Shop Smart for Groceries for Diabetes


Shop Smart for Groceries for Diabetes – Keep Your Inner Army Strong

The grocery store looks different when you have type 2 diabetes. Aisles of menu ideas and possibilities become well-lit lanes of decisions and pitfalls. Instead of, “What’s for dinner?” you wonder, “What will this do to my blood sugar?”

“Before my diagnosis, I went to the store and bought everything on my list and anything that caught my fancy,” says Linda Leitaker, a retired elected city clerk in Lake Almanor, CA. “What I thought I knew about nutrition was woefully inadequate. I had to read, research, and repeat.”

But if you manage your food, it’s a powerful way to control your type 2 diabetes. You don’t need to follow a special diet. Just eat the way it’s recommended for most people. Studies show that healthy, balanced meals are one of the best ways to control your blood sugar and manage your diabetes.

Picture Your Plate

There’s no magic list of foods you can and can’t eat with diabetes.   

“You can really eat anything,” says Shamera Robinson, MPH, a registered dietitian and associate director of nutrition for the American Diabetes Association. “Your favorite foods can be part of an individualized eating plan. The best way to go about eating is by finding a balance of nutrients that work for you.”

One way to do that is with the Diabetes Plate Method. Imagine a 9-inch plate split evenly in two. Fill one side with non-starchy vegetables like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, greens, squash, or tomatoes.

Split the other half into quarters horizontally. Fill one quarter with carbs, like brown rice, tortillas, beans, fruit, milk, or yogurt. Fill the last quarter with protein, such as eggs, tofu, and lean meats like chicken and fish.

“Carbs will always digest the fastest, then protein, then fat. When you eat all three together, you feel full and don’t crave as much between meals,” Says Lori Zanini, an author, nutritionist, and dietitian in Los Angeles.

Make a Meal Plan

One secret to Leitaker’s success is that she keeps her eating simple. She sticks to one or two choices for breakfast. Lunch is always a salad with chicken. For dinner, she has a protein, salad, and vegetables.

Leitaker rarely makes dessert. When she does indulge, it’s often berries or other fruit that’s in season.

You can plot out a week’s worth of meals before you hit the grocery store. You can do that on your own, or use a meal-planning template like the one on the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Food Hub.

Use a Shopping List

Once you know what you want to eat, make a list of ingredients. Check your pantry to make sure you don’t already have them.

There’s no right or wrong way to make a grocery run. You can group the items you need by department, such as produce, meat, and frozen foods. Or you can write your list in the order that your favorite store is laid out to avoid retracing your steps.

It’s natural to focus on breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but don’t forget the snacks.

“A snack can really be anything,” Robinson says. She suggests a handful of unsalted roasted nuts or seeds; hummus and vegetables; berries; baby carrots with guacamole; and a hard-boiled egg.

The key to eating with diabetes is not to give into impulse buys.

“If I see something new at the store, I usually go home and research it first to see if it’s a good fit for me,” says Leitaker, who dropped her A1c below 6 and lost more than 50 pounds by eating carefully and walking. 

Leitaker often adapts recipes so that she and her family enjoy the same protein, like fish or beef, but eat different side dishes.

Shop the Edges of the Store First

The best places to spend your time and money at the market are the fresh produce and refrigerated sections. Shop with caution in the center aisles, where many highly processed and packaged foods are stocked.

“A snack can really be anything,” Robinson says. She suggests a handful of unsalted roasted nuts or seeds; hummus and vegetables; berries; baby carrots with guacamole; and a hard-boiled egg.

The key to eating with diabetes is not to give into impulse buys.

“If I see something new at the store, I usually go home and research it first to see if it’s a good fit for me,” says Leitaker, who dropped her A1c below 6 and lost more than 50 pounds by eating carefully and walking. 

Leitaker often adapts recipes so that she and her family enjoy the same protein, like fish or beef, but eat different side dishes.

Shop the Edges of the Store First

The best places to spend your time and money at the market are the fresh produce and refrigerated sections. Shop with caution in the center aisles, where many highly processed and packaged foods are stocked.

Load your cart with:

Vegetables. Fresh, in-season vegetables are always best. Frozen and canned are great choices as long as the vegetable is the only ingredient. Non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens like spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are better than starchy veggies like green peas, corn, potatoes, and winter squash.

Pro tip: Drain and rinse your canned vegetables. This lowers the sodium content by almost half.

Fruit. Look for fresh, frozen, or canned fruit in their own juice. Avoid those with syrup, which is sugar. Dried fruit and 100% fruit juice are options, too. But watch your portions since fruits are high in carbs and naturally sweet.

