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Diabetes Developments - A blog on latest developments in diabetes by David Mendosa

Entries Tagged as 'Diabetes Diet'

Diabetes Eating on the Wild Side

August 20th, 2013 · No Comments

We are getting better at producing sweet tasting food. Farmers have been breeding ever more palatable fruit and vegetables for 10,000 years. Scientists have been speeding up this process for the past century.

Our food today is more pleasurable than what our ancestors had to eat. It’s generally more tender and less bitter. It is increasingly higher in sugar and starch.

But as we bred taste into our food we unwittingly bred out nutrition. Ever since we stopped foraging for wild plants, we have been getting fewer and fewer phytonutrients from our food. These are the compounds that could help us manage the diseases of civilization — diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dementia.

It’s too late for us to return to foraging for more than a tiny part of what we eat. I sometimes pick wild raspberries and dandelion greens along a trail, but never get enough for a full meal.

Instead, we can choose those fruits and vegetables that retain much of the nutritional content of their wild ancestors. We can’t all go Stalking the Wild Asparagus that Euell Gibbons wrote about in his 1962 bestseller about living off the land. But we can go “eating on the wild side,” which Jo Robinson writes about in her new book of that title.

“We can choose those select varieties of fruits and vegetables that have retained much of the nutritional content of their wild ancestors,” Ms. Robinson writes. “One of the most important discoveries of twenty-first-century food science is that there are vast nutritional differences among the many varieties of a given fruit or vegetable.”

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From the Garden

June 9th, 2013 · No Comments

From the Garden

In 2001, when Rich Pirog wrote that our food typically travels 1,500 miles from the farm where it is grown to where we actually eat it, he got many of us thinking about where our food comes from. I remember that thought reaffirmed my long-standing passion to eat locally grown food that might help me better manage my type 2 diabetes. And no food that I eat is more local than the vegetables I grow in my own garden.

Pirog, then the education coordinator at Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, presented his research in an obscure report. But it attracted nationwide attention.

A “food mile” is the distance food travels from where it is grown or raised to where it is ultimately purchased. Pirog used this measurement as a simple metaphor to contrast local versus global food systems and their resulting fuel usage and levels of greenhouse gas emissions. However, he does recognize the limitations of focusing only on “food miles,” noting that food grown far away from our table isn’t always harder on the environment than locally grown food. Higher food miles for some foods don’t always translate into higher energy use, he says. And foods grown locally in greenhouses might use more energy than foods grown in open fields and transported across the country.

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Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes Control

June 7th, 2013 · 5 Comments

Intermittent fasting is older than civilization. Our paleolithic ancestors certainly practised it in times of scarcity whether they wanted to or not. And for centuries many people have fasted for cosmetic or religious reasons. But only now is intermittent fasting getting the respect that its health benefits for people with diabetes warrant.

Case in point: The current issue of The British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease, a bimonthly peer reviewed journal read by scientists, diabetologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, and vascular surgeons (and a few writers like me) includes a positive review of  “Intermittent fasting: a dietary intervention for prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease?

Publishers sometimes make the full-text of their most important articles free online. In this case the publisher announced that it would be “available to access for free for a limited period,” and as I write it is still free. In fact, it is currently this journal’s “most read” article.

The benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss are established, according to the three authors of the new review. They are researchers at two universities in Birmingham, England. Intermittent fasting also helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Beyond these benefits, the researchers studied intermittent fasting to see how well it works to treat obesity and type 2 diabetes.

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Diet and Exercise for Diabetes Management

June 4th, 2013 · No Comments

One of the wisest researchers who I know writes that exercise won’t help us to lose weight. But in my experience it does, and weight loss is crucial for almost all of us who have diabetes, because our weight is a big factor in high blood sugar levels.

“Appetite and thus calories consumed will increase to compensate for physical activity,” writes Gary Taubes in Good Calories, Bad Calories. When I read the first edition of this book in 2007, it finally convinced me that I could control my diabetes and my weight on a very low-carb diet. It worked: my current A1C is 5.4 and my current BMI is 19.2. Both of these numbers are big improvements over what they were six years ago.

In his subsequent book, Taubes elaborated on his statement. This doessound persuasive.

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Eating Attentively to Manage Diabetes

June 2nd, 2013 · No Comments

Carefully counting calories can help those of us who have diabetes lose weight. But the discipline and effort involved in monitoring our calorie intake over a period of months or years is a lot of work, and few of us can keep it up for long. For this reason the average amount of weight that people lose typically slows down after a few months.

