How Bananas Affect Diabetes and Blood Sugar Levels

yellow bananas

When you have diabetes, it is important to keep blood sugar levels as stable as possible.

Good blood sugar control can help prevent or slow the progression of some of the main medical complications of diabetes (12).

For this reason, avoiding or minimizing foods that cause big blood sugar spikes is essential.

Despite being a healthy fruit, bananas are pretty high in both carbs and sugar, the main nutrients that raise blood sugar levels.

So, should you be eating bananas if you have diabetes? How do they affect your blood sugar?

Bananas Contain Carbs, Which Raise Blood Sugar

If you have diabetes, being aware of the amount and type of carbs in your diet is important.

This is because carbs raise your blood sugar level more than other nutrients, which means they can greatly affect your blood sugar control.

When blood sugar rises in non-diabetic people, the body produces insulin. It helps the body move sugar out of the blood and into the cells where it’s used or stored.

However, this process doesn’t work as it should in diabetics. Instead, either the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells are resistant to the insulin that is made.

If not managed properly, this can result in high-carb foods causing big blood sugar spikes or constantly high blood sugar levels, both of which are bad for your health.

93% of the calories in bananas come from carbs. These carbs are in the form of sugar, starch and fiber (3).

A single medium-sized banana contains 14 grams of sugar and 6 grams of starch (3).

BOTTOM LINE:Bananas are high in carbs, which cause blood sugar levels to rise more than other nutrients.

Bananas Also Contain Fiber, Which May Reduce Blood Sugar Spikes

In addition to starch and sugar, a medium-sized banana contains 3 grams of fiber.

Everyone, including diabetics, should eat adequate amounts of dietary fiber due to its potential health benefits.

However, fiber is especially important for people with diabetes, as it can help slow the digestion and absorption of carbs (4).

This can reduce blood sugar spikes and improve overall blood sugar control (5).

One way of determining how a carb-containing food will affect blood sugars is by looking at its glycemic index (GI).

The glycemic index ranks foods based on how much and how quickly they raise blood sugar levels.

The scores run from 0 to 100 with the following classifications:

  • Low GI: 55 or less.
  • Medium GI: 56–69.
  • High GI: 70–100.

Diets based on low-GI foods are thought to be particularly good for people with type 2 diabetes (678910).

This is because low-GI foods are absorbed more slowly and cause a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels, rather than large spikes.

Overall, bananas score between low and medium on the GI scale (between 42–62, depending on the ripeness) (11).

BOTTOM LINE:In addition to sugar and starch, bananas contain some fiber. This means that the sugars in bananas are more slowly digested and absorbed, which could prevent blood sugar spikes.

Green (Unripe) Bananas Contain Resistant Starch

The type of carbs in your banana depends on the ripeness.

Green or unripe bananas contain less sugar and more resistant starch (1213).

Resistant starches are long chains of glucose (starch) that are “resistant” to digestion in the upper part of your digestive system (14).

This means that they function in a similar way as fiber, and won’t cause a rise in blood sugar levels.

However, they may help feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, which has been linked to improved metabolic health and better blood sugar control (15161718).

In fact, a recent study on blood sugar control in women with type 2 diabetes found some interesting results. Those supplementing with resistant starch had better blood sugar control than those who didn’t over an 8-week period (19).

Other studies have found resistant starch to have beneficial effects in people with type 2 diabetes. These include improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation (20212223).

The role of resistant starch in type 1 diabetes is less clear.

BOTTOM LINE:Green (unripe) bananas contain resistant starch, which doesn’t raise blood sugar and may even improve long-term blood sugar control.

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A Banana’s Effect on Blood Sugar Depends on its Ripeness

Yellow or ripe bananas contain less resistant starch than green bananas and more sugar, which is more quickly absorbed than starch.

This means that fully ripe bananas have a higher GI and will cause your blood sugar to rise faster than green or unripe bananas (13).

BOTTOM LINE:Yellow, ripe bananas contain more sugar than green, unripe ones. This means they cause a bigger rise in your blood sugar level.

Portion Size Is Important

Ripeness isn’t the only factor when it comes to the amount of sugar in your banana.

Size also matters. The bigger the banana, the more carbs you will be getting.

This means that a larger banana will have a greater effect on your blood sugar level.

This portion-size effect is called the glycemic load.

Glycemic load is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by the amount of carbs in a serving, then dividing that number by 100.

A score of less than 10 is considered low, 11–19 is medium and more than 20 is high.

Here’s the approximate amount of carbs in the different sizes of bananas (3):

  • Extra small banana (6 inches or less): 18.5 grams.
  • Small banana (about 6–6.9 inches long): 23 grams.
  • Medium banana (7–7.9 inches long): 27 grams.
  • Large banana (8–8.9 inches long): 31 grams.
  • Extra large banana (9 inches or longer): 35 grams.

If all these bananas were fully ripe (GI of 62), then their glycemic load would range from 11 for an extra small banana to 22 for an extra large banana.

To ensure you don’t cause your blood sugar to rise too much, it’s important to be aware of the size of the banana you’re eating.

BOTTOM LINE:The size of the banana you eat determines its effect on your blood sugar level. The larger the banana, the more carbs you’ll consume and the greater the rise in your blood sugar will be.

Are Bananas Safe for Diabetics?

Most generic dietary guidelines for diabetes recommend following a healthy, balanced diet which includes fruit (242526).

This is because eating fruits and vegetables has been linked with better health and a lower risk of disease, such as heart disease and some cancers (272829).

Diabetics are at an even greater risk of these diseases, so eating enough fruits and vegetables is important (3031).

Unlike refined sugar products like candies and cake, the carbs in fruit such as bananas come with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

More specifically, bananas provide you with fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. They also contain some antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds (32).

A recent study looked at the effect of limiting fruits on the blood sugar control of 63 people with type 2 diabetes (33).

They found that advising people to eat no more than 2 pieces of fruit per day resulted in people eating less fruit.

However, they also found that eating less fruit did not improve blood sugar control, weight loss or waist circumference.

For most people with diabetes, fruits (including bananas) are a healthy choice.

One exception to this is if you’re following a low-carb diet to control your diabetes. Even a small banana contains around 22 grams of carbs, which may be too much for your diet plan.

If you are able to eat bananas, it’s important to be mindful of the ripeness and size of the banana to reduce its effect on your blood sugar level.

