Popular Foods That May Cause Lasting Damage to Your Liver, According to Science

four fried chicken wings on a white background

 

Your liver is one of the most important organs in your body, however, your diet choices could be harming it, and you may not even realize it.

According to the American Liver Foundation, it’s estimated that about 25% of adults in the U.S. have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This common chronic liver condition occurs when excess fat is stored inside your liver’s cells, primarily caused by routine unhealthy food choices. When fat accumulates in the liver from alcohol, the condition is referred to as alcoholic fatty liver disease. Both forms of fatty liver disease can damage the liver and prevent it from working properly.

 

1

Red meat

ribeye steak dinner with potatoes on wood board

Americans love red meat. In fact, U.S. consumption of beef amounted to about 27.3 billion pounds in 2019 alone. While there are many reasons you should limit how many ribeye steaks or burgers you eat each month, from weight gain to heart disease, another reason to avoid red meat is that it may affect the health of your liver. A 2010 study found an association between red meat intake and increased risk of chronic liver disease as well as hepatocellular carcinoma, one of the most common types of liver cancer.

If you already have NAFLD, then you’ll especially want to steer clear of red meat, many cuts of which are high in saturated fat. Those who have NAFLD already have too much fat in their liver, which hinders the organ from carrying out essential functions such as, removing toxins and producing bile. Consider capping your consumption of red meat at one serving per week.

 

2

Fried chicken

fried chicken

Similar to red meat, fried chicken packs a lot of saturated fat. This is because when foods are fried, they absorb the fats from the frying oil and as a result, become more calorically dense. While eating fried foods on the occasion won’t cause severe health complications, eating them regularly can potentially do some damage, especially to your liver.

As Leann Poston, MD at Invigor Medical told us previously, “Diets high in saturated fats lead to increased liver fat and insulin resistance.” Research indicates that both of these factors can increase the risk of NAFLD, which can then lead to late-stage scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and even liver failure if left untreated.

3

White bread, pasta, rice

white bread

If you have the choice to choose whole grain or wheat over white bread, pasta, and rice, do it—if not for the uptick in fiber, then for the health of your liver. Refined carbohydrates, or processed grains that have been stripped of fiber, have a higher glycemic index (GI) than minimally processed whole grains. Foods with a high GI index can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, which then triggers the pancreas to produce insulin. While this is a normal response, regularly eating these foods could exhaust the pancreas and cause the body to become insulin resistant. 

Insulin resistance is believed to be a cause for NAFLD, as cells in the muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond to the hormone properly, which then leads it to build up in the blood. When some of these fat molecules accumulate in liver cells, that’s when NAFLD can develop. In short, limiting your intake of high GI foods can prevent help to prevent insulin resistance, which in turn, may also protect your liver.

4

Potato chips

potato chips

Consuming too many salty foods, such as potato chips, could be silently causing damage to your liver. According to a 2016 study, eating too much salt can lead to higher rates of cell death and lower rates of cell division, which can lead to liver fibrosis. When someone has liver fibrosis, that just means their liver contains abnormally large amounts of scar tissue and doesn’t work as well. However, they may not even know they have it as fibrosis causes no symptoms. In severe cases of liver scarring, cirrhosis may develop which does cause symptoms.

5

Alcohol

drinking alcohol

Alcohol can do some damage to your liver if consumed in excess, which is especially relevant as the nation witnessed drastic changes in drinking habits last year. In fact, Keck Hospital at USC in Los Angeles reported in February that admissions for alcoholic hepatitis and liver failure increased by 30% in 2020, compared to the year prior. This significant uptick in liver complications was largely associated with alcohol abuse, the hospital reported.

Following the USDA Dietary Guidelines, women should consume no more than one alcoholic beverage each day, whereas men should cap their consumption at two to avoid health issues later down the road. However, one study published in the journal Hepatology suggests that men and women who occasionally binge drink, which is described by the CDC as having four or more drinks in two hours for women and five or more for men, is less likely to cause liver damage than drinking a small amount of alcohol each day.

Bottom line, it’s likely best to limit your alcohol consumption to just a few servings a week to ensure you keep your liver in tip-top shape.

7 Things you can do to Prevent a Stroke

Stroke prevention can start today. Protect yourself and avoid stroke, regardless of your age or family history.

prevent stroke

What can you do to prevent stroke? Age makes us more susceptible to having a stroke, as does having a mother, father, or other close relative who has had a stroke.

You can’t reverse the years or change your family history, but there are many other stroke risk factors that you can control—provided that you’re aware of them. Knowledge is power. If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk.

How to prevent stroke

Here are seven ways to start reining in your risks today to avoid stroke, before a stroke has the chance to strike.

1. Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled. High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke in both men and women. Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference people can make to their vascular health.

Your ideal goal: Maintain a blood pressure of less than 120/80 if possible. For some older people, this might not be possible because of medication side effects or dizziness with standing.

How to achieve it:

  • Reduce the salt in your diet, ideally to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (about a half teaspoon).
  • Increase polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in your diet, while avoiding foods high in saturated fats.
  • Eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, one serving of fish two to three times a week, and several daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy.
  • Get more exercise — at least 30 minutes of activity a day, and more, if possible.
  • Quit smoking, if you smoke.

 

2. Lose weight

Obesity, as well as the complications linked to it (including high blood pressure and diabetes), raises your odds of having a stroke. If you’re overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can have a real impact on your stroke risk.

Your goal: While an ideal body mass index (BMI) is 25 or less, that may not be realistic for you. Work with your doctor to create a personal weight loss strategy.

How to achieve it:

  • Try to eat no more than 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day (depending on your activity level and your current BMI).
  • Increase the amount of exercise you do with activities like walking, golfing, or playing tennis, and by making activity part of every single day.

3. Exercise more

Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but it also stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer.

Your goal: Exercise at a moderate intensity at least five days a week.