A huge proportion of people with diabetes need to lose weight. The percentage is far higher than that of the general population. For years before and after I learned in 1994 that I have diabetes, my own weight was far too high, and this probably had a lot to do with my getting diabetes in the first place and certainly made managing my diabetes a lot harder than it had to be.

Much easier and perhaps just as effective than counting calories are strategies focusing on attentive eating. We have several such tools at our disposal, several of which I have written about here previously. They include mindfulness training, slow eating, and food habituation (eating the same stuff day after day).

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Kimchi Makes People with Diabetes Smile

May 3rd, 2013 · 4 Comments

In America when we want to get people to smile for our photos, we say “cheese.” But in Korea they say “kimchi.”

When I visited South Korea about three years ago, my hosts taught me about that, and it worked for my photos. Kimchi makes people in Korea smile. It can make you smile too.

Kimchi tastes great and is healthful, the two essentials of truly happy foods. Most people who enjoy spicy foods will love the taste of kimchi. At the same time kimchi is a fermented food like yogurt with healthy probiotic lactic acid bacteria. While it is low in calories and carbohydrates, it is nevertheless rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, and minerals.

The main ingredient is napa cabbage, a cruciferous vegetable, but it comes in hundreds of varieties. The best kimchi that I have ever found is Zuké Kimchi, made by a small company in Boulder, Colorado, called Esoteric Food.

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Mono-tasking for Diabetes Control

April 27th, 2013 · No Comments

Multitasking comes easy to busy people. But it comes at too big a price. The trouble with multitasking is that we can’t give our full attention to any of the tasks that we do simultaneously.

The big trouble comes when we think of eating and drinking as a task to get finished as soon as we can. When we think that way, we eat and drink when we work at the computer, read the newspaper, or chat with our family. We think about our nourishment with only half of our mind or less.

I probably have been more guilty of eating and drinking with my mind on other things than most of you. I lead a busy life, and that’s not because I have to but because I find so much to enjoy in my life.

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Omega-3 for Vegetarians with Diabetes

April 22nd, 2013 · No Comments

Many of us want to manage our diabetes by following a vegetarian diet. Most vegetarians object to eating meat because of ethical motivations stemming from respect for sentient life or for environmental concerns. These are worthy motivations.

Others are vegetarians because they believe that avoiding meat is healthier. Until now, however, a vegetarian diet is clearly less healthy in at least one crucial respect.

Getting enough heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids has been essentially impossible without eating fish or supplementing our diet with krill or fish oil. Many of us have the mistaken belief that vegetarian sources of omega-3 from chia or flax seeds will satisfy the requirements of our bodies for this essential nutrient.

But typically only 4 to 8 percent of the type of omega-3 fat found in these vegetarian sources get converted into the the long-chain fatty acids that our bodies need. This is according to a special report on “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiac Arrhythmias: Prior Studies and Recommendations for Future Research” in Circulation, the official journal of the American Heart Association.

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Confused About Diabetes

April 14th, 2013 · 2 Comments

Most of us are confused about diabetes, even our doctors. The confusion is mostly about how to manage this chronic disease, rather than what we want to achieve.

Most of us want to live as normal a life as we can. We know our goal, but not the roadmap to get there.

Normal for those of us who have diabetes means having a normal blood sugar level as measured by an A1C test. That level is certainly below 6.0 as I wrote in “The Normal A1C Level” and probably 5.4 or below as I wrote later in “How You Can Reduce Your Risk of Heart Attacks.”

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Diabetes Without Sugar

April 8th, 2013 · 5 Comments

When I decided to live with diabetes but without sugar, I had no idea how hard reaching my goal would be. Three-fourths of all the foods for sale in America have added sweeteners, according to an analysis of 85,451 foods that Dr. Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina and his team studied.

As a careful shopper, I thought that I could kick added sugar right out of my life. After all, I buy all my groceries at Whole Foods and at an even more selective local natural foods store. As Humphrey Bogart said in the film Casablanca, “I was misinformed.”

Ever since 2007 I have followed a very low-carb lifestyle. You might call it my diet, but I prefer to think of it as the way I prefer to eat for the rest of my life. On this so-called “diet” I have kept my A1C and weight levels right where I want them to be.

Added sugar doesn’t fit in my life. Sugar is not only empty calories, which people might think of as being neutral, neither good nor bad. But one sugar in particular can also be hard for our bodies to handle.

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