BOTTOM LINE:Fruits like bananas are a healthy food that contains fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can include bananas in your diet, even if you have diabetes.

How to Eat Bananas When You Have Diabetes

If you have diabetes, it’s perfectly possible to enjoy fruit such as bananas as part of a healthy diet.

If you like bananas, the following tips could help minimize their effects on your blood sugar levels:

  • Watch your portion size: Eat a smaller banana to reduce the amount of sugar you eat in one sitting.
  • Choose a firm, nearly-ripe banana: Pick a banana that’s not overly ripe so that the sugar content is slightly lower.
  • Spread your fruit intake throughout the day: Spread out your fruit intake to help reduce the glycemic load and keep your blood sugar stable.
  • Eat them with other foods: Enjoy your bananas with other foods, such as nuts or full-fat yogurt, to help slow down the digestion and absorption of the sugar.

If you’re diabetic, remember that all carb-containing foods can affect people’s blood sugars differently.

Therefore, you might want to monitor how eating bananas affects your blood sugar and adjust your eating habits accordingly.

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Can people with type 2 diabetes eat honey?

A person’s glucose, or blood sugar, level refers to how much sugar is in their bloodstream. Sugar is the body’s primary source of energy.

The pancreas secretes insulin, a hormone, to keep blood sugar at safe levels. In a person with diabetes, the body either cannot use insulin correctly or it cannot produce enough.

How honey affects people with diabetes remains unclear. Some studies suggest that, in moderation, it may be useful for those with type 2 diabetes.

Replacing sugar with honey for diabetes

Honey may be a healthful substitute for refined sugars, such as white sugar, turbinado, cane sugar, and powdered sugar.

However, people should use it in moderation. It, too, can cause blood sugar levels to spike, especially when a person uses honey in addition to, rather than instead of, another form of sugar.

Some manufacturers produce honey that is not pure and may contain added sugars or syrups.

It is also important to note that raw honey can contain a toxin that can cause botulism or otherwise be dangerous for infants younger than 1 year.

While honey provides nutrients, other foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are better sources of these, and they also provide more fiber and water, minimizing any hike in blood sugar levels.

People with diabetes should consume sweeteners of any kind as infrequently as possible because frequent blood sugar spikes can cause diabetes to progress more rapidly.

What is honey?

Raw honey starts out as flower nectar. After bees collect the nectar, it naturally breaks down into simple sugars, which bees store in honeycombs.

The honeycombs cause the nectar to evaporate, creating a thick, sweet liquid. This is honey.

Honey, like other types of sugar, is a dense source of carbohydrates. Most of these carbs are in the forms of glucose and fructose, which are simple sugars.

Unlike refined white sugar, honey also contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

 

Processed vs. raw honey

Most of the honey available today is processed, which means that the manufacturer has heated and filtered it. This strips away some of the honey’s nutritional value and potential health benefits.

However, raw honey retains these properties. Raw, local honey may, for example, help with seasonal allergies.

According to a 2018 review published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, switching from refined sugar to honey may help keep blood glucose levels down.

The researchers attribute this to honey’s lower glycemic index (GI) score and its ability to reduce inflammatory markers and improve levels of cholesterol.

Doctors are not likely to recommend switching to honey as a person’s only diabetes management tactic. It will not replace medications or healthful lifestyle practices.

Babies younger than 1 year should not eat raw honey. Doing so can put them at risk of botulism, a kind of food poisoning that can be life-threatening.

Nutrition

Raw honey, much like white sugar, is a sweetener that contains carbohydrates and calories.

[variety of sugars on display in wooden spoons]

A tablespoon of honey, weighing about 21 g, has about 64 calories, while 21 g of granulated white sugar contains 80 calories.

This amount of honey also contains:

  • 3.59 g of water
  • 17.25 g of sugar
  • 11 milligram (mg) of potassium
  • 1 mg of calcium
  • 1 mg of phosphorus
  • 1 mg of sodium
  • 0.05 mg of zinc
  • 0.1 mg of vitamin C

It also contains some B vitamins.

Sugar contains almost no other nutrients.

Another big difference between white sugar and honey concerns digestion. The body breaks down honey using enzymes that exist in the honey, while digesting sugar requires enzymes from the body.

An additional difference relates to the GI. This index measures the extent to which a particular carbohydrate raises blood sugar levels. Foods with high GI scores tend to elevate levels quickly and significantly but contain little nutritional value.

According to a study published in 2018, honey has a GI score of 58, while sugar’s GI score is 60.

Research

Several studies have found that eating honey may increase insulin levels and decrease levels of blood sugar.

Possible hypoglycemic impact

A small study from 2004 investigated honey and sugar’s effects on blood glucose levels.

The researcher found that a solution containing 75 g of honey raised blood sugar and insulin levels in people with and without type 2 diabetes within 30 minutes. An equivalent solution containing dextrose raised blood sugar levels slightly higher.

Within 2 hours, the levels fell, and they fell lower and remained lower in the honey group, compared with the dextrose group.

The researcher suggested that honey may increase insulin levels. This would explain why, although blood sugar levels rose in both groups, they fell further in the honey group.

Improved measurements of diabetes

A review published in 2017 also explored the connection between honey and blood glucose in people with diabetes.

The authors found that honey had the following effects:

  • Honey decreased fasting serum glucose, which a doctor measures after a person has fasted for at least 8 hours.
  • It increased levels of fasting C-peptide, which helps the pancreas know how much insulin to secrete and plays a crucial role in keeping blood sugar levels stable in a healthy range.
  • It increased 2-hour postprandial C-peptide levels, which indicate the amount of peptide after a person eats.

Future therapeutic effect

In 2012, a study involving 50 people with type 1 diabetes found that, compared with sucrose, honey was less likely to raise blood sugar levels. The research team concluded that honey might, one day, have a role in treating the beta cells of the pancreas, which are responsible for producing insulin.

In 2018, a review of studies concluded that honey may be useful for treating type 2 diabetes, as it may have a hypoglycemic effect. In other words, it may help lower blood sugar.

However, the researchers caution that confirming these effects and establishing the beneficial dosages will require more studies in humans and long-term investigations.

Effect on long-term blood glucose levels

An 8-week study involving 48 people in Iran found that consuming honey did not appear to raise fasting blood sugar levels. Participants who ate honey also lost weight and had lower blood cholesterol levels.