Whole grains. Make sure the first ingredient is a whole grain.

Meat, poultry, and fish. Buy according to your serving size, and focus on lean meats and cuts.

Drinks. Water is best.

Desserts. It’s better to plan a dessert than make an impulse buy at the store. Know your portion sizes, stick to them, and enjoy.

Read Every Label

“I always tell people not to look at the front of the package,” Zanini says. “That’s where the marketing happens. Flip it over and look at the food label first.”

Check the serving size, and then read down for the total carbohydrates. That’s a key number when you have diabetes because carbs raise your blood sugar level more quickly than protein or fats. Something sugar-free can still have lots of carbs.

Make It a Habit

Reading labels and making healthy choices at the market will become second nature. Your first few trips to the store may take longer. Plan for the extra time, and eat first so you won’t be making purchases on an empty stomach.

Need some support? Ask your doctor to recommend a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with experience in type 2 diabetes. They can guide you on what foods to eat based on your tastes, budget, and health goals.

7 Facts About Tea That May Surprise You


hot tea

Judging from our local coffee shop’s drive-thru line, which snakes out onto the street and up the block every morning, coffee dominates the morning caffeine scramble for a lot of people. But tea actually outshines coffee worldwide. Here are some other facts that may surprise you:

It’s the most widely consumed drink in the world. After water, tea is the most popular drink for people around the globe. China, Turkey, and the U.K. have some of the biggest tea drinking populations. On a given day, half of all Americans drink it — though the vast majority is consumed as iced tea.


Truth About Tea

It doesn’t take all the tea in China to reap its health benefits–about three cups a day will do you.ABOUT

It’s a heart-healthy drink. One popular tea brand got approval from the FDA to display a health claim on plain black and green tea that states, “Can Help Support Heart Health.” Tea contains natural plant compounds that are known to be heart-healthy, and studies have found tea drinkers to have lower rates of heart disease.

It’s basically calorie-free. Like coffee, plain tea contains just a couple of calories per cup and no sugar. But what’s added can change that. A medium sweet tea and a large iced matcha latte from fast food restaurants both pack about 7 teaspoons of sugar. (The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6-9 teaspoons for the whole day).

It all comes from the same plant. Varieties may look and taste different, but all real tea originates from the Camellia sinensis plant. The varieties — black, white, oolong, and green — are made by processing the plant differently. For example, black tea comes from leaves that are exposed to the air longer (called oxidation) than green tea. Herbal teas, on the other hand, don’t come from that plant. Instead, they’re infusions of different plants.

It’s just as hydrating as water. You may have heard that beverages that contain caffeine somehow don’t “count” when it comes to hydration. But that’s actually not the case. Tea is more than 99 percent water, so tea’s hydrating qualities offset any diuretic effects.

It contains the same healthy compounds as broccoli. Flavonoids are natural plant compounds that have potential health benefits, and foods like grapes, berries, and broccoli all contain them. Tea is an especially rich source. According to a USDA database, 1 cup of black tea has 170 milligrams of flavonoids, while 1 cup of broccoli has about 3 milligrams.

It’s sometimes topped with cream cheese. Bubble tea is still enjoying popularity. (Is it bad for you? Read about it here.) But look out for the latest fad that’s brewing: cheese tea, which is topped with a frothy, foamy mixture of milk, cream cheese, and whipped cream and a sprinkle of sea salt. (It doesn’t exactly compete with plain tea as a healthy drink, but it might make a unique dessert!)

Plant-Based Diets Gain Steam, Major Companies Getting on Board

This is not a real surprise, given the growth in popularity of plant-based eating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plant-based food sales were up 27% in 2020, topping $7 billion, according to the Plant Based Foods Association.

“In 2020, 57% of all U.S. households purchased plant-based foods (that’s over 71 million households), up from 53% in 2019,” the association says.
The spike in popularity is largely due to weight issues many people had during lockdown, says Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and an adjunct professor at George Washington University School of Medicine.

“Many people gained weight during the pandemic,” he says.

They were stuck at home with the refrigerator or pantry nearby. For some, weight gain led to change.

“They were looking to get healthy. In addition, they had time to read and look at health information, which they might have been neglecting before,” Barnard says

Major companies are taking heed.

McDonald’s announced a new plant-based line in 2020. The first item being debuted is a plant-based burger called the McPlant. The company teamed up with Beyond Meat to make its plant-based patty, which the restaurant chain says will be cooked on a separate grill and with separate utensils from its meat-based products.

