Is MSG (Ajinomoto) Actually Bad for You?

It’s one of the most popular flavor enhancers in the world, but MSG — short for monosodium glutamate — has a marketing problem.

In the late 1960s, the ingredient came under fire for allegedly being a toxic addition to some of your favorite foods, from soups and salad dressings to Chinese takeout and French fries. It became so stigmatized, in fact, that some restaurants started advertising that they’d cut MSG from their menu entirely.

Since then, research has debunked the myth that MSG is a villainous ingredient, and research shows that in small amounts, it doesn’t cause any significant or lasting harm. Registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, explains what MSG is, how it got such a bad rap and what we now know to be true about it.

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What is MSG?

You’ve probably heard that MSG is bad for you, but … wait, what is MSG, anyway?

This flavor enhancer gives an umami kick to many popular Asian dishes, and it’s often added to fast food items like fried chicken. It’s made from an amino acid called L-glutamic acid, produced by fermenting corn, sugar cane, sugar beets, tapioca or molasses.

“MSG is one of the most widely used food additives, and it’s in a lot more foods than people think,” Czerwony says. “It’s most commonly thought of as being in Chinese food, but it’s in a lot of other things, as well.”

Though it naturally occurs in tomatoes, cheeses and some other foods, MSG is also commonly added to processed items like:

  • Canned vegetables.
  • Condiments, including ketchup, mustard and salad dressings.
  • Deli meats.
  • Potato chips.
  • Soups.
  • Soy sauce.

Umami foods increase saliva production — literally, they make your mouth water — which improves the way food tastes. And although MSG does add a salty flavor to foods, it has just one-third the amount of sodium as standard table salt, which makes it a popular substitution.

Is MSG safe?

MSG been used as a flavor enhancer in since the early 1900s, but it started to get a bad rap in the late 1960s. Suddenly, MSG was said to be associated with all kinds of health issues, and for a while, it was branded a “toxic” ingredient.

Now, though, most of those myths have been dispelled, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says MSG is “generally recognized as safe.” Global food-regulating bodies like the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) agree.

Still, MSG continues to be a controversial ingredient, in part due to a longstanding stigma against it and a lack of conclusive data about it.

What is MSG symptom complex?

If you’ve ever heard someone talk about having “an MSG attack,” they’re referring to experiencing a group of symptoms sometimes said to occur after consuming MSG.

These symptoms were first reported in 1968. They include:

  • Headaches.
  • Nausea.
  • Numbness.
  • Flushing.
  • Tingling.
  • Palpitations.
  • Drowsiness.

This sensitivity is sometimes called “MSG symptom complex,” but research shows that it only affects a very small percentage of people who are sensitive to MSG — and even then, these effects are short-term and should disappear in less than an hour.

What’s more, the FDA says such side effects are most likely to occur after a person with MSG sensitivity has consumed 3 grams or more of MSG without food. That, in itself, is pretty unlikely, given that most people consume MSG in food, and most food contains less than 0.5 grams of added MSG.

In other words? MSG is still generally thought to be safe in moderation — and most foods that contain it only have a very small amount.

Are you sensitive to MSG or is it something else?

Sometimes, Czerwony says, a societally ingrained bias against MSG leads people to assume they’re having a reaction to MSG, which can prevent them from identifying the real culprit.

“Your symptoms might be from something else in the food,” she says. “There’s MSG in fast food, snack foods, seasoning blends, instant noodles, frozen meals — all foods that are highly processed and can cause issues like flushing, headaches or a change in blood pressure from your body’s response to high salt content and other ingredients.”

So, it may very well not be the MSG that’s making you feel ill, but the fact that you’re eating foods that are already highly processed, fried, full of sodium, etc.

Does MSG cause obesity?

A common criticism of MSG is that it’s associated with higher rates of obesity. MSG has not been shown to affect fat cells, leptin receptors or other parts of the body associated with weight gain, but some research still shows that higher MSG intake is related to a higher body mass index (BMI) over time. Still, studies on the topic show conflicting results, so right now, there’s no certain proof of how MSG and obesity are linked.

One explanation for the ingredient’s possible link to obesity, Czerwony says, is that because MSG makes our food taste better, we’re inclined to eat more of it — which can, in turn, cause weight gain.

“When your food tastes better, you’re likely to eat more of it,” she says. “And again, umami foods increase your saliva production. Saliva is a palate cleanser, so it helps you to taste the food much more — and then you may want to eat more of it.”

How do I know if there’s MSG in my food?

Because of the ongoing controversy surrounding MSG, the FDA requires MSG to be listed on the labels of processed foods that include it.

But processed foods that include ingredients with naturally occurring MSG don’t have to specify that they include added MSG. If a processed food includes one of these naturally occurring ingredients, it contains MSG:

  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
  • Autolyzed yeast.
  • Hydrolyzed yeast.
  • Yeast extract.
  • Soy extracts.
  • Protein isolate.

“Just do your best to read your food labels, “Czerwony says, “and if you go out to eat, you can ask to have the MSG left out of your dish. Just know, though, that without it, your meal may not have the same umami taste you’d otherwise expect.”

If you experience negative side effects when you consume foods that have MSG, you may want to avoid it. Most people, though, can rest easy knowing that MSG isn’t the toxic ingredient it was once purported to be. There’s no reason to avoid small amounts of MSG in your diet — so go ahead, enjoy that stir-fry worry-free!

 

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How to Stop Leg Muscle Cramps

man stretching legs after exercising

Painful leg cramps aren’t just annoying episodes of discomfort. Because they typically occur at night, they can wake you, interrupting necessary rest and sleep.

Complicating matters is the fact there are such a wide variety of causes for leg cramps, from overexertion to neurological conditions to circulation disorders. And there are idiopathic causes, too, which essentially means the causes are unknown.

But just because they’re widespread and have so many causes doesn’t mean there aren’t good prevention and treatment options. Family medicine doctor Matthew Goldman, MD, walked us through the best options and also suggested some things to avoid.

Leg cramp prevention

While it’s unlikely you’ll be able to totally prevent leg cramps, there are definitely actions you can take that will lower your risk of some of the more common causes for those aches and pains.

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Hydration

One big cause of leg cramps — and muscle cramps in general — is dehydration. In general, you should be drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day, according to Dr. Goldman, but it’s recommended to increase your intake if you’re active, especially outside.

Typically, the goal should be to keep urine clear. If urine becomes yellow, amber, orange, etc, this is an indication you may be dehydrated and probably need to increase water intake.

Another way to avoid dehydration is to limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine you take in.

Speak to your provider further if you are concerned about urine color and/or dehydration.

Exercise care

Overexertion and other parts of your exercise routine could also contribute to leg cramps but there are ways to combat this.

First, Dr. Goldman says you should make sure you’ve got the right fit for shoes and properly support your feet. Whether it’s dealing with a high or low arch, the type of midsole a shoe has, or the need for stability, picking the right running shoes can have a huge impact on your body.

Next, be sure you’re properly stretching both before and after exercise. Stretching, especially dynamic stretching, helps warm your muscles up and gets them prepared for whatever activity you’re about to do and proper stretching can keep them from cramping both during exercise and later.

One stretch, in particular, can help prevent leg cramps in your calves. Standing about three feet away from a wall, lean forward and touch the wall with your outstretched arms but keep your feet flat. Hold this position and count to five and then relaxing. Repeat this stretch for up to five minutes at a time, three times a day.

Bedtime prep

Finally, there are some bedtime things you can make part of your nighttime routine to help prevent leg cramps since they’re most likely to occur at night. Dr. Goldman suggests some gentle leg stretches or even mild exercise, like a walk or short bike ride, right before bed.

But there are also things you can do for your sleep that might help, including adjusting your sleep position. If you sleep on your back, try using pillows to keep your toes pointed upwards. And if you sleep on your stomach, try hanging your feet off the end of the bed. Both of these positions can help keep you in a relaxed position while you sleep, he adds.

At-home treatment of leg cramps

Leg cramps are unpleasant and often painful so you want to get rid of them as soon as you can. While there’s nothing that’s guaranteed to immediately end a leg cramp, there are several ways to help alleviate the cramp.

Stretching and other activities

One easy way to alleviate leg cramps once they happen is, yes, stretching. One stretch Dr. Goldman suggests: while standing (or sitting with your leg unfolded before you), straighten your leg and lift your foot until your toes are pointing at your shin, then pull on your toes if you are able to reach them or use a towel for assistance if unable to reach.

Other activities like walking and wiggling your legs as you do may help shake out those cramps. You can also try massaging the cramping muscles with your hands or a roller. And, finally, you can also try standing and pressing your feet against the floor to stretch out those cramping muscles.

Hot and cold

A big change in temperature could help out those cramping muscles, according to Dr. Goldman. In addition to stretching, adding heat to your cramping muscles with either a heating pad or a warm bath can help relax and increase blood flow to the cramping muscle(s).

Conversely, an ice pack can help ease the pain of a leg cramp while you wait for it to subside. Just be sure to wrap the ice in a towel or other piece of material so that the ice doesn’t make direct contact with your skin.

Medication

Over-the-counter painkillers won’t make the cramping immediately go away, but ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and/or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help ease the pain associated with the cramps. Speak with your provider first about whether or not these medications are safe for you.

 

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5 Tips to Prevent Gum Disease If You Have Diabetes

brushing teeth when you have diabetes

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, has been called the fifth complication of diabetes behind heart, nerve, kidney and eye disease. Gingivitis is simply the inflammation of the gums around your teeth caused by plaque buildup.

So, why are you more at risk for developing gingivitis if you have diabetes? Diabetes educator Sue Cotey, RN, sheds some light on this question.

Gum disease begins with bacteria build up on and around your teeth that extends into the gums. Cotey says there is no difference between the bacteria in the mouth of someone with diabetes compared with someone without diabetes. “The reason gum disease is worse if you have diabetes is because you have a greater inflammatory response to this bacteria,” she explains.

Why gum disease makes it more difficult to control blood sugars

If you develop gum disease and it’s left untreated, it can lead to something called periodontitis, or an erosion of your jaw bone. This, in turn, can lead to loose teeth and damage to the gums. People with uncontrolled diabetes tend to get periodontitis more often than the average person or those who keep their diabetes under control.

Some signs that you have gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen and/or bleeding gums.
  • Loose or sensitive teeth.
  • Persistently bad breath.

If you have diabetes and have moderately advanced periodontal disease, it can be more difficult for you to control your blood sugars. “You may need deep cleaning, antibiotics or even oral surgery depending how advanced the gum disease is,” Cotey says.

In her 25 years of being a diabetes educator, Cotey says she has seen firsthand the relationship between gum health and diabetes management. “I’ve witnessed on multiple occasions that when people with diabetes see the dentist and address any current issues related to gum disease or inflammation, their blood glucose levels respond almost immediately,” says Cotey.

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5 tips to avoid gum disease

Follow these tips to steer clear of gum disease:

  • Avoid acidic drinks like soda, energy drinks and water with lemon. These can erode the enamel of your teeth, which can lead to decay.
  • Floss daily between each tooth, sliding up and down and back and forth gently to avoid bleeding.
  • Brush your teeth and gum line for two full minutes, two times each day. Use a soft bristle brush using gentle strokes and make sure you reach all of your teeth. The goal is to get rid of plaque buildup. To do this, vibrate your brush across the tooth surface, the gum line and your gums.
  • Remember to gently brush your tongue for a few seconds, too, to get rid of bacteria.
  • See your dentist at least once a year and report any of the signs mentioned above immediately.

Other oral concerns if you have diabetes

People with diabetes are also more likely to have a dry mouth due to elevated blood glucose or medications. To avoid dry mouth, Cotey recommends chewing sugar-free gum, using a mouth gel or eating some sugar-free candy to stimulate saliva production. “If these don’t help, talk to your dentist for recommendations,” she says.

And if you’re into having a super white smile, you’re in luck! Cotey says many over-the-counter teeth whiteners are mild enough to be used by people with diabetes too.​

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How Much Water Do You Need Daily?

Water may not be the most exciting beverage in a world of iced mocha cappuccinos, but you literally can’t live without it. So how much do you really need to drink in a day? Well, let’s dive into some numbers.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommends the following for daily fluid intake:

  • 125 ounces (3.7 liters) for men.
  • 91 ounces (2.7 liters) for women.

Here’s the thing, though: Consider those numbers a starting point. “Your size, metabolism, location, diet, physical activity and health all factor into how much water you need,” says preventive medicine specialist Roxanne Sukol, MD.

And the fluid you consume doesn’t all come out of a glass. You can expect about 20% of your daily fluid intake to come from water that’s in food.

That’s a lot of information to gulp down all at once, right? Well, here’s a drip-by-drip accounting.

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How to determine your fluid needs

To determine how much water you need, Dr. Sukol suggests considering these four factors:

  • Activity level: If you work out a lot or are moving all day long, drink more water.
  • Location: If you find yourself in a warmer climate or at higher altitudes, you’ll probably want to increase your water intake.
  • Metabolism: If you think you have a speedy metabolism and your body seems to need more fuel to keep its engines revved, you may want to take some extra sips during the day.
  • Size: The more you weigh, the more water your body tends to need.

But water demands are also like the stock market, with daily fluctuations that depend on:

  • Alcohol consumption: Alcohol is a diuretic that can make you dehydrated. Before you decide on a second cocktail, drink a glass of water to rehydrate yourself and replace fluids caused by alcohol-mediated losses.
  • Health: “We really worry when people are sick and they’re not getting a sufficient amount of liquids — especially if they are also losing fluids due to vomiting or diarrhea,” notes Dr. Sukol. If you have a fever, it’s a good idea to increase your daily quota of fluids by a few cups. Clear broth and gelatin also count as fluids.
  • Physical activity: Did you go for a sweat-inducing run? The more active you are, the more water you’ll need.
  • Weather: You’ll definitely need more water during a heatwave than a blizzard. Use your common sense. If you live in a dry climate or a dry home, it won’t hurt to drink a little more than the daily recommendation.

Signs you’re not drinking enough water

Even if you’re not thirsty, don’t assume you’re drinking enough water. Instead, take a peek at your urine, says Dr. Sukol. If it’s a pale yellow color, you’re right on track. If your urine is darker or has a strong odor, then you could probably use more fluids.

Other symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration might include:

  • Constipation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle cramps.

More severe dehydration constitutes a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Severe dehydration can include the above symptoms as well as:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Confusion.
  • Lethargy.

The benefits of drinking water

Water is sometimes considered a fourth macronutrient, joining the list with protein, fats and carbohydrates. It’s required for your body to function optimally. (Fast fact: Your body is 60% water.)

“That’s why you need to make sure that you’re drinking enough water,” explains Dr. Sukol. “It’s also why people who are too sick to drink tend to get into further trouble.”

Drinking water can help your:

  • Blood: Water ensures that your blood is just the right consistency to carry oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the areas that need it, including your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles.
  • Digestive system: “Dehydration is an easily reversible cause of constipation,” notes Dr. Sukol.
  • Joints: Think of your joints like the gears of your car. They need to be well-lubricated to work and last.
  • Kidneys: Drinking adequate amounts of water can prevent kidney damage and disorders.
  • Skin: For clear, wrinkle-free skin, drinking H2O can be just as effective as expensive anti-aging creams and lotions. It can also stave off certain skin disorders.
  • Teeth: Water keeps your mouth clean and lowers your risk for tooth decay.

There’s also research that consuming water may boost exercise performance, help with weight loss and reduce allergy and asthma symptoms.

Can you drink too much water?

The short answer is yes… but it’s hard to do. Hyponatremia, or low sodium, can be caused by a number of things — but one of them is when people drink too much water over a relatively short period of time.

“This condition can be quite serious but it is extremely rare,” says Dr. Sukol. “It’s pretty unusual that anyone would drink so much water that they would actually hurt themselves.”

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What Are Chickpeas and Are They Healthy?

When versatile foods come up in conversation, chickpeas might not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, these plant-based foods pack a nutritional wallop — and can both add flavor to savory dishes and bulk up sweet treats. Dietitian Patricia Bridget Lane, RDN, LD/N, explains why chickpeas are so good for you — and the specific health benefits they provide.

What are chickpeas?

Chickpeas, which are also known as the garbanzo bean, are classified as a legume. They come from a plant — in fact, Lane notes they’re one of the earliest cultivated vegetables in history — and grow two to three to a pod. However, chickpeas are considered to be both a vegetable and a protein because they’re so nutritious. Some people even consider them a superfood.

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Chickpeas nutrition information

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodData Central, one cup of chickpeas has:

  • 269 calories
  • 14.5 grams (g) of protein
  • 4.25 g of fat
  • 44.9 g of carbohydrates
  • 12.5 g of dietary fiber
  • 80.4 milligrams (mg) of calcium
  • 4.74 mg of iron
  • 78.7 mg of magnesium
  • 276 mg of potassium
  • 11.5 mg of sodium

Why are chickpeas so healthy?

Chickpeas are what’s known as a complete protein because they contain all nine essential amino acids, which are building blocks that help our bodies function properly. “Chickpeas are also an excellent source of non-animal protein,” Lane adds. “They’re great for vegetarians and vegans.”

In addition, chickpeas are also brimming with vitamins and minerals. These include choline, which helps your brain and nervous system run smoothly, as well as folate, magnesium, potassium and iron. For good measure, chickpeas are also high in vitamin A, E and C. “That’s why they reap a ton of health benefits,” Lane says. “These little tiny peas are just packed with nutrition.”

The benefits of chickpeas

Because chickpeas are so full of nutrients, they provide multiple health benefits, including:

Promote weight control

Chickpeas are high in fiber. In fact, the one-cup serving represents “roughly about almost half of the recommended daily fiber intake for adults,” Lane says. This promotes satiety (in other words, it helps you feel full longer) so you don’t overeat. “This can help people lose weight if they’re trying to do so,” she adds, “or maintain their weight.”

Prevent constipation

Because chickpeas are so high in fiber, they also help prevent constipation — which has the added bonus of keeping your gastrointestinal (gut) health in tip-top shape.

Promote cardiovascular health

Chickpeas are naturally very low in sodium and are cholesterol-free. They’re also a good source of polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats especially help control (and reduce) your cholesterol levels which, in turn, decreases your risk of developing heart disease.

Help control blood sugar

Chickpeas are low on the glycemic index, which means they’re a food that won’t make your blood sugar spike. “This is a great food to incorporate if someone has trouble regulating their blood sugar,” Lane says. “Or if someone has diabetes, they’re good to help control blood sugar.”

Serve as a great substitute for anyone with gluten sensitivity

People living with celiac disease develop a sensitivity to gluten, which can make dietary choices difficult. Chickpeas, however, are a great option: They’re naturally gluten-free.

Is chickpea pasta or flour just as healthy as eating chickpeas?

Unlike other foods, chickpeas offer health benefits no matter how you consume them because the nutrients in the legume always remain bioavailable, a term that means your body can reap positive benefits from them.

“You can eat chickpeas as natural as they come, right out of the can, or right out of the bag if you just want to boil them,” Lane says. “You can put them on a salad cold. You can muddle them into hummus. The way you eat them doesn’t really change their nutrient profile.”

The same flexibility holds true for chickpea pasta or chickpea flour. Both options are healthier than regular pasta made from white flour, and they provide health benefits every way you prepare them. “For instance, someone who likes pasta might switch to a garbanzo bean pasta to help control their blood sugar,” Lane suggests. “Someone who is using chickpea flour in a baking product might be doing so to accommodate a gluten-free preference for someone with celiac disease. They serve a health purpose.”

Are chickpeas always healthy?

Lane does caution that you should always read the ingredient label, as prepackaged foods can include a lot of additives. “The more natural the hummus is, the better it’s going to be for our bodies,” she says. “I always say a rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, there’s probably a problem.”

Although hummus is simple to make — at its core, it contains chickpeas, olive oil and tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds) — some kinds might be flavored by other ingredients, such as chocolate. This can introduce additional ingredients and reduce its healthiness, Lane notes. “You might be like, ‘Oh, well, this is healthier than consuming ice cream, or getting chocolate mousse for a party’,” she says. “Which it could be — but we want to make sure that we’re reading the carb content and seeing if there’s any added sugar in the serving size. If there’s 10 grams of carbs, 8 grams of that should not be from added sugar. You want to aim for less than half of added sugar per total gram of carb count.”

Lane adds that in addition to looking out for carbohydrates and serving size, you should check how much fat is in a given chickpea-based food, especially the amount of saturated fat and trans fat. “Make sure there’s none of that in there, or very minimal amounts,” she advises.

 

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The best recipes for chickpeas

Chickpeas are good as a base for savory foods and can be a substitute in sweet dishes as well. Healthy recipes that use chickpeas include:

  • Spicy Roasted Chickpeas.
  • Smoky Sautéed Spinach and Chickpeas.
  • Tomato Soup with Chickpeas and Lentils.
  • Black Bean Hummus.
  • Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Although chickpeas are high in vitamins and minerals, they do lack vitamin D. (You’ll find that in fortified milk or OJ, fatty fish, liver or egg yolks.) “Just because chickpeas are beneficial for us doesn’t mean that we should restrict ourselves from having other food groups as well,” Lane cautions. “For example, we need to pick up vitamin D elsewhere. It’s important to always have a well-rounded, balanced diet.”

Indeed, Lane says the recommended serving of one-and-a-half cups of legumes a week is plenty. “If someone is moving more towards a plant-based diet, they can substitute chickpeas as their protein for their meal. But you don’t want to overdo it. You don’t want to have cups and cups of chickpeas every day. Don’t forget moderation, and always keep variety in your diet.”

15 Diet Tips for People with Type 2 Diabetes

person holding brown grains

If you have Type 2 diabetes, your doctors have likely advised you to watch your sugar levels and carb intake. But there are other ways to keep your blood glucose, or sugar, levels in check as well.

Some 90-95 percent of all diabetes cases in the United States are Type II. In fact, statistics say that 1 in 8 Americans are diagnosed with it. It’s time to get this disease under control.

1

Reduce Your Portion Sizes

Ah, a simple pro-tip! It is crucial to reduce your portion sizes in order to keep your blood levels at a happy balance. Think about it this way: If you eat too much at once (particularly a dish high in carbs) your blood sugar may spike which will put you in a hyperglycemic state. Not ideal! Conversely, if you eat too little, your body may go into a hypoglycemic state, which means you don’t have enough blood sugar. So where’s the happy medium? Make sure to eat three solid meals per day with lunch and dinner looking something like this: ½ of the plate should include non-starchy vegetables and fruit, ¼ grains, and ¼ protein. For breakfast, kickstart the day with a bowl of oatmeal and a ¼ cup of berries for a boost in antioxidants.

2

Limit Your Protein Intake

When you have Type 2 diabetes, it’s very important to moderate your consumption of protein because you want to reduce the risk of developing a particular microvascular issue called nephropathy. Nephropathy is scientific lingo for kidney damage or kidney disease, and a diet that’s moderate to low in protein helps avoid the onset of these issues. A diet low in protein doesn’t stress the kidneys nearly as much as one that’s high in protein does. Stick to one 3-4 ounce serving of meat per day at most to promote the longevity of your kidneys!

3

Reduce Sugar Intake

This is pretty obvious, but it’s essential to at least mention. We’re not going to tell you to eat a certain number of grams of sugar per day because, honestly, that’s a bit unrealistic. However, something that is realistic is the fact that you can control how much added sugar you put into your body. Limit yourself to a maximum of one sugary treat a day—two or three squares of dark chocolate would absolutely suffice. This way you still get to quench that sweet tooth without over-indulging and causing your blood sugar levels to skyrocket!

4

Start Counting Carbs

Low carb this, low carb that. Are you sick of hearing it? Well, think about it this way, you can count carbs by calculating carb choices. One serving of carbs, or one carb choice, is equivalent to 15 grams carbs. Women should aim to have 3-4 carb choices for lunch and for dinner, which is somewhere between 45-60 grams of carbs per meal. Men, on the other hand, should have 4-5 carb choices per lunch and dinner, which yields 60-75 grams of carbs. For breakfast and snacks, stick to 1-2 choices per meal. You’re probably wondering how you even go about counting carbs, and lucky for you numbers 8 and 9 in this article will help you do just that! Keep reading for some helpful tools.

 

5

Monitor Your Blood Glucose

Acquiring a blood glucose meter, a lancet device with lancets, and test strips are key to making sure your blood glucose levels are at a stable range. For example, before meals your blood glucose levels should be 95 mg/dL or lower. One hour after eating, your levels should be at 130 mg/dL or lower and two hours after eating your levels should be at 120 mg/dL or lower. A good time to check your blood sugar would be when you have an a heightened feeling of thirst, headache, difficulty paying attention, or feel weak and fatigued. However, you’ll want to get an idea on where your body’s levels are at specific times throughout the day, so you know what to expect when you prick your finger. For five days, try taking your blood glucose levels three times a day at either one of the following times: before breakfast, before lunch/dinner, two hours after a meal, before intense exercise, when you are not feeling well, and before bed. Make sure to record in a journal so you can have these numbers for reference!

6

Learn About Glycemic Index

This is super important! Glycemic index is a system that ranks foods on a scale from 1 to 100 based on the impact they have on blood sugar levels. Foods that are low in glycemic index are the ones you want to have comprising a majority of your diet! Fill up on non-starchy veggies like broccoli, kale, spinach, and just about any leafy green or fruit you can think of and limit your intake of things like potatoes, meat, and dairy products. Make sure to steer clear of high glycemic index foods like white breads, white rice, and soda.

7

Exercise

Whether you prefer aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, swimming and biking or anaerobic exercises like lifting and interval circuits, both will help you manage your Type 2 diabetes. Why? When your muscles require glucose (blood sugar), they contract and push that glucose out of your blood and into your cells. As a result, this helps balance your blood glucose levels. So slip on a pair of sneakers and hit the trail or gym!

8

Download This App

Of course there’s an app to help you monitor your blood glucose levels! Sugar Sense is an awesome app that you can download for free on your smartphone that will help you keep track of your blood glucose levels, carb count, monitor your weight, and more. Download ASAP for immediate relief!

9

Visit This Website

Cronometer is another excellent online tool that enables you to record meals, log exercise and biometrics, and more. Sign up for free!

10

Join a Support Group

No scientific study is needed to stress how vital it is to talk to other people who are also enduring similar struggles. Hop online and see what groups you can join in your area, you may even meet new friends, workout buddies and dinner pals who understand what you’re going through. You are strong and you deserve to have people to vent to and bounce ideas off!

11

Reduce Stress

Did you know that stress can actually elevate your blood glucose levels? Keep your mind quiet and free of stress by taking a break at work and going for a walk and engaging in some deep breathing. Your health is your number one priority, updating that excel sheet or balancing that checkbook can wait!

12

Practice Yoga

This goes hand-in-hand with reducing stress. Inhaling positive energy and exhaling negative energy including, worries, stress, and feelings of sadness and fueling that breath through movement is incredibly beneficial to the mind and body.

13

Do Not Eat Fast Food

Drop that McDonald’s breakfast McMuffin because you’re on the one-way road to better health! In a 15-year study consisting of 3,000 adults, it was found that those who ate fast food more than twice a week developed insulin resistance at twice the rate than those who didn’t consume fast food. And for those with diabetes, eating highly processed, refined food can increase the risk of developing those dangerous complications previously mentioned.

14

Avoid Artificial Sweeteners

Contrary to popular belief, these fake sweeteners, called non-nutritive sweeteners or NNS, are not healthy for people with diabetes to consume. According to a study conducted by Harvard’s School of Public Health, consuming artificially sweetened drinks contributed to a 47 percent increase in BMI. The study finished in 2013 after monitoring 3,682 individuals for 7-8 years. So why would this happen if these sweeteners do not even contain regular table sugar (sucrose) which is thought to be the one of the leading causes of visceral fat, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes? The answer is quite simple, artificial sweeteners are anywhere from 180-20,000 times sweeter than table sugar. Frequent consumption can cause an alteration in your taste buds, which makes vegetables and even fruits taste more bitter than they actually are. This causes you to neglect those foods and go after foods that satisfy that desire for sweetness. Yikes!

15

Shed a Few Pounds!

With all of these factors, it’s no doubt that you will lose a couple of pounds. Shedding just 10-15 pounds can significantly help balance your blood glucose levels, so get off the couch and get cracking because there’s no time to waste.

 

5 Foods You Should Eat This Winter

soup with winter vegetables

Chilly winter weather affects more than just your wardrobe and heating bill. Your body also experiences changes in energy levels, metabolism and even food preferences.

Do you react to bitter cold by skipping the gym and convincing yourself you deserve a calorie splurge to warm up and offset your discomfort? You’re not alone.

But the cold truth is, no weather warrants unhealthy eating habits. Just as you shouldn’t overdo ice cream during the dog days of summer, you shouldn’t live on a steady diet of hot chocolate and warm cookies during winter (no matter how tempting it sounds).

We asked some experts how to adjust our mindsets and palates for the winter.

“Winterizing your diet can be healthy — and tasty — if you add a few favorite cold-weather foods,” says registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD.

 

Healthy foods to eat during winter

Not only are the following food options healthy, but did you know they can also boost your mood? Psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, adds in her vitamin D-rich favorites, to Czerwony’s recommendations, below.

Root vegetables

Local produce can be hard to find when cold weather hits. But root vegetables like beets, carrots and turnips can withstand the cold, so local farmers can provide fresh produce — and you can reap the benefits. Roast carrots for a boost of beta-carotene, or boil turnips for vitamins C and A.

Vitamin D-rich foods

“Vitamin D-rich foods are the number one food item to consider adding to your menu during the winter months. People who have more emotional eating during the fall are shown to have lower levels of vitamin D, which is associated with more anxiety and depression,” Dr. Albers explains.

She says a great source of vitamin D is shitake mushrooms. Other good options include salmon, egg yolks, fortified cereals, milk and red meat.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is much more than just a convenient breakfast food; it also provides nutrients that are essential during the winter. Oatmeal can be changed up by adding warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg without adding calories, fat, sugar or salt. And oatmeal is high in zinc (important for proper immune function) and soluble fiber (associated with heart health). Although instant oatmeal is more convenient, it’s a bit more expensive. To eat healthy on a budget, go with old-fashioned oats.

Soup

Soup is winter’s perfect food — as long as you hold the cream, salt and beef. Look for soup recipes that call for chicken broth, vegetable broth or water as the base and include a lot of vegetables. Adding canned or dried beans or lentils to your soup adds fat-free protein, as well as much needed fiber. Protein and fiber both curb your appetite by slowing down digestion and controlling blood sugars, which can help with controlling hunger and bolstering mood. Pair your soup with a side of 100% whole-grain crackers for a dose of grains, too.

Mood-boosting snacks

Cravings and emotional eating are also common this time of year. Try avoiding grabbing those sugary and processed snacks, which can drag down your mood over time. Instead, Dr. Albers recommends sweet potatoes, beets and walnuts. Spicy roasted chickpeas are another alternative.

Immune-boosting choices

Dr. Albers says what you eat can not only impact your mood and sleep, but also your immune system.

“One of the best things you can do to help your immune system and boost your mood is add foods that are high in vitamin C. These are foods like citrus fruits, oranges, mangoes, lemons, kiwis, but they are also found in broccoli, bell peppers and strawberries,” she advises.

Spicy tuna roll

For a surprising alternative to typical comfort foods — often loaded with fat and sugar — try sushi. Choose rolls lined with tuna or salmon. Both are good sources of vitamin D. During the winter months, when you have limited exposure to the sun, food sources of the bone-healthy vitamin become even more essential. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with impaired growth, weakening of your bones and even risk of heart disease.

Broccoli and cauliflower

Aside from getting the flu shot and washing your hands regularly, these cruciferous vegetables may be your top defense against winter illness. Broccoli and cauliflower are both high in vitamin C, which is associated with enhanced immune function. If you can’t find fresh versions, don’t fret — frozen broccoli and cauliflower are just as nutritious.

Why eating healthy in winter matters

Czerwony and Dr. Albers both agree that mindful, healthy eating choices are helpful to a stress-free lifestyle. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about overhauling your whole diet, take it one step at a time, or substitute one snack at a time. And remember, seasons change!

 

What Happens if You Eat Yogurt Every Day?

One glance at the supermarket’s miles-long yogurt aisle tells you all you need to know about yogurt’s popularity. But has yogurt really earned its reputation as a healthy superfood?

It’s complicated. Yogurt is absolutely good for you, says registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD. But not all yogurt is created equal, and some choices are definitely better than others.

Tart, sweet, thick, thin: Here’s what you should know about yogurt’s good side and how to pick a winner.

Is yogurt healthy?

As far as nutrients go, yogurt has a lot going for it. It’s full of:

  • Protein: Greek yogurt has about twice as much protein as traditional yogurt.
  • Calcium: You need calcium for strong bones and teeth. Your muscles and nerves also rely on this mineral to function properly.
  • Probiotics: These beneficial bacteria are important for your health. The helpful microbes may improve gut health and boost immunity. But only yogurts stamped with the “Live & Active Cultures” seal contain probiotics, and the type and amount can vary by brand. So check before you buy.

Those nutrients are good for head-to-toe health. But there’s also research suggesting that yogurt is specifically good for heart health: Yogurt has been linked to healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. And some research shows that eating yogurt as part of a healthy diet can help prevent long-term weight gain, which is good for the heart.

Beware of sweetened yogurts

While yogurt has a lot going for it, not all yogurt is a healthy choice. Some flavored yogurts — even those made with real fruit — can be more like junk food in disguise.

That strawberry swirl fruit-on-the-bottom or chocolate chip crunch topping can pack a sugary punch. Some flavored yogurts contain more sugar in one serving than the daily recommended amount. (The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams for women and 36 grams for men.)

What about sugar-free flavors? Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners may not be any healthier than real sugar. And eating super-sweet artificial sweeteners can set up your taste buds to crave more sweet stuff throughout the day.

Your best bet is to avoid flavored yogurt and reach for the plain variety. “Plain, nonfat yogurt is best,” says Zumpano. “Both original and Greek-style are excellent sources of protein, calcium and probiotics.”

Yogurt shopping 101: What to know before you buy

What should you know before you hit that overwhelming dairy aisle? Here’s a rundown of your yogurt options.

  • Greek-style yogurt: Greek yogurt is strained to create a rich, creamy texture — and has twice as much protein as regular yogurt. “For managing your weight, try Greek yogurt,” Zumpano says. “It has more protein, which can help you feel fuller longer.”
  • Traditional yogurt: Regular old yogurt is also a good source of protein and other nutrients, though it doesn’t pack quite the same protein punch as Greek yogurt. But some people prefer its milder taste and thinner texture, so it’s worth a try.
  • Flavored yogurt: Fruity picks and other flavored yogurts can contain a lot of sugar, but the amount varies by brand. If you can’t resist, try to pick a flavor with less than 120 calories per container and no more than 12-13 grams of sugar.
  • Whole-milk yogurt: This extra-creamy option is a good choice for growing babies, toddlers and children, who need the extra fat for growth and development. But it’s high in saturated fat, so it may not be the best pick for older kids and adults. If you’re looking for something a little creamier, choose a 2% milk fat instead of full fat.
  • Nondairy yogurts: Yogurts made from soy, almond or coconut milk are good options if you have a dairy sensitivity or eat a vegan diet. They can be a good source of protein and heart-healthy fats. But some are high in sugar, so read labels carefully. Coconut milk yogurt is also high in saturated fat, so watch your portions accordingly.

Dress your yogurt for success

Unsweetened yogurt gets two thumbs up from many dietitians. But some people are put off by its tart taste. If you’re still getting used to plain yogurt, try these tricks until your taste buds adapt:

  • Dress up plain yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit, vanilla extract or a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Swap in Greek yogurt to replace some of the sour cream or mayonnaise in dips, dressings and soups. You’ll get the benefits of yogurt and cut some saturated fats from your diet.
  • Add Greek yogurt to fruit smoothies for an extra boost of protein and creamy texture.

Once you start adding a dollop of yogurt here and there, you’ll discover all sorts of ways to enjoy this versatile food.

 

These Green Veggies are bad for Diabetes

10 Best Foods to Eat When You’re Sick

homemade chicken noodle soup when sick

While no specific food can cure sickness, sometimes, eating the right thing can relieve symptoms and help you feel better. But keep in mind that what works for one person might not work for another. The best thing you can do when you don’t feel well is to focus on what helps you and what sounds appealing.

Here, dietitian Andrea Dunn, RD, breaks down what foods to eat and drink when you’re feeling under the weather.

Foods to eat when sick

Dunn says that when you think about what foods to eat when you’re sick, think about it as three basic categories:

  1. What to eat or drink when you’re dehydrated (or to avoid becoming dehydrated).
  2. What to eat or drink when your gut is sick (like diarrhea).
  3. What to eat or drink when you feel nauseous (or have a stomachache).

 

These Green Veggies are bad for Diabetes

What to eat when you’re dehydrated

When you’re sick and don’t feel well, you might not have an appetite or you might feel like you can’t keep anything down. But if you’re not eating or drinking, dehydration can quickly set in.

“Oftentimes when we’re sick and don’t feel good, dehydration is a big part of it,” explains Dunn. “It might be because you’re throwing up or running to the bathroom every five minutes. Or you might feel so sick that you just don’t have an appetite.”

But dehydration is one of the biggest reasons why people end up in the emergency room when they’re sick.

You might be so dehydrated that you can’t walk or you pass out and hit your head. Moderate to severe dehydration needs quick medical attention. If left untreated, dehydration can cause urinary or kidney problems, seizures and can even be life-threatening.

Here’s what to eat and drink when you’re dehydrated or to avoid becoming dehydrated:

  • Beverages. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot, cold or room temperature – any type of liquid is going to help combat dehydration. Just try to sip liquids steadily throughout the day. Aim for water, electrolyte or sports drinks, coffee, teas, juice, soda or carbonated water.
  • Soup. There’s a reason that chicken noodle soup is most people’s go-to when they don’t feel well. It’s typically more filling than plain water since it contains more calories, protein and vitamins. It’s also a good source of liquids and electrolytes. But if this traditional soup doesn’t sound appealing to you, try out other types of soups and broths for additional calories and hydration. Plus, soup in general can act as a natural decongestion when served hot.
  • Foods that are mainly liquid. If you’re having a hard time drinking fluids, aim for foods that are mainly liquid, but served cold or frozen. Try foods like ice cream, popsicles, Jell-O and pudding.
  • Fruit. Fresh fruit contains many important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body needs – even when you’re not sick! Eating fruit when you’re feeling under the weather can provide a nutrient boost, as well as hydration. Aim for juicy fruits that are made up of mostly water, like melons, berries, oranges and grapes.

What to eat when your gut is sick

Diarrhea is when food is moving too quickly through your body. You’ll want to focus on eating foods that can slow that process down, which means choosing foods that contain soluble fiber. This type of fiber acts as a thickening agent and adds form to the stool to help slow it down.

Dunn says that when your gut is sick, you’ll want to avoid or limit caffeine and sugar alcohols. Caffeine can overstimulate your digestive system and make diarrhea worse. Sugar alcohols don’t get absorbed in the gut and instead hang out in your large intestine, which can lead to bloating, stomach pain and more diarrhea.

Here’s what to eat and drink when your gut is sick:

  • Anything on the BRAT diet. Mom was right. Eat a diet that follows the acronym, BRAT – bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Most people suffering from diarrhea can tolerate a few of these simple foods.
  • Bland foods. Although not super exciting, very plain and bland foods can help ease symptoms. Try pasta, dry cereals, oatmeal, bread and crackers. But bland doesn’t mean you can’t add protein or veggies into the mix if you’re feeling up for it! Try eating rice and baked chicken breast or cheese and crackers.
  • Some fruits and vegetables. Try to add in boiled or baked potatoes, winter squash, baked apples, applesauce or bananas.

What to eat when you’re nauseous or have a stomachache

From the stomach flu, to food poisoning, to pregnancy – feeling nauseated can derail your entire day. And nausea can run the full spectrum, from vomiting, to feeling an overall sense of queasiness, to dry heaving.

“When you’re feeling nauseous or have a stomachache, you should really try to eat every couple of hours,” says Dunn. “Eating small amounts more frequently can help get a little food at a time into your system.”

Here’s what to eat and drink when you’re nauseous:

  • Ginger. This spice is well-known for its anti-nausea effects. Try ginger snaps, ginger ale, ginger tea or sucking on a few pieces of ginger candy. You can even try crystallized ginger, which is more soft and chewy and lightly coated in sugar.
  • Dry foods. Try nibbling on a few pieces of dry foods every couple of hours when you’re battling nausea. Try pretzels, dry cereal, toast or plain crackers like saltines.
  • Cold foods & foods with little odor. Because smells can trigger nausea (especially in pregnancy), cold foods might be a good choice. Try Jell-O, ice cream, frozen fruit, yogurt or popsicles. Even sucking on an ice cube is a good way to replenish fluids.

What do you need to keep on hand for sick days?

When you’re hit with the flu, a cold or general crud, the last thing you’ll want to do is leave your home or go to the store and spread your germs. Instead, stock up on food now to have on hand in case you or someone in your house gets sick.

Stock up on:

  1. Canned soup.
  2. Jell-O mixes.
  3. Popsicles.
  4. Teas.
  5. Juice boxes.
  6. Canned fruit (packed in its own juice).
  7. Canned chicken.
  8. Cheese sticks.
  9. Crackers.
  10. Put a few pieces of bread in the freezer so you have it on hand.

Can intermittent fasting help treat or even reverse type 2 diabetes?

Someone in a kitchen drinking water while looking out of the window
  • Intermittent fasting involves a regular pattern of eating few or no calories for a fixed period, which can vary from 12 hours every day to 1 or more days each week.
  • Some people follow these diets hoping to lose weight, improve their overall health, or both.
  • A review of the available evidence suggests that these diets can also reduce or even remove the need for medication in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • More research is necessary before doctors can recommend widespread use of the diets for people with the condition.

In recent years, intermittent fasting has gained popularity as a way to lose weight, improve health, and enhance performance.

Some studies suggest that this dietary approach may even extend a healthy lifespan without the need for the severe caloric restriction that classic anti-aging diets entail.

People who practice intermittent fasting eat few or no calories for anything from 12 hours a day to 1 or more days every week. The former technique is known as time-restricted feeding, whereas the latter is known as periodic fasting.

A recent review of the evidence suggests that this type of diet may help people with type 2 diabetes safely reduce or even remove their need for medication.

However, people should seek the advice of diabetes professionals before embarking on such a diet.

The review, by Dr. Michael Albosta and Jesse Bakke, Ph.D., of Central Michigan University College of Medicine in Mount Pleasant, appears in Clinical Diabetes and Endocrinology.

Insulin resistance

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes affects 34.2 million people in the United States, which equates to about 1 in every 10 people. In 2017, it was the seventh leading cause of death in the country.

People with type 2 diabetes have abnormally high concentrations of glucose in their blood, known as hyperglycemia.

Several factors may contribute to hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes. These include reduced secretion of the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels, and reduced sensitivity of the body’s tissues to the hormone. Doctors refer to this reduced sensitivity as insulin resistance.

The condition can cause a range of severe complications, including kidney failure and blindness.

The goal of treatment for type 2 diabetes is to prevent or delay these complications and maintain the person’s quality of life.

Healthcare professionals encourage people with type 2 diabetes to exercise regularly, reach a moderate weight, and eat a well-balanced diet. However, most individuals also need to take drugs to lower their blood glucose levels.

Most of these drugs raise insulin levels, which the authors of the review say can have an unintended negative consequence.

“While this works to reduce hyperglycemia in these patients, the idea of treating a disease of insulin resistance by increasing insulin may be counterproductive, leading to the requirement of increasing amounts of medication over a long period of time,” they write.

People who take the drugs can gain weight and develop increased insulin resistance.

In addition, they can have raised levels of a hormone called leptin, which normally reduces appetite. This may suggest that they become increasingly resistant to this hormone, too.

They also have lower levels of a third hormone, called adiponectin, which usually counters diabetes and inflammation.

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Struggles with calorie restriction

Some people with diabetes could minimize their need for diabetes medication by continually restricting their calorie intake, which scientists know reduces body weight and improves metabolic health.

However, the authors of the review note that people can struggle to sustain daily calorie restrictions for extended periods.

Some people may find it easier to practice intermittent fasting, which shows promise as a way to improve metabolic risk factors, reduce body fat, and promote weight loss in obesity.

To assess the evidence, the authors searched databases for review articles, clinical trials, and case series related to type 2 diabetes and intermittent fasting published between 1990 and 2020.

They concluded that this type of diet may improve several key features of the disease. The improvements include:

  • reduced body weight
  • decreased insulin resistance
  • lower levels of leptin
  • increased levels of adiponectin

“Some studies found that patients were able to reverse their need for insulin therapy during therapeutic intermittent fasting protocols with supervision by their physician,” they write.

For example, a case study followed three people with type 2 diabetes for several months after they started an intermittent fasting diet, which involved three 24-hour fasts per week.

Over the course of the study, all participants had significantly reduced levels of HbA1c, which is a measure of the average amount of glucose in the blood.

All three individuals lost weight and were able to stop their insulin therapy within 1 month of the start of the diet.

Crucially, they reported that they found the diet easy to tolerate, and none of them chose to stop the diet at any point.

“Within less than a month, they had significantly reversed their type 2 diabetes,” says one of the authors of the case series, Dr. Jason Fung, a kidney specialist who is an advocate for intermittent fasting.

“Even a year later, I think two of them are off all meds […], so doing ridiculously well for an intervention that is actually free, available to anybody, and has been used for thousands of years,” Dr. Fung tells the Weight Loss Motivation podcast.

The review authors also cited a clinical trial that randomly assigned 137 people with type 2 diabetes to either a continuous calorie-restricted diet or an intermittent fasting diet.

After 12 months, the two groups had similar reductions in their HbA1c levels. However, those in the intermittent fasting group lost more weight on average.

How it works

The review authors conclude that intermittent fasting may reduce body fat and insulin resistance not only by limiting overall calorie intake but also through “metabolic reprogramming.”

This reprogramming involves a switch from using glucose as fuel to burning fatty acids and ketones from the breakdown of fat stores.

By reducing body fat, they write, intermittent fasting may also improve sensitivity to leptin and adiponectin, which in turn improves appetite control and reduces chronic inflammation.

However, they conclude that this kind of diet may not be for everyone, writing:

“While alternate day fasting and periodic fasting have demonstrated efficacy in improving metabolic risk factors, it may be difficult to convince patients to give up or severely restrict calories for an entire 24-[hour] period. In America, we often eat three meals per day in addition to frequent snacking.”

They also caution that there may be safety issues with intermittent dieting.

For example, they say that healthcare professionals should closely monitor individuals who take medications that increase insulin levels. This is to prevent episodes of hypoglycemia, or dangerously low blood sugar levels, during fasting.

“[People with diabetes] should consult their physician prior to beginning an intermittent fasting regimen in order to allow for appropriate oversight and titration of the patients’ medication regimen during periods of fasting,” they write.

 

These Green Veggies are bad for Diabetes