Is Sugar Bad for Your Heart?

Tiramisu, chocolate mousse, crème brulee. Desserts are your jam. (Ooh! Jam!) Unfortunately, all those sweets may not be doing wonders for your heart.

“Excess sugar can increase the risk of heart disease, both directly and indirectly,” says registered dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, who specializes in preventive cardiology nutrition.

Here’s what to know about how sugar affects your heart and arteries and how to embrace a less-sweet diet.

Negative effects of sugar: obesity

Sugar is delicious, but a little goes a long way — especially when it comes to your health. Research shows that people who eat a lot of added sugars are at greater risk of dying from heart disease compared to people whose diets aren’t so sweet.

Sugar affects the heart in several ways. Among the most obvious is weight gain. “A diet high in sugar can contribute to obesity. And obesity drives up the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — all of which can increase the risk of developing heart disease,” Patton explains.

Weight isn’t the whole story, though. “A high-sugar diet is bad for you no matter what you weigh,” Patton says. “If you eat a lot of sweets and processed foods, you’re probably not getting enough of the good stuff, like the fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are part of a heart-healthy diet.”

Sugar and your heart  

Sugar may also act on your heart and arteries directly. Research suggests that diets high in sugar affect your heart in several ways:

  • Triglycerides: When you overeat, your body stores extra calories as a type of fat called triglycerides. Sugary diets can increase triglycerides in your body. And having high levels of triglycerides raises the risk of heart disease.
  • LDL cholesterol: Weight gain connected to diets high in sugar can lead to higher levels of LDL cholesterol. LDL — commonly called “bad cholesterol” — causes artery-clogging plaque that can damage blood vessels and your heart.
  • Blood pressure: Obesity tied to sugar-laden diets may contribute to high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Inflammation: Sugar can cause inflammation throughout your body. A sugar-rich diet can lead to chronic inflammation, which can stress your heart and blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease.

Added sugar: How much is too much?  

Not all sugars are created equal. Natural sugars, found in foods like milk and fruit, can be part of a healthy diet. What you want to watch for are added sugars.

Added sugars include the white table sugar, honey or maple syrup you stir into your coffee or drizzle on pancakes. Added sugars are also common ingredients in processed foods. You find them in sweet treats like soda, sweetened yogurt, cookies and ice cream.

But added sugar is also hiding in places you might not expect it, like canned soups or hamburger buns. “Foods like bread can have a lot of added sugar, even though you might not taste it,” Patton says.

That makes it easy to eat too much added sugar without even realizing it. How much is too much? The American Heart Association recommends no more than:

  • 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for women.
  • 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons) per day for men.

How to cut back on sugar  

Cutting back on sugar takes a little effort, but it’s easier than it used to be. “Nutrition labels are now required to show added sugars, so it’s easier than ever to keep track of the sugar in your diet,” Patton says.

She offers these tips if you’re trying to de-sweet your diet:

Do away with sugary drinks

Sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks and juices are a major source of added sugar. One can of soda can have more than the daily recommended limit. “The number one thing you should do to lower sugar intake: Don’t drink your sugar,” Patton says.

Learn the lingo

Added sugar goes by lots of names. If you’re reading ingredient lists, beware of sugar aliases such as:

  • Agave nectar.
  • Barley malt.
  • Cane juice or cane syrup.
  • Corn syrup.
  • Dextrose, fructose, maltose or sucrose.
  • Honey.
  • Molasses.
  • Rice syrup.

Make smart swaps

If you’re craving sweet, try using natural sweeteners in place of added sugar. Stir fruit into plain yogurt instead of buying the fruit-on-the-bottom kind. Add berries to your oatmeal instead of brown sugar. “Those substitutions can really add up to make a difference,” she says.

The thought of giving up the sweet stuff might make you bitter. But if you cut back gradually, you’ll tame your sweet tooth. Eventually, you won’t even miss it.

“You don’t have to avoid sugar completely, but moderation is key,” Patton says. “Cutting back and finding healthy substitutes is good for your heart and your overall health.”

Celery Will Help Bring Your High Blood Pressure Down

At almost every turn, science and medicine reveal a new “superfood” that will dramatically improve our health. Chia seeds can reduce your cholesterol. Green leafy vegetables burn belly fat. Blueberries boost your antioxidants.

Now, the latest in wonder snacking – celery seeds to lower your high blood pressure (HBP). But does it really work?

“It’s no secret that plants offer vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants to help you maintain good health, but it’s a mistake to think you can eat only those substances as supplements and really get the same benefits,” according to Kenneth Shafer, MD, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine.

A plant’s isolated nutrients and other compounds work together to improve health, but we don’t really know why or how they do it.

A recent study did find that taking celery seed extract improved BP levels in patients who had mild to moderate elevations. But for the most part, research indicates taking plant extracts offers little to no benefit and can sometimes cause harm. “For this reason, it makes sense to simply eat the whole food, including celery,” Dr. Shafer says.

Worried about BP?

Your BP measures the force your heart exerts to pump blood around your body. The higher your pressure, the harder your heart is working.

If your pressure is high enough, it can damage your blood vessels, as well as your heart, kidneys, eyes and brain. It can also put you at greater risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and blindness.

“Any BP over 140/90 is considered high, but if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, keep your levels below 130/80. Limiting your sodium intake to below 1,500 mg can help control your BP,” Dr. Shafer says.

Celery for lower BP

Celery contains a phytochemical called phthalides. As an extract, it’s called NBP, and it relaxes the tissues of the artery walls to increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure.

Eating the whole food, though, is better. Celery stalk salt content is low, and you also get fiber, magnesium and potassium to help regulate your blood pressure, as well.

“To get the benefit, you should eat roughly four stalks – one cup, chopped – of celery daily,” Dr. Shafer says.

DASH diet

Celery alone won’t bring down your BP.

Most major health organizations, including the Cleveland Clinic and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, recommend the DASH Diet, a nutrition program targeted at lowering BP and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“A diet based largely on plants is ideal,” Dr. Shafer says.

By eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts and vegetable oils, you get the potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, protein and limited sodium needed to control your BP. You should also restrict sweets, sugary beverages and red meats.

The Dangers of Raw Milk: What You Should Know

Some people prefer unpasteurized — or raw — milk and milk products, believing they offer more nutrients, cause fewer allergies and promote health.

Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that unpasteurized milk is more likely than pasteurized milk to cause foodborne illness that can lead to hospitalization.

“A little processing goes a long way in preventing the illnesses associated with raw milk,” says Erin Rossi, RD, LD. “Pasteurizing milk — heating it to 161 degrees for just 20 seconds — kills any and all bacteria.”

It’s been more than 120 years since Louis Pasteur came up with this fail-safe process for killing the bacteria raw milk can harbor, including Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria.

Who’s most at risk of illness

Most healthy people recover quickly from the vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and flu-like symptoms these bacteria cause.

But older people, children, pregnant women and those with weak immune systems can quickly get very sick. Symptoms can become chronic, severe and even life-threatening.

Seek care promptly if you become ill after consuming a raw milk product— especially if you’re pregnant. Listeria can cause miscarriage and fetal or newborn death.

Products to check carefully

Most U.S. milk and milk products contain pasteurized milk or cream or were processed in a way that destroys bacteria. But you can still find products made with raw milk, including:

  • Milk and cream.
  • Soft cheeses (Brie, Camembert).
  • Mexican soft cheeses (queso fresco, panela, asadero, queso blanco).
  • Yogurt.
  • Pudding.
  • Ice cream and frozen yogurt.

So, take a minute to read a product’s label to make sure you see the word “pasteurized.” If it’s not there, the product may contain raw milk.

Take special care with milk products sold at farm stands or farmer’s markets. Don’t buy them unless you can confirm they’ve been pasteurized.

Facts to remember

Myths persist about pasteurization and raw milk. Here are the facts:

  • Pasteurization does not reduce the nutrients in milk. “The nutritional value is the same for all milk across the board, except that pasteurized milk does not carry the risk of bacteria,” notes Rossi.
  • Both raw and pasteurized milk contain proteins that trigger allergic reactions or lactose intolerance in those who are sensitive.
  • Pasteurization does not make it safe to leave milk unrefrigerated (especially when opened) for long periods of time.
  • Pasteurization does save lives.

Protect your family

Milk is a family staple for good reason. The calcium it contains helps build strong bones and teeth while keeping your heart beating, blood clotting and muscles and nerves functioning. The protein it provides helps strengthen muscles and prevents their breakdown.

“Our food supply is among the safest in the world, but it’s not always risk-free,” says Rossi. “Foodborne illnesses are preventable with proper handling and processing — including pasteurization, which minimizes risks while preserving vital nutrients.”

Tips to Eat Healthy and Avoid Weight Gain on Vacation

avoiding weight gain on vacation, eating healthy, eating on vacation, healthy vacation meals, staying in shape on vacation, vacation meal tips

Not all vacation souvenirs bring smiles. Want proof? Just step on your bathroom scale after a week or more away.

Travelers typically return from trips heavier than when they left — and research shows those extra pounds tend to hang around longer than your vacation tan, judging by findings at the University of Georgia.

But there are ways to make sure that you don’t lug any unwanted weight home. Let’s unpack some helpful recommendations with dietitian Beth Czerwony, MS, RD, CSOWM, LD.

How to control your weight on vacation

First, a harsh reality: Calories still count while on vacation. Lounging on a sun-soaked beach doesn’t give you a free pass to consume mass quantities of food and tropical drinks without paying a dietary price.

But this trip is about having fun, right? A vacation, after all, is the dessert of life! “The key is to find a balance,” says Czerwony. “Indulge… but indulge smartly. Have a game plan.”

Consider the following tips when coming up with your strategy:

Identify splurge meals

It’s OK to dig into a few calorie-laden dishes when you’re visiting a new locale. (Think jambalaya in New Orleans or clam chowder in Boston.) But make these meals “special” and adjust your noshing during the rest of the day to compensate.

Cruise the whole buffet line

Don’t just grab a plate and start piling on food. Instead, survey everything that’s available before starting to scoop to avoid impulse eating. “Don’t waste your calories on one thing when you’d rather be eating something else,” Czerwony said.

Maintain good eating habits

Don’t forget to put fruits and vegetables on your vacation plate. Look to eat lean proteins, too.

“The same rules apply to eating well,” notes Czerwony. “Those don’t change because you’re in a different location.”

Besides, day after day of gorging on rich and fatty food often brings another result – a rumbly tummy and digestive issues. “You’re going to feel like crud,” says Czerwony, “and that’s no way to spend a vacation.”

Snack smartly

Keep some healthier snack options handy for when you’re feeling peckish. Almonds, for instance. Beef jerky, pretzels, protein bars are ideal, too. Basically, anything that is easy to store and eat on the go.

“Sometimes, you’re just hungry and need a bite,” says Czerwony. “Better to have something available than to just grab whatever you see.”

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water on vacation offers you many benefits – starting with the fact it’s not a sugary soda or alcoholic beverage. That H2O will keep you feeling full, too, which can help slow down your eating.

Limit alcohol intake

That idea that it’s always 5 o’clock on vacation? It’s a fun thought, but your body knows different. Stretching a cocktail hour into a cocktail day can multiply your calorie count in ways that require a calculator.

And be mindful of those fruity umbrella drinks, too: “They are delicious, but they have a lot of extra calories,” says Czerwony. “It adds up fast.”

Staying in shape on vacation

Many trips offer built-in opportunities for exercise. Maybe it’s a hike to explore the woods or a snorkel-wearing visit to an underwater world. Whatever the activity, it’ll burn off some of your vacation-eating calories.

But maybe your plans involve little more than walking out to a chair to read and relax. If that’s the case, it might be good to spend a few minutes on a treadmill or hitting the weights before slipping into chill mode.

“Most places have a gym,” notes Czerwony. “Whether you use it is up to you.”

There are plenty of exercises you can do in your room, too, such as yoga or Tabata.

Focus on the vacation experience

Breaking out forks and spoons will be part of any trip for a simple reason: You need to eat. But don’t overemphasize every meal, cautions Czerwony. Treat yourself here and there – you are on vacation, after all – but try not to make food the focus.

“Make the experience the special occasion,” she says. “That’s what you’ll remember.”



6 Ways to Slash Your Diabetes Risk Dramatically, According to Doctors



This year, the World Economic Forum described diabetes as a “silent epidemic,” noting that it was three times as deadly as COVID. Ironically, the side effects many of us experienced because of COVID-related lockdowns and isolation—less physical activity, poor diet, weight gain—are major risk factors for diabetes. And that comes with potentially serious health consequences.

In diabetes, the body becomes unable to process blood sugar and transport it to the body’s cells for energy. Chronically elevated blood sugar levels can damage the linings of blood vessels, leading to heart disease, stroke, blindness, even amputation. Experts predict that one in 10 people will have diabetes by the year 2045.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Two doctors told us how you can slash your diabetes risk dramatically by making some simple lifestyle changes you can start today.


Start With One Thing


Woman walking up stairs to exercise

Feeling overwhelmed by “shoulds” when it comes to reducing your diabetes risk? Begin with one new healthy behavior. “As an endocrinologist, I often recommend to my patients to pick one way they would like to impact their diabetes,” says Navinder Jassil, MD, director of endocrinology and diabetes services at Deborah Specialty Physicians in New Jersey. “For some, it’s healthy eating or increasing physical activity. When it comes to healthy eating, I encourage my patients to monitor their carb intake, reduce the amount of simple sugars, and eat plenty of vegetables.”


Eat Less Processed Food


healthy vegetable plant based bowl tomatoes carrots avocado brown rice cucumbers leafy greens

To see real results, eat more whole, unprocessed foods. “A lot of the foods we eat are diabetogenic. What that means is they increase your risk for insulin resistance and diabetes,” says Aaron Hartman, MD, a board-certified functional medicine and integrative medicine doctor in Richmond, Virginia, and assistant clinical professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Sugars are one diabetogenic food. Processed carbohydrates are another. The first rule of thumb, if you want to prevent diabetes, is to eat real food. If you eat real food, all of a sudden you’re avoiding the processing chemicals, and you’re eating nutrient-dense food.”



Get Moving


woman in sports clothing at home, doing domestic fitness and training abdominals on swiss ball in living room

“Exercise increases your muscles, as well as insulin sensitivity,” says Hartman. “One of the key components of diabetes is insulin resistance. If your muscles, which are the biggest consumer of sugar in your body, become insulin resistant, over time the levels in your blood will go up. So simple exercise is a great way to make your muscles sensitive to insulin and also make your body utilize your insulin levels even better. This can be gentle movement like walking.”

Concurs Jassil: “In terms of physical activity, all activity counts. This means parking far away in the parking lot, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and running around with your children.”



Do Resistance Training


weighted push up

Once you’ve amped up your physical activity, adding resistance training can have additional benefits for diabetes risk. “Cardiovascular exercise helps burn glucose in the short term. Building muscle with resistance training will help keep your glucose down in the long term,” says Jassil. “Many of my patients focus on cardiovascular exercise, which is helpful, but the addition of building muscle also impacts the long term, with keeping your weight and glucose down.”


Try Timed Eating


man eating

“One of my favorite biohacks for diabetes and insulin resistance has become interval fasting or timed eating,” says Hartman. In this regimen, you eat only during one 8- to 12-hour window each day. “This gives your liver a rest, which makes a lot of glucose in your body, and you also rest your gut microbiome. What this does is allow your metabolism to catch up with the food you ate,” he says. “Combine this with eating real food and exercise, and I’ve seen some diabetics have massive weight reductions, as well as A1C test reductions.”


Maintain Balance


Group Of Middle Aged Friends Celebrating Birthday In Bar

“Balance is key,” says Jassil. “If you want that piece of cake, have it—just not every day.”

7 Foods That Make You Look Younger


Some of the most beautiful people I know are the most insecure about their looks. Take my friend Giselle (believe me, not her real name!). She’s one of those women always invited to events most of us rarely go to—award shows, boutique openings, glamorous parties. With her long blonde hair and sparkly blue eyes, she could have her pick of men. But she spends most of her time picking on herself.

“I wake up every morning looking older than the day before!” she told me recently. She already does a lot of the right things—doesn’t smoke, avoids too much sun, gets enough sleep, and takes time to relax and let go of her stress. But when I asked about her diet, she was surprised. “I don’t worry about my weight!” she said.

Maybe not, but the right diet can do more than just lead to weight loss. It can turn back the hands of time, as well. If finding eternal youth youthful is on your to-do list, try adding these Eat This, Not That!-recommended foods to your daily diet plan.

1. Shiitake Mushrooms to Stop Greying Hair

Shiitake mushrooms
Joanna Kosinska/Unsplash

Grey hair is beautiful when it’s age-appropriate, but unfair for folks who start to salt-and-pepper before they’ve finished life’s main course. One cause of early greying: a lack of copper. A study in the journal Biological Trace Elemental Research found premature-graying individuals had significantly lower copper levels than a control group. Your body requires copper to produce pigment for your skin and hair, and shiitake mushrooms are one of the best dietary sources. Just a half cup provides 71 percent of your recommended daily intake of copper—and for only 40 calories!

2. Sweet Potatoes to Regain Your Glow

Roasted chickpea stuffed sweet potato

A study in the Journal Evolution and Human Behaviour showed eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables gives a healthier, and more attractive, golden glow than the sun. Researchers found people who ate more portions of red and orange fruits and vegetables per day had a more sun-kissed complexion than those who didn’t consume as much—the result of disease-fighting compounds called carotenoids that give those plants their colors. And no, you won’t look like an Oompa Loompa. In fact, given the choice between a real suntan and a glow caused by diet, study participants preferred the carotenoid complexion. Few foods are as rich in the beauty stuff than sweet potatoes; just half a medium potato with the skin provides 200 percent of your daily recommended intake.

3. Cheddar Cheese to Whiten Your Teeth

Orange cheddar cheese

Good news, politicians: Cheesy smiles may be good for you. One study in the journal General Dentistry of people who didn’t brush their teeth for 48 hours (don’t try that at home),found snacking on cheddar cheese raised their mouths’ pH to freshly-brushed levels. (Like cavities, discoloration is increased when you have an acidic environment in your mouth.) Plus, compounds in the cheese that adhere to tooth enamel, like a white strip, help to fend off acid.

4. Spa Water to Erase Dark Circles

Spa detox water

Puffy, dark circles under the eyes may indicate you had too much fun the night before, but it can also indicate another more common, less exciting issue: dehydration. Salty foods, alcohol, exercise, hot weather and just plain not drinking enough water can create inflammation, which results in the Rocket Raccoon complexion. Start replenishing your body right away: Cut up some citrus fruits (rind included) and soak them in a pitcher of ice water. Now drink copiously. The citrus not only improves flavor, but the rinds contain a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called de-limonene, which helps the liver flush toxins from the body, according to the World Health Organization.

5. Lean Beef to Get Strong, Shiny Nails

Grilled skirt steak

Weekly manicures can keep your nails in tip-top shape, but so can Sunday’s top round roast dinner. Researches say a diet rich in protein, iron and zinc are the key to long, strong, beautiful nails. And you’ll get a healthy serving of all three nutrients from a small portion of lean red meat. A recent study in the Journal of The European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology that looked at nail growth over the past 70 years found that dietary protein was the difference between spurts and lags in nail growth. It’s perhaps no wonder, considering nails are made from protein—keratin, specifically. Nail it with a small 3-4 ounce portion of top round or sirloin, which are the leanest cuts of red meat, one to two times a week.

6. Almond Butter to Thicken Your Locks

Almond butter

No, you don’t rub it into your scalp like Rogaine. But almond butter is one food that contains a wide variety of nutrients—including protein, healthy fats, and certain vitamins—that have all been linked to hair health. It’s the vitamin E content in the nuts that researchers say is particularly good for keeping your locks thick and lustrous. One eight-month trial found men who supplemented daily with vitamin E saw an increase in hair growth by as much as 42 percent. Just a tablespoon of almonds provides nearly two-thirds of your RDA for fat-soluble vitamin E.