McDonald’s tested the McPlant in a limited number of restaurants in Sweden and Denmark beginning early this year. The company recently announced that the McPlant will be tested in select restaurants in the U.K. and Ireland starting at the end of September.

Vegan cheese and vegan sandwich sauce options will also be available, according to the company.

McDonald’s has not announced plans to test the McPlant in U.S. markets.

In August, Chipotle launched a limited-edition organic protein option, Plant-Based Chorizo, which is being tested in Denver and Indianapolis, confirms Stephanie Perdue, vice president of brand marketing at Chipotle.

“Plant-based lifestyles have continued to accelerate in popularity, so we see a massive opportunity to bring more vegetables to the center of the plate like we’re doing with Plant-Based Chorizo,” she says.

Taco Bell has been in the plant game for years. The company has over 30 vegetarian menu options. Its most recent plant-based venture is also a partnership with Beyond Meat.

“Taco Bell remains excited about teaming up with Beyond Meat to create a new, innovative plant-based protein, something not quite yet seen in the industry. Details on specific timing and market(s) to come,” Taco Bell says.

Major retailers are also jumping on board. In the spring, Target unveiled a plant-based line called Good & Gather Plant Based.

The line includes items like plant-based creamers and meat alternatives, with all items under $8 and most under $5.

Major grocery store chains, too, are showcasing not-meat alternatives. In many, including Kroger, Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger products are in the meat section, right next to ground beef, steaks and chicken.

And traditional meat producers are getting in on the game, as well. Hormel, Tyson, Smithfield and Perdue all have their own plant-based products, as the big firms look to capture both sides of the growing market.

Companies debuting plant-based products is a great trend, says Barnard.

“They’re doing it because there’s consumer demand, but from the health standpoint, it’s a good change,” he says.

“These products don’t have cholesterol, animal fat, hormones in them, which, say, cow’s milk does.”

How Plant-Based ‘Meat’ May Help You and Save the Environment

The explosion in the plant-based food market has many advocates hoping the plethora of new products will be part of a food revolution that aims to improve our health and save our planet.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere — or just quarantined for the pandemic — you’ve probably attempted to switch to a plant-based diet yourself or know someone who has.

Vegetarianism and veganism are wildly popular — one survey estimated the number of vegans increased 300% from 2004 to 2019 — and the diets and lifestyles are so much easier now with new plant-based products springing up all over the market.

In 2020, plant-based food sales were up 27%, with sales over $7 billion, according to the Plant Based Foods Association.

Impossible Foods, a company that produces plant-based meat alternatives, has thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the start of the crisis in 2020, the Impossible Burger was available in around 150 retail stores, according to Dennis Woodside, president of Impossible Foods.

“By the end of 2020, it was available in about 17,000 stores in all 50 states, a more than 100 times increase in 2020 alone,” he says.

Today, the Impossible Burger is sold in more than 22,000 restaurants and grocery stores, including major grocery chains like Kroger, Walmart, and Trader Joe’s, Woodside says.

Along with the health benefits that come with switching from animal meat to plant-based meat, people are also becoming more aware of the environmental benefits, he says.

“Animal agriculture is a leading contributor of greenhouse gas emissions globally,” Woodside says. “Our mission is to reduce the impact of climate change by skipping animals entirely and making the same meat, fish, and dairy products people love — from plants.”

Animal-based foods are responsible for 57% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, compared to just 29% for plant-based crops, according to a new report in Scientific American.

One way to reduce this impact is by creating plant-based meats that outshine animal meat in terms of taste, texture, and appearance, says Woodside.

His company has a goal to replace animal agriculture by 2035.

All Hands on Deck
The Eat-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health brought together 37 scientists from 16 countries to study the best global diet to sustain our environment and feed close to 10 billion people by the year 2050.

Over 2 billion people around the world are overweight or obese, according to the commission. But at the same time, more than 820 million people are going hungry every day.

“Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double,” the commission reported. “Consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%.”

“A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal-source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”

Food production plays a huge role in the destruction of the planet, the report states.

One way to fight this is to use more of our agricultural land to grow nutritious, plant-based foods instead of animal feed and livestock.

“The raising of animals is, first of all, very inefficient, so we take up a lot of land,” says John A. McDougall, MD, author of The Starch Solution and co-founder of the McDougall Program, a diet and lifestyle guide. “You can get 20 times as many calories from potatoes as you can from beef on the same acre of land.”

Knowing that your diet choices help protect our environment is one of the most exciting parts of going plant-based, says Sharon Palmer, an author and registered dietitian who specializes in plant-based nutrition and sustainability.