The researchers also tested the participants’ hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen to the body’s cells. When glucose enters the cells, it joins with hemoglobin.

By measuring how much hemoglobin is combined with glucose, in a hemoglobin A1C test, a doctor can estimate a person’s average blood glucose levels over the last few months.

A person with more hemoglobin A1C has a higher risk of diabetes and is likely to be receiving poor blood glucose management.

The researchers noted that participants in the honey group had an increase in hemoglobin A1c, suggesting a long-term rise in blood glucose levels. For this reason, the team recommended “cautious consumption” of honey among people with diabetes.

Antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties

Other studies have suggested that honey may have additional benefits because it contains antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.

A review published in 2017 looked at the potential roles of honey in healing. The authors noted that, in people with type 2 diabetes, doctors may one day use honey to lower blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of complications related to diabetes and metabolic disease, and help heal wounds.

In 2014, researchers in Greece published similar findings, noting that honey might help to fight the inflammatory processes that occur with diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease, all of which are features of metabolic syndrome.

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What Are the Health Benefits (and Risks) of Eating Sprouts?

sprouts, vegetarian, plant food, plant based food, sprouts, bean sprouts, nut sprouts

Sprouts: You’ve probably encountered them before on a salad or a sandwich and thought little about them. Maybe you love them, maybe you skip them. Either way, chances are you probably don’t know a whole lot about them.

So what are these tiny little vegetables? What else can they be used for and what are the benefits – and risks – of eating them? To get to the bottom of it all, we spoke with registered dietician Mira Ilic, RD, LD, MS.

What are sprouts?

Sprouts are the germinated seed of a vegetable, young plants on their way to full growth – at least until some are harvested from those plants to be, well, sprouts for eating. You can find sprouts pretty much wherever you find food, particularly grocery stores and farmers markets. Some people even grow their own.

The types of sprouts

Most sprouts you’ll encounter fall into four categories:

  • Bean and pea sprouts: These include mung bean, kidney bean, black bean, lentil and snow pea sprouts.
  • Vegetable sprouts: These include broccoli, alfalfa, mustard green and red clover sprouts.
  • Nut and seed sprouts: These include pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed sprouts.
  • Sprouted grains: These include wheatgrass and quinoa sprouts.

Some of the more popular sprouts include alfalfa, mung bean, red clover and broccoli.

And, no, Brussels sprouts aren’t part of these sprouts. Says Ilic, “They’re grown like regular plants, not in that warm water environment like sprouts.” Brussels sprouts are actually in the same family as cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower.

What are the benefits of sprouts?

Sprouts are jam-packed with vitamins and minerals, varying from sprout to sprout. “Sprouts carry essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and are a great source of antioxidants,” says Ilic.

For instance, she says, “Broccoli sprouts will be loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid and they are a really good source of the powerful antioxidant sulforaphane.”

Sprouts can also carry other nutrients like B vitamins and minerals like phosphorus and magnesium. Plus, they’re low in things like fat, sodium and calories.

There’s also the appeal of what they can bring to your meal. “They bring a variety to your salad, wrap or sandwich,” Ilic says. “They can add a crunch and even a different flavor besides those health benefits. And that makes them appealing to a lot of people.”

But sprouts also carry some risks that you need to be aware of before adding them to your next meal.

The risks of eating sprouts

While they’re nutritious, sprouts also run a risk of carrying foodborne illnesses like E. coli and salmonella. Most sprout seeds are grown in warm, humid conditions which are conducive to bacterial growth. And, Ilic points out that at larger farms where sprout seeds are harvested, there’s a risk of those seeds coming into contact with water that contains animal waste.

“There’s also a risk of the way they’re handled when they’re harvested,” she says. “When they’re harvested and packaged for sale, there’s the chance of a foodborne illness being passed that way, too, if the people who handled them didn’t practice good hand hygiene.”

These risks are further compounded by the fact that many prefer to eat sprouts raw which means no cooking process to kill off any bacteria. Those risks are high and prevalent enough that the FDA has issued recommendations and guidance for producers of sprouts.

How can I eat sprouts safely?

According to Ilic, the best way to safely enjoy sprouts is to cook them. “It may not be as appealing to some because you might lose that crunch, but it’s the safest way,” she says.

She adds, “You may lose some vitamins and minerals when you cook sprouts but you’re still getting most of the nutrients they contain, just to a lesser amount.” Boiling, oven-roasting and steaming sprouts are more cooking options to consider.

There are, too, canned bean sprouts. While they may not be as appealing as freshly grown sprouts, they’re safer, Ilic says. “The process of canning involves heat which makes them a safer choice.”

Are home-grown sprouts safe?

Some sprout lovers prefer to grow their own at home. But this doesn’t mean they’re any safer from contamination. “Since most outbreaks of sprout-related foodborne illness are associated with the contaminated seeds, it is no safer to grow sprouts at home than to get them from a store,” Ilic says.

“If the seeds happen to be contaminated with bacteria, they can cause food illness regardless of where they are grown.”

Other safety tips for eating sprouts

Ilic says, “Once you have fresh sprouts home, they should be chilled and stored in a refrigerator that can keep them at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.”

She also recommends washing your hands before and after handling sprouts and rinsing sprouts well before using them. “You’re trying to keep any bacteria you can off of them and rinsing off other materials that could be harmful before you consume them,” she says.

The appearance of sprouts matters, too. “If they’re slimy, smelly or musty, you should throw them out right away,” she adds.

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Why Are Certain Foods so Addictive?

food addiction, fast food, obesity, overeating, processed foods, sugar, sugar addiction, weight gain

Are there certain foods you just can’t eat one (or one bite) of? Maybe you’ve been known to polish off a bag of chips in front of the TV, or always find yourself going back for a second slice of cake at a party.

Overeating certain foods doesn’t mean you’re a gluttonous or weak-willed person. It means your body has learned to crave junk food. Intensely addictive processed foods can spike your blood sugar, hijack your brain chemistry and drive you to seek out more.

When these foods are readily available all around you, compulsively eating them can turn into habit, leaving you struggling with your weight or feeling sick.

How can you recognize and break the cycle of eating – and overeating – addictive foods? Psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, sheds some light.

Food addiction: Is it real?

Let’s start at the beginning: Can you really be addicted to food? That question doesn’t have a simple answer. In fact, it’s kind of controversial.

Food addiction is not an official medical diagnosis, though addictive food behaviors have been linked to medical conditions including obesity and binge eating disorder.

And whether food itself is addictive is still up for debate.

“Some people believe you can’t be addicted to a substance that you need to survive and that food itself is not actually addicting,” Dr. Albers says. After all, food doesn’t put you in an altered state of mind like addictive drugs do.

There’s also not one ingredient that can be singled out as being addictive. For some people, it’s greasy fast food. For others, it’s sweets. But even then, you wouldn’t binge on a bowl of granulated sugar. It seems to be processed foods with some combination of ingredients that become problematic for people.

Yet other researchers argue that food is indeed addictive. Certain foods light up pleasure centers in your brain and trigger the release of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, much like other addictive substances do. In people who are more predisposed to addiction, those chemicals can overpower other signals from the brain that tell them they’re full or satisfied, which can lead to a cycle of overeating.

Over time, these people may develop a tolerance to the foods they’re addicted to, Dr. Albers says. They need to eat more and more of them to feel the same level of pleasure. And although they realize the negative consequences of their overeating and want to stop, nothing they try seems to work.

“Many of the words that people use to describe how they feel with food are very much related to addiction, such as cravings, withdrawal and feeling out of control,” Dr. Albers notes.

A different way that some people describe this phenomenon is that it’s a “process addition” rather than a true addiction to food. People become dependent on the process that happens – the good, soothing feelings and pleasure that go along with eating – rather than to the food itself.

Sometimes, researchers say, people resort to addictive eating behaviors as a way to cope with stress and emotions.

More research is needed on this subject, but what’s clear is that addictive-like eating is reality for many people, and it can affect their health, self-esteem and quality of life in many negative ways.

The most addictive foods

The foods that people are most likely to compulsively overeat tend to have something in common: A powerful combination of carbohydrates (such as refined grains and/or sugar) and fat.

You won’t find many examples of this irresistible combo in nature. For example, rice is high in carbohydrates but low in fat, while nuts are high in fat but have minimal carbs. But processed food companies can mix ingredients and chemically exaggerate flavors to create taste sensations so appealing that you keep wanting more.

In a study where researchers asked people what foods they were most likely to overeat, some of the most common responses were:

  • Chocolate.
  • Ice cream.
  • French fries.
  • Pizza.
  • Cookies.
  • Chips.
  • Cake.
  • Cheeseburgers.

Red flags to watch out for

If they’re not addressed, food-addictive behaviors can contribute to health problems associated with an unhealthy diet, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

But not everyone who struggles with it is overweight. People who are a healthy weight can also fall into addictive eating behaviors. Sometimes, these behaviors can trigger other unhealthy patterns, such as crash dieting or over-exercising to burn off the extra calories consumed.

“It also really affects people’s quality of life because they feel so guilty or ashamed,” Dr. Albers says.

Watch for these troubling patterns of behavior:

  • Eating consistently past the point of being full.
  • Sneaking or hiding eating behaviors.
  • Feeling out of control around certain foods.
  • Thinking or stressing about food every day.
  • Finding other once-pleasurable activities less enjoyable.
  • Going out of your way to get certain foods when they aren’t readily available.
  • Avoiding social or professional situations because of food.
  • Continuing these behaviors despite their negative consequences.

How to get help for addictive eating

Willpower alone is rarely a strong enough defense against food addiction and the vicious cycle of cravings, overindulging and guilt it creates. In fact, trying to fight your cravings can even intensify them.

Dr. Albers recommends working with a psychiatrist or psychologist who can help you address both the physical symptoms and the underlying emotional factors that might be contributing to your food addiction. You might also find support groups like Overeaters Anonymous that host free in-person or virtual meetings in your area.

Learning what triggers your addictive behaviors will be an important first step. For some people, it’s stress or despair that leads them to turn to food for comfort. “If you can learn your triggers for overeating and break that cycle, that can be important because we can’t always control whether those addictive foods are going to be around us,” Dr. Albers says.

Mindfulness and other techniques to help you manage stress can also help overcome the cycle of overeating.

The more you’re aware of the forces at play in your cravings and what strategies can help combat them, the better your chances of breaking free of them and healing.

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11 Most Popular Foods That Are Loaded With Sugar

unhealthy foods

 

If there’s one thing that is hard to give up when you’re trying to make healthier eating choices, it’s sugar. The sweet stuff is found in tons of foods, and those pesky added sugars are actually causing a lot of harm. A recent study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology even found that sugar consumption is actually linked to developing larger fat deposits around the heart and in the abdomen. Simply put, this is bad news for your overall health.

The researchers in the study found that sugar intake—including sipping on sugar-sweetened beverages and eating foods with added sugar—over a 20-year period were both related to greater fat storage around organs.

So what can you do to best avoid this from happening?

Well, you’re going to make sure you don’t eat foods that are loaded with sugar, specifically added sugars. Keep in mind the American Heart Association recommends men should consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day, and women shouldn’t have more than 25 grams. There are plenty of foods out there that will close to or actually wipe out this allotment in just one serving.

To best help you out, we rounded up a list of some of the most popular grocery-store foods that are overflowing with sugar.

1

Pop-Tarts

frosted smores pop tarts
PER PACKAGE: 370 calories, 9 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 67 g carbs (1 g fiber, 35 g sugar), 5 g protein

Oh, the Pop-Tart. These pastries seem like a harmless way to start the morning when you’re in a hurry. And maybe they were a staple of your diet as a kid, so you’re thinking of adding a box to your grocery list for when you’re in the mood for a throwback snack. Hate to break it to you, but these are just sugar bombs. The classic Frosted S’mores flavor is loaded with 35 grams of sugar, 33 of which are added sugars.

2

Healthy Choice Sweet & Sour Chicken

healthy choice sweet sour chicken

PER PACKAGE: 390 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 550 mg sodium, 63 g carbs (3 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 12 g protein

Frozen dinners are forever a convenient freezer staple and the Healthy Choice line seems like a solid option. Well, don’t be fooled, as it’s just another seemingly healthy food. The sweet and sour chicken entrée is packing 22 grams of sugar into your main meal. Not something you would expect from a chicken-based dish!

3

Simply Cranberry Cocktail

simply cranberry cocktail

PER SERVING: 130 calories, 0 g fat, 15 mg sodium, 34 g carbs (34 g sugar), 0 g protein

Cranberry juice is fruit-based—what could be so bad? If you see “cocktail” on a juice label, though, you’ll soon realize that’s just a code word for “sugary.” One glass of this juice and you’re sipping on 34 grams of sugar, 29 of which are added.

