Popular Diets and Fun Food Trends
As always, 2019 was full of “diet advice” with some good and some not so worthwhile. Let’s look at the more popular diet plans. None of these specific diet plans are being recommended to you. Always consult with your physician or health care provider before you make any change in your eating habits. Diabetes medications may need to be altered, reduced or eliminated when a new eating plan is introduced.
A study done by Tuft’s University and published in The Public Library of Science Weekly Medical Journal, “estimates that health consequences of poor eating habits cost the US more than $50 billion, annually. 18% of its costs are related to diabetes, stroke and heart disease.” With diabetes, you should be educated on the best way for you to eat to help maintain balanced blood sugars, reduce your risk of hypertension and kidney disease. Lowering cholesterol levels is another proven way to prevent complications from cardiovascular disease. Remember that eliminating cigarettes, reducing excess alcohol intake and physically moving, as in exercise, is always better for metabolic health when compared to starting any new diet plan.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting has recently become the “buzzword” in many medical and nutritional circles. The existing research has been done primarily on mice and rats, but it does show promising changes in their metabolic profiles, which includes lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. There are multiple ways to accomplish this diet plan. It involves cycling periods between eating and not eating. Intermittent fasting means, “you may eat 20 to 25% of the recommended caloric intake for a day or you can restrict eating to a 6-12 hour period within 24 hours.” You may also skip eating for a whole 24-hour period, called alternate day fasting.
Research shows fasting for 24 hours is the most difficult version and is usually not sustainable. Fasting days may allow 500-800 calories per day depending on the exact protocol. Growing research shows that the timing interval of the fast is key, it is called time restricted eating. This can make the fasting component more realistic, sustainable and effective. Some studies show intermittent fasting can help you achieve weight loss in the short term, but more research is needed to see the long-term effects, especially when studying it in humans.
Intermittent fasting became popular in 2012, although it has been around for years. Major religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam have fasted during their holy days for centuries. Intermittent fasting is also called, “circadian rhythm fasting”, the approach is to limit the hours you eat. For example, you may eat all your meals between 7AM-3PM or 11AM-7PM. The 8-hour window can be decided by you. This showed improved insulin sensitivity, reduced insulin resistance, lower insulin levels and lower blood pressure. There is a variation that also allows for only a 6-hour eating window.
Other variations would be eating 5 days a week and fasting for 2 days or eating 1 day and fasting the next. Basically, it would be your choice, but working with a medical professional such as a physician, dietitian or diabetes educator is critical. This diet plan is rarely considered acceptable for people with type 1 diabetes, due to the high risk of hypoglycemia when fasting. According to a Harvard Health blog, “eating everything early in the day either 7AM-3PM, 8AM-4PM or 9AM-5PM is the best way to go. Avoid empty added sugars, refined grains and processed foods, when you do eat. Keep physically active as much as possible and build muscle mass with weight training to raise your metabolic rate and burn fat. Avoid late night eating and random snacking.
Bottom Line on Intermittent Fasting
It is not considered a mainstream option for those with diabetes, since it can lead to fatigue, weakness, low blood sugars, dizziness and a level of nutritional deficiencies. If you do decide to try it under medical supervision:
- Watch and be alert for hypoglycemia
- Check blood sugars frequently
- Know which diabetes medications can lead to hypoglycemia
- Stay hydrