Complex carbs are most often found in whole plant foods, which also adds to their high vitamin and mineral content. The fiber found in complex carbs is crucial to the diet because it keeps the digestive system working efficiently. Eating lots of fiber can actually help slow down the body's absorption of sugar. People who have diabetes can especially benefit from fiber because of its ability to control blood sugar.

Simple carbohydrates, however, are sugars. They are simply made up of one or two sugar molecules. Simple carbs are a fast source of energy and are very quickly digested. These carbs are lacking in the nutritional content that complex carbs provide, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Sugar found in foods like fruit are simple carbohydrates. These can also be added to foods during production, like heavy syrup or other added sugars. Simple carbohydrates begin to raise blood sugar levels very quickly after consumption, which leads a diabetic person to need insulin.

The glycemic index is used to assign a value to a food based on how quickly the food causes the blood sugar to rise. Foods that are low on the glycemic index scale release glucose at a slow and steady pace, which is beneficial for those with diabetes. However, foods with a high glycemic index release glucose very quickly, causing blood sugars to rise at a rapid rate. Foods that are low on the glycemic index foster weight loss and foods with a high glycemic index provide immediate energy and can offset hypo-glycemia. People with diabetes need to concentrate on foods with a low glycemic index, due to their inability to produce enough insulin. The slow release of glucose in foods that are low-glycemic is helpful in controlling blood sugar.

The best way to manage carbohydrate intake is to choose whole foods that have not been processed. Choosing to eat from plant sources such as whole fruit rather than juice, and fresh vegetables rather than potato chips will guarantee your body is getting the complex carbohydrates it needs, along with fiber, and crucial vitamins and minerals.

When buying foods that are pre-packaged, look at food labels to ensure that corn syrup or other high glycemic index sugars are not among the first five ingredients on the list.

A diabetes care team can assist in finding the right amount of carbs to include in your meal plan to cater to your diabetes. They can also help you learn how to split up a number of carbs you need between each meal to help you manage levels of blood sugar. Because carbohydrates can raise the blood sugar more than other foods, some people with diabetes may consider eliminating them from the diet. However, they provide the body with energy, as well as much-needed vitamins and minerals.

Juliana Mazzo is the Director of the Nutrition Wellness Center in Nassau County NY.  Learn more about Diabetic Diets by visiting her website.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Heart-Healthy Diet Tips for People with High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension can lead to serious heart and coronary artery damage. It’s important to keep your blood pressure under control to protect against heart attack, congestive heart failure, heart disease, vessel damage, aortic dissection or atherosclerosis.

One major way to keep your heart healthy if you have hypertension is to eat a diet that helps reduce blood pressure, decrease inflammation, balances hormones, and strengthen blood vessels, which will in turn lessen your chances of developing heart disease.

  • Maintaining a healthy weight is very important. If overweight, dropping just 10 lbs. will decrease blood pressure.
  • Watching the waist line: Waist circumference of greater than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men also increase the risk of heart disease.
Hypertension can be classified as:
  • Portal hypertension often caused by poor liver function, liver congestion, or cirrhosis.
  • Renal hypertension is caused by hormones regulated by the kidneys.
  • Idiopathic hypertension means without known cause.
However, one of the main cause for hypertension is due to a series of hormonal imbalances mainly fueled by the hormone insulin. Even though insulin is the main hormone regulator of blood sugar, it has a major effect on blood pressure. All carbohydrates convert to sugar and require the action of insulin to metabolize them. Eating excess carbohydrates that the body cannot process leads to excess insulin production. This excess insulin causes fluid retention at the kidney level and constriction of the arteries and hence an increase in blood pressure and vessel damage.

Foods to Avoid to Prevent High Blood Pressure Treatments

All hydrogenated fats also known as Trans-fats. These are found in margarine and all fake-butter substitutes as well as most processed foods. Check labels. These are the real culprits of heart disease and most other “western diseases”.  Avoid all margarine and butter substitutes. These fats create dangerous inflammation in the body especially the arteries and vessels.

Vegetable oils:  corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, soybean oils. These oils are high in Omega-6 oils which are pro-inflammatory and cause vessel damage. If vessels are weak and damaged there is a greater risk of vessel rupture which can lead to stroke. These are the types of oils used in most Fast Foods and restaurants to prepare fried foods. The oils are reused multiple times creating more and more toxic chemicals and free radicals that are extremely toxic to the body.

High Fructose Corn Syrup: this sweetener has been shown to damage the liver, increase weight, especially around the abdomen [the most dangerous type of excess weight] and cause excess production of insulin. Most HFCS is found in soda but also in many other products. HFCS is cheap and widely used in so many food products. Always read labels.

Sugars: Sugar causes inflammation, and depletes the body of nutrients especially minerals.  Minerals are essential for proper heart function. Sugar cause insulin spikes leading to an elevation in blood sugar and blood pressure.

Processed white flour products: have all the nutrients and fiber removed. The label will read: enriched or fortified. All these processed carbohydrates quickly convert to sugar, causing large spikes in insulin and blood sugar. These are items such as: white bread, pasta, bagels, cakes, cookies, chips etc.