4

3 Musketeers

3 musketeers candy bar

PER 1 BAR: 240 calories, 7 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 42 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 36 g sugar), 1 g protein

Those candy bars while you’re in the grocery store checkout line might be tempting, but just steer clear. The perfect example? A 3 Musketeers bar.

Eating one of these means you’re consuming 36 grams of straight sugar and corn syrup. And it seems like a candy bar that wouldn’t be as bad, as it’s just milk chocolate that is filled with a fluffy mousse.

5

Raisin Bran Crunch

Kelloggs raisin bran crunch

PER SERVING: 190 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 46 g carbs (4 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 4 g protein

Another bubble we’re bursting—most cereals are filled with tons of sugar. Even options such as Raisin Bran Crunch that you would think would be a healthier choice. Dried fruits, like the raisins here, should actually be eaten in moderation. They aren’t as filling as fresh fruit and are higher in sugar—a double whammy!

6

Oreo Mega Stuf

oreo mega stuff cookies

PER SERVING: 180 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 90 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (0 g fiber, 17 g sugar), <1 g protein

Oreo’s Mega Stuf features more creme between the two iconic chocolate cookies, making for an overly sweet snack. These are just excessive!

7

Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby

ben and jerrys chubby hubby ice cream tub

PER SERVING: 460 calories, 28 g fat (15 g sat fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 220 mg sodium, 45 g total carbs (0 g fiber, 35 g sugar, 28 g added sugars), 10 g protein

There are plenty of better-for-you ice cream varieties out there, but Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby isn’t one of them. We know—the vanilla malt ice cream that is loaded with peanutty fudge-covered pretzels, more fudge, and peanut buttery swirls is a staple flavor. But it happens to be one of the ice cream flavors with the most calories you’ll find in the freezer aisle. Plus, one serving has as much sugar as you would get if you ate three and a half Original Glazed Krispy Kreme Donuts.

8

Crush Pineapple

pineapple-crush-soda

PER 12 FL OZ CAN: 190 calories, 65 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (51 g sugar)

If you thought going for a fruit-flavored soda is a better option than say a can of Coca-Cola, these flavors are even worse!

Just take a look at the nutrition breakdown of a 12-ounce can of Crush Pineapple. It’s packing 190 calories—nearly 200 calories just for one small drink. What’s even more startling is the sugar, though. This beverage serves up 51 grams of the sweet stuff.

9

Yoplait Whips Yogurt Mousse

yoplait ships yogurt sea salt caramel

PER CONTAINER: 170 calories, 4 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (24 g sugar), 5 g protein

Plain yogurt is a great addition to your diet and can even help you lose weight. But not all yogurt is created equal, and Yoplait’s Sea Salt Caramel Yogurt Mousse is proof. It has the same amount of added sugar as what’s in a serving of Ben & Jerry’s Pistachio Pistachio Ice Cream

10

Quaker Real Medleys Oatmeal+ Apple Walnut

quaker real medleys

PER CONTAINER: 290 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 250 mg sodium, 54 g carbs (5 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 6 g protein

Oatmeal is another solid breakfast food to add to your rotation, as it’s full of fiber, packed with nutrients, and can even help lower your cholesterol. Instant oatmeals, though, are trouble for your waistline. Just take this Apple Walnut flavor from Quaker’s Real Medleys cups. It’s serving up 22 grams of sugar—17 of which are added sugars.

11

Sara Lee Lemon Meringue Crème Pie

Sara lee lemon meringue pie

PER SERVING: 380 calories, 12 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 320 mg sodium, 63 g carbs (1 g fiber, 51 g sugar), 5 g protein

It’s hard to resist dessert all the time. So go ahead and treat yourself! As long as it’s not to a slice of Sara Lee’s Lemon Meringue Crème Pie. One slice of this frozen dessert has 51 grams of sugar.

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8 Steps to Make The Healthiest, Most Delicious Salads Ever

Healthy salads

Want to know a simple, delicious way to get your four servings of vegetables per day? Put together a nice, big salad.

At least one sizable salad every day is the perfect way to get your daily servings in all at once — giving you flexibility with other meals and making sure you’re always on track with your daily nutrition requirements.

Yes, it’s that easy. Here dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, gives some tips for creating endless salad combinations with ingredients that are both nutritious and delicious — with each ingredient chock full of the healthy nutrients listed in the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

“My favorite salad is blackened salmon with goat or feta cheese, garbanzo beans, Greek olives, beets, tomatoes, carrots and cucumber,” Jeffers says. “I’ll eat any dark green leaf, but spinach is my favorite. I gave up my iceberg lettuce fetish years ago and my body is thanking me. If you use the guide below, you’ll get to feel the same!”

The basics of building a super-healthy salad

Start with local, seasonal produce from your farmer’s market or grocery store, then add protein and a healthy dressing and you’re good to go.

Follow this guide daily to optimize your metabolic health, energy and overall well-being!

1. Get your greens on

  • Lettuce — The darker or redder, the better — so think romaine and leaf lettuces (vitamin C, folic acid, potassium).
  • Leafy greens — Jazz things up with spring mix, baby spinach and kale or arugula (beta-carotene, antioxidants).

Pro tip: Steer clear of iceberg and other pale lettuces. Their high water content means fewer nutrients.

2. Add some crunch

  • Celery (vitamin A).
  • Cucumber (vitamin C).
  • Purple cabbage (vitamins A and C, iron).
  • Pea pods (vitamins A and C, iron).
  • Broccoli florets (vitamin C).
  • Alfalfa sprouts (antioxidants).
  • Sunflower seeds or chia seeds (fiber, protein).
  • Walnuts or almonds (fiber, protein, niacin).
  • Edamame (vitamin C, iron).

Pro tip: Avoid croutons, tortilla strips, wonton strips and chow mein noodles. They’re high in fat and sodium, low in nutrients.

3. Create some color

  • Red, orange, yellow or green peppers (vitamins C, B1, B2 and B6, folate).
  • Red onion (fiber, phytochemicals).
  • Pomegranate seeds (vitamins A, C and E, fiber, potassium, calcium, antioxidants).
  • Tomatoes (fiber, vitamins A, C and K, potassium, manganese).
  • Avocado slices (over 20 vitamins and minerals, heart-healthy fat).
  • Red, purple or yellow beets (folate).