You can feel good about your place on the planet,” she says. “That your diet creates the lowest environmental footprint (carbon, water, pollution, land use) compared to other diet patterns, and doesn’t contribute to the suffering of animals.”

The fact that plant-based eating helps sustain the planet is not spoken out about enough, McDougall says.

“People who are intensively interested in climate change pretty much ignore the practical implications of the fact that changing the western diet to a vegan diet could be so beneficial,” he says.

McDougall says he approaches the climate crisis with the same attitude he has when helping patients heal their bodies through following a plant-based diet.

“My new patient is planet Earth,” he says. “Once we get the public, the world, switched to a plant-based diet that’s not so abusive to the planet, the planet will heal.”

“The time has come for all hands on deck.”

“All hands” also includes farmers. The American Farm Bureau, one of the country’s largest advocacy groups for the agricultural industry, has joined with environmental groups to form the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance. Its goal is to influence climate policy while giving farmers and the agricultural industry a seat at the table.

The inclusion of the Farm Bureau in the effort will be watched closely by climate activists, as the organization for years has fought even the idea that humans are responsible for change in climate, according to Inside Climate News.

Communities of Color Go Plant-Based
Minorities have greatly embraced plant-based eating, with Blacks being the fastest-growing demographic becoming vegan, The Washington Post reported.

A 2020 Gallup poll also found that 31% of non-white Americans ate less meat, compared to 19% of white Americans, the previous year.

Next Stop Vegan is a plant-based restaurant that serves food with Latin flavors, including traditional Hispanic dishes, with locations in the Bronx and Washington Heights in New York City.

Blenlly Mena, founder and CEO, says she was inspired to open the restaurant to change the stigma surrounding vegan food, especially in minority communities.

“There are several misconceptions in our communities that include healthy food being inaccessible, boring, or bland,” she says.

“Black beans and brown rice can also make great burger patties, yes jackfruit can be delicious and a great addition to that next BBQ, and our typical Hispanic dishes, with only a few modifications, can be amazingly delicious,” she says.

Many customers say that transitioning to veganism completely transformed their lives, Mena says.

“We also welcome those that have their doubts and questions, because it’s an opportunity for us to educate them, and yes, why not blow their minds,” she says.

Making the Switch
Many people mistakenly think that going plant-based means you have to be an expert in the kitchen or spend money on pricey designer plant meats, says Palmer, the author and dietitian.

“It can be so easy,” she says. “Canned beans, peanut butter, simmered lentils, brown rice, oatmeal, seasonal fruit, tons of veggies (frozen, canned, fresh).”

Another major reason people struggle, or quit, after trying a plant-based diet is not being prepared, says Palmer.

“You can’t just all of the sudden eat plant-based without some preparation, such as stocking your pantry and fridge regularly, knowing what your go-to foods will be, understanding what dishes and meals you will rely on, and where you can find products in your community,” she says.

McDougall promotes a diet of mostly starches, like potatoes, rice, and beans, along with vegetables, fruits, healthy fats in moderation, and no animal products or added oils.

Human beings are “starchivores,” he says.

“Most people who ever walked this earth consumed a diet based on starches. Mayans and Aztecs in Central America were known as ‘people of the corn.’ Incas in South America ate potatoes.”

Asian civilization was shaped around cultivating the crop we know today as rice, according to a study in Nature.

Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University School of Medicine, runs the Barnard Medical Center, a primary care clinic in Washington, DC.

He says he always recommends a vegan diet to patients, especially those who have serious health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

Many patients make the switch by following a simple process, Barnard says.

Step one, patients are told to make a list of their favorite foods that don’t have animal products.

“The patient comes back in a week and they’ve written down breakfast, like oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins,” Barnard says. “Lunch, chili instead of meat chili. Dinner, spaghetti with marinara sauce.”

The next step is for patients to eat from their list for 3 weeks straight.

“After 3 weeks, if they’ve actually done it, two things have happened,” Barnard says. “Physically, they’re changing, they’re losing weight, their blood sugar is down, their cholesterol is down, their energy is better, their digestion is better. But apart from the physical changes, their mindset is dramatically different,” he says.

If you are new to plant-based eating, approach it as you would learning a new language, says Julieanna Hever, an author and registered dietitian who specializes in plant-based nutrition.

“You learn a few words, you get a new ingredient that you’ve never tried, maybe some jackfruit,” she says.

“You’re starting to build this whole new repertoire of words and paragraphs,” she says. “But there’s a transition period. You have to get familiar and comfortable, and with time, it gets easier and easier. And then you become fluent.”