7. Tomatoes to Reverse Sun Damage

Roasted tomatoes

New research has found that the reason melanoma rates are so low in regions like the Mediterranean—where going topless on the beach is all part of the summertime fun—has to do with the Mediterranean diet. Foods high in antioxidants, particularly deeply colored fruits and vegetables, can help fight the oxidizing effect of UV rays. One study in the British Journal of Dermatology found participants who ate five tablespoons of tomato paste (a highly concentrated form of fresh tomatoes) daily showed 33 percent more protection against sunburn than a control group. And tomatoes work double duty to boost beauty: While the carotenoids and antioxidants help the body fight off oxidation that ages skin cells, they also boost pro-collagen—a molecule that gives skin its taught, youthful structure.

Eat These Foods to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

If you’re trying to lower your stress levels, you probably already know to start with the basics: self-care, sleep management, and exercise. But did you know there are some foods that lower stress levels, too?

Dietitian Courtney Barth, MS, RDN, LD, CPT, explains how certain foods can help reduce your levels of cortisol — the primary hormone responsible for stress.

What cortisol does

Cortisol plays a number of roles in the body, including:

  • Regulating sleep cycles.
  • Reducing inflammation.
  • Increasing blood sugar.
  • Managing how the body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  • Controlling blood pressure.

Importantly, cortisol is sometimes known as the “stress hormone” because your adrenal gland releases it when you’re in a stressful situation, or when your body is under physical stress (like inflammation). It’s the key to helping your body manage its fight-or-flight instinct — which is a good thing.

“Cortisol is healthy for a short period of time as a protective mechanism,” Barth says. “It gives your body the energy you need to respond to a short-term stressful scenario.”

In the long-term, though, too much cortisol actually creates stress in your body, leading to more inflammation and increasing your blood pressure — essentially, the opposite of all the good things it does for you in short-term scenarios.

“Managing stress is the number one treatment for lowering cortisol levels,” Barth says.

Stress-relieving foods

Foods that are promoted on the Mediterranean diet are the same foods that are good to eat when you’re stressed: fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. In fact, Barth encourages patients to adopt a Mediterranean diet for overall health and wellness, including stress relief.

“The best way to lower cortisol in the body is to focus on an anti-inflammatory diet,” Barth says. “That means fewer processed foods and more whole foods.”

The goal is to eat foods that reduce inflammation in your body, thus reducing cortisol levels. Here are some foods that help combat stress by lowering your cortisol.

Foods high in vitamin B

“Fortified whole grains and some animal sources have lots of B vitamins in them — particularly vitamin B12, which can help with metabolism of cortisol,” Barth explains. Try:

  • Beef.
  • Chicken.
  • Eggs.
  • Fortified cereal.
  • Nutritional yeast.
  • Organ meats.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acid

These foods reduce inflammation. “The best activated form is through fatty fish, but you can also get it from some plant sources,” Barth says. Such foods include:

  • Anchovies.
  • Avocados.
  • Chia seeds.
  • Flax seeds.
  • Herring.
  • Mackerel.
  • Olive oil.
  • Oysters.
  • Salmon
  • Sardines.
  • Tuna.
  • Walnuts.

Magnesium-rich foods

“Magnesium is hugely beneficial when it comes to reducing inflammation, metabolizing cortisol and relaxing the body and mind,” Barth says. She suggests:

  • Avocados.
  • Bananas.
  • Broccoli.
  • Dark chocolate.
  • Pumpkin seeds.
  • Spinach.

Protein-rich foods

“Foods such as meat, fish, poultry, beans, and legumes promote balanced blood sugar levels,” Barth says. Specifics include:

  • Almonds.
  • Chicken breast.
  • Eggs.
  • Lean beef.
  • Lentils.
  • Peanuts.
  • Quinoa.
  • Turkey breast.
  • Tuna.
  • Salmon.
  • Shrimp.

Gut-healthy foods

“Seventy to 80% of our immune system is reliant on our gut, so if we correct our gut, we correct a lot of our immunity,” Barth says. These probiotic-rich and fermented foods can help balance blood sugar and reduce cholesterol:

  • Greek yogurt.
  • Kefir.
  • Kimchi.
  • Kombucha.
  • Sauerkraut.

If you need to de-stress in a hurry

Stress management through food is a long game, not a get-relaxed-quick trick. That said, magnesium-rich foods are a good choice if you’re trying to unwind and want a little natural assistance.

“High-magnesium foods are my first line of treatment,” Barth says. “Magnesium helps to relax the body, which helps reduce stress. It’s also a mineral for important body function, including heart rhythm, strong bones, keeping blood pressure normal, and helping to decrease risk of risk chronic diseases.”

In a pinch, she suggests popping some pumpkin seeds or letting some dark chocolate melt in your mouth (just make sure it’s at least 90% cacao). Try it at the end of the day for a little bit of nighttime relaxation.

Foods to avoid

In contrast, some foods raise cortisol levels. Foods that cause stress on your body include:

  • Alcohol.
  • Caffeine.
  • High-sugar foods.
  • Simple carbs, such as cakes and pastries.
  • Soda.

Eat well and eat consistently

If you’re hoping to reduce stress, keep in mind this one key piece of advice: Don’t skip meals. Eating on a regular schedule — every three to five hours — helps balance your blood sugar levels. Being in a chronic state of low blood sugar is stressful on your body and can increase cortisol, so maintaining a balanced blood sugar can go a long way.

And tempting though it may be, don’t turn to supplements to get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs.

“We know what impact nutrition has on your body, whereas supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration,” Barth says. “I always tell people: Go with food first.”

Don’t rely on food to de-stress

Yes, these foods may help reduce your cortisol levels — but they won’t have a significant impact on their own if you’re not prioritizing stress management in other ways.

“If you have a healthy diet but you’re still incredibly stressed and not sleeping enough, you won’t see the results you’re looking for with food alone,” Barth warns.

The key to lowering stress is a whole-body approach that includes exercising, getting enough sleep, and managing chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity — all of which can put your body in a prolonged state of inflammation.

And although we can’t control our genes or, to some extent, our environment, we can help our bodies when we make smart decisions about the food we eat.

“When it comes to our health, nutrition is the one thing we can control,” Barth says.

How to Follow a Diabetes-Friendly Diet

If you want to take control of your health, a diabetes diet can be a great way to do it. And while the word “diet” might seem intimidating, registered dietitian Tegan Bissell says following one may be easier than you think. “A diabetes diet should include the foods you like and fit your lifestyle,” she says.

Bissell teams up with diabetes educator and registered nurse Megan Asterino-McGeean, PA-C, to explain what you need to know to follow a meal plan if you have diabetes.

What is a diabetes diet?

Asterino-McGeean says that the best diet if you have diabetes isn’t a diet at all. Instead, think of a diabetes diet as a lifestyle.

“This diet plan helps those with diabetes live a healthier lifestyle that improves blood sugar management and reduces the risk of diabetes complications,” she says. “The best diet for those with diabetes should focus on meal planning and eating balanced, correctly portioned snacks and meals.”

Some factors that mean a diabetes diet may be right for you include:

  • Blood sugar levels: You have high blood sugar levels or have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes (or told you have “borderline diabetes”).
  • Diagnosis of gestational diabetes: You’ve been diagnosed with a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. People diagnosed with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life — but you may be able to prevent it by following a diet plan for diabetes.
  • Weight: You have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome or obesity.

The best foods if you have diabetes— and why they’re beneficial

Bissell says the best foods to eat if you have diabetes are:

Lean proteins

Proteins help you feel full and satisfied. Examples of lean proteins include:

  • Chicken.
  • Eggs.
  • Fish.
  • Low-fat dairy.
  • Turkey.

Try these diabetes-friendly recipes to get your fill of lean protein:

Non-starchy vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables provide important vitamins, minerals and fiber. “You can consider them ‘freebie’ foods, as they contain minimal calories and carbohydrates,” Bissell says.

They include:

  • Broccoli.
  • Cucumbers.
  • Green beans.
  • Onions.
  • Peppers.
  • Salad greens.

Check out these seven vegetable recipes that are anything but boring, plus other delicious recipes to help you get more non-starchy vegetables into your daily routine:

Healthy fats

Healthy fats help you feel full and are beneficial for heart health. They include:

  • Avocado.
  • Natural peanut butter.
  • Nuts.
  • Olive oil.
  • Seeds.

Try these recipes to get more healthy fats in your diet:

Complex carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are necessary for energy, fiber and certain nutrients. Complex carbs tend to digest more slowly, which prevents erratic blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates include foods such as:

  • Beans.
  • Berries.
  • Brown rice.
  • Greek yogurt.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Whole-wheat bread.

These recipes are good if you have diabetes, and they can help keep your engines running all day:

Avoid these foods if you have diabetes

Bissell recommends avoiding foods that tend to spike blood sugars suddenly and can promote sugar cravings. Foods to avoid if you have diabetes include processed items, such as cereals, candy and packaged snack foods, and sugary beverages, such as juices and sodas.

How to follow a diabetes diet

Bissell emphasizes that “one size fits all” doesn’t exist with diabetes diets.

“Many people incorrectly believe they need to cut out all carbs or ‘white foods,’” she says, “but you don’t have to eliminate — just limit carbohydrate portions to amounts that work for you. And try to choose more complex carbs in the right portion sizes.”

To make the most of your diabetes diet, try the following tips, too:

  • Eat fewer processed foods.
  • Cook at home more often than you dine out.
  • Drink more water.
  • Cut out sugary drinks.
  • Include vegetables at most meals.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes.

While you may have to do some trial and error, Bissell says these strategies can help increase your chance for success:

  1. Read food labels: Knowing what’s in your food can help you make better decisions about portion sizes and what to buy.
  2. Enlist help: Get a referral to your local outpatient diabetes clinic or a registered dietitian. These experts can help you get started with better eating habits and teach you how to manage diabetes in realistic ways.
  3. Follow the Diabetes Plate Method: The American Diabetes Association’s Plate Method involves filling your plate with these food ratios at each meal:
    • Half non-starchy veggies.
    • A quarter lean protein.
    • A quarter complex carbs.
    • Wash it down with water or a low-calorie beverage such as tea.
  4. Go tech: Use a phone app to make it easier and more convenient for you to count carbs.
  5. Try problem-solving: Bissell describes problem-solving as seeing how your food affects your blood sugars about one to two hours after eating. Then, adjust foods and portion sizes based on that.
  6. Plan ahead: “You can find many recipes online that are good if you have diabetes,” says Bissell. “We recommend making a meal plan each week, using healthy recipe websites or cookbooks.”
  7. Time meals: Because going too long without eating can cause a drop in blood sugar, Bissell recommends eating a balanced meal every four to five hours for more stable blood sugar levels. “The old advice to eat six small meals a day is not necessary and can elevate blood sugars,” she adds. “That’s another reason why planning the next day’s meals can be helpful — you can ensure you have nutritious foods on hand or packed and ready to eat on the go.”

Are there risks involved with eating this type of meal plan?

Following a diabetes diet plan is safe, says Bissell, if you don’t take it to the extreme.

“Some people eat a diet that’s too restrictive or low in carbohydrates. This causes them to lack important nutrients or have frequent low blood sugar levels,” she says. “Balance is key, along with being realistic about what habits you can maintain for the long term.”

What Are the Best Sources of Protein?

Children need protein to grow and adults need it to maintain and repair body tissue among many other health reasons. But what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of protein? For many, it’s probably meat, right? While you’re correct — meats like turkey breast, chicken and extra-lean sirloin are enriched with a ton of protein— meat doesn’t always fit into everyone’s diets.

Now, vegans and vegetarians don’t have to worry about getting their daily dose of protein, and meat-eaters can switch up their traditional protein-packed recipes. Registered dietitian Nicole Hopsecger, RD, LD, shares some of her favorite nontraditional sources of protein below and why they’re some of the healthiest sources of protein you can add to your diet.

Why is protein important?

First thing’s first. Why is protein essential for your health?

“A diet that’s high in protein can help lower blood pressure, decrease your risk of developing diabetes, help you lose weight and build muscle,” says Hopsecger.

Here are some other reasons why protein is important. Protein:

  • Oxygenates red blood cells, helping to supply your body with nutrients.
  • Regulates hormones.
  • Aids in digestion.
  • Speeds up exercise recovery and injury.

The best nontraditional sources of protein

1. Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes — meaning all types of dried beans, split peas and lentils — are fair game for increasing your protein intake.

“Beans and legumes are fiber-rich nutrient powerhouses and an excellent source of protein,” says Hopsecger. “One serving (1/2 cup cooked) of beans provides about 7 grams of protein, the same as 1 ounce of meat.”

Beans and legumes also keep you fuller, longer because they are so rich in fiber. Animal sources of protein, in contrast, have no fiber at all. Beans and legumes are also much higher in antioxidants.

Research suggests that:

Eating enough plant protein in general — including beans, peas, nuts, seeds, soy and 100% whole grains — helps protect against chronic degenerative diseases, notes Hopsecger.

“Plant proteins are loaded with nutrients and fiber, and are naturally low in cholesterol and sodium,” she says. “Plant-based diets promote weight loss and maintenance and are cost-effective when you’re eating on a budget. And many plant proteins are gluten-free.”

When relying only on plant-based proteins, she adds that some researchers recommend getting 0.9 grams, versus the recommended dietary allowance of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

2. Wild salmon

Wild salmon is the perfect source of lean protein and provides incredible benefits because of its anti-inflammatory fats.

Three ounces contain nearly 17 grams of protein and provide a key nutrient that your body can’t make on its own: omega-3 fat.

“Studies have proven that the high omega-3 fatty acid content in wild salmon helps to lower triglycerides and blood pressure, and decreases platelet aggregation (stickiness),” says Hopsecger.

That lowers the risk of plaque and blood clot formation in your arteries, which leads to heart attack and stroke.

“The omega-3 fats EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in wild salmon decrease the inflammation associated not only with heart disease but also with autoimmune diseases,” adds Hopsecger.

Omega-3 fats also benefit your brain and nervous system.

Aim for at least two servings of wild salmon per week. Try it in a salad, on its own or as a burger!

3. Eggs

Eggs are a low-carb, low-calorie and low-cost source of protein. One egg provides 6 to 8 grams of protein with only 70 calories.

Extremely nutritious, eggs are a complete protein and have a rich supply of key vitamins and minerals.

“Eggs have battled a bad reputation over the years because of their cholesterol content (184 milligrams in one large egg),” says Hopsecger. “But we now know that the dietary cholesterol level in eggs has a minimal impact on serum cholesterol levels.”

Much of the egg’s nutrition, including vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and choline (which may contribute to mental clarity), is housed in the yolk.

Heart experts generally recommend limiting eggs to one per day or half a dozen per week.

4. Greek yogurt

If you eat dairy, don’t rely on cheese which is high in saturated fat for protein. Greek yogurt is a far more nutritious option.

“Six ounces contain 15 grams of protein — two to three times the amount you’d find in regular yogurt and more than the amount 2 ounces of meat or two eggs provide,” notes Hopsecger.

Greek yogurt also boasts probiotics, the healthy bacteria that support gut health. And it’s a good source of calcium and vitamin D.

She recommends fat-free plain Greek yogurt over the high-fat, high-sugar varieties in the store. Instead of high-sugar granola, add your own fresh or frozen fruit, slivered almonds or walnuts, and chia seeds or ground flaxseed.

For the greatest and most effective health gains, try adding some of the best sources of protein recommended above into your diet. Protein foods help you grow and develop, furnish you with energy and build and repair cells and tissues throughout your body. Check out our recipes for fun ways to implement these ingredients into your daily meals!


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How to Count Carbs with Diabetes

In the United States, 30.3 million people have diabetes, and a further 84.1 million have prediabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Diabetes is an incurable yet manageable medical condition in which the body struggles to regulate blood sugar. This happens when the body cannot produce enough insulin, or when insulin does not work correctly.

Insulin is a hormone that the pancreas makes to help the body process glucose, which is the simplest form of sugar. The cells use glucose to create energy. When the cells cannot take in glucose, it remains in the bloodstream, which can lead to severe health problems.

People who have diabetes must be careful about the foods they eat. Consuming an excess of certain foods might lead to persistent high blood sugar. This can lead to severe complications, such as nerve damage, vision and hearing loss, and cardiovascular disease.

In this article, we explore carb counting as a technique to help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels.

Carbohydrates are complex sugars. Many people with diabetes need to count the number of carbohydrates in each serving of food to control their blood sugar levels. People refer to this as carb counting.

Carb counting involves more than resisting a chocolate or ice cream craving, as some seemingly healthful fruits and vegetables might also contain a high carbohydrate content that contributes to blood sugar spikes.

How carb counting works

The first step in carb counting is identifying which foods contain carbohydrates and how rapidly these carbohydrates will boost blood sugar levels.

People can use a system called the Glycemic Index (GI) to calculate this. Every food has a GI ranking, with higher scores demonstrating a food’s rapid effect on blood sugar.

Having diabetes often means that people struggle to regulate their blood sugar levels. So, it is also a good idea for people with diabetes to focus on their diet. Consuming low-GI foods can lead to a slower, more controllable increase in blood glucose levels.

Doctors and dietitians will help people with diabetes work out how many carbohydrates they should consume each day and suggest meal plans to help them maintain a healthful, nutritional balance.

Previously, doctors and dietitians suggested a typical range of carbohydrates that was a fit-all solution for everyone with diabetes.

Now, doctors and nutritionists work with individuals on a one-to-one basis to calculate the ideal daily caloric intake and carbohydrate percentages and servings each person needs.

These amounts will vary according to a range of factors, including the person’s weight, height, activity levels, and whether they are taking medications.

Aims of carb counting

Carb counting alone is not a substitute for managing diabetes using medical care and prescribed medications.

The goal of carb counting is to keep blood sugar levels steady for the following reasons:

  • maintaining overall health in those with diabetes
  • preventing the complications of excessively high or low blood sugar
  • improving energy levels

Getting started with carb counting

Carb counting may help many people with diabetes to maintain steady blood sugar levels. However, it is only one way to manage diabetes.

Before trying carb counting, people should always speak with a nutritionist, diabetes educator, or doctor to determine:

  • whether carb counting is appropriate
  • the recommended daily allowance for carbohydrates
  • which foods they recommend

Different people will require different amounts of carbohydrates depending on the type and severity of diabetes they have.

Speak to your doctor about the ideal calorie and carbohydrate intake.

Calculating carbs

When a person has to calculate how many carbs they can consume each day, it is vital to know which foods contain carbohydrates, how many they contain, and their caloric and GI value.

In general, 1 gram (g) of carbohydrate provides around 4 calories. This can help a person calculate how many calories a particular snack or meal is providing.

There is no single number of carbs that is safe for every person with diabetes. Doctors shape the target based on individual needs and disease progression.

It is essential for those with diabetes to understand the content of food nutrition labels. Some describe nutrient serving per half portion, so it is necessary to be sure of exactly how many carbs a meal provides.

When reading nutritional labels, take note of the total number of carbohydrates per serving and add these totals into the total daily carbohydrate allowance.

For example, there are approximately 15 g of carbohydrate in each serving of the following foods:

  • a slice of bread
  • one-third of a cup of pasta or rice
  • a small apple
  • one tablespoon of jelly
  • a half-cup of starchy vegetables, such as mashed potatoes.

However, non-starchy vegetables contain only 5 g of carbohydrate per serving. This means that a person with diabetes can safely eat three times more non-starchy vegetables than starchy vegetables.

Carb counting tips

serving cups

Carb counting may be challenging at first because it forces people to think about meals differently, and people might take a while to get used to it.

Some tips can help make carb counting a little easier, such as:

  • Counting mixed foods by the cup: On average, a fist is the size of a 1-cup serving. For a mixed dish, this is an effective way to judge the carb totals based on cup size.
  • Count tablespoons: It is helpful to know the number of carbohydrates in a tablespoon of food. People can count level tablespoons to create a healthful plate.
  • Count carbs in pizza using the crust: If possible, choose a thin-crust pizza. This will save 5–10 g of carbohydrate per serving size when compared to a slice of regular or pan pizza.
  • Smoothies may not always be the best bet: On average, a 12-ounce (oz.) smoothie might contain more carbohydrates than a regular soda if it contains juice. Drink smoothies in moderation.

Here is our recommended book: The Complete Guide to Carb Counting by the American Diabetes Association

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