Posts Tagged ‘carbohydrates’

It’s OK to Eat Fat: Why the Mediterranean Diet is Successful

October 25th, 2010

The Mediterranean Diet offers both healthy and appetizing food choices.Copyright 2010

Take a look at the meal plans for the Mediterranean Diet and you might be surprised by the amount of fat that it recommends. While the diet restricts consumption of red meats, it heartily encourages dieters to use olive oil in their cooking and to make nuts and legumes a staple of their diets.

In fact, the typical Mediterranean diet recommends getting 25%-35% of your calories from fat.

Doesn’t this seem strange when we’ve been told all our lives that fat is unhealthy and that we should avoid it at all costs? After all, the food pyramid itself states that we should base our diets on carbohydrate-heavy foods like grains, fruits, and vegetables, with foods high in fat taking up a smaller spot nearer to the top of the pyramid.

Yet the Mediterranean Diet, with its lax attitude toward fat, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. How is it that a diet relatively high in fat actually reduces the risk of heart disease?

All the negative attention that fat has drawn over the years would suggest that it isn’t healthy in any form, but more recent research has shown that not all fats are bad.

The Mayo Clinic states that healthy fats, including the polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and omega-3 fatty acids that are recommended by the Mediterranean Diet, can actually help reduce one’s risk of heart disease by lowering levels of LDL cholesterol – the bad type of cholesterol.

Another aspect of the Mediterranean Diet that contributes to its health benefits is its emphasis on specific kinds of fruits and vegetables. Grains such as bread are recommended as staples of the diet, yet it takes care to mention that dieters should refrain from eating processed bread and instead opt for whole grain bread.

Processed bread, such as common “white bread” found in grocery stores, actually strips much of the nutritional value from its grain and oftentimes even contains high fructose corn syrup. A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men who ate more whole grains put on less weight in their middle age years than those who ate processed grains.

The Mediterranean Diet also recommends large quantities of fruits and vegetables which, compared to the processed and refined carbohydrates commonly found in the Western (American) diet, do not cause dangerous insulin spikes.

While fruits are high in sugar, those sugars are naturally occurring and, for the most part, do not cause extreme fluctuations in insulin levels, which may contribute to the development of Type-2 diabetes.

The Mediterranean Diet does not follow the template of a typical fad diet, and for good reason: it’s actually effective in reducing weight and contributing to the overall health of the dieter. A 12-year study of people following the Mediterranean Diet found that their health improved over a wide spectrum of categories, from body weight to blood pressure to insulin levels. The diet is effective because it relies on making small but permanent changes rather than radical, unsustainable ones, as with many fad diets.

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How to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth on a Diabetic Diet

October 23rd, 2010

Diabetics require a well-balanced diet without lots of processed sugars and carbohydrates.Copyright 2010

If you’ve been diagnosed with Type-1 or Type-2 diabetes, you’ll find that your doctor recommends a very specific diabetic diet that excludes certain kinds of food entirely. The goal of a specialized diet is to exercise control over one’s blood sugar levels; unfortunately, this means that some of your favorite foods might be ruled out entirely.

If you’re diabetic, foods high in carbohydrates, especially sweet foods containing lots of sugar, can wreak havoc on blood glucose levels and are generally out of the question.

Yet we all crave something sweet once in a while; who doesn’t love a good dessert after a filling meal? Fortunately, there are ways to satisfy those cravings for sweets without ruining your diet. Even if you aren’t diabetic, you can take advantage of these tips; keeping your blood sugar levels under control is always a good idea, as it will reduce fluctuations in your weight and decrease your likelihood of developing adult onset diabetes.

The American Medical Association recommends that people with diabetes should reduce their intake of simple carbohydrates. These simple carbs most often take the form of processed foods such as white bread and candy. The easiest way to replace these foods with something healthier, but still palatable, is to eat more fruit instead of candy and other sweets.

Fruits, carefully chosen, are a great way to provide sweets in a diabetic diet.Fruits can satisfy your cravings for something sweet while still remaining diabetic-friendly since they’re not composed of the simple, processed carbs that are found in unhealthy foods.

However, not all fruit is created equal: some types of fruit will still have a significant effect on your blood glucose levels. A banana, for example, may be delicious but it’s practically a candy bar where blood sugar levels are concerned.

Look up the glycemic index to determine which fruits are safe to eat for diabetics; the lower a food’s glycemic index (or GI) value, the less it will affect your blood sugar levels and the safer it is for those with diabetes.

“Regular” soda is another guilty pleasure that you must avoid on a diabetic diet. It’s become very common in the Western (American) diet, with disastrous results: the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study which showed that women who regularly drank soda or fruit juice were more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, in addition to being heavier.

Diet soda, in moderation, can be a suitable beverage substitute for diabetics.

These highly-sugared drinks are a diabetic’s worst nightmare, causing blood sugar levels to shoot up out of control.

The good news is that diet sodas have been on the market for quite some time, and they’ve made great strides toward being safe alternatives to their sugar-packed cousins. Many diet sodas are sweetened with aspartame, a synthetic sweetener that is used as a substitute for sugar in many foods.

The Food and Drug Administration has stated that aspartame is one of the most thoroughly tested additives that they’ve ever studied and that it’s safe for human consumption at reasonable levels. Thus, sodas sweetened with aspartame can be very useful to the diabetic who is addicted to soda, as long as it’s used in moderation. Of course, it’s always better to drink water rather than any type of sweetened drink, but diet sodas are always preferable to sodas sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Sugar substitutes can make a diabetic diet easier for you to incorporate into everyday living.Similarly, sucralose is another artificial sweetener that has been deemed safe for human consumption by the FDA. It’s useful for diabetics since it contains no sugar and thus does not affect blood glucose levels. It’s known by a few different names, most commonly as Splenda, and is used as a sugar substitute anywhere that sugar would normally be used.

However, it’s important to note that sucralose is often “fluffed up” by manufacturers: they add dextrose or maltodextrin to give it a granular texture, similar to that of normal sugar. This means that some forms of sucralose, including Splenda, do actually contain small amounts of sugar despite the fact that their packaging states otherwise. Take care to use sucralose-based sweeteners in moderation and you can enjoy baked treats and other desserts that you never thought you could have if you’re diabetic.

It’s never easy to make significant changes to your diet, especially if you suddenly find your doctor recommending a diabetic diet where you must eliminate many of the foods that you once enjoyed. However, just these few tips can go a long way toward curbing your sugar cravings in a diabetic-friendly way.

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