Plant-Based Made Easy
More plant-based options make life simpler for vegetarians and vegans, especially when grabbing a quick bite on the run.

Toni Okamoto is the founder of Plant-Based on a Budget, a website and meal plan that aims to show that plant-based eating can be simple and cost-friendly.

The plant-based market has come a long way, she says.

“My friends and I would take turns driving 2 hours to buy 5-pound bags of Daiya (the only way you could purchase it) to split,” says Okamoto, referring to a Canadian company that specializes in dairy alternative foods like cheese. “Now, there are so many varieties of vegan cheese that are widely accessible.”

“When I became vegan in 2007, the thought of walking into a fast-food restaurant and getting a meat-like burger made without animals was a fantasy,” she says. “Today, that fantasy has come true!”

“I buy a lot of plant-based products like hummus and vegetables, but I also appreciate and enjoy accessible options, like Beyond Meat burgers from fast-food restaurants like Carl’s Jr., as well as MorningStar Farms ‘chicken’ nuggets from Walmart,” Okamato says.

But you shouldn’t overdo it on products that are vegan, but not necessarily healthy. For example, while the new McDonald’s McPlant burger has a slightly better nutritional profile than the restaurant chain’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese, it’s still not health food.

“I’d be thrilled for people to just enjoy more bean-and-rice burritos, lentil soup, and other plant-based foods,” Okamoto says. “But a lot of people seem to want that meat experience. This new generation of plant-based meat does a great job of giving it to them without the need to use animals.”

Plant-Based Treat Foods
When browsing plant-based items at your local grocery store, it’s always a good idea to opt for items with the least saturated fat, Barnard says.

You should approach plant-based junk food with the same mindset as you would junk food that’s not plant-based, says Hever.

“Because ‘anything you can eat, I can eat vegan,’ like vegan cookies and burgers, there are all of these different options,” she says. “People are eating that and thinking they are healthy. There is a health halo over it vs. treating them like treat foods, as they should be.”

One worrisome part of the rise in highly processed plant-based products is that negative health effects can cloud the benefits of plant-based eating, Hever says. For example, while “beef” from Impossible Burger and its competitor Beyond Meat have no cholesterol, they are similar to real beef in calories, fat, and saturated fat. And both have almost 5 times as much sodium.

“I’m seeing for the first time in my practice, over the last 3, 4, 5 years, people who have been vegan coming to me with the same health issues as their omnivore counterparts,” she says.

“I’m concerned about that in terms of what’s going to happen in the scientific literature when we start lumping all the vegans together and not discerning what their actual diet consists of,” Hever says. “You can eat healthier or can eat less healthy, but it just kind of gets lumped in, and it can change the data.”

Compassion: The Missing Ingredient
The Minimalist Vegan is a digital lifestyle brand that explores the concept of living with “less stuff and more compassion.” The blog features articles like “15 Practical Steps to a Zero-Waste Kitchen” and “Is Fishing Ethical? Assessing the Cruelty of the Fishing Industry.”

Its YouTube channel shows you how to make dishes like vegan baked ziti.

Michael Ofei co-founded the brand with his wife Maša in 2015. The couple, based in Australia, transitioned to veganism the year before.

“In August 2014, we watched the documentary Earthlings, exploring animal exploitation across domestication, food, fashion, testing, and entertainment,” Ofei says.

“After watching the film, we decided to become vegan on the spot and haven’t looked back since.”

As plant-based eating continues to get more popular, movements surrounding topics like animal rights and environmental sustainability can gain steam and create systemic change, he says.

There’s already been a rise in new, innovative vegan beauty supplies, personal care items, and fashion hitting the shelves, he says.

“For instance, folks make sustainable cruelty-free leather from mushrooms, apple skins, pineapple, wine, and cork,” Ofei says.

Compassion for all, both humans and non-humans, is Ofei’s ultimate hope for the future of veganism and plant-based eating.

“As a society, we’re fighting for equality across all marginalized groups, including age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, class, indigenous heritage, and gender,” he says.

“I hope over time, we can expand our views of equality to also include animals.”

Pulses: The Great Plant Protein Already in Your Pantry

With so much focus on plant protein as a sustainable swap for meat, foods like quinoa are hotter than ever. But there’s another protein source, probably already in your pantry, that has even more protein, boasts a low carbon footprint, and costs pennies per serving. It’s a group of foods called “pulses.”