Pro tip: Add no more than 2 tablespoons of corn or peas per serving of salad. They’re high in starch just like bread.

4. Punch up the protein

  • Black beans, garbanzo beans or lentils (fiber).
  • Chicken or lean beef.
  • Salmon or water-packed tuna (omega-3 fatty acids).
  • Hard-boiled eggs.
  • Low-fat feta cheese, blue cheese, goat cheese, parmesan or mozzarella (calcium, vitamin D).
  • Tofu (heart-healthy fat, potassium).

Pro tip: Full-fat cheeses are high in saturated fat. Trying pairing small amounts of your favorite cheese with other proteins.

5. Freshen it up with fruit

  • Apple or pear slices (vitamin C, flavonoids).
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries (vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids).

Pro tip: Dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries, dates and raisins are higher in sugar than fresh fruit. A little goes a long way!

6. Let some leftovers in

  • Brussels sprouts (vitamins C, A and B6, folate).
  • Asparagus (vitamins A, E and K, folate).
  • Sweet potatoes (vitamins A and C, manganese).

Pro tip: White potatoes are high in starch, so add sliced sweet potatoes instead since they’re delicious raw and are super-crunchy like carrots.

7. Consult your cupboard

  • Black or greek olives (vitamin E, healthy fat).
  • Artichoke hearts (fiber, vitamin C, folic acid).
  • Banana peppers (vitamin C).
  • Hearts of palm (potassium).
  • Mushrooms (B vitamins, vitamin D).

Pro tip: Remember to factor the salt, often high in canned goods, into your daily sodium intake.

8. Dress it up wisely

  • Lemon juice (vitamin C, folate).
  • Lime juice (vitamin C, potassium).
  • Red wine or balsamic vinegar.
  • Olive oil (heart-healthy fat).

Pro tip: Use more vinegar and citrus, and less oil. Avoid high-calorie, high-fat Ranch, Thousand Island and French dressings.

On top of all that

Jeffers suggests if you don’t often eat salad, try starting with one or two a week. If that’s too much to start with, try experimenting with hearty bowls of grains, beans, egg, chicken or tuna, then add as many of the veggies mentioned above as you can.

Even fruit salads can at least help you get your 2 to 3 daily servings of fruit.

“After you wrap salads into your diet regularly you’ll be surprised at how you’ll begin to feel good about what you’re eating — and how creative you can get. Then, slowly build up to one each day, plus full-meal salads once or twice a week. You’ll soon have more energy and feel better than ever.”

Final tip: If you really don’t love salad, veggies in any form are fine — just make sure you get those 4 servings in any way you can!

Tame Your Tension Headaches Naturally

woman at work suffering from a tension headache

Pop quiz: What’s the most common type of headache? Surprisingly, it’s not a migraine. Tension headaches take the prize for the most common headache disorder. Neurologist Emad Estemalik, MD, talks tension in this Q&A:

Q. What is a tension headache?

A. People describe tension headaches as an aching pain that affects both sides of the head. They can last 30 minutes or linger for a few days. Typically, pain is the main symptom. Common migraine symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or light sensitivity aren’t usually factors for a tension headache. (Yay?)

“The biggest trigger for tension headaches, and probably the reason they are so common, is stress,” says Dr. Estemalik. “In most cases, lifestyle tweaks that reduce stress are enough to keep tension headaches at bay.”

Q: Who’s more likely to get tension headaches?

A: Men and women, young and old, are all equally at risk. The most significant cause is feeling stressed or overwhelmed — so a person who has a high-stress job or works long hours may be more susceptible. And people who are prone to depression, anxiety or sleep disorders are also more likely to experience tension headaches.

Q: Are there different types of tension headaches?

A: We categorize tension headaches as episodic or chronic. Episodic tension headaches are milder, less frequent and relatively short-lived.

If someone reaches a threshold of 15 headache days a month, or realizes their headaches are affecting their life quality, we would label those as chronic tension headaches.

Q: How can I get relief from tension headaches?

A: A tried-and-true home remedy for both chronic and episodic tension headaches is using a hot or cold compress to alleviate the discomfort. Place it on the forehead or over the neck and shoulders.

People can easily manage episodic headaches with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and acetaminophen. We recommend people limit the use of OTC pain relievers to two times per week at most. Using them too often could result in medication-overuse headaches, plus too much could damage the kidneys or liver.

People with chronic headaches may need daily prevention medicines. But we have a lot of options to help people avoid tension headaches altogether.

Q: Can tension headaches be prevented?

A: Yes! Because of their strong link to stress, take these steps to prevent or minimize the severity of tension headaches:

  • Drink water: Dehydration can increase headache severity, so drink eight glasses of water each day.
  • Exercise: Physical activity produces brain chemicals (endorphins) that are natural painkillers. Exercise also leads to improved sleep.
  • Gentle stretches: Yoga and tai chi both blend relaxation, breathing and stretching to reduce stress levels.
  • Good sleep hygiene: Improve your sleep by minimizing daytime naps, avoiding caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime, getting exercise and avoiding electronic devices before bed.
  • Massage: Whether you prefer a light touch or deep-tissue work, massage helps relieve built-up muscle tension in the shoulders, neck and scalp.
  • Mindfulness: Using your breath as a guide to keep your thoughts in the present can help reduce overall stress and pain.

Q: How do I know if my headache is a sign of something more serious?

A: The most common fear I hear is that headaches are a sign of a brain tumor or other problem. You don’t have to worry unless your headache comes with numbness or tingling, facial droop, or vision or cognitive changes. But if you’re over age 50 and only just starting to experience headaches, talk to your doctor.

Here’s the Deal With Your Junk Food Cravings

man eating hamburgers and fries at night

Ever feel like you have an endless craving for all the junk food — salty, sweet or both — that you can get your hands on?

You just can’t seem to give it up and keep eating, especially during times of heavy stress. And there’s certainly been plenty of stress to keep us hitting the bags of chocolate the last several months.

“Especially when we’re stressed, junk food often soothes us with the least amount of fuss and effort. We look for sugary and fatty foods to make us feel good,” says registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD. “But there are ways to get control of your food cravings, instead of them controlling you.”

Is “junk food” bad for you?