How to achieve it:

  • Take a walk around your neighborhood every morning after breakfast.
  • Start a fitness club with friends.
  • When you exercise, reach the level at which you’re breathing hard, but you can still talk.
  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator when you can.
  • If you don’t have 30 consecutive minutes to exercise, break it up into 10- to 15-minute sessions a few times each day.

4. If you drink — do it in moderation

Drinking a little alcohol is okay, and it may decrease your risk of stroke. Studies show that if you have about one drink per day, your risk may be lower. Once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply.

Your goal: Don’t drink alcohol or do it in moderation.

How to achieve it:

  • Have no more than one glass of alcohol a day.
  • Make red wine your first choice, because it contains resveratrol, which is thought to protect the heart and brain.
  • Watch your portion sizes. A standard-sized drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce beer, or 1.5-ounce glass of hard liquor.

5. Treat atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. Those clots can then travel to the brain, producing a stroke. Atrial fibrillation carries almost a fivefold risk of stroke.

Your goal: If you have atrial fibrillation, get it treated.

How to achieve it:

  • If you have symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath, see your doctor for an exam.
  • You may need to take an anticoagulant drug (blood thinner) such as warfarin (Coumadin) or one of the newer direct-acting anticoagulant drugs to reduce your stroke risk from atrial fibrillation. Your doctors can guide you through this treatment.

6. Treat diabetes

Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them.

Your goal: Keep your blood sugar under control.

How to achieve it:

  • Monitor your blood sugar as directed by your doctor.
  • Use diet, exercise, and medicines to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.

7. Quit smoking

Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stroke risk significantly.

Your goal: Quit smoking.

How to achieve it:

  • Ask your doctor for advice on the most appropriate way for you to quit.
  • Use quit-smoking aids, such as nicotine pills or patches, counseling, or medicine.
  • Don’t give up. Most smokers need several tries to quit. See each attempt as bringing you one step closer to successfully beating the habit.

Can You Eat Potatoes If You Have Diabetes?

Whether baked, mashed, fried, boiled, or steamed, potatoes are one of the most popular foods in the human diet.

They’re rich in potassium and B vitamins, and the skin is a great source of fiber.

However, if you have diabetes, you may have heard that you should limit or avoid potatoes.

In fact, there are many misconceptions about what people with diabetes should and shouldn’t eat. Many people assume that because potatoes are high in carbs, they’re off-limits if you have diabetes.

The truth is, people with diabetes can eat potatoes in many forms, but it’s important to understand the effect they have on blood sugar levels and the portion size that’s appropriate.

This article tells you everything you need to know about potatoes and diabetes.

Different types of potatoes

How do potatoes affect blood sugar levels?

Like any other carb-containing food, potatoes increase blood sugar levels.

When you eat them, your body breaks down the carbs into simple sugars that move into your bloodstream. This is what’s often called a spike in blood sugar levels (1).

The hormone insulin is then released into your blood to help transport the sugars into your cells so that they can be used for energy (1).

In people with diabetes, this process is not as effective. Instead of sugar moving out of the blood and into your cells, it remains in circulation, keeping blood sugar levels higher for longer.

Therefore, eating high-carb foods and/or large portions can be detrimental to people with diabetes.

In fact, poorly managed diabetes is linked to heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, amputation, and vision loss (23456).

Therefore, it’s usually recommended that people with diabetes limit their digestible carb intake. This can range from a very low carb intake of 20–50 grams per day to a moderate restriction of 100–150 grams per day (789).

The exact amount varies depending on your dietary preferences and medical goals (910).

SUMMARYPotatoes spike blood sugar levels as carbs are broken down into sugars and move into your bloodstream. In people with diabetes, the sugar isn’t cleared properly, leading to higher blood sugar levels and potential health complications.

How many carbs are in potatoes?

Potatoes are a high carb food. However, the carb content can vary depending on the cooking method.

Here is the carb count of 1/2 cup (75–80 grams) of potatoes prepared in different ways (11):

  • Raw: 11.8 grams
  • Boiled: 15.7 grams
  • Baked: 13.1 grams
  • Microwaved: 18.2 grams
  • Oven-baked fries (10 steak-cut frozen): 17.8 grams
  • Deep-fried: 36.5 grams

Keep in mind that an average small potato (weighing 170 grams) contains about 30 grams of carbs and a large potato (weighing 369 grams) approximately 65 grams. Thus, you may eat more than double the number of carbs listed above in a single meal (12).

In comparison, a single piece of white bread contains about 14 grams of carbs, 1 small apple (weighing 149 grams) 20.6 grams, 1 cup (weighing 158 grams) of cooked rice 28 grams, and a 12-ounce (350-ml) can of cola 38.5 grams (13141516).

SUMMARYThe carb content of potatoes varies from 11.8 grams in 1/2 cup (75 grams) of diced raw potato to 36.5 grams in a similar serving size of french fries. However, the actual serving size of this popular root vegetable is often much larger than this.

Are potatoes high GI?

A low GI diet can be an effective way for people with diabetes to manage blood sugar levels (171819).

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how much a food raises blood sugar compared with a control, such as 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of white bread (111).

Foods that have a GI greater than 70 are considered high GI, which means they raise blood sugar more quickly. On the other hand, foods with a GI of less than 55 are classed low (111).

In general, potatoes have a medium to high GI (20).

However, the GI alone isn’t the best representation of a food’s effect on blood sugar levels, as it doesn’t take into account portion size or cooking method. Instead, you can use the glycemic load (GL).

This is the GI multiplied by the actual number of carbs in a portion, divided by 100. A GL of less than 10 is low, while a GL greater than 20 is considered high. Generally, a low GI diet aims to keep the daily GL under 100 (11).

Potato variety and the GI and GL

Both the GI and GL can vary by potato variety and cooking method.

