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.

 

These Green Veggies are bad for Diabetes

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.”

 

Can You Eat Potatoes If You Have Diabetes?

Different types of potatoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do potatoes affect blood sugar levels?

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, poorly managed diabetes is linked to heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, amputation, and vision loss (2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Therefore, it’s usually recommended that people with diabetes limit their digestible carb intake. This can range from a very low carb intake of 20–50 grams per day to a moderate restriction of 100–150 grams per day (7, 8, 9).

The exact amount varies depending on your dietary preferences and medical goals (9, 10).

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

How many carbs are in potatoes?

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

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

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

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

In comparison, a single piece of white bread contains about 14 grams of carbs, 1 small apple (weighing 149 grams) 20.6 grams, 1 cup (weighing 158 grams) of cooked rice 28 grams, and a 12-ounce (350-ml) can of cola 38.5 grams (13, 14, 15, 16).

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

Are potatoes high GI?

A low GI diet can be an effective way for people with diabetes to manage blood sugar levels (17, 18, 19).

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how much a food raises blood sugar compared with a control, such as 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of white bread (1, 11).

Foods that have a GI greater than 70 are considered high GI, which means they raise blood sugar more quickly. On the other hand, foods with a GI of less than 55 are classed low (1, 11).

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

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

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

Potato variety and the GI and GL

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

For example, a 1 cup (150 gram) serving of potato may be high, medium, or low GL depending on the variety (11, 20):

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

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

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

How to lower the GI and GL of a potato

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

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

Yet, cooling potatoes after cooking can increases the amount of resistant starch, which is a less digestible form of carbs. This helps lower the GI by 25–28% (21, 22).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risks of eating potatoes

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

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

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

Additionally, fried potatoes and potato chips contain high amounts of unhealthy fats that may increase blood pressure, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and lead to weight gain and obesity — all of which are associated with heart disease (26, 27, 28, 29).

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

Fried potatoes are also higher in calories, which can contribute to unwanted weight gain (27, 29, 31).

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

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

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

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

Good replacements for potatoes

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

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

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

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

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

The bottom line

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

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

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

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

 

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for People With Diabetes?

Can-Intermittent-Fasting-Reverse-Diabetes-empty-plate-table

Fasting is hardly new. People have been fasting for religious reasons — Christians, Jews, and Muslims, among others — for centuries.

But fasting for weight loss is a relatively recent phenomenon, one that has become increasingly popular, in part because it seems to work, at least for some people. Intermittent fasting (IF) has also gained a lot of attention recently because celebrities have endorsed the plan, and there have been recent releases of new IF diet books.

Studies have shown that periodic sessions of IF — in which a person limits their meals to a certain window of time, with a fixed period of eating little or nothing — can boost weight loss, reduce waist circumference, and lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and total cholesterol, according to a review of research published in September 2021 in the journal Nutrients.

Given that weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and total cholesterol levels are all important in people with type 2 diabetes, IF is worth exploring if you have the condition. Still, there are factors to consider before giving it a try.

What Is Intermittent Fasting and How Is It Done?

Even if you’ve never tried IF, you’ve likely fasted before, without even thinking about it. Fasting is often required for blood tests, medical procedures, or surgery, for example.

“When you are fasting, you naturally get fewer overall calories,” says Vandana Sheth, CDCES, a dietitian and nutritionist who specializes in diabetes management in her own practice in Torrance, California. “The fasting state also causes an increase in growth hormone levels, increase in norepinephrine, and decrease in insulin levels, and these changes in the hormones also cause an increase in our metabolic rate. All of these factors of intermittent fasting help with weight loss.”

There are different ways to do IF, including skipping meals and eating only during a certain time period, or restricting calories on certain days of the week and eating normally on other days, according to the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists. The most common IF diets consist of a 16-hour daily fast, a 24-hour fast on alternate days, or a two-day-a-week fast on nonconsecutive days, according to the authors of the Nutrients analysis.

Whatever plan you choose — after consulting your care team, including a dietitian who specializes in diabetes — should be tailored to your lifestyle, type 2 diabetes symptoms, and nutritional needs.

 

Potential Benefit of Intermittent Fasting for Diabetes: It May Boost Weight Loss

In previous years, dietitians and scientists thought of IF as a negative practice, so there isn’t a wealth of high-quality clinical research on how it may affect people with diabetes, says Jason Fung, MD, a nephrologist in Toronto and coauthor of The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended FastingBut attitudes have begun to change, and some newer studies suggest the approach may have benefits, including for people with diabetes.

For example, a small study published in August 2021 in the journal Hormone and Metabolic Research found that IF lowered insulin resistance in 13 adults with type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that helps shuttle glucose (sugar) out of the bloodstream; people with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin, which results in higher blood sugar levels.

It’s thought that losing weight through IF can lead to improvements in insulin sensitivity, too, says Michael Mosley, MD, a science journalist and coauthor of The FastDiet

In addition, a review of existing research published in February 2021 in the journal Clinical Diabetes and Endocrinology included several studies that found IF reduced fasting glucose levels, weight, and post-meal blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Even with these studies, though, further research needs to be conducted to see whether IF is truly safe for people with type 2 diabetes as a whole, experts say.

Potential Drawback of Intermittent Fasting: It May Harm Blood Sugar Control

On the other hand, some experts say that IF carries risks, especially for people who  need to keep their blood sugar levels stable. For starters, skipping whole meals can result in poorer blood glucose control, not to mention issues such as fatigue and reduced energy—and, thus, an increased risk of injury.

Skipping meals may also cause people to make poor diet choices, which can have the opposite effect on their waistline and blood sugar. If you haven’t eaten for hours, you may be more inclined to reach for a carb-heavy pastry or plate of pasta, for instance.

“Blood sugar management can be a real concern with intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes,” Sheth says. “That’s why it’s important to discuss intermittent fasting with your physician, monitor your blood sugar closely, and know that your medications may need to be adjusted as well. Your dietitian and diabetes care and education specialist can help guide and support you through this process.”

A plan that severely restricts a person’s calories or asks them to skip meals can be hard to stick with long term, too, says Ruth S. Pupo, CDCES, who practices at Adventist Health White Memorial in Los Angeles. While losing weight can be beneficial for people with diabetes, because it increases insulin sensitivity, putting weight back on can have the opposite effect, increasing the risk for diabetes complications.

Another risk of IF for people with diabetes is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. A study published in February 2018 in the journal Diabetic Medicine found that IF doubles the risk for hypoglycemia in people with type 2 diabetes. People who are on specific diabetes medications — sulfonylureas and insulin, in particular — may be at increased risk of this complication, which can be life threatening.

Certain people, such as those who are pregnant or breastfeeding or have an underlying disease or medical condition, should also avoid IF, Pupo says. “Anytime you have a higher demand for more nutrition, you don’t want to do a fast,” she says, explaining that people who are pregnant or breastfeeding require extra calories for themselves and their babies, and fasting can cause them to run out of glucose and burn fat, tissue, and muscle. What’s more, if a pregnant person overproduces ketones (a compound that is produced when the body uses fat for fuel), the effect can be harmful to the fetus.  

People with diabetes also run the risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, which occurs when your body doesn’t have enough insulin to move blood sugar into your cells for use as energy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When that happens, your liver responds by producing too many ketones, which can build up in the body and damage the kidneys as well as cause brain swelling, Pupo says. DKA may even lead to a diabetic coma or death, she adds.

A few case studies, such as a study published in October 2020 in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, and another published in November 2019 in American Journal of Case Reports have shown that there may be a link between IF, used in conjunction with a keto diet, and DKA.

For anyone, regardless of whether you have diabetes, cutting out meals and restricting entire food groups can  cause nutritional deficiencies. Without proper nutrition, particularly protein, there’s also a risk for muscle mass loss. “When you really deprive the body of nutrients, your body not only breaks down fat but muscle as well. And your heart is a muscle,” Pupo says.

Steps to Take Before You Try the Popular Diet Plan

Here are a few things to keep in mind before trying IF.

Talk to your doctor. Before starting IF, talk to your doctor to come up with a safe approach and adjust any of your medication doses as needed. People on insulin should be particularly careful: If you’re on it and restrict your eating, you may be at a greater risk of low blood sugar, which can lead to dizziness and confusion as well as life-threatening symptoms such as seizures, or loss of consciousness, according to the CDC. If left untreated in people with diabetes, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can be fatal, the American Diabetes Association reports.

Find a plan that works for you. Plans for IF vary. There are those that restrict calories two or three days a week or limit eating to certain periods of the day. Stricter plans include fasting for up to 36 hours at a time for 7 or 14 days, though the latter aren’t typically recommended for people with type 2 diabetes, according to Sheth. The key is to find a plan that you can stick with long term.

Be prepared for side effects. It’s common to have headaches, cramps, constipation, or diarrhea, at least initially. But, says Dr. Fung, “If you’re feeling very unwell, stop. You might be hungry, but you shouldn’t be lethargic or throwing up.”

Eat healthfully. Even if you’re eating less food, you should still stick to a healthy diet that consists of whole, unprocessed foods, including non-starchy vegetables, protein, and healthy fats, as well as a multivitamin and plenty of water to prevent dehydration and headaches. A healthy diet will help you lose or manage your weight and keep your blood sugar steady.

Keep your expectations in check. IF doesn’t work for everybody, and your medical team may not feel that it’s a good fit for you. It’s important to consult professionals before giving IF a try, as going for long periods without eating when you have diabetes can be dangerous — or, at the very least, not give you the results you want.