Junk food is food that is unhealthy for you, just as the word “junk” implies. It runs the gamut from sickly sweet (think: cookies, candy and cake) to heavy on saturated fats (think: fried and processed foods). Eating too much junk food can have short- and long-term consequences for your body thanks to these ingredients.

Saturated fats

Eating foods rich in saturated fats can increase your cholesterol levels and the amount of plaque in your blood vessels. “If you have blood vessels that are stiffening and not moving blood effectively, you have a higher risk for heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes,” says Czerwony.

Sugars

Too much sugar in your diet can lead to weight gain, a risk factor for diabetes. Some animal studies also suggest that artificial sweeteners make our bodies resist insulin. This may also increase the likelihood of developing prediabetes, diabetes and heart disease.

“Most Americans are walking around with prediabetes, putting them at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes,” Czerwony adds. “Once you have diabetes, doctors treat you as if you’ve already had a heart attack because the rate of heart disease is so much higher. All of these health issues affect all the organs, so it’s important to get a handle on them.”

What causes junk food and sugar cravings?

Czerwony lists four reasons you may be craving sweets and other junk food.

1. Food euphoria

Unfortunately, our bodies are hard-wired to crave junk food. When you eat foods you enjoy, you stimulate the feel-good centers in your brain, triggering you to eat even more.

Especially in patients with excess weight and obesity, the brain’s reward processing system for food is like its mechanisms related to substance abuse. “Sugar makes us want to eat more sugar. Fat makes us want to eat more fat,” notes Czerwony. “Our brains are chasing that pleasurable state of food euphoria.”

2. Lack of sleep

Studies suggest that sleep deprivation is associated with increased hunger (especially snack and sweet cravings). And you can blame it on your hormones. Lack of sleep causes hormone shifts:

  • Ghrelin, the hunger-control hormone, increases, causing you to eat more.
  • Leptin, the appetite-suppressing hormone, decreases.
  • Cortisol, the stress hormone, may increase, stimulating your appetite.
  • Research shows that sleep deprivation causes an increase in overall hunger, which can lead to cravings of sugar, fat or both.

3. Habit

“If it’s normal for you to eat junk food, it can be hard to break that cycle,” explains Czerwony. “You’re used to not cooking, preparing or planning. You eat whatever’s on hand because that’s what you’ve always done.”

4. Stress

Stress, or emotional, eating really is a thing — and it’s the result of both nature and nurture. Some people find food helps distract them from negative thoughts and feelings. Others learned as children to use food to cope.

Hormones are also responsible. Like lack of sleep, ongoing stress causes the body to increase levels of cortisol and other hormones connected to hunger. Studies show this hormone tsunami increases appetite — along with your desire for sugary and fatty foods.

Seven ways to curb junk food cravings

Czerwony says these strategies can help you master your food cravings:

  • Practice mindfulness: Try to eat and drink without distractions, Czerwony advises: “Avoid eating in the car or while watching TV or answering emails. Really focus on enjoying and tasting your food. You’ll find that a few bites can satisfy your craving — and save a lot of calories.”
  • Try an air fryer: “One of the best recent inventions is the convection air fryer. It allows you to eat things that have a fried consistency, minus the oil,” explains Czerwony. “It’s a healthier way to indulge.”
  • Embrace meal planning: Czerwony says when you plan ahead, you empower yourself to make good decisions. “Even if you choose a food that’s not healthy, it shouldn’t be a problem if you plan for it by eating healthier for a couple of days before or after.” Other ways to plan include stashing healthy snacks in your bag or desk and plan dinners ahead of time so your mind (and not your stomach) decides the menu.
  • Give yourself non-food-related rewards: If treating yourself always involves unhealthy foods, you could be sabotaging your health goals. Instead, treat yourself to a new outfit, some pampering or another activity that makes you smile.
  • Drink lots of water: It’s easy to confuse thirst cues with hunger cravings. To stay hydrated all day, keep a water bottle within reach.
  • Get a good night’s sleep: Keep those hunger hormones in check with adequate rest.
  • Manage stress: “If you cultivate a healthy lifestyle, those cravings often go away because the body isn’t responding to stress. Try meditation, exercise or reading to settle yourself down in stressful moments.”

Czerwony also emphasizes that it’s OK to ask for help when you’re feeling stuck. “Talk with your primary care physician or a registered dietitian. That’s what we’re here for: to educate and empower you to make better decisions. We can help you choose healthier options and modifications rather than focusing on things you have to cut.”

Healthy alternatives to junk food

When you make an effort to understand what flavors you do and don’t like, it’s easier to find healthier alternatives. Czerwony offers a few ideas to get you started:

Same food, different version

Try changing up the style of food instead of the food itself.

  • Try oven-baked or air-fried versions of your favorite fried foods.
  • Eat lower-sugar versions of your favorite cookies and sweets — or stick to smaller portions.
  • Try pizza with 100% whole grain crust, either made from scratch or at restaurants that offer it. You can also make specialty crusts — made from ingredients such as cauliflower. And don’t skimp on the veggies!
  • Eat potatoes with the skin. The extra fiber in the potato skin helps slow digestion and keep your blood sugar in balance.

Try this instead of that

Figure out a great switch to keep you going.

  • Have a chocolate-dipped pretzel or piece of fruit instead of an entire chocolate bar.
  • In recipes, try swapping applesauce for oil or decreasing sugar by at least one-fourth.
  • Next time you want a carbonated drink, opt for sparkling water without sugar or artificial sweeteners.
  • Swap out white potatoes for sweet potatoes, which are lower on the glycemic index and higher in micronutrients.
  • Instead of pretzels and chips, enjoy air-popped popcorn, popcorn made with extra virgin olive oil or unsalted mixed nuts.
  • Try replacing sugary treats with berries and dark chocolate (over 70%). Add a bit of nut butter for protein and healthy fat. Other options include berry herbal teas, frozen berries and homemade nut balls sweetened with two to three medjool dates.

Resisting food cravings is important if you’re trying to lose weight or reduce blood pressure or cholesterol. But there is such a thing as being too restrictive. “If you’re relatively healthy, at a healthy weight, and your blood pressure and blood sugar are on point, feel free to indulge if you plan for it,” Czerwony says.

“Many of my patients eat around their craving. When they want something chocolatey, they eat a piece of fruit that doesn’t hit the spot. Then they go for an ice pop with the same result … and it goes on,” Czerwony says.

Just eat what you’re craving, really enjoy it and be done with it,” she suggests. “That way, you’ll be satisfied and won’t need to go back for more.”

