Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Glycemic Index - Glycemic Load; What's the Difference?

Eliminating carbohydrates entirely from daily diets is becoming a very popular choice by those who want to lose weight. There are those who look up the glycemic index of a food to see if it has significant carbohydrates in it or not. Unfortunately when you eliminate all carbohydrates from your diet, your health and well-being can be at risk. Our bodies need some daily carbohydrates for mental and physical energy. Our brain depends on a steady supply of glucose to function properly, otherwise you may experience "spacey"-ness or brain fog.

What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) helps us understand how to rate simple and complex carbohydrates relative to how quickly they breakdown and are absorbed into our body as glucose (sugar). For diabetics this process is critical as we may need to compensate with insulin, medications, exercise or other food choices (i.e., protein based foods). For athletes it is important, as carbohydrates affect your blood sugar metabolism and can thus affect your performance ability. For "normal" people, too many carbohydrates might show up as a sugar high, where your head or heart is pounding, or you experience over-excitability. The crash of a sugar low might manifest itself as a migraine, fatigue, sleepiness or nausea. The glycemic index is basically calculated by measuring the blood glucose response to 50 grams of a specific food over a two hour period to obtain a relative index value.

What is Glycemic Load?
Glycemic load (GL) is different in that it rates food according to its carbohydrate and fiber composition. It is calculated by multiplying the GI value by the "available carbs" per serving (carb grams minus the fiber grams = available carbs) and then dividing it by 100 to obtain the index value. 

Foods with a GL of 10 or less are good choices for stabilizing blood sugar levels. These foods normally include fresh vegetables and fruits with fiber, rather than processed items. Foods rated in the 11-19 load category (see chart below), have a moderate affect on blood sugar, and those 20 and over should be eaten sparingly as they spike blood sugar levels very quickly. (There are a couple food list links posted below.)

When blood sugar is raised and lowered often enough over a long-term basis, the insulin receptors in your body will tend not to absorb the glucose. This causes fatigue and will eventually cause pre-diabetes and diabetes. 

How can you tell what your blood sugars are doing? 
First, you can evaluate your food choices by looking at and analyzing a Glycemic Index and/or Glycemic Load Chart similar to this one at etoolsage.com. You will need to scroll down the page to view the food choices listed under the low GI Index Chart tab. There are two other tabs for Medium GI and High GI food items, as well as a Search tab to find a specific food quickly. You can track your food choices in a daily journal to see your personal pattern of eating. Other sources of GI and GL charts are available online, you can pick one that is most helpful for you to understand and use. NutritionData.com is another excellent resource for complete nutritional breakdown of thousands of food options.

Second, you can check your own blood sugar levels with a glucose meter. This link gives you useful information about how to use a meter, and how to obtain one of many fairly inexpensive meters along with test strips. The benefit of knowing your blood glucose level and adjusting your food choices accordingly, certainly outweighs the future costs of becoming a diabetic. If your test numbers show consistently over 100, two hours after eating your carbohydrate meals, this would be a good indicator for you to talk with your healthcare physician as soon as possible. Your journal of food choices would be beneficial for your physician to review as well. An A1c blood test may be ordered to evaluate your blood sugar levels over the last 3 month period. Your physician will determine your risk for diabetes or not. 

I'm convinced if I had been educated about glycemic index and glycemic load when I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic and had been encouraged to test my blood on a daily basis, I might have been able to control my blood glucose much better and perhaps never developed Type 2 diabetes. If you are in this state of health, please think it through seriously and begin testing today. If you know a friend, family member or co-worker who has pre-diabetes, please share this article with them. It may very well be the "boost" they need to seriously track their food choices and make a real difference in their future health.

Thanks for visiting today! Wishing you a delightful day - blessed with kindness and love. If you have any comments or information on this topic, I'd love to hear from you!

For more information from a wise counsel, please check out these links:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Anti-Inflammatory Menu Components

Anti-inflammatory foods are foods which do not promote inflammation in the body. The following list is provided by Wendy Kohatsu, M.D., Director of the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at Santa Rosa Family Medical Residency Clinic in California.  Dr. Kohatsu is interested in the integration of primary care with nutrition, lifestyle changes, mind and body therapies and botanical medicine. She studied under Dr. Andrew Weil, at the University of Arizona in 1999 and has since gone on to receive her professional culinary degree in 2008. Along with her regular private practice she teaches healthy cooking classes at wellness centers and national conferences. She hopes to inspire her patients to not only eat healthier but to use food as medicine. I had the good fortune to have her as my primary care physician for a few years before she left to take her current position. It is interesting to find out that 'anti-inflammatory foods' is a passion of her practice. I did not know this until I found her list online through my research. It is a perfect representation of her healthcare focus.

