Jean Larson, For the News Tribune
With recent cold weather, it certainly doesn't feel like summer is around the corner. But as temperatures warm up, we'll begin attending more barbecues, weddings and trips to the beach or cabin. Many of these social gatherings revolve around food and drink. If you are trying to eat healthier, summer can be a difficult time to stick with your nutrition plan. This doesn't mean you have to avoid partaking in these events, but it is important to have a plan. Here are my tips for keeping it healthy through summer social events.
People with diabetes aren't the only ones who need to lower their blood sugar levels. The American Diabetes Association says 1 in 3 American adults has prediabetes, which means their blood glucose (sugar) level is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Both conditions are caused by insulin dysregulation, namely insulin resistance.
Do you suffer from digestive problems, headaches, chronic sinus issues, fatigue, skin irritations, stubborn weight or joint aches? Have you ever considered if foods are at the root of your health woes? If you suspect foods are playing a role in your symptoms, an elimination diet might be warranted. Such diets strategically remove certain foods or food components for a length of time and then reintroduces them to determine if a food is causing negative symptoms.
Most of us have heard of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals as core components of our diet. A lesser known category includes phytonutrients or phytochemicals. While not considered "essential nutrients," I consider them extremely powerful compounds for improving health.
Most Americans consume 20 teaspoons of sugar every day. In comparison, our Paleolithic ancestors consumed an estimated 20 teaspoons in a year. But we're not digging into the sugar bowl. Instead, most of the sugar we eat is hidden in foods that we might not even see as sweet treats. The health risks of excess sugar are vast, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cognitive impairment, dementia and cancer. Less obvious issues include headaches, mood swings, depression, anxiety, lowered immune system, increased stress and nutrient deficiencies.
Sugar is ubiquitous in our food system. You will find it in more than just sweet treats. Sugar hides in a lot of "healthy" foods, such as salad dressings, marinades, seasonings, jarred pasta sauces, flavored yogurts, granola bars and nut butters. Because high-sugar foods top the list of factors that contribute to a "pro-inflammatory" lifestyle, I recommend my patients minimize sugar in their diet as much as they can. There is no minimal daily intake for sugar, but less is always better.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cardiovascular disease outranks all forms of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and pneumonia in causing death. Fortunately, heart disease is largely preventable through lifestyle.
Did you know about 70 percent of your immune system resides in your gut? Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in our digestive tract and help digest food, synthesize vitamins and support our immune systems. Eating more foods packed with probiotics during cold and flu season may lessen the impact of the common cold. According to a systematic review from the British Journal of Nutrition, certain probiotics strains, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, were found to lessen the duration of respiratory infections in adults and children.
It's that time of year when you're looking to revamp your lifestyle, lose weight, get in shape and improve your health. But which diet do you select? How do you know which one will work for you?