Pulses include four crops that you’re probably well familiar with: dry beans (like black, pinto, and kidney), dry peas (like split and black-eyed), chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), and lentils (like green, brown, and red). They’re harvested dry and sold either dry or canned. The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans defined pulses for the first time, and they’re unique because they “count” as either a vegetable or a protein source on your plate.

Nutritionally, pulses are hard to beat as a plant protein. A one-half cup serving has more potassium than a small banana, four times more fiber than brown rice, more iron than a 3-ounce portion of flank steak, and twice as much protein as an equal amount of quinoa. All for about 10 cents per serving (versus nearly $1.50 per serving for beef).

There’s also increased buzz around pulses because they’re a sustainable crop. They need less water to grow than many other crops. They also take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil, naturally restoring nutrients to the soil and lowering the need for nitrogen fertilizers. They’re also less likely to be wasted since they last for years on shelves, dried or canned. (Here’s a quick primer on cooking dry peas, beans, and lentils.)

Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t eating pulses very often. The Dietary Guidelines recommends at least 1 1/2 cups per week in a typical diet, and most adults get less than a cup. Here are some easy ways to eat more of them:

Stretch ground beef with mashed black beans or ground turkey with chickpeas when making taco filling.
Combine cooked lentils with ground beef when making meatballs and meat sauces (tip: if you’ve got lentil-wary eaters, red lentils tend to dissolve when cooked while green and brown hold their shape).
Roast canned chickpeas (season them with taco or curry spices) to sprinkle onto salads, serve in rice and veggie bowls, or eat as a crunchy snack.
Blend 1/2 cup cooked cannellini beans into a smoothie for a thick, protein boost
Add beans to homemade soups and chili.
Puree cooked chickpeas into quick hummus (here’s my easy recipe) and serve with pita bread and raw veggies.
Beat the liquid from unsalted canned chickpeas (called aquafaba) with a hand mixer for several minutes, adding a few tablespoons of sugar as you mix, to make a foamy vegan whipped topping.

Is a Plant-Centered Diet Better for Your Heart?

More evidence suggests the long-standing belief that eating low amounts of saturated fats to ward off heart disease may not be entirely correct.

A new study that followed more than 4,800 people over 32 years shows that a plant-centered diet was more likely to be associated with a lower risk of future coronary heart disease and stroke, compared with focusing on fewer saturated fats alone.

“It’s true that low-saturated fat actually lowers LDL [or bad] cholesterol, but it cannot predict cardiovascular disease,” says lead study author Yuni Choi, PhD, postdoctoral researcher in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. “Our research strongly supports the fact that plant-based diet patterns are good for cardiovascular health.”

To assess diet patterns of study participants, the researchers conducted three detailed diet history interviews over the follow-up period and then calculated scores for each using the A Priori Diet Quality Score (APDQS). Higher APDQS scores were associated with higher intake of nutritionally rich plant foods and less high-fat meats. While those who consumed less saturated fats and plant-centered diets had lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, or lower levels of “bad” cholesterol, only the latter diet was also associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke over the long term.

Choi said targeting just single nutrients such as total or saturated fat doesn’t consider those fats found in healthy plant-based foods with cardioprotective properties, such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, and dark chocolate. Based on study results, she recommends those conscious of heart health fill their plates with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes and even a little coffee and tea, which were associated with a low risk of cardiovascular disease.

“More than 80% should be plant-sourced foods and then nonfried fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy in moderation,” she says.

“I think in focusing just on nutrients, we oversimplify the heart [health] diet hypothesis and miss the very important plant component,” says research team leader David Jacobs, PhD, professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. “If you tend to eat a plant-centered diet you will tend to eat less saturated fats because that’s just the way the plant kingdom works.”

Following a plant-centered diet is consistent with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) existing recommendations to minimize saturated fats and emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, says Linda Van Horn, PhD, professor, and chief of the Department of Preventive Medicine’s Nutrition Division at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and a member of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee.

“There is no question that current intakes of plant-based carbohydrate, protein and fat are below what is recommended and moving in that direction would be a nutritious improvement,” she says, noting, however, that this doesn’t necessarily mean everyone needs to be on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Given that plant-centered diets have been associated with lowering the risk of other diseases, the researchers are now looking to better understand how APDQS scores impact chronic conditions such obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease. They’ll also be researching how diet affects gut bacteria as they expect eating plant-based foods provides more fiber and promotes healthy microbiomes.

“I think that diet patterns provide a really solid base for the public and policy makers to think about what a healthy diet really is,” Jacobs says.