Dr. Kohatsu describes this list of foods as evidence based principles to promote health, prevent and reduce inflammation in the body and generally be a helpful diet for patients with heart disease, diabetes, and chronic pain illnesses.  The following items are guidelines for a healthy diet.

1) Ensure adequate omega-3 intake.

         Eat two servings (4 ounces each) of fatty fish per week, or supplement with 1
         gram combined EPA + DHA daily.
         Reduce use of omega-6 fats.  Keep the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in range of
         2:1 – 4:1.

2) Choose healthy fats. 
        Substitute olive oil for other vegetable oils, trans-fats, or butter in cooking for health
        benefits. (I suggest you consider coconut oil as well. See previous post.) 

3) Increase vegetable and fruit intake (especially vegetables)
        Eat 5 - 9 servings of vegetables and fruit per day - more than
        half should be vegetables.
        Color your diet!  -- deeply-colored fruits and vegetables contain
        higher amounts of protective phytochemicals.
        Use the visual plate method – the biggest portion, half your plate should be vegetables
        (excluding starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas or corn).

4) Choose whole grain carbohydrates and limit the portion sizes to 1/4 of your plate.
        Choose carbs that are whole grain (requires chewing!), and aim for total
        of 25 grams of fiber per day.

5) Incorporate plant-based proteins (legumes) and/or choose lean, natural animal
         sources of protein as the other 1/4 of your plate.

6) Spice it up!   Include garlic, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, and cayenne in your

7) Eat mindfully - use a small salad plate instead of a dinner plate.
         Adopt the Okinawan philosophy of “hara hachi bu” – stopping when nearly 8/10 full
         and paying attention to hunger and satiety signals.
         Regardless of how healthy your food choices are, excess calories from any source
         increase inflammation and obesity.

8) Focus on the whole diet pattern, not just components. Choose foods that are closest
         to their natural form (i.e., less processed).

9) Keep your weight under control.
         It is especially important to prevent and reduce obesity, especially abdominal obesity,
         as obesity itself sets up chronic inflammatory responses in the body.

10) Don’t forget dark chocolate! – 2 ounces of dark (70% cocoa mass or greater)
         chocolate as your treat once a week.

Hope these guidelines along with my other postings about nightshade vegetables and alkaline foods help you to make wise food choices in the days ahead. Thanks for coming by today, and may you be blessed each day. Hope to see you again soon! Please leave your comments or questions.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Benefits of Coconut Oil - A Medium Chain Fatty Acid

The benefits of coconut oil as a 'medium chain fatty acid' are being studied in a variety of ways. The vast majority of fats and oils we use (98%), either saturated or unsaturated, come from plants and animals and are comprised of 'long chain fatty acids'(LCFA) or otherwise termed 'long chain triglycerides' (LCT). Coconut oil is predominantly comprised of 'medium chain fatty acids' (MCFA) or 'medium chain triglycerides' (MCT). What's the difference and what, if any, health benefits are there?

The coconut is a nutritious food, high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. We are now finding out that coconut oil is more beneficial to our health than was once thought. Over the last 20 years, we have learned about oils and fats and their health benefits, mainly through their saturation classification. However a second method of classifying fats is being done by molecular size, or length of their fatty acid carbon-hydrogen chain. Our bodies respond to and metabolize each fatty acid differently according to its size. Current research is showing that the shorter MCFA molecules actually have a positive effect on cholesterol and heart disease contrary to their saturation classification. Modern medical science is finding coconut oil, revered by many ancient cultures as a healing food and medicine, is a truly unique and different oil compared to most other fats and may have many healing properties for the body.

As is stated in an article at www.coconutresearchcenter.org, traditional medicine around the world has used the coconut to help treat a wide variety of health problems including: abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, dysentery, earache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, ulcers, upset stomach, weakness, and wounds.

