Archive for January, 2011

Almonds and Diabetes

Posted: January 30, 2011 by amygilman in Nutrition Q & Amy

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:

Question

I have diabetes and love snacking on nuts (particularly smoked/flavored almonds).  Are nuts ok to snack on and if so, are there certain types I should look for?”

Answer

Snacking can be a healthy habit and a nutritious part of your day.  Adding snacks to your daily routine can help you manage your cravings, satisfy your hunger and even obtain important nutrients.  Snacks that contain protein, fiber, slow-digesting carbohydrates and healthy fats are ideal.  The perfect portion of almonds provides a good snack because it helps sustain energy levels, provides important nutrients and can satisfy cravings for sweet, savory, creamy or crunchy.  An ounce of nuts (about 20 almonds) provides almost 200 calories so it is important to measure the amount of nuts and put them in a container or Ziploc bag to travel with.  Never eat handfuls of nuts from the package, you are asking for trouble by doing this.

It is best to stick to unsalted nut/unflavored nuts to cut down on your sodium intake and to cut on the added calories from other ingredients.  I usually buy raw nuts and toast them myself.  I put them on a small cookie sheet and bake them in the oven (350° for 10 minutes, time and temp can vary depending on where you live and the oven you are using).

NUTRIENTS IN ALMONDS: 

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats:  Some studies have demonstrated that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may lower your risk for heart disease by reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in your blood, when used in place of trans fat.  1oz of almonds contains 13 grams of good fat.

Fiber:  Fiber can help to improve cholesterol levels and may help with weight management by promoting feelings of satiety.  1oz of almonds offers 3.5 grams of fiber.

Vitamin E and other antioxidants:  Antioxidants are thought to promote heart health by helping to decrease LDL cholesterol levels and protect against oxidative damage.  1oz of almonds offers 7.43mg of Vitamin E.

Magnesium:  Magnesium supports normal muscle and nerve function and helps to keep the heart rhythm steady.  1oz of almonds offers 76mg of magnesium. 

SNACK TIP

For a delicious quick snack packed with nutrients, try 1oz of almonds (or any nuts of your choice) with ¾ cup of baby carrots and 2 tbsp of hummus.

REFERENCES

  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2010. USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov.
  2. World Heart Federation, Cardiovascular disease risk factors, www.world-heart-federation.org.
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Diabetes and Smoothies

Posted: January 16, 2011 by amygilman in Nutrition Q & Amy

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:

Question

I have type 2 diabetes.  I am wondering if I could have fruit smoothies?  If I can, which ingredients I should include and avoid?”

Answer

Being diabetic does not mean that you have to give up everything good.  It can get boring to eat just fruits.  They are sweet and low in calories, but sometimes you may want something a bit fancier.  There are low-carb smoothies that you can make which may be a good option for you.  As you are probably aware, many people with diabetes count their carbs or have a general understanding as to how many carbs they are allotted at each meal.  Keep that number in mind when making your smoothie.  Here are some ideas to make a little bit of fruit go a long way:

  • Add a protein such as silken tofu to thicken it up.
  • Add green vegetables such as spinach.
  • Add chia seeds – they form a gel when added to liquid which will thicken up the smoothie plus they are loaded with Omega-3’s (a good fat).

Remember it is possible for the high consumption of fruit to raise blood sugar so play around with the timing of the smoothie.  Some people find it best to have the smoothie in the afternoon, around 2-3pm as opposed to the morning on an empty stomach.  Also, when concerned about blood sugar levels, it is best to keep fruit content low, as in “for flavor only.”  For example ½ a banana, or ½ mango per 2 cups of smoothie.  You could also opt for low glycemic fruits like blueberries in the amount of no more than one cup.

Here is a recipe that incorporates tofu into the smoothie:

Very Berry Tofu Smoothie

Serves 4 (1 cup per serving)

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb fresh strawberries, cleaned and hulled

2 cups blueberries

9 oz tofu, silken, extra firm

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 TBSP agave

1 tsp lemon juice

½ cup ice

DIRECTIONS:

Blend all ingredients together.  Enjoy.

Thank you for the question!

Blood Sugar and Diabetes?

Posted: January 8, 2011 by amygilman in Nutrition Q & Amy

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:

Question

My A1c test result is 6.4% and my fasting blood sugar level is 113.  Do these numbers sound like diabetes and if so what do I do now?” 

Answer

A normal A1C is usually between 4.6% and 5.4%.  However, A1C’s may not be as good of a measure to diagnose diabetes as the fasting plasma glucose or the glucose tolerance test.   Below is the ADA’s criteria for diagnosis:

Diabetes is diagnosed in one of three ways: 

  1. A fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test level of 126mg/dL or above.
  2. An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) that measures blood glucose after a person fasts at least 8 hours and 2 hours after the person drinks a glucose-containing beverage (A 2-hour glucose level of 200mg/dL or above can mean the person has diabetes).
  3. A random casual plasma glucose level of 200mg/dL or higher. 

A second test is recommended to confirm the diagnosis. 

There are 2 tests used to diagnose pre-diabetes:

  1. A fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test level between 100-125mg/dL.
  2. An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) level between 140-199mg/dL

Your FPG is at 113mg/dL which is considered pre-diabetic.  Talk with your doctor about your lab results as soon as you can, if you have not done so already.  There are many ways you can incorporate lifestyle intervention strategies to help delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.  Some intervention strategies include addressing physical activity, weight loss, dietary intake, including whole grains and fiber and dietary fat.  A clinical research study called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) suggests that people at risk for developing diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes by losing a modest amount of weight through diet and exercise.  The DPP showed that people with pre-diabetes reduced their risk for developing diabetes by 58% through diet and exercise lifestyle changes. 

What is A1C anyway?  The A1C test, also known as glycated hemoglobin, is a blood test that provides a picture of average blood sugar control for the past two to three months.  Hemoglobin is part of red blood cells and binds to glucose.  The level of hemoglobin is increased in the red blood cells of persons with poorly controlled diabetes.  The higher the glucose level in the blood, the more that binds to hemoglobin.  Since the glucose stays attached to hemoglobin for the life of the red blood cell (normally about 120 days), the level of hemoglobin A1C reflects the average blood glucose level over the past two to three months. 

Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian (RD).  An RD will be able to assess your entire medical history and health status and help you determine the best course of action for a healthy life and help prevent the need for diabetes medications.

Thank you for the question.  Knowledge is power.

Pre-Diabetes and Sweet Potatoes?

Posted: January 2, 2011 by amygilman in Nutrition Q & Amy

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:

Question

I was recently diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes and I’m trying to follow a low fat diet.  I have a question I hope that you can answer.  Are sweet potatoes considered a vegetable and are they ok to eat in my diet?”

Answer

Great question! The definition of vegetable is: the edible part of a plant.  By definition, a sweet potato is a vegetable.  In the culinary/nutrition world, it is considered a starchy vegetable because it contains more carbohydrates than say broccoli (a non-starchy vegetable). 

One small sweet potato (about 60g) contains about 15g of carbohydrates (baked with skin).  To put it in comparison to a green (non-starchy) vegetable, that is almost double the amount of carbohydrates in broccoli.  This just means that for a person that counts carbohydrates, they would need to count a small sweet potato as one carbohydrate equivalent.

Sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients.  They are an orange color, which usually indicates that they are packed with beta-carotene (a special kind of Vitamin A).  Vitamin A helps the body fight free-radicals (cancer causing agents).  Sweet potatoes are also a good source of potassium and fiber.  Other beneficial nutrients are found in sweet potatoes in smaller amounts such as magnesium, phosphorus and calcium.  Have I convinced you to try them yet?

Sweet potatoes are savory, sweet, and good for your health!  They are so versatile too.  I have used them in recipes such as vegetable and millet croquettes, sweet potato-pecan biscuits, and sweet potato fries.  What’s great about sweet potatoes is that you can bake them in the oven (450° for about an hour) and enjoy the sweet taste without adding toppings such as butter, sour cream, etc (as is traditionally done to white potatoes).  Eat them plain and this will help you save on your fat intake. 

I must admit, I did not always like sweet potatoes.  My first encounter with sweet potatoes was as a child.  There was always sweet potato pie at the Thanksgiving table.  It was loaded with butter, sugar, heavy cream and any other artery clogging ingredients you can think of.  It completely repulsed me and I stayed away from this poor little vegetable for many years.  It took a couple of tries of eating it as a plain baked potato, before I became hooked.  So for those of you that have stayed away from them, perhaps you just need to find that perfect recipe that will put you on Team Sweet Potato as well. 

Here is a quick recipe for sweet potato fries: Buy about 4-5 sweet potatoes.  Wash them well under cold water.  Pre-heat oven to 400° Slice the sweet potatoes in shapes that you prefer (shoe-string fries, steak fries, etc).  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Place sweet potatoes on cookie sheet.  Top with ground black pepper and cinnamon (or use any spice you prefer).  Bake for about 30-35 minutes.  Enjoy!

Thank you for the question.  I enjoyed the opportunity to clear up any confusion about the great sweet potato.