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets Explained

The simplest definition of vegetarianism is a diet free of meat, fish, and fowl flesh. But eating habits of vegetarians cover a wide spectrum. At one end are lacto-ovo vegetarians, who avoid animal flesh but eat eggs and milk products. At the other end are vegans, who forgo eating (and often wearing) all animal-based products, including honey. Raw foodists are vegans who eat mainly raw fruits, vegetables, legumes, sprouts, and nuts.

There are also pescatarians, who eat fish and seafood; and lacto-vegetarians, who eat dairy products but not eggs. Fruitarians follow a diet that includes fruits, nuts, seeds, and other plant food. Those who follow a macrobiotic diet eat mostly grains but can also eat fish. They don’t necessarily identify as vegetarians.

Flexitarians refer to vegetarians who occasionally eat meat and fish.

Reasons for Becoming a Vegetarian

Many adherents of vegetarianism and veganism – former Beatle Paul McCartney and actor Alec Baldwin are two celebrities who happily promote the cause — regard a flesh-free diet not only as more healthful, but as a more ethical way to live. They point to the cruel practices and the high environmental cost of raising animals for food as reasons for excluding meat from the diet.

Most Americans, however, continue to eat some form of meat or fish. Five percent of people consider themselves to be vegetarians, according to a 2018 Gallup poll.

Vegetarianism and Health

Most doctors and nutritionists agree that a low-fat diet high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts can be a boon to health. There’s also research suggesting that reducing or eliminating red meat from the diet may cut your risk of heart disease.

Research also has shown that a vegan or vegetarian diet may lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. And a 2011 study found that vegetarians had lower triglycerides, glucose levels, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI).

Does Being a Vegetarian Lower Cancer Risk?

It’s difficult to say whether being a vegetarian or a vegan lowers cancer risk. This is mainly because of the diversity within the vegetarian population.

Many studies of the cancer-vegetarian relationship conclude that diets rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, isoflavones (found in soybeans, chickpeas, peanuts, and more), and carotenoids (found in carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, tomatoes, red peppers, and more), seem to protect against disease, including cancer, when part of a health-conscious lifestyle.

An 11-year study in Germany examined colon cancer among 1,900 vegetarians. Researchers noted fewer deaths from cancers of the stomach, colon, and lung in study participants than in the general population — particularly among those who practiced some form of vegetarianism for at least 20 years. They suggested, however, that other factors, like body weight and amount of exercise, likely affected mortality rates in the vegetarians they studied.

Is Wheatgrass Good for You?

Wheatgrass juice may look like what you’d get if you put your lawn trimmings in a blender. But fans say it can strengthen the immune system, detoxify the body, and ward off disease. Folk medicine practitioners once used wheatgrass for everything from treating constipation to easing the pain of rheumatism.

What Is Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass is the young grass of the wheat plant, Triticum aestivum. It grows in temperate regions throughout Europe and the United States and can live indoors or outdoors. Many people grow their own wheatgrass by putting wheat seeds in water and then harvesting the leaves.

Wheatgrass is a natural source of vitamins and minerals (a few of which are antioxidants) including:

Vitamins A, E, C, K and B6

How Is Wheatgrass Used by Fans?

The leaves are tough to digest, so they’re usually crushed and squeezed to make juice. Wheatgrass leaves also can be dried and made into tablets or capsules. Some people mix wheatgrass with water and use it as an enema to cleanse the digestive system. Others eat raw wheatgrass because they believe that cooking foods destroys the natural enzymes that provide the real health kick.

Can Wheatgrass Treat What Ails You?

Wheatgrass believers use it to try and combat a number of everyday health conditions, including colds, coughs, fevers, digestive problems, and skin conditions. Wheatgrass also has been used to potentially prevent and treat more serious conditions, from cancer to AIDS. Those who swear by it say that the potent ingredient in wheatgrass is chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green color. They say chlorophyll acts like hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen) and increases oxygen levels in the body. Any green plant food you have eaten over the years, such as spinach, parsley, arugula, has also been contributing chlorophyll.

Does Wheatgrass Live Up to the Claims?

Despite all the health claims, there is very little, if any, evidence that wheatgrass actually works to detoxify or prevent or cure disease. Most of what little research has been conducted focuses on the effects of wheatgrass on the digestive system. Here’s what some of those studies have found wheatgrass may do:

Improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis. A 2002 study by researchers in Israel showed that treatment with wheatgrass juice eased the symptoms of ulcerative colitis — inflammation of the colon. More research needs to be done, but it does point to possible benefits from wheatgrass.

Reduce chemotherapy side effects. Although there isn’t any scientific evidence that wheatgrass can shrink tumors or increase survival in cancer patients, a preliminary study of 60 women with breast cancer did find that wheatgrass reduced some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy without altering the effectiveness of the treatment.