For example, a 1 cup (150 gram) serving of potato may be high, medium, or low GL depending on the variety (1120):

  • High GL: Desiree (mashed), french fries
  • Medium GL: white, Russet Burbank, Pontiac, Desiree (boiled), Charlotte, potato crisps, instant mashed potato
  • Low GL: Carisma, Nicola

If you have diabetes, choosing varieties like Carisma and Nicola is a better option to slow the rise of blood sugar levels after eating potatoes.

You can check the GI and GL of different types of potatoes through this website.

How to lower the GI and GL of a potato

The way a potato is prepared also affects the GI and GL. This is because cooking changes the structure of the starches and thus how fast they’re absorbed into your bloodstream.

In general, the longer a potato is cooked the higher the GI. Therefore, boiling or baking for long periods tends to increase the GI.

Yet, cooling potatoes after cooking can increases the amount of resistant starch, which is a less digestible form of carbs. This helps lower the GI by 25–28% (2122).

This means that a side of potato salad may be slightly better than french fries or hot baked potatoes if you have diabetes. French fries also pack more calories and fat due to their cooking method.

Additionally, you can lower the GI and GL of a meal by leaving the skins on for extra fiber, adding lemon juice or vinegar, or eating mixed meals with protein and fats — as this helps slow the digestion of carbs and the rise in blood sugar levels (23).

For example, adding 4.2 ounces (120 grams) of cheese to a 10.2 ounce (290 gram) baked potato lowers the GL from 93 to 39 (24).

Keep in mind that this much cheese also contains 42 grams of fat and will add nearly 400 calories to the meal.

As such, it’s still necessary to consider the overall number of carbs and the quality of the diet, not just the GI or GL. If controlling weight is one of your goals, your total calorie intake is also important.

SUMMARYA low GI and GL diet can be beneficial for people with diabetes. Potatoes tend to have a medium to high GI and GL, but cooled cooked potatoes, as well as varieties like Carisma and Nicola, are lower and make a better choice for people with diabetes.

Risks of eating potatoes

Although it’s safe for most people with diabetes to eat potatoes, it’s important to consider the amount and types you consume.

Eating potatoes both increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and may have negative effects on people with existing diabetes.

One study in 70,773 people found that for every 3 servings per week of boiled, mashed, or baked potatoes, there was a 4% increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes — and for french fries, the risk increased to 19% (25).

Additionally, fried potatoes and potato chips contain high amounts of unhealthy fats that may increase blood pressure, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and lead to weight gain and obesity — all of which are associated with heart disease (26272829).

This is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes, who often already have an increased risk of heart disease (30).

Fried potatoes are also higher in calories, which can contribute to unwanted weight gain (272931).

People with type 2 diabetes are often encouraged to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight to help manage blood sugar and reduce the risk of complications (32).

Therefore, french fries, potato chips, and other potato dishes that use large amounts of fats are best avoided.

If you’re having trouble managing your blood sugar levels and diet, speak with a healthcare provider, dietitian, or diabetes educator.

SUMMARYEating unhealthy potato foods, such as chips and french fries, increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and complications, such as heart disease and obesity.

Good replacements for potatoes

Although you can eat potatoes if you have diabetes, you may still want to limit them or replace them with healthier options.

Look for high fiber, lower carb, and low GI and GL foods like the following (33):

  • Carrots and parsnips. Both are low GI and GL and have less than 10 grams of carbs per 2.8-ounce (80-gram) serving. They’re great boiled, steamed, or baked.
  • Cauliflower. This vegetable is an excellent alternative to potato either boiled, steamed, or roasted. It’s very low in carbs, making it a terrific option for people on a very low carb diet.
  • Pumpkin and squash. These are low in carbs and have a low to medium GI and a low GL. They’re a particularly good replacement for baked and mashed potatoes.
  • Taro. This root is low in carbs and has a GL of just 4. Taro can be sliced thinly and baked with a little oil for a healthier alternative to potato chips.
  • Sweet potato. This veggie has a lower GI than some white potatoesand varies between a medium and high GL. These tubers are also a great source of vitamin A.
  • Legumes and lentils. Most foods in this category are high in carbs but have a low GL and are rich in fiber. However, you should be careful with serving sizes as they still increase blood sugar levels.

Another good way to avoid large portions of high carb foods is to fill at least half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, leafy greens, cauliflower, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, and lettuce.

SUMMARYLower carb replacements for potato include carrots, pumpkin, squash, parsnip, and taro. High carb but lower GI and GL options include sweet potato, legumes, and lentils.

The bottom line

Potatoes are a versatile and delicious vegetable that can be enjoyed by everyone, including people with diabetes.

However, because of their high carb content, you should limit portion sizes, always eat the skin, and choose low GI varieties, such as Carisma and Nicola.

In addition, it’s best to stick with boiling, baking, or steaming and avoid fried potatoes or potato chips, which are high in calories and unhealthy fats.

If you’re struggling to make healthy choices to manage your diabetes, consult your healthcare provider, dietitian, or diabetes educator.

 

Do you know which is the Best Biscuit for Diabetes?

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Which Sugar Substitutes Are Good for Diabetes?

Low-calorie sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, can allow people with diabetes to enjoy sweet foods and drinks that do not affect their blood sugar levels. A range of sweeteners is available, each of which has different pros and cons.

People with diabetes must take special care to avoid blood sugar spikes. Controlling blood sugar is important for avoiding the more severe complications of diabetes, including nerve damage and cardiovascular disease.

Choosing alternative sweeteners is one way of maintaining sweetness in food and drink. However, not all alternative sweeteners are good options for people with diabetes. Agave syrup, for example, provides more calories than table sugar.

In this article, we look at seven of the best low-calorie sweeteners for people with diabetes.

1. Stevia

Sugar and sweeteners on wooden table and wooden spoons with leaves

Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant.

To make stevia, manufacturers extract chemical compounds called steviol glycosides from the leaves of the plant.