Foods to Restrict or Limit

If you need to decrease your weight, it is best to keep intake of carbohydrates to a minimum. That means all carbohydrates which include the complex carbohydrates such as: whole grains, potatoes, etc. I recommend a carbohydrate counter. Start counting how many carbohydrates you are presently eating and gradually decrease the amount over time. This process is to be done on a gradient, not over-night. It is a journey for a lifetime of healthy habits.

Limit intake of: Conventionally raised meat/poultry and farmed fish: Cows were designed to eat grass, fish were designed to eat other fish and sea vegetables, chickens were designed to eat bugs and some grains etc. Most commercially raised meat, poultry and fish are fed grains, and soy which is a hormone disruptor. Grains are high in Omega-6 which increase inflammation in the body. In addition commercially raised animals are given many antibiotics. These antibiotic residues end up on our plate which compromise our immune system in the long run.

Limit farm raised fish as they do not contain Omega 3 fats. In fact they are high in Omega-6 fats, which increase inflammation, and can contain high residues of antibiotics because of the way they are raised.

Processed salt/sodium: white table salt and salt found in processed foods. This salt is highly processed, some have anti-caking agents that contain aluminum which has been linked to brain plaques in neurodegenerative diseases. Some brands of salt also contains dextrose, which is a sugar. Please read labels.  

MSG and foods that contain Monosodium Glutamate. This preservative is found in most processed foods to give flavor to the food. There are many name for MSG and often times it will be listed under different names such as: hydrolyzed yeast, barley malt, dextrin and many others. MSG has a constrictive effect on blood vessels and thus has a direct negative effect on blood pressure.

Processed cold cuts, bacon and sausage that contain nitrates and nitrites and MSG as well as sugar.

Basics for Keeping the Heart and Vessels Healthy

Gradually stock your kitchen with:

Fresh or frozen fruits: especially berries which are high in anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants protect cells from damage and repair cellular damage.

Fresh or frozen vegetables: of all colors, especially leafy greens etc. Asparagus and other foods high in Rutin, which is a bioflavonoid found in many teas, fruits and vegetables such as apples, onions and in high amounts in asparagus. Dr. Robert Flaumenhaft, a researcher in the Division of Hemostasis and Thrombosis at BIDMC and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School stated that "Rutin proved to be the most potently anti-thrombotic compound that we ever tested."

Unprocessed organic dairy: products milk, yogurts, cheeses etc. [organic is preferred to avoid the antibiotics and pesticide residues] 

Legumes: properly prepared legumes such as beans of all types chickpeas, lentils [avoid soy]

Pastured raised: chicken and turkey

Grass-fed: beef, buffalo, elk and other wild game etc.

Cold water: fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids i.e. salmon, sardines, seafood

White Fish: while not as high in Omega-3 as the fattier fish, they are a wonderful source of protein and nutrients

Nuts: walnuts, macadamia, Brazilian nuts [limit peanuts, peanuts are legumes]

Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds

Healthy Fats: butter, unrefined coconut oil, ghee, avocado

Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed sesame oil, flax oil [do not cook with flax oil], pumpkin seed oil, avocado oil.

*Unrefined salt: such as Celtic Sea salt, or Himalayan Pink salt. These salts provide all the minerals in a nice balance not just sodium.

Spices: turmeric, cayenne, chili, cinnamon and garlic etc. These particular spices have
great anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and add a wonderful flavor to food.

Teas: Green tea, hibiscus tea. These teas have been shown to lower blood pressure in several studies.

Tips to Help You Stay on Track

It is challenging to change your food habits. Here are a few tips to help you more readily adopt healthier long term eating habits.

Maintain a food diary: that means writing down everything you eat. You can keep this diary for a week or a month, just so you can realize what your actual eating habits are like. Track the food eaten, the time of day, how much you’ve eaten and why you’ve eaten this item if you tend to be an emotional eater.

Increase potassium intake: Potassium can actually reduce the effect that processed salt has on your blood pressure, so eating rich-potassium foods is a benefit.  Some foods high in potassium include kiwis, avocado, white beans, dark leafy greens like spinach, baked potatoes, dried apricots, baked acorn squash, bananas and white mushrooms.

Shop Wisely: Be sure to read food labels when you shop. Check ingredients for: Tran-fats and hydrogenated fats, sodium, high fructose corn syrup, MSG and anything that ends in “ose”, those ingredients are sugars under different names. When dining out in restaurants, stick to healthier choices as best as you can. Limit sauces as most of them contain corn starch and other types of flours and sugars that are not conducive to good health.

These changes can be made gradually so that they become part of your lifestyle. Trying to change a lifetime of poor eating habits overnight can be disappointing and lead to failure.  Instead, make gradual changes. Start with one meal at a time and improve that. Gradually stock your refrigerator and kitchen with healthier items. Rome was not built in one day.  Developing healthier eating habits brings about great rewards. Stay motivated and love yourself enough to take care of you.

Juliana Mazzeo
Nutritional Wellness Center