What Are the Risks of Wheatgrass?

Although wheatgrass is considered safe, some people have reported side effects after using it, especially in high doses. They have ranged from mild (headaches and nausea) to more serious allergic reactions (hives and swelling of the throat). Because most people eat wheatgrass raw, there is also the rare chance that it can be contaminated with bacteria or other organisms from the soil.

Should I Use Wheatgrass?

There isn’t really any harm in trying a small amount of wheatgrass from a reputable company. Children, pregnant or nursing women, and anyone who has compromised immunity should avoid it because of the potential for bacteria.

6 Reasons to Eat More Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a great example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Yes, they’re a fungi. And sure, some varieties look like something out of a Dr. Seuss story. But mushrooms deserve to be tossed into your shopping cart and added to meals a lot more often (not just ordered on pizza, though that’s yummy too!). Here are six reasons why:

1. They’re provide vitamin D: Mushrooms are the only produce item that delivers vitamin D, a nutrient that’s not easy to come by in many commonly eaten foods. That’s because mushrooms can make vitamin D when exposed to UV light. For instance, one portabella mushroom treated with UV light contains more than 100% of the Daily Value for vitamin D. Check the Nutrition Facts Panel for vitamin D content on portabella, white button, and brown cremini mushrooms (“baby bellas”). These varieties are more likely to be treated.

2. They taste meaty: The flavor of mushrooms has been described as “umami,” a Japanese word meaning “pleasant savory taste,” that’s referred to as the fifth taste sense. Portabella (and cremini) mushrooms have a meatier flavor, though the milder flavor of white button deepens with cooking. Portabella mushrooms also have a meaty texture, which is why you’ll see them grilled whole or served on buns in place of meat burgers.

3. They’re high in selenium: Mushrooms are one of the richest sources of selenium in the produce aisle. That’s a mineral that works like an antioxidant in your body, guarding cells against the kind of damage that can lead to disease. Selenium also plays a role in the immune system.

4. They vanish into ground meat: With their meaty taste and texture and ability to disappear into ground meat, they’re the perfect way to cut back on the amount of ground beef (or ground pork, chicken, or turkey) you use in recipes. With this trick, you’ll also reduce the number of calories and fat in your recipe too. (Here’s my recipe for Freezer-Friendly Beef Burritos that stretches ground beef with white button mushrooms.)

Keep in mind these ratio recommendations while you’re cooking:

Burgers and meatloaf: Use 25% mushrooms to 75% ground meat
Tacos: Use 50% each mushrooms and ground meat
Pasta sauces: Use 70% mushrooms to 30% ground meat
5. They may help with weight loss: Mushrooms are extremely low in calories. There are only about 20 calories in a serving of five white button mushrooms or one whole portabella mushroom! Yet mushrooms are also satisfying. In one study published in the journal Appetite, people who swapped mushrooms for meat at lunch reduced the amount of calories and fat they took in, but they reported feeling just as full and satisfied as those who ate meat.

6. They’re a sustainable crop: Mushrooms are grown in trays indoors and don’t require sunlight, farmland, or very much water. When you eat them in place of meat — or blend them so you’re eating less meat — you’re also lowering the overall carbon footprint of your meals.

What Should I Eat Before Working Out?

If you’re eating a healthy diet and getting enough calories throughout the day to support your activities, you may not need to nosh before your workout. But if it helps keep your energy level up, snacking can be a good move.

Choosing the right foods helps. And make sure you’re well hydrated before working out. Experts recommend drinking 16-20 ounces of water 1-2 hours before starting your workout.

9 Pre workout Snacks to Try
Experts agree your best bet is a low-fat snack, about 100 to 300 calories, that gives you a mix of protein and complex carbohydrates.

The carbs give you fuel. The protein is for your muscles.

Try these tasty ideas:

  • Oatmeal with cinnamon and blueberries or dried cranberries
  • Whole wheat toast topped with nut butter and sliced bananas
  • Fruit smoothie with yogurt
  • Greek yogurt with low-fat granola and berries
  • Half of a turkey sandwich
  • Raw veggies with hummus for dipping
  • Whole-grain crackers with 1 ounce of low-fat cheese
  • Cottage cheese and sliced apples or bananas
  • Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  • What Not to Eat Before Exercise
  • Avoid foods that are high in fat or fiber — both of which can upset your stomach, take longer to deliver energy, and leave you feeling sluggish. Also avoid spicy or unfamiliar foods.