This highly-processed and purified product is around 300 times sweeter than sucrose, or table sugar, and it is available under different brand names, including Truvia, SweetLeaf, and Sun Crystals.

Stevia has several pros and cons that people with diabetes will need to weigh up. This sweetener is calorie-free and does not raise blood sugar levels. However, it is often more expensive than other sugar substitutes on the market.

Stevia also has a bitter aftertaste that many people may find unpleasant. For this reason, some manufacturers add other sugars and ingredients to balance the taste. This can reduce the nutritional benefit of pure stevia.

Some people report nausea, bloating, and stomach upset after consuming stevia.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classify sweeteners made from high-purity steviol glycosides to be “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. However, they do not consider stevia leaf or crude stevia extracts to be safe. It is illegal to sell them or import them into the U.S.

According to the FDA, the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of stevia is 4 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of a person’s body weight. Accordingly, a person who weighs 60 kg, or 132 pounds (lb), can safely consume 9 packets of the tabletop sweetener version of stevia.

Various stevia products are available to purchase online. Click here to check them in Amazon

 

2. Tagatose

Tagatose is a form of fructose that is around 90 percent sweeter than sucrose.

Although it is rare, some fruits, such as apples, oranges, and pineapples, naturally provide tagatose. Manufacturers use tagatose in foods as a low-calorie sweetener, texturizer, and stabilizer.

Not only do the FDA class tagatose as GRAS, but scientists are interested in its potential to help manage type 2 diabetes.

Some studies indicate that tagatose has a low glycemic index (GI) and may support the treatment of obesity. GI is a ranking system that measures the speed at which a type of food increases a person’s blood sugar levels.

Tagatose may be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes who are following a low-GI diet. However, this sugar substitute is more expensive than other low-calorie sweeteners and may be harder to find in stores.

Tagatose products are available to purchase online. Click here to check them in Amazon

3. Sucralose

Top down view of woman sprinkling sugar or coconut into bowl of flour while baking

Sucralose, available under the brand name Splenda, is an artificial sweetener made from sucrose.

This sweetener is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar but contains very few calories.

Sucralose is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners, and it is widely available. Manufacturers add it to a range of products from chewing gum to baked goods.

This alternative sweetener is heat-stable, whereas many other artificial sweeteners lose their flavor at high temperatures. This makes sucralose a popular choice for sugar-free baking and sweetening hot drinks.

The FDA have approved sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener and set an ADI of 5 mg/kg of body weight. A person weighing 60 kg, or 132 lb, can safely consume 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of sucralose in a day.

However, recent studies have raised some health concerns. A 2016 study found that male mice that consumed sucralose were more likely to develop malignant tumors. The researchers note that more studies are necessary to confirm the safety of sucralose.

A range of sucralose products is available to purchase online. Click here to check them in Amazon

4. Aspartame

Aspartame is a very common artificial sweetener that has been available in the U.S. since the 1980s.

It is around 200 times sweeter than sugar, and manufacturers add it to a wide variety of food products, including diet soda. Aspartame is available in grocery stores under the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal.

Unlike sucralose, aspartame is not a good sugar substitute for baking. Aspartame breaks down at high temperatures, so people generally only use it as a tabletop sweetener.

Aspartame is also not safe for people with a rare genetic disorder known as phenylketonuria.

The FDA considers aspartame to be safe at an ADI of 50 mg/kg of body weight. Therefore, a person who weighs 60 kg, or 132 lb, could consume 75 packets of aspartame in the form of a tabletop sweetener.

Many different aspartame products are available to purchase online. Click here to check them in Amazon

5. Acesulfame potassium

Acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K and Ace-K, is an artificial sweetener that is around 200 times sweeter than sugar.

Manufacturers often combine acesulfame potassium with other sweeteners to combat its bitter aftertaste. It is available under the brand names Sunett and Sweet One.

The FDA have approved acesulfame potassium as a low-calorie sweetener and state that the results of more than 90 studies support its safety.

They have set an ADI for acesulfame potassium of 15 mg/kg of body weight. This is equivalent to a 60 kg, or 132 lb, person consuming 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of acesulfame potassium.

A 2017 study in mice has suggested a possible association between acesulfame potassium and weight gain, but further research in humans is necessary to confirm this link.

6. Saccharin

Sweeteners in individual packets in tray

 

Saccharin is another widely available artificial sweetener.

There are several different brands of saccharin, including Sweet Twin, Sweet’N Low, and Necta Sweet. Saccharin is a zero-calorie sweetener that is 200–700 times sweeter than table sugar.

According to the FDA, there were safety concerns in the 1970s after research found a link between saccharin and bladder cancer in laboratory rats.

However, more than 30 human studies now support the safety of saccharin, and the National Institutes of Health no longer consider this sweetener to have the potential to cause cancer.

The FDA have determined the ADI of saccharin to be 15 mg/kg of body weight, which means that a 60 kg, or 132 lb, person can consume 45 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of it.

People can purchase a range of saccharin products online. Click here to check them in Amazon

7. Neotame

Neotame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener that is about 7,000–13,000 times sweeter than table sugar. This sweetener can tolerate high temperatures, making it suitable for baking. It is available under the brand name Newtame.

The FDA approved neotame in 2002 as a general-purpose sweetener and flavor enhancer for all foods except for meat and poultry. They state that more than 113 animal and human studies support the safety of neotame and have set an ADI for neotame of 0.3 mg/kg of body weight.

This is equivalent to a 60-kg, or 132-lb, person consuming 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of neotame.

Considerations

When choosing a low-calorie sweetener, some general considerations include:

  • Intended use. Many sugar substitutes do not withstand high temperatures, so they would make poor choices for baking.
  • Cost. Some sugar substitutes are expensive, whereas others have a cost closer to that of table sugar.
  • Availability. Some sugar substitutes are easier to find in stores than others.
  • Taste. Some sugar substitutes, such as stevia, have a bitter aftertaste that many people may find unpleasant. Make sure that the manufacturers have not added chemicals or other sweeteners that reduce the nutritional benefit.
  • Natural versus artificial. Some people prefer using natural sweeteners, such as stevia, rather than artificial sugar substitutes. However, natural does not always mean lower-calorie or more healthful.
  • Add fruit instead of sweetener: Where possible, add a sweet fruit to a meal instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners. Options include strawberry, blueberry, and mango.

 

Summary

Many people with diabetes need to avoid or limit sugary foods.

Low-calorie sweeteners can allow those with the condition to enjoy a sweet treat without affecting their blood sugar levels.

Although the FDA generally consider these sugar substitutes to be safe, it is still best to consume them in moderation

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Craving Chinese Food? How to Pick Asian Food That’s Heart Healthy

healthy stir fry asian food

Love Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese food? Asian cuisine offers a rainbow of vegetables and lean proteins. But hidden salt, fat and other stealthy additives can quickly sabotage this heart-healthy fare. Be good to your heart by following these tips from dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD.

Dining out: Heart-healthy menu swaps

Asian menus typically contain many heart-friendly ingredients. But the preparation may be high in fat and include not-so-healthy additives. Try these tips for health-conscious ordering:

  • Opt for steamed dumplings instead of ordering egg rolls and fried dumplings.
  • Sidestep fried or breaded meat entrees. Instead, choose baked, broiled, grilled, sautéed protein sources-chicken, fish, shellfish, lean beef or pork.
  • Fill your plate with a variety of veggies, whether boiled, broiled, steamed or lightly-stir-fried (e.g., chop suey with steamed rice).
  • Choose steamed vs. fried rice to avoid large amounts of sodium, MSG, calories and fats in the fried version. Better yet, ask for a bowl of steamed brown rice.
  • Ask the cook to use less oil and soy sauce, and to skip the MSG and salt.
  • Opt for mung bean or rice noodles over white refined noodles.

Dining in: Heart-healthy cooking hacks

Start off with fresh ingredients. Foods that are local and in season offer optimal nutritional benefits. (Add bok choy, napa cabbage, bean sprouts and watercress to your shopping list.)

Then follow these tips for healthy Asian cooking.

Stir-fry is your friend. When you need to whip up a quick but nutritious meal after a busy day at work, gather all of your favorite veggies and some lean meat.

  • Add a touch of oil to your wok or a large pan. The trick to stir frying is to use high heat for a short amount of time to avoid overcooking your meal, which destroys key nutrients and ruins texture.
  • Sautee your protein first, then your veggies. Throw in your favorite spices for an extra flavor kick. In no time, you will have a low-fat, low-sodium dish chock full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals on the table.
  • If the meal starts to become dry, instead of adding oil to the pan, add some reduced-fat broth to keep it going. You’ll avoid the fat from extra oil.

Stock your pantry with Asian flavors. These flavor-enhancing ingredients will eliminate the need for MSG, extra sodium and extra sugar to boost flavor.

  • Fish sauce: Deepens the flavor of other ingredients better than salt. And while it does contain salt, fish sauce also has protein, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and other vitamins/minerals. Be sure the label lists only fish, salt, and maybe water as ingredients.
  • Soy sauce: This Asian cuisine staple is made from fermented soy bean paste. Choose a low-sodium variety because soy sauce is high in sodium (and we Americans get enough salt), and control portions.
  • Chili sauce: Made from red chilies and garlic, and a source of vitamins A and E. Not only will it add a kick of heat to any dish, research shows ground chilies can lower inflammation and boost immunity.
  • Rice vinegar: A very low-calorie ingredient to use in marinades and sauces.
  • Curry paste: A combination of spices that together offer an intense flavor. Includes turmeric, which studies show has anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant properties.
  • Ginger: Helps improve digestion.
  • Lemongrass: Commonly used in Thai cuisine, it’s a great source of iron and potassium.
  • Fresh coriander (cilantro): Packed with dietary fiber and a good source of vitamins and minerals.
  • Dried ingredients: Asian cuisine, especially Chinese cuisine, uses dried mushrooms, shrimp and clams to pack a flavor punch.

Control portions with dim sum. The bite-sized portions and elegant appearance of steamed buns/dumplings and pot stickers make for a delicious, healthy meal choice.

  • Buy wonton skins from the store or make simple dumpling dough from scratch.
  • Steam, rather than fry, dim sum.

Pull out the soup pot. Soups — think beyond egg drop and wonton — play a major role in Asian cuisine.

  • Steam your favorite veggies, followed by Asian spices.
  • Add vegetables, organic vegetable bouillon or stock, and cooked lean protein to pan.
  • Simmer until done for an effortless, healthy, no-recipe meal.

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Indian Diet Plan for Diabetes

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Whip up sauces from scratch. Control the type and amount of each ingredient going into your meal by making your own sauces. You’ll avoid high levels of sugar, sodium, fat, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and other chemicals typically found in store-bought Asian sauces.

  • Use your pantry staples above to create Asian sauces.
  • Try your hand at making black bean sauce using fermented black beans, low-sodium soy and stock.

Go meatless with soy. You don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy the benefits of tofu and edamame, both rich in protein and calcium.

  • Tofu takes on the flavors of other foods, and easily absorbs the flavors of spices and marinades.
  • Edamame has all the hallmarks of a heart-healthy food: plant-based protein, soluble fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

Round out the meal well. Serve your meals on a bed of steamed brown rice, buckwheat or edamame noodles. Satisfy your sweet cravings with fresh fruit.

As with other cuisines, when you prepare Asian food, make sure you’re getting a good balance of nutrients. Be aware of exactly what and how much you’re eating, and enjoy a heart-healthy feast.

Can You Eat Fruit If You Have Diabetes?

Woman eating bowl of mixed fruits for snack

Fragrant, fuzzy peaches. Juicy watermelon. Tart berries. There’s nothing like fresh-picked fruits available at a farmers market or produce stand near you.

But is fruit bad for diabetics? If you have diabetes, you might be a little wary of nature’s candy and the sugars they hold. “But don’t be scared of fruit,” says dietitian Kim Pierce, RD.

Here are 10 things to know about fruit and diabetes, including how to make them part of your healthy diet.

Fruit is healthy

Yes, fruits contain carbohydrates. And, yes, the body processes carbs into sugars. But you need healthy carbs to fuel your brain and red blood cells, Pierce says.

Plus, fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. “Fruit contains nutrients that can lower your risk of cancer and heart disease,” she adds. “You should eat some every day.”

Fiber is your friend

Fruit does have natural sugars, but its high fiber content balances the sugars, Pierce explains. “Fiber slows down digestion. That helps us feel full longer and prevents spikes in blood sugar.”

Get your daily servings

Dietary guidelines recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. That’s true whether or not you have diabetes, Pierce says. Since fruits have more calories and sugar than veggies, try to strike a balance. She recommends breaking up your five servings into three veggie servings and two fruit servings.

Eat whole fruit

“All fruit is fair game, but fresh is best,” Pierce says.

The best fruit for diabetics — and everyone, really — is fresh fruit. Whole fresh or frozen fruits should be your go-to, since they’re full of fiber and other nutrients.

Processed fruits like applesauce and canned fruits are the worst fruits for diabetics since they can increase blood sugar more quickly. Dried fruits can also be healthy, Pierce says, but watch your portion size. Two tablespoons of raisins contain as many grams of carbohydrates as a small apple.

Fruits to avoid for diabetics

As always, let nutrition labels be your guide. If you’re wondering what fruits to avoid in diabetes-friendly diets, skip fruits canned in syrup since that means added sugar. Some dried and frozen fruits can also have sugar added, so read the fine print.

Skip juice

“Fruit juice has a lot of concentrated sugars without any fiber, so it can increase blood sugars quickly,” Pierce says. If you’re really craving juice, limit your portion to a half-cup serving.

Pay attention to portions

Fruit is healthy, but you still have to practice moderation, Pierce says. Try to space out your fruit throughout the day. (In other words, don’t eat an entire bag of grapes in one sitting.)

In general, one serving is a small- to medium-sized piece of whole fruit, or ¾ to 1 cup of fruit like melon or berries.

Choose smarter sweets

Fruit is a terrific option to satisfy a sweet tooth, says Pierce. One word of caution: If you’re craving something super-specific, like a brownie, it may be better to just eat a small piece of the chocolatey goodness. Otherwise, you might be circling back to fruits and other sweet things all day in a futile attempt to quash that craving.

What fruits are good for diabetics?

If you’re wondering what fruits are good for diabetics, it’s pretty much the same list as non-diabetics: eat the rainbow. Different colors of fruits and vegetables have different vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. To get all the good stuff, look for a ROYGBIV of fruits (and veggies) — from red strawberries to deep purple blackberries (and all the colors in between).

Ask the experts

Fruit is part of a healthy diet, but it’s always smart to get guidance from nutrition experts before you dive into a bowl of watermelon. “Check in with a diabetes educator or a registered dietitian to develop a healthy meal plan,” Pierce advises.

 

100 Best Foods for Diabetes – Click here to download from Play Store

Drinking Alcohol and Diabetes: Do They Mix?

beer glass sitting beside diabetes testing equipment

If you have diabetes, you may still be able to enjoy your favorite alcoholic beverages in moderation. But — and this is important — you should always check with your healthcare provider first. Your condition or the medications you’re taking could be affected by alcohol consumption.

Diabetes educator Andrea Harris, RN, recommends following these five safety tips.

1. Know if it’s OK for you to drink

This can’t be stressed enough: Check with your doctor or healthcare provider before you choose to drink. You need to know if your medications or any diabetes-related conditions you have could be seriously affected by alcohol consumption, Harris says.

2. Stay in control of your blood sugar

Make sure your diabetes is well controlled before you drink. If it is, follow these steps for keeping your blood sugar at safe levels:

  • Check your blood glucose levels before, during, and after you drink to know how you are doing.
  • Never drink on an empty stomach. Too much alcohol can block the production and release of glucose from the liver, causing your blood sugar levels to drop.
  • Don’t drink immediately before, during, or after exercise.

The effects of alcohol can last up to 24 hours, so it may be necessary to regularly monitor your blood sugar the following day to avoid dangerous lows.

3. Drink in moderation

If your healthcare provider says it’s OK for you to drink, follow the rules of moderation recommended for everyone. Moderation is considered up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

One drink is equal to:

  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
  • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
  • 1½ ounces of distilled spirits such as vodka or gin (80 proof alcohol).

Remember, guidelines are by day — you cannot save up all your drinks for the weekend!

4. Avoid certain types of drinks

Alcohol contains calories and has no essential nutrients. Consider these extra calories and sugars and always avoid liqueurs, sweet wines, tonic, regular soda, fruit juice, and sugary drink mixers. Also avoid drinks that are higher in alcohol content, such as craft beers and spirits that are more than 80 proof.

5. Stop drinking when you need to and make sure you can get help

If you experience a low blood glucose reading while drinking, stop drinking. Have something to eat and drink water. Remember that you could get to the point that you are not aware that you’re having low blood sugar symptoms. Being drunk and hypoglycemia causes the same symptoms of sleepiness and dizziness, and this means your treatment could be delayed. Remember to monitor your sugar and always wear your diabetes identification when drinking to avoid this problem.

To sum it up, the key to safe drinking, if you have diabetes, is to drink in moderation and to monitor your blood sugar regularly. This will keep you healthy and safe when you enjoy a toast with friends and family this holiday season.

 

100 Best Foods for Diabetes – Click here to download from Play Store

5 Best Exercises for People with Diabetes

older woman performing yoga

If you have diabetes, exercise offers surprising benefits. Not only does it lower your stress levels, it may also lower your blood sugar level and may even reduce your insulin requirements.

