At ADW diabetes, we usually write about and recommend foods that should be included in your daily diet since they contain multiple nutrients and possible benefit in further controlling your blood sugars. Today’s focus will be on foods you may want to rethink before eating, especially in large quantities. As always, the following information is intended to give you incite but the final decision comes from a combination of discussions with your health care provider, dietitian and you!
- Farm raised salmon – Wild fresh salmon is limited many times of the year especially when you are not living in the Pacific Northwest. Although available in the freezer section or in cans year round, many people prefer eating fresh fish. There has been an ongoing controversy since many people believe that the benefits of eating a fatty fish meal outweighs the risks of eating farm raised salmon. You are the one making the final decision. Farm raised salmon are put into open net pens which increase the risk of parasites and sea lice. They are often treated with antibiotics, pesticides and chemicals due to their close contact and need to be left in pens. Since farm raised salmon do not run like wild salmon they also contain more fat than the wild variety. The PCBs- polychlorinated biphenyls, mercury and dioxins are then stored in the excess fat of the fish. These chemicals are known to increase cancer risk in humans. Other chemicals are injected into the farm raised salmon to give it a pink color similar to wild salmon. Farm raised salmon contains fewer Omega 3 fatty acids when compared to wild salmon, which is the substance that helps offer health benefits including reducing heart disease. If you choose to eat farm raised salmon, remove the skin and visible fat which stores many of the chemicals. Fresh wild salmon may be more expensive but worth the price for better taste and over all nutrition.
- Veggie Soybean Burgers – Hexane is a damaging chemical which is used to separate soybeans into fiber, protein and soy oil. Hexane is not used in organic veggie burgers but can be used in the “Natural Food Industry”. Hexane is present in certain soy burgers, soy shakes and soy bars. Look for whole soy not soy protein. Soy protein may be included in cereals, crackers, frozen meals, Edamame, tofu, soy cheeses and soy meats. Always check for label ingredients. There are many veggie burgers made from grains, rice and vegetables that contain no soy. Even natural soy is surrounded by controversy for post menopausal women and men; natural soy has the most concentrated form of phyto-estrogens which may have a negative impact on both men and women when eaten in large quantities. Soy in moderation has shown some benefits but may cause stomach disorders, immune problems, thyroid issues, allergies and reproductive issues in some individuals.
- Egg substitutes – Unless you purchase pure egg whites in the container, many brands of egg substitutes trade out the yolk for added chemicals and preservatives. Regular eggs are usually cheaper, better tasting and can be eaten without the yolk if cholesterol is a major problem. Most physicians suggest less than 4 egg yolks per week for those with cholesterol issues and as many egg whites as desired. As usual, recent evidence points to egg yolks as the perfect protein without creating any specific problems. Check with your health care provider for their advice on total egg yolks per week for you.
- Microwave popcorn – Patients are always pleased to hear that a single carbohydrate serving size of popcorn is 3 cups! Using microwave popcorn seems like such a convenience but the inside of the bags contain PFCS or perfluoro-chemicals. PFCS were also present in Teflon pans that have caused controversy over the years. PFCS have been associated with cancer in humans. Microwave bagged popcorn often contains added salt, trans-fats and saturated fats which raises total calories. Consider using an air popper which can easily be purchased without adding fat, calories or chemicals. You can also use a teaspoon of canola oil in a stove top pot to freshly pop the popcorn kernels without harmful products.
- Canned foods – Many canned fruits, vegetables, meats and juices are lined with BPA or bisphenol A. BPA has been known to cause health issues and is considered an endocrine disruptor. It has recently been removed from most disposable or reusable water bottles. It is worse in foods that have a high quantity of acid including canned tomatoes or tomato products; increased food acid causes the BPA to leech into the food.
- Protein/cereal/granola bars – Many of these bars contain BHT or BHA (butylated hydroxytoluene or butylated hydroxyanisole) to keep them from going rancid and increase shelf life. These products have been studied in animals which caused problems including liver tumors, lung cancer and reproductive issues. The FDA states these products are safe but many consumer groups say to avoid them. Protein bars may also add soy protein isolate which could contain Hexane, aluminum or nitrites. Bars are often covered in chocolate frosting which may contain Trans-fats- hydrogenated palm kernel oil. When searching for bars read the ingredients and look for the most natural ingredients with a short list of readable/pronounceable products. There are bars made completely from nuts, dried berries and other fruits without any fillers or added products.
- Processed meats – Lunch meat, bologna, salami, hot dogs, bacon and sausage can affect your over all health. These foods contain added salt, chemicals and preservatives. Meats that are smoked contain tar from the smoking process which is negative as well. They are also high in saturated fat.
- Grapefruits, grapefruit juice and sour Seville Oranges (usually found in marmalade) – These foods are perfectly wonderful except when you are taking certain prescription medications. Many people especially with diabetes are on statin drugs to help lower their LDL levels. These fruits can inhibit the statin mechanism and possibly increase the drug effects. Additional side effects may also be seen. Those statins creating the biggest problems are Lipitor, Zocor and Mevacor. Fewer problems are seen with Crestor and Pravachol. These fruits can also have an impact when you take calcium channel or beta blockers for blood pressure control by increasing the drug potency. People may experience a light headed feeling, dizziness or even pass out from the increased effect. Grapefruit stops the enzyme CYP3A4 which helps many prescription drugs be metabolized. That can increase muscle toxicity and negative side effects. Grapefruit effects last for 24 hours so it is not recommended to eat grapefruit in the morning and take your pill in the evening. Certain chemotherapy medications, antihistamines and antibiotics are also affected by these fruits. Be aware that many supplements contain grapefruit bioflavonoid which can also interfere and cause problems. When starting a new medication check with your pharmacist to see if grapefruits or sour Seville oranges are OK.
Here are just a few common foods to be aware of when making choices in your daily life. Moderation is important so if you really want to continue with these choices, at least do so in limited portions. Enjoy!
NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.
She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past.
She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups.