Tag Archives: diabetes

Eat More Vegetables: A Diabetic’s Perspective

This came to me in an e-mail from a particularly creative, artistic client.  In the past she kept a journal where she illustrated her food journal with the food she ate – in color!  It was worthy of framing.  Blood sugar is a concern for her, so if this is something you watch, here are some convincing tips:

I put vegetables at the top of the list of foods we should eat–even over protein, which is crucial to our diets–because let’s face it: NO one (except perhaps for those living in certain areas in the world where people can’t get much of anything but plant based food) eats enough veggies!

Vegetables are carbohydrates–however, the calories and carb grams are so low (in most vegetables) that they barely count. What they do have are: lots of nutrients, high water content, fiber, antioxidants, and beautiful colors. You just CAN’T eat too many! Well, maybe eating ten heads of iceberg lettuce in one sitting could send your glucose numbers up but–is that really practical or even desirable?

We’ve all seen those plate-up diagrams given to us by our doctors and dieticians: 1/4 carb, 1/4 protein, 1/2 vegetable–representing the standard balanced meal. The idea is to make vegetables the most dominant part of the meal.

Here’s the simplest way to add more veggies to our diet: cut up raw veggies–carrots, celery, peppers, anything else you like–and keep them in the fridge for instant snacks or ready for cooking. Why is it so hard to do that? Because it takes FIVE minutes longer to prepare them than to open a box of crackers!! Excuse me, I better go practice what I preach…be right back, chop chop!

There is nothing as beautiful on a table as a large assortment of crudités accompanied by dips or sauces, perhaps a nice olive mix. I guarantee you–because I have done this many times and it works–that if it is out on the table (and especially if there is nothing else), people WILL eat it. I mix raw ones with partially cooked: I blanche green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, and other firmer ones. Belgian endive and the small leaves of hearts of Romaine lettuce make wonderful dippers, or little canapés. I think of veggies as “crackers” Sure, I’ll put a few crackers of chips or bread slices out, but I try to eat mostly the veggies and alternate them with some starches.

A good lo-fat dip or two is great with these. I combine whatever I have around; a mix of some or all: lo-fat sour cream, mayo, cream cheese, yogurt, with various additions like garlic, onion, seasonings, herbs. A great light dip is Tzaziki–Greek yogurt, minced or diced cucumbers, a little lemon, garlic and lo-fat sour cream. Yum! Great with pita bread. (I didn’t say NO bread….!)

Guacamole and hummus are great dips too, adding more plant based food with a bonus of some protein and slower glucose-rising carbs; I can make a meal of this!

Frozen veggies are one of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century! They are about as nutritionally good as fresh ones; they can be cooked in a flash, they are pre-cleaned and pre-cut; great in a veggie emergency, when you haven’t had time to shop and the fridge is empty. Steer clear of brands with added salt and sauces.

Roasted vegetables are fabulous! Even ones I don’t care for raw–such as cauliflower–turn into something completely different when tossed with a little olive oil and roasted; they become tender, nutty, almost sweet.

Veggies can become a main dish. How about:

Meat or grain stuffed eggplant or peppers?
Cooked spaghetti squash makes a good bed of “pasta” for sauces, cheese and meats.
If you combine some cooked, pureed cauliflower with mashed potatoes, you cut way
down on carbs and callories, get better nutrition, and no one will know the difference!
(But add some sliced green onions, maybe, and real butter….)

Eating vegetables is just plain good for us: they keep us hydrated, are great for our “plumbing”, good for the skin, maintain and improve our immune systems, clean our teeth; did I miss something? They are also great for painting still lifes!

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The Magic of Genetics . . . Check out the ears!

DSC00577

Is this not cute?!  Admittedly, I am biased.  The big guy is my husband Peter, and the little one is Peter too (“Re – Pete”), his grandson.  This picture is now my screen saver.  It makes me smile every time I sit at my computer, which is often.

Ah, the magic of genetics. No one else in the family inherited my husband’s “elf ears” – notched and pointed (and, yes, they do stick out a bit).  When he was about 7 years old, his father told him they could be “fixed”, and he remembers never having thought about how they protruded . . . until then.  He never did “fix” them – good thing, because they are perfect as is.

Just like Little Pete’s.

Genetic effects on health are arguably even more interesting than general appearance traits like the color of our eyes or the shape of our ears.  As researchers look beyond the mere sequencing of our genes to more complex dynamic factors that interact with genes to either turn their activity on or off, it becomes even more obvious that lifestyle indeed does matter – a lot.

The food we eat is one of the most obvious ways of controlling the action of certain genes that affect our metabolism, ability to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, etc.  In other words, we are now learning through research on gene activity how poor eating increases risk for diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health issues.  That gives all of us much more power over our health than we ever dreamed possible in the past.

Exercise is another lifestyle factor that helps to keep our genes behaving in a way that promotes good health.  Amazing changes take place not only at the level of blood lipids, blood pressure, and body composition, but also at the level of gene activity.  I find this absolutely mind-blowing!  And exciting.  (See the recent report of a study done in Sweden – “How Exercise Changes Fat and Muscle Cells”.)

You and I can actually encourage our genes to “do the right thing”.  As if that is not amazing enough, a relatively new area of scientific study called epigenetics examines how many of these changes in genetic activity are actually passed down to offspring.  Wow – that’s what I say.  It just doesn’t seem to make much sense for anyone to assume that we are genetically destined to be unhealthy.  That is very good news for all of us.

Health Benefits of Spices: Cinnamon

Baked Pear with Cinnamon

Baked Pear with Cinnamon

I am quickly becoming a big fan of cinnamon.  I enjoy it in my plain yogurt, because it has a sweet flavor that truly makes it easy to go without sweeteners.  A handful of berries is a nice addition.  When I make oatmeal, I shake about 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon in with a splash of milk – delicious, and surprisingly sweet without sugar. Continue reading