Exercise is so important for people with diabetes that The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. And the American Diabetes Association recommends that you miss no more than two days of aerobic exercise in a row.

We asked diabetes specialists, Sue Cotey, RN, CDCES, and Andrea Harris, RN, CDCES about some of the best exercises if you have diabetes. Below are their recommendations on how much exercise is right for you, and some of the best ways you can get it.

5 exercises for people with diabetes

Try to make a habit of doing the following exercises on a regular basis, Cotey says. They’ll give you the maximum benefits to help you manage your diabetes, and are relatively easy to fit in each day.

  1. Walking — Because anyone can do it almost anywhere, walking is the most popular exercise and highly recommended for people with diabetes. Spending 30 minutes of brisk walking, five times each week is a great way to increase your physical activity. You can even break this 30 minutes down into 10-minute sessions three times a day.
  2. Tai Chi —This Chinese form of exercise uses slow, smooth body movements to relax the mind and body. Studies have shown those who complete tai chi sessions show significant improvement in blood sugar control. They also report increased vitality, energy and mental health.
  3. Yoga — A traditional form of exercise, yoga incorporates fluid movements that build flexibility, strength and balance. It’s helpful for people with a variety of chronic conditions, including diabetes. It lowers stress and improves nerve function, which leads to an increased state of mental health and wellness. According to the ADA, yoga may improve blood glucose levels due to improved muscle mass.
  4. Dancing — Dancing is not only great for your body. The mental work to remember dance steps and sequences actually boosts brain power and improves memory. For those with diabetes, it is a fun and exciting way to increase physical activity, promote weight loss, improve flexibility, lower blood sugar and reduce stress. Chair dancing, which incorporates the use of a chair to support people with limited physical abilities, makes dancing an option for many people. In just 30 minutes, a 150-pound adult can burn up to 150 calories.
  5. Swimming — Swimming stretches and relaxes your muscles and doesn’t put pressure on your joints, which is great for people with diabetes. For those with diabetes or at risk for developing diabetes, studies show it improves cholesterol levels, burns calories and lowers stress levels. To get the most benefit from swimming, we recommend that you swim at least three times a week for at least ten minutes and gradually increase the length of the workout. Lastly, let the lifeguard know that you have diabetes before you get in the pool.

Exercise safety

Before starting an exercise program, talk to your doctor to be sure the exercise you choose is safe and appropriate for your type of diabetes. Remember to start slowly, especially if you have not been physically active for a while.

Here are other safety tips:

  • Check your blood sugar before and after exercise until you are aware of how your body responds to exercise.
  • Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, make sure your blood sugar is less than 250 mg/dl before exercising. For people with Type 1 diabetes, exercising with a blood sugar higher than 250 mg/dl may cause ketoacidosis, which can be a life threatening condition resulting from a lack of insulin in the body. Do a five-minute warm-up before and a five-minute cool down after exercising.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
  • Be prepared for any episodes of low blood sugar. Have something available that can bring sugar levels up, such as hard candy, glucose tablets or 4 ounces of juice.
  • Wear a medical alert ID band. If an emergency occurs, EMS will know how to treat you properly.
  • Always carry a cell phone.
  • Avoid exercising in extremely hot or cold temperatures.
  • Wear proper shoes and socks to protect your feet.

As with any exercise, always listen to your body. If you become short of breath, dizzy or lightheaded, stop exercising. Report any unusual problems you experience to your doctor.

 

100 Best Foods for Diabetes – Click here to download from Play Store

Missing Meals? Avoid Dangerous Blood Sugar if You Have Diabetes

Skipping a meal is typically no big deal. But if you’re a person with diabetes, skipping meals or a lack of meal structure could result in dangerously low or high blood sugar levels. It is important to know your numbers especially when taking certain medications to lower blood sugar levels.

Fueling our body with at least three meals a day is beneficial in diabetes and weight management, says registered dietitian Carolyn Garvey. However, even an occasional missed meal can throw off the balance between food intake and certain diabetes medications.The result is blood sugars that are too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia) — and that can be dangerous.

“If you take medications for diabetes that can cause low blood sugars, you should try not to skip meals,” says Garvey. “If you’re just not up to eating on a regular schedule, talk to your doctor about diabetes medications that won’t cause low blood sugars,” she says. 

Monitoring sugars is vital

When you’re ill or just don’t feel like eating much, it’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels more closely than ever. How often depends on whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and what medications you take.

For Type 1 diabetes: Be sure to monitor your blood sugar before meals and before bedtime, typically four times per day, says Garvey.

Beyond that, check your blood sugars if you notice symptoms of low blood sugar. Those symptoms include:

  • Hunger.
  • Shakiness or nervousness.
  • Sweating.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Anxiety.
  • Weakness.

For Type 2 diabetes: If you’re taking a sulfonylurea medication, check your blood sugars at least twice a day — in the morning and at bedtime.

“It’s important to keep in mind that sulfonylureas may cause your blood sugar to drop during the day if you don’t eat anything after taking your medication,” Garvey says.

If your only treatment is metformin, you may not need to check your blood sugar more than once a day. This medication doesn’t typically cause hypoglycemia.

“It’s important to be aware of the symptoms associated with low blood sugars,” says Garvey. “Be ready to check your blood sugar and eat or drink 15 grams of simple sugar such as glucose tablets or 4 ounces of juice to correct a low blood sugar if needed.” This treatment is also recommended for Type 1 diabetes, she says.

Also watch for high blood sugar

If you’re not eating due to an acute illness like the flu or an infection, it’s also common for your blood sugars to rise.

“When you have diabetes and are acutely ill, you should check your blood sugars up to four times per day, drink plenty of fluids and contact your doctor if your blood sugars are consistently over 250,” Garvey says.