Get support. If you do get the all clear to try IF, following the plan with a friend or joining an online community or social support network may help motivate you to stick with it.

Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes: The Bottom Line

Due to the risk of blood sugar swings, full-blown IF may not be for you, especially if your diabetes is not well controlled. Instead, you can try other strategies, such as decreasing your portion sizes, increasing your physical activity between meals, and making healthy food swaps, all of which align with IF. If your doctor has given you the OK, though, IF may help you manage diabetes, provided it helps lower your weight and body fat.

 

5 Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar Levels if You Have Type 2 Diabetes

a woman taking a break from exercising with her dog

For some, home blood sugar testing can be an important and useful tool for managing blood sugar on a day-to-day basis. Still, it only provides a snapshot of what’s happening in the moment, not the full picture of what’s happened in the long term, says Gregory Dodell, MD, an assistant clinical professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes, and bone disease at Mount Sinai in New York City.

For this reason, your doctor may occasionally administer a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months. Called hemoglobin A1C, or A1C, this test can show you how well your type 2 diabetes management plan is working.

Here’s what you should know about it and ways to make sure your A1C is in a healthy range.

How Often Do You Need to Take an A1C Test?

If your blood sugar levels have remained stable and your A1C is within your target range, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends getting the test two times a year. If your therapy has changed or you are not meeting your blood sugar targets, the ADA recommends getting the test four times per year. This simple blood draw can be done in your doctor’s office.

The A1C test results provide insight into how your treatment plan is working and how it might be modified to better control the condition. Often, your blood sample is sent out to a lab, though some doctors can use a point-of-care A1C test, where a finger stick can be done in the office, with results available in about 10 minutes.

While in-office tests can be used to monitor the disease, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) notes that most point-of-care tests should not be used for diagnosis. That can only be done by lab tests certified by the NGSP, an organization that standardizes A1C test results. Any in-office test results pointing to a change in your health should be confirmed by conventional lab tests.

 

What Do Your A1C Results Mean?

The A1C test measures the glucose (blood sugar) in your blood by assessing the amount of what’s called glycated hemoglobin. “Hemoglobin is a protein within red blood cells. As glucose enters the bloodstream, it binds to hemoglobin. The more glucose that enters the bloodstream, the higher the amount of glycated hemoglobin,” Dr. Dodell says.

According to the ADA, an A1C level below 5.7 percent is considered normal; between 5.7 and 6.4 signals prediabetes; and over 6.5 percent indicates type 2 diabetes. For many people with type 2 diabetes, the goal is to reduce A1C levels.

Your A1C goal is specific to you. Several factors come into play, such as your age, how advanced the diabetes is, and whether you have any other health conditions. If you can keep your A1C number below your goal — which, for many people with diabetes, is less than 7 percent, says Dodell — you can reduce the risk of complications, such as nerve damage and eye problems.

What Are Some Top Tips for Lowering A1C?

Your A1C score is a helpful tool, Dodell says, but it is not the only indicator of how healthy you are.

For example, you could hit your A1C goal but still have wide fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, which is more common among people who take insulin. You’ll need to bring these day-to-day fluctuations under control since they can lower your quality of life and increase your risk of complications, he says.

Think of your diabetes as you would a job, Dodell says. It takes work, but the time and effort you put into it can result in good control and an improved quality of life. “The key to reaching your A1C goal is trying to follow a healthy lifestyle,” he says.

Making these changes can help you improve your day-to-day blood sugar management and lower your A1C.

1. Start an Exercise Plan You Enjoy, and Do It Regularly

Find something you enjoy doing that gets your body moving, whether it’s taking your dog for a walk, playing a sport with a friend, or riding your bike.

The ADA recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, says Jordana Turkel, a certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) and registered dietitian at Park Avenue Endocrinology & Nutrition in New York City. Different types of exercise (both strength or resistance training and aerobic exercise) can lower your A1C by making your body more sensitive to insulin, Turkel says. She encourages her patients not to go more than two days in a row without exercising and to aim for two days of strength training per week.

Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before embarking on an exercise plan, though. Together, you can come up with an individualized plan.

And if you monitor your blood sugar daily, check it before and after exercise. As the ADA explains, exercise improves insulin sensitivity and lowers your blood sugar levels. In certain circumstances, though, stress hormones produced during more intense exercise can also increase blood sugar levels. In addition, other factors, such as what you eat before exercise and the timing of your workout, may also affect your numbers.

2. Eat a Balanced Diet With Proper Portion Sizes

It’s best to check with a CDCES or registered dietitian/nutritionist to determine what a balanced diet and appropriate portion sizes mean for you. But a great rule of thumb is to fill half of your plate with veggies, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with whole grains, says Turkel. If you like fruit, limit your portion to a small cup, eaten with a little protein or lean fat to help you digest the carbohydrates in a way that is less likely to spike your blood sugar.

Also, avoid processed foods as much as possible, and try to avoid sugary sodas and fruit juice, which are high in carbs and calories, and thus can lead to spikes in blood sugar and contribute to weight gain, according to the ADA.

3. Stick to a Regular Schedule, So You Can More Easily Follow a Healthy Diet 

Skipping meals, letting too much time pass between meals, or eating too much or too often can cause your blood sugar levels to fall and rise too much, Cleveland Clinic points out. This is especially true if you are taking insulin or certain other diabetes drugs. Your doctor can help you determine the best meal schedule for your lifestyle.

4. Follow the Diabetes Treatment Plan Your Healthcare Team Recommends

Diabetes treatment is very individualized, noted a February 2022 article in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. After all, factors including how long you’ve lived with the disease, your socioeconomic status, and any other conditions you’re living with can play a role in the best treatment approach for you.

Your healthcare team will help you determine which steps to take to successfully manage diabetes. Always talk to your doctor before making any changes, such as starting a diet very low in carbohydrates or beginning a new exercise regimen. This is especially important before making any medication or insulin changes.

5. Check Your Blood Sugar Levels as Your Doctor Has Directed

Work with your doctor to determine if you should check your blood sugar — and how often. You may be tempted to pick up an A1C home testing kit, but Dodell says having your A1C checked by your doctor every three to six months is sufficient. A better idea is to use a continuous glucose monitor. He recommends checking your “time in range” to see if you are at the optimal level. For many people that is 70 to 180 milligrams per deciliter (3.9 to 10 millimoles per liter), according to ADA guidelines.

Understanding your A1C levels is an important part of your overall diabetes management. If you have any questions about your A1C or what it means, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor.

 

7 Ways to Prevent Diabetic Eye Diseases

“[The macula] is the center of the retina, where you have the best vision,” says Daniel S. Casper, MD, PhD, an ophthalmologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. It’s the part of the eye that helps you see straight ahead, he adds.

After developing DME, you may have trouble reading books (the letters can appear twisted or misshapen) or seeing the faces of friends and family. Moreover, vision loss can have a serious impact on your quality of life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines vision loss as a cause of disability and a public health problem in the United States.

People who are visually impaired are more likely to have depression and experience a fall than those who don’t have low vision, the agency says. Plus, vision loss can limit a person’s ability to drive, read, manage their finances, and travel.

If you have DME, it’s important not to delay treatment. By taking action right away, it’s possible to prevent further vision loss. Follow this sight-saving advice.

1

Lower Your Blood Sugar Levels

a person with diabetes checking their blood sugar levels

If you have DME, having high blood sugar can increase your risk of blindness, according to the NEI. Dr. Casper tells people to try to lower their A1C number — a measurement of your average blood sugar level over the past three months — to under 7 percent. (If your A1C is routinely below 6 percent, though, you may need to be monitored for low blood glucose. Consult with your doctor.)

2

Schedule Regular Eye Appointments

a calendar with an eye doctor appointment marked

People with diabetes are often advised to see an eye doctor annually. After a DME diagnosis, you may need to go more frequently, depending on the progression of the disease and the status of your A1C.

If your A1C is too high and you have other lifestyle habits (smoking, for example) that speed up the symptom progression, then you may need to schedule a checkup once every few months, says Casper.

 

3

Exercise Regularly

Staying active can help improve your all-important A1C level, and the best way to lower your blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity is by doing a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise, according to research published in October 2021 in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism. Shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity and two days of weight training per week.

4

Eat a Healthy Diet

a salad with chicken and tomatoes, which can be part of a healthy diet

When it comes to maintaining or lowering your blood sugar levels, it’s hard to overstate the importance of a healthy diet. The American Diabetes Association recommends a diet full of vegetables, seeds, and nuts.

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Stop Smoking

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Control Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Levels

a woman with diabetic macular edema checking her blood pressure

According to a study published in October 2019 in the International Journal of Ophthalmology, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels may worsen eye health in people with DME. The American Heart Association defines healthy blood pressure as less than 120/80. Talk to your doctor about your target cholesterol levels.

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Use Low Vision Aids

5 Vague Cancer Signs You Should Never Ignore

gree fur

Ovarian and cervical cancers cause a host of different symptoms. Many are vague or similar to other conditions. There are several, however, that should send you straight to your gynecologist for a checkup.

While they can mean many things besides cancer, they definitely need to be checked out, according to Ob/Gyn Mariam AlHilli, MD.

These include:

1. Vaginal bleeding after menopause

In most of cases, doctors identify a benign reason for post-menopausal bleeding. However, this type of bleeding is linked to endometrial cancer. More than 90% of women with endometrial cancer will have postmenopausal bleeding as the first sign. Any abnormal bleeding or postmenopausal bleeding should be evaluated. It could also be a sign of cervical cancer.

2. Abnormal vaginal bleeding before menopause

Any bleeding that is outside what’s normal for you should raise a red flag for either endometrial or cervical cancer.

“Bleeding that is heavier than your normal period or irregular is concerning in some cases and may need to be investigated,” says Dr. AlHilli. “You should also see your doctor about bleeding after intercourse or bleeding between your periods.”

 

3. Pelvic pain

Persistent abdominal pain and discomfort can also be a potential sign of ovarian cancer. Gas, indigestion, pressure, bloating and cramps can indicate ovarian cancer.

4. Unexpected weight loss/gain

For women with ovarian cancer, there are many reasons for weight gain. Tumor size is one factor since tumors frequently go undiagnosed until they’re relatively large. Sometimes fluid builds up in the abdomen.

5. Appetite loss

With ovarian cancer, women sometimes lose their appetite. If you suddenly lose more than 10 pounds without changing your diet or increasing exercise, consult your doctor. In many cases, the lack of desire is a result of how cancer impacts your metabolism.

Vague symptoms make diagnosis a challenge

“Overall, symptoms that indicate ovarian cancer are often difficult to diagnose,” says Dr. AlHilli.

For example, vague abdominal pain, upper abdominal discomfort or indigestion, nausea or vomiting, and constipation can also indicate a problem. Many symptoms are similar to those from other conditions.

To diagnose whether your symptoms are benign or cancerous, your doctor will likely perform a series of tests.

Here’s what you should know about possible tests:

  • Expect a pelvic exam.
  • An endometrial biopsy is also possible, as well as a Pap smear.
  • Depending on what those tests find, your doctor may order a CT scan for more detailed results.

“Many of these signs and symptoms are temporary and won’t amount to anything,” she says. “But it’s best to let your doctor examine you to make sure. Early treatment is critical for these types of cancer, so it’s dangerous to ignore the signs.”

How To Eat Healthy Food Every Day

Vegetable bins in fridge

You’ve probably been told since you were a kid that eating healthy is important. That means keeping a diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy.

A healthy diet might look different from what you think, though. It’s not settling on a rotation of meals and snacks you like and then eating those day in, day out. Instead, it’s keeping a wide variety of nutrient-packed foods in your cooking rotation.

“Focus on food groups that are packed with nutrition, such as beans or vegetables,” says dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. “Variety is key. For instance, don’t limit yourself to eating the same few veggies; instead, challenge yourself to choose a different vegetable every day. You don’t want to eat the same specific foods every day.”

You might wonder why eating a variety of healthy foods is important. After all, if something is healthy, isn’t it fine to eat it every day?

While that can certainly be true — for example, a nutrient-packed fruit like blueberries is fine for a daily snack — there are very good reasons for mixing things up.

For example, Zumpano notes that eating the same exact things on a daily basis means you’re likely missing out on important vitamins and minerals.

“You get more nutrients from eating a variety of foods,” she says, and notes that a good rule of thumb is trying to eat a food of “each color of the rainbow. These tend to have similar nutrient properties.” For example, foods rich in vitamin C are yellow, orange and red.

Changing up your diet can also help you stick to eating healthy. “Who wants to eat the same foods every day? That’s so boring, right?” Zumpano says. “And when you’re bored, that’s when your diet goes by the wayside.”

 

Healthy foods list

To follow a balanced diet, you want to eat a variety of foods from the following groups on a regular basis. As an added bonus, these foods are also part of a heart-healthy diet.

Vegetables

Your parents were right: Eating your veggies is key to a healthy diet. In fact, you can’t really go wrong piling on the plants at every meal.

Leafy green vegetables

Leafy green vegetables are an especially healthy choice. Spinach, for example, gives you vitamins K and A, folate, magnesium, iron and fiber.

“I keep a large container of organic spinach, arugula, mixed baby greens or spring mix in my fridge at all times to add to soups, salads, rice, pasta, smoothies and protein shakes,” Zumpano notes.

However, don’t be like “Popeye” and munch on spinach 24-7. Mix things up. “You’re completely restricting yourself by just eating spinach every day,” Zumpano cautions. “What about all the other green vegetables? I also stock my freezer with frozen chopped kale or greens to use in a pinch.”

Fruits

Fruits are also an anchor of a healthy diet. But not all fruits are created equally. For example, mangoes are high in sugar, so you should share a mango or limit to half a mango.

Berries

Berries are an excellent choice for a meal or a snack. “Berries are low in sugar, compared to other fruits, and quite versatile,” Zumpano says. They’re rich in antioxidants — as noted, blueberries especially — as well as vitamins and minerals. Blackberries, meanwhile, are full of vitamin C, folate, manganese, potassium and fiber. Add berries to cooked grains and dry whole-grain cereal, yogurt, smoothies and salads.

Protein

Protein is crucial to building strong muscles and bones, among other things. Not all kinds of protein give you the same health benefits, though.

For example, animal protein contains higher amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat — both of which can lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Plant-based proteins, in contrast, give you nutritious benefits without many of the downsides.

Soy

Soybeans such as edamame are a great way to get protein. The tiny green bean is a good source of vitamin C, iron, potassium and fiber. You can eat edamame pureed into a dip or in its raw form.

Legumes

Legumes are a plant, or the seed of a plant. Legumes include dried beans and lentils. Peanuts are also technically legumes because of their shell. However, from a nutrition standpoint we categorize peanuts as a nuts due to its higher fat content.

The legume known as chickpeas is what’s known as a complete protein — it contains all nine essential amino acids — and is also a great source of fiber.

Dried beans and lentils are another great legume option to pack on the protein. An easy meat substitute when cooked — try them mashed into a burger or simmered in chili — they contain B vitamins, folate, soluble fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Starches

Starches, or carbohydrates, provide energy that keeps your body going. Eating the right kind of carbs is important, however.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes have comparable nutritional value. However, sweet potatoes are full of beta carotene, calcium and vitamin A, and are surprisingly lower in carbs and calories.

Quinoa

Quinoa is a seed from a plant that has the properties — and health benefits — of whole grain. Not only is it a complete protein and full of fiber, but it’s a good source of zinc and phosphorus. Try quinoa as a meatless meal or side, with veggies mixed in for an added boost.

Fats and oils

Fat is a necessary component of a healthy diet. As with protein, however, the kind of fat you consume matters. Consuming too much saturated fat, for example, is known to be a risk factor for developing heart disease and diabetes.

Omega-3 fats

Omega-3s are unsaturated fats that are crucial for heart, brain and eye health. Fish, such as salmon and tuna, are full of this healthy fat, although experts warn to be careful not to overdo it on the seafood. Certain kinds of fish are high in mercury, which is unsafe for children and people who are pregnant and breastfeeding. Zumpano recommends having 4 ounces of omega-3 fatty fish twice a week.

Nuts

Squirrels have it right — nuts make a great snack. Walnuts, for example, are rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, as well as copper, protein and fiber.

Seeds

Seeds aren’t just for the birds. Chia seeds and flax seeds are both great sources of the plant form of omega-3, which is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). These seeds make a tasty addition to salads and smoothies. Add 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily to cooked oatmeal, yogurt and smoothies.

Oils

Not all cooking oils are good for you. In fact, many are super high in unhealthy fats. Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent choice for dressings or low-heat cooking. Avocado oil, however, can be great for stir-fries and other higher-heat cooking.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring. Putting together a robust rotation of meals, with a variety of healthy ingredients, can lead to beautiful breakfasts and delicious dinners alike.

 

Can people with type 2 diabetes eat honey?

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

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

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

Replacing sugar with honey for diabetes

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is honey?

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

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

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

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

Processed vs. raw honey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nutrition

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

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

This amount of honey also contains:

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

It also contains some B vitamins.

Sugar contains almost no other nutrients.

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

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

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

Research

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

Possible hypoglycemic impact

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

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

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

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

Improved measurements of diabetes

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

The authors found that honey had the following effects:

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

Future therapeutic effect

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

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

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

Effect on long-term blood glucose levels

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

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

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

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

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

Antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties

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

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

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

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How Much Water Should You Be Drinking Per Day

You’ve likely seen someone lugging around a gallon of water at the gym, school or work before. And sure, you understand the importance of staying hydrated, but is drinking a gallon of water a day really necessary?

Dietitian Beth Czerwony, MS, RD, CSOWM, LD, discusses what to know about this trend, how much water you should really be drinking and what factors influence your hydration levels. Plus, she offers practical advice about how to drink more water throughout the day.

Is drinking a gallon of water a day recommended?

“Drinking a gallon of water a day is not really necessary, but it’s not going to hurt you either,” says Czerwony. “Everybody’s hydration levels are different, but most people don’t need a daily gallon.”

Your body is incredibly efficient and will let you know when it is thirsty. People have different water needs based on their weight, activity level, how much they sweat, how hot it is, what medications they’re on and what they eat.

Obviously, everyone wants to avoid being dehydrated, but that doesn’t mean you have to fill up on 128-ounces of water every single day to avoid it. A good rule of thumb is to take a peek at the color of your pee. If you’re hydrated, it should be a light lemonade color, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be clear. If your pee is darker, that might be an indicator to up your water intake, but keep in mind that some medications (and even food) can affect the color too.

 

How much water should you be drinking in general?

Everybody’s hydration levels vary, but the standard number to aim for is 64-ounces a day.

Your activity level, your location, your metabolism and your size should all be considered into this number as well. Some people naturally require more water than that, while others a bit less.

 

Concerned about peeing all the time?

“I often tell patients that if you opt to drink a gallon of water a day – or just up your water intake in general – you’ll definitely get your steps in,” jokes Czerwony. “Obviously your body isn’t used to that level of water so you’re going to be running to the bathroom at lot more often when you first start.”

But there’s good news! As you drink more liquid, your kidney function and hormones will start to change and you’ll likely notice your body recalibrating and becoming more efficient at handling the high water volume.

You might even notice that your body will start to crave more water the more you drink. Just focus on drinking water steadily throughout the day instead of guzzling it all down in the evening. Your bladder will thank you!

The benefits of drinking water

Our bodies are made up of mostly water, so we need to stay hydrated to function properly. If we’re dehydrated, all sorts of weird things can start to happen.

Looking for some inspiration to chug? Czerwony breaks down why water is the holy grail for our bodies:

  • It lubricates your joints. Water acts like WD-40® for your joints and bones. It hydrates the padding between your joints, making it easier to move around.
  • Helps your organs and cells work properly. You need water down to a cellular level for your cells to operate as they should. Your cells run the show – everything from hair growth to healing a wound to balancing your hormones. Water is also vital for your organs to work properly.
  • Helps with digestion. Fluid in your gut helps to rid your body of solid waste. Isn’t it so much more comfortable when things are regular?
  • Water boosts your energy. Dehydration makes you tired and can even make you nauseous. (Ever wake up in the morning not feeling so great? It’s likely because of the lack of water overnight.) Water helps blood and oxygen flow more freely to your organs, making you feel more alert and energized. Try drinking a big glass of water first thing after you wake up.
  • It regulates your body temperature. Water helps your internal body temperature adjust to the external temperature around you. When you’re overheated, your body knows to sweat to cool you off.
  • Improves skin. Your skin is your body’s largest organ and is constantly exposed to toxins. Water helps flush these toxins out of your system. If you don’t drink enough water, your skin can overcompensate and turn oily to try to flush out the contaminants on its own.
  • Curbs cravings. Often times we confuse thirst with hunger or food cravings. If you’re feeling hungry, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes. You might find that the craving has passed because you were actually just thirsty. Water can also regulate your hunger and thirst cues throughout the day – helping you make smarter, healthier food choices.

Can drinking a gallon of water a day be harmful?

For most people, there is really no limit for daily water intake and a gallon a day is not harmful. But for those who have congestive heart failure or end stage kidney disease, sometimes water needs to be restricted because the body can’t process it correctly. Talk to your doctor about water intake if you or a loved one falls into this group.

It’s also worth noting that although it’s very rare, drinking too much water too quickly can be dangerous.

“Hyponatremia is when the sodium levels in your body drop too low because of too much water,” explains Czerwony. “Other conditions can trigger hyponatremia, but it can also be caused by consuming too much water in a very short amount of time. All of the water dilutes your sodium levels and your blood can become ‘watered down’.”

So how much is too much too soon? Think: chugging between 200 and 300 ounces of water in a few hours. In the past, kids and teens have called this “the water challenge” and it can be life-threatening.

Tips for drinking more water throughout the day

If you’re committed to drinking more water, but aren’t ready to jump on board the gallon a day train, consider just upping your water intake.

Here’s how to drink more water throughout the day:

  • Pick out a water bottle you love and always have it with you. Put your water bottle or glass of water in your line of vision. Having the constant visual reminder to drink throughout the day can help. Go ahead and play around with the sizes too. If you’re aiming to get in 64 ounces and your bottle holds 32 ounces, set a goal to be finished with one bottle by noon each day. Some bottles even have time indicators to motivate you to get so many ounces in by specific times – whatever works for you!
  • Drink a glass of water after every bathroom break. Every time you get up to use the bathroom (or get a snack or stretch for that matter), drink a glass of water. Not only is taking frequent breaks throughout the day good for your mental health and posture, but you can use these breaks as a way to nourish your body with more water.
  • Add fruit or water enhancers. Ideally, the best beverage is going to be plain ole’ water. But if that just isn’t doing it for you, try adding fresh fruit or a water flavor enhancer (typically found in tablet, liquid or powder form). Just be sure it’s five calories or less per serving and read the label to check for caffeine. Plain carbonated water also counts towards your daily intake if that’s what you prefer.
  • Drink a glass of water before every meal. This rule is often recommended for those watching their weight, especially in helping to decode hunger or avoid overeating. It’s common to confuse thirst with hunger, so taking a moment to drink before you eat helps better determine if you really are hungry or if you’re just thirsty. Bonus – even if you decide you’re hungry and it’s time to eat, you just snuck in another glass of H20!
  • Use an app or ask technology to help. If you have a smart speaker, ask it to remind you to drink water throughout the day. Or download an app that rings or flashes to remind you to drink. You can also simply set an alarm every 30 minutes to take a swig.

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Can Fenugreek Lower My Blood Sugar?

Fenugreek is a plant that grows in parts of Europe and western Asia. The leaves are edible, but the small brown seeds are famous for their use in medicine.

The first recorded use of fenugreek was in Egypt, dating back to 1500 B.C. Across the Middle East and South Asia, the seeds were traditionally used as both a spice and a medicine.

You can buy fenugreek as:

  • a spice (in whole or powdered form)
  • supplement (in concentrated pill and liquid form)
  • tea
  • skin cream

Talk to your doctor if you’re thinking of taking fenugreek as a supplement.

Fenugreek and diabetes

Fenugreek seeds may be helpful for people with diabetes. The seeds contain fiber and other chemicals that may slow digestion and the body’s absorption of carbohydrates and sugar.

The seeds may also help improve how the body uses sugar and increases the amount of insulin released.

Few studies support fenugreek as an effective treatment for certain conditions. Many of these studies focus on the seed’s ability to lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.

One small 2009 study found that a daily dose of 10 grams of fenugreek seeds soaked in hot water may help control type 2 diabetes. Another very small 2009 study suggests that eating baked goods, such as bread, made with fenugreek flour may reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.

Other studies noted a modest decrease in fasting glucose with fenugreek taken as a supplement.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that at this point the evidence is weak for fenugreek’s ability to lower blood sugar.

These Green Veggies are bad for Diabetes

Potential risks of fenugreek

Pregnant women shouldn’t use fenugreek because it may induce uterine contractions. The NIH states that there isn’t enough information about the safety of fenugreek for women who are breastfeeding, and that women with hormone-sensitive cancers shouldn’t use fenugreek.

Some people report a maple syrup-like smell coming from their armpits after extended use. One 2011 study verified these claims by finding that certain chemicals in fenugreek, such as dimethylpyrazine, caused this smell.

This smell shouldn’t be confused with the smell caused by maple syrup urine disease (MUSD). This condition produces a smell that contains the same chemicals as the smells of fenugreek and maple syrup.

Fenugreek can also cause allergic reactions. Talk to your doctor about any food allergies you might have before adding fenugreek to your diet.

The fiber in fenugreek can also make your body less effective at absorbing medications taken by mouth. Don’t use fenugreek within a few hours of taking these types of medication.

Is it safe?

The amounts of fenugreek used in cooking are generally considered safe. However, the NIH cautions that if women have hormone-sensitive cancers, fenugreek can mimic estrogen.

When taken in large doses, side effects can include gas and bloating.

Fenugreek can also react with several medications, especially with those that treat blood clotting disorders and diabetes. Talk to your doctor before taking fenugreek if you’re on these types of medication. Your doctor may need to lower your diabetes medication doses to avoid low blood sugar.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t evaluated or approved fenugreek supplements. The manufacturing process isn’t regulated, so there may be undiscovered health risks.

Also, as with all unregulated supplements, you can’t be sure that the herb and amount listed on the label are what’s actually contained in the supplement.

How to add it into your diet

Fenugreek seeds have a bitter, nutty taste. They’re often used in spice blends. Indian recipes use them in curries, pickles, and other sauces. You can also drink fenugreek tea or sprinkle powdered fenugreek over yogurt.

If you’re not sure how to use fenugreek, ask your dietitian to help you add it to your current diabetes meal plan.

Other benefits of fenugreek

There haven’t been any serious or life threatening side effects or complications connected with fenugreek. A 2007 study even found that fenugreek can actually protect your liver from the effects of toxins.

A 2009 study suggests that fenugreek can stop the growth of cancer cells and act as an anticancer herb. Fenugreek can also help alleviate the symptoms of dysmenorrhea. This condition causes severe pain during menstrual cycles.

Traditional treatments for diabetes

Along with fenugreek, you have other options for treating your diabetes.

Keeping your blood sugar at normal levels is essential to maintaining a high quality of life with a diabetes diagnosis. You can help your body maintain healthy blood glucose levels by making lifestyle changes, including:

  • sticking to a diet of minimally processed foods and high amounts of fiber, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits
  • choosing lean protein sources and healthy fats and avoiding excessive processed meat
  • avoiding excessive amounts of sweetened carbohydrate foods and sweetened beverages
  • being active at least half an hour a day, at least 5 days a week

Taking medications can also help you keep your blood sugar at healthy levels by controlling your body’s creation and use of insulin. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about medications used to treat diabetes.

You should also talk to your doctor about which activities and treatments will work best for you before attempting to make any changes to your diet, lifestyle, or medications.

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