5 Tips To Help You Snack Healthier at Work

healthy snacks at work

Eating healthy doesn’t apply solely to what you consume for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is, unless the only time you eat is at mealtimes.

Most of us, however, like to have a couple of snacks during the day. The right snacks can help us to focus mentally by taking the edge off our hunger and can provide a much-needed energy boost until the next meal.

It’s important to choose wisely when selecting your snacks. You may eat the healthiest lunches in the office, but all of those salad greens and turkey sandwiches on whole-grain breads won’t amount to much if you’re noshing on junk between meals.

Junk food such as candy bars, soda and potato chips won’t help to power you through the afternoon — and consistent consumption of junk foods can harm your body over the long run by boosting your risk for disease.

One strategy to make sure you’re eating the most nutritious snacks is to plan ahead, says dietitian Beth Czerwony, MS, RD, CSOWM, LD. This way you avoid deciding while standing in front of the vending machine (or your fridge) at 3 p.m. with your stomach growling.

Here are five tips help make you snack savvy:

1. Plan your snacks for the work week and make them at home on Sunday night

Put your snacks in serving-size bags or containers so all you have to do is grab a couple on your way out of the door in the morning (or can easily grab one between Zoom meetings).

Czerwony suggests making up individual containers of juicy watermelon or other fruit. Or cut up crunchy celery into sticks that you can munch on at your desk. The point is to plan healthy and plan ahead.

“It makes it much easier when you feel overworked, overstressed and overscheduled,” she says.

2. Considering adding a little protein to keep hunger at bay

Pair a handful of heart-healthy nuts to accompany the fruit or a tablespoon of peanut butter for your celery.

3. Snack on fruits with the skin on them

Don’t peel your fruit. The skins on apples, peaches or plums provide extra fiber and will help you to feel fuller for a longer period of time. Whole fruits are delicious and portable, easily stored at work or eaten without plates or utensils when you’re on the go. Wash the fruit at home so you can eat them immediately at work.

4. Pack snacks that won’t spoil quickly

Consider high-fiber health bars or a cup or two of a nutritious dry cereal. Czerwony suggests keeping a pre-seasoned pack of tuna at your desk that you can easily open and eat with a fork.

“Right there you have a lunch if you get stuck at your desk unexpectedly for the day,” Czerwony says. “You don’t want to skip eating. That’s another bad thing to do when you’re trying to maintain your weight.”

5. Try drinking a glass of water or decaffeinated tea with your snack

Liquids can help you to feel full and are good for you too. Research suggests that adequate hydration increases cell metabolism, allows the muscles to work harder by providing oxygen and promotes the body’s elimination of waste.

Why Is My Hair Falling Out?

hair loss, hair loss in women, alopecia, menopause

Have you suddenly noticed gobs of hair clogging your hairbrush and shower drain? Or maybe your once-lustrous locks are looking a little sparse. It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out — if nature wasn’t already doing that for you.

What’s behind your tress distress? We talked to dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, to get the scoop on why you’re losing hair (and what to do about it).

Why do I shed so much hair?

Hair shedding is totally normal. But excessive shedding — known in medical terms as telogen effluvium — is often a sign that something’s up.

But it’s a sign that can take time to reveal itself. Hair grows in a cycle. It grows, then rests and finally sheds. At any given moment, each hair on your head is at a different point of that cycle.

That cycle takes time, says Dr. Khetarpal. “So any major shedding you see today is the result of what happened three months ago.”

Several things can cause over-the-top shedding. Here are some of the common culprits.

Stress

Stress can trigger telogen effluvium. But it typically takes a major stressor, like divorce or the death of a loved one (a big work deadline or a blind date probably isn’t enough to make your strands say sayonara).

Pregnancy and hormone changes

Most women lose a lot of hair a few months after giving birth. Later in life, some women notice extra shedding during menopause. You might also notice shedding if you’re dealing with other hormonal changes, such as stopping birth control pills.

Illness

Illness can trigger hair loss, especially if it goes hand-in-hand with a high fever. “Any major shock to the body can cause you to start shedding two or three months later,” Dr. Khetarpal says.

Thyroid problems

Both hyperthyroid disorder (an overactive thyroid gland) and hypothyroid disorder (a sluggish thyroid) can lead to excessive shedding.

Nutrient deficiencies

Hair loss can be a side effect of anemia (low iron levels). It can also be caused by shortages of other nutrients, including B vitamins and vitamin D. “Our body needs certain vitamins and nutrients to build hair,” notes Dr. Khetarpal.

Medications

Chemotherapy drugs to treat cancer are famous for causing hair loss. But many other common medications can lead to hair loss or thinning, including antibiotics, antidepressants and blood pressure medications.

Hair loss: Understanding alopecia

Excessive shedding is one problem. But true hair loss — known as alopecia — is a different animal. Alopecia causes hair loss over time, which can sometimes be permanent. There are several types of alopecia:

Alopecia areata

This autoimmune disease develops when your body attacks your hair follicles. It can occur anywhere on the body, including the scalp. Alopecia areata often causes round, patchy areas that are completely hair-free.

Traction alopecia

Tight hairstyles cause this type of hair loss. It can show up if you wear tight braids or ponytails every day or regularly wear hair extensions or weaves. These styles tug on the hair roots, damaging the hair follicles over time.

Androgenetic alopecia

Androgenetic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss in both men and women. In males, it’s the cause of familiar male-pattern baldness. But it also occurs in women, more often after menopause.

This hair loss tends to come on gradually. You might notice your part is getting wider or that more of your scalp is poking through your ‘do.

Hair loss treatment

Worried about hair loss? The best thing to do is mention it to your doctor.

Excessive shedding usually stops on its own, especially if it’s caused by stress or fever. But your doctor can check for underlying problems like thyroid disorders or nutrient deficiencies. Treating those problems will reverse the hair loss.

Treatments can help excessive shedding and alopecia. Some options include:

  • Topical products like minoxidil (Rogaine®).
  • Laser caps to stimulate hair growth.
  • Medications to target the hormones that can drive hair loss.
  • In-office treatments to regrow hair, such as platelet-rich plasma therapy.

“It’s important to have a discussion with your doctor to find the right treatment,” says Dr. Khetarpal. And in the case of alopecia, the sooner you start, the better. “The longer the hair is gone, the harder it is to get back,” she says.