Controlling diabetes when you’re not hungry

If you find that you’re eating less due to an illness or other factors, your medications may need adjusting, so it’s important to talk to your doctor. Meanwhile, here are some general guidelines:

  • Mealtime insulin: For mealtime insulin, if you skip the meal, you should also forego the mealtime insulin.
  • Long-acting insulin: The dosage for long-acting insulin is not usually based on food intake, so your doctor will not likely recommend a dose reduction.
  • Other medications: There are some diabetes medications that will lower your blood sugar when high, but won’t normally cause hypoglycemia. They may or may not need adjustment, depending on how much you’re eating. These medications include metformin, SGLT-2 inhibitors and DPP4 inhibitors.

Watching for symptoms isn’t enough

Although you may think you’ll know from experience when your blood sugar is out of whack, regular monitoring is the only way to truly make sure.

“It’s important to keep in mind that the symptoms of high or low blood sugars may fade away after several years of living with diabetes, especially if your blood sugars haven’t been well controlled,” says Garvey.

“Also, some of the symptoms of high blood sugars and low blood sugars are the same, so it’s important to check your blood sugar first, if possible, before treating it,” she says.

100 Best Foods for Diabetes – Click here to download from Play Store

Strengthen Your Immune System with 4 Simple Strategies

You want — no, NEED — to stay healthy and functioning at a 10. Maybe you’re on the healthcare frontlines during a pandemic. Or maybe you’re working from home while simultaneously homeschooling three kids. Bottom line, your universe needs you healthy.

Good news! While there’s no magic “healthy pill,” there are tried-and-true ways to take your immunity superpowers up a notch. Preventive medicine physician and wellness expert Sandra Darling, DO, shares her top tips for staying healthy.

Get ready to boost your immune system

“Let’s start with the basics: Wash your hands for 20 seconds, don’t touch your face and take social distancing seriously,” says Dr. Darling. “If you only do these three things, you’ll be well on your way to staying healthy.”

But there’s more you can do. Dr. Darling prescribes four stay-healthy strategies.

Focus on food

“I believe in the power of immune-boosting foods,” says Dr. Darling. “Choosing whole, unprocessed foods does wonders for overall health.”

Dr. Darling recommends these immunity boosters:

  • Garlic: Allicin, a compound in garlic, is well-known for its ability to boost the immune system. The most benefit comes from eating one-half of a raw garlic clove daily. If you can’t stomach raw garlic, the next best thing is to roast it.
  • Prebiotics: Robust gut bacteria protect us against infection. Keep those bacteria healthy with prebiotics that contain fiber, specifically inulin fiber. Excellent sources of prebiotics are Jerusalem artichokes, green bananas or plantains, Jicama root and asparagus.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods: Vitamin C is known to boost immunity. One study found that older adults who ate kiwi every day for a month had a significant decrease in the severity and duration of upper respiratory infection symptoms. “People often reach for orange juice to get vitamin C, but juice has a lot of sugar,” says Dr. Darling. “It’s better to get vitamin C from oranges, broccoli, kiwi or cantaloupe.”
  • Antioxidants: Stress can lead to lowered immunity and make you more prone to illness. Colorful fruits and vegetables including berries, carrots and spinach have antioxidants that protect you against oxidative stress, which translates to a stronger immune system.

Lifestyle improvements

Living under constant stress, even low-grade, that continues day in and out, causes the body to produce too much cortisol, the stress hormone. Over time, elevated cortisol lowers your resistance to fighting off infection and contributes to poor sleep and higher blood pressure.

Protect yourself from stress and bolster your immune system with a few lifestyle tweaks:

  • Sleep: Yep, it’s easier said than done (especially if you’re an insomniac). But here’s the deal — you need seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night to fight off infection. “Prioritize sleep. If you need help, choose a tried-and-true technique known as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I,” says Dr. Darling. “Talk with your doctor to find a reputable therapist or download a CBT-I app.”
  • Meditation: Even five minutes a day of guided meditation, or simply sitting quietly and focusing on your breath, can make a difference. Meditation lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and reduces anxiety. Plus, it’s calming. So it’s not surprising that it also helps you sleep.
  • Exercise: “Exercise increases your resilience so you can fight off infection,” says Dr. Darling. “Our bodies function better when we’re physically active every day.” Dr. Darling recommends carving out at least 10 minutes a day, ideally 30 minutes, and doing a mixture of cardio and strength training.

Attitude is everything

A positive mindset is vital for health and well-being. Research shows that positive thoughts reduce stress and inflammation and increase resilience to infection — while negative emotions can make you more susceptible to the common cold and flu.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is scary, so it’s easy to spiral down in negative thoughts,” says Dr. Darling. “The story we tell ourselves is crucial. Change it from ‘It’s not going to be OK’ to ‘I am safe at home with the people I love.’ Start your day with a positive thought or even a mantra such as, ‘I am well.’”

Natural immunity aids

If you’re ready to give it all you got when it comes to avoiding the coronavirus, consider these extra measures:

  • Supplements: “A lot of people are deficient (or low) in vitamin D, and a deficiency may increase your susceptibility to infection,” says Dr. Darling. “Get outside for fresh air and sunshine, but I also recommend taking a daily supplement of 1,000 to 2,000 IUs of vitamin D.”
  • Essential oils: Eucalyptus and tea tree oils have antiviral properties that may protect you against infection from viruses. Use in an oil diffuser to inhale them or make a hand sanitizer using tea tree oil mixed with aloe vera gel and isopropyl alcohol. Studies also show that lavender essential oil has a calming effect, so it can help ease anxiety and improve sleep. Add a few drops to a warm bath or use the oil in a diffuser while you work or sleep.

And sometimes, even with lots of sleep and vitamin C, superheroes get sick. It’s OK! The key is to take time off to recharge (and avoid getting others sick). In no time, you’ll be donning your cape again. But for your health and the health of those around you, make sure you’re fully supercharged before you do.