Modern medical science is now confirming the use of coconut in treating many of the above conditions. Published studies in medical journals show that coconut, in one form or another, may provide a wide range of health benefits. Here are some of the topics being published:

  • Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other illnesses.
  • Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, and other diseases.
  • Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections.
  • Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites.
  • Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
  • Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.
  • Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  • Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
  • Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
  • Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
  • Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes.
  • Reduces problems associated with malabsorption syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
  • Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
  • Helps protect against osteoporosis.
  • Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.
  • Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers.
  • Improves digestion and bowel function.
  • Relieves pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids.
  • Reduces inflammation.
  • Supports tissue healing and repair.
  • Supports and aids immune system function.
  • Helps protect the body from breast, colon, and other cancers.
  • Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease.
  • Protects arteries from injury that causes atherosclerosis and thus protects against heart disease.
  • Helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay.
  • Functions as a protective antioxidant.
  • Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease.
  • Does not deplete the body's antioxidant reserves like other oils do.
  • Improves utilization of essential fatty acids and protects them from oxidation.
  • Helps relieve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Relieves symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement).
  • Reduces epileptic seizures.
  • Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections.
  • Dissolves kidney stones.
  • Helps prevent liver disease.
  • Is lower in calories than all other fats.
  • Supports thyroid function.
  • Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate.
  • Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats.
  • Helps prevent obesity and overweight problems.
  • Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward of infection.
  • Reduces symptoms associated the psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
  • Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
  • Softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking.
  • Prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots.
  • Promotes healthy looking hair and complexion.
  • Provides protection from damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
  • Helps control dandruff.
  • Does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperature like other vegetable oils do.
  • Has no harmful or discomforting side effects.
  • Is completely non-toxic to humans.

(Disclaimer: These statements come from the coconutresearchcenter.org website, and "were supplied by a variety of sources and authors and have not all been evaluated by the FDA ".) 

In another article from www.wikipedia.com, research of MCFA's are shown to reduce fat oxidation and food intake. Special noteTheir use is not recommended for diabetics unless under supervised medical treatment and those with liver problems due to the added stress they may put on the organ. MCFA's are known to be quickly absorbed into the body and are being evaluated as a unique specialized treatment for children with epilepsy.

The coconut is being studied from many angles. The use of coconut fruit, milk and oil is available in many natural and processed foods as well as beauty products on the market.  Be smart before purchasing specialized products claiming specific health benefits. As is the case with all posts on this blog, I encourage you to TALK with your healthcare practitioner to determine the benefits for YOUR specific healthcare NEEDS.

Thanks for stopping by today. Wishing you all the best today has to offer. Hope to see you again soon for another interesting topic to consider about healing inflammation in your body.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Anti-Inflammatory Foods That Improve HDL

Many people have high cholesterol and are either making dietary choices or taking medications to achieve proper LDL and HDL levels. Simply put, the LDL (low density lipoprotein) is considered to be the "bad" cholesterol that builds up in your the arteries and causes heart disease.  The HDL (high density lipoprotein) is the "good" cholesterol which eliminates the bad cholesterol from building up in your arteries. When your HDL level is above 60 mg/dl, your risk of heart disease or heart attack decreases.

There are several anti-inflammatory foods which increase HDL levels. These foods are easy to include in your everyday diet.

Avocado - great on salads, sandwichs and as a dip. Tip: avocados are high in calories, so portion control is key. Add a little squeeze of lemon or lime juice to prevent darkening.

Niacin rich foods or supplements - are believed to block cholesterol production in the body. Foods high in niacin include crimini mushrooms, chicken breast, halibut, tomato, romaine lettuce and enriched breads and cereals. Niacin supplements may cause side effects like flushing, itching or headaches. Tip: Slow release tablets may minimize any side effects.

Legumes - are excellent sources of HDL friendly soluble fiber. Tip: Indian spices (cumin, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, paprika) are a tasty addition to lentils. These seasonings have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Salmon - and other omega 3 rich fish like halibut, lake trout, tuna, mackerel and herring are heart healthy fats which should be eaten at least twice a week. Tip: By adding a chopped almond crust to the fish, you increase the omega 3 fats even more.

Olive Oil - is high in unsaturated fats and can help elevate your HDL levels. Tip: Oil is high in fats and calories, so practice portion control.

Fiber - includes whole grains. Foods high in soluble fiber are especially helpful to raise HDL and lower LDL. Oatmeal is an excellent source of soluble fiber as is rice, whole wheat, quinoa and barley. Tip: Choose a whole grain to eat daily.

Nuts - are a good source of heart healthy fats. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans can be added to salads, yogurt, cereals, rice or pasta dishes. Tip: Although nuts are more than half fat, they are high in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Limit your portion to one handful.

Cholesterol levels are also affected by blood pressure and blood glucose. If these two factors are high, your cholesterol numbers may be off as well. These 3 factors can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Choosing to add the foods listed above to your daily diet will help lower your health risks to live a longer, healthier life.

Thanks for stopping by today for a visit. Hope you found this an interesting and helpful topic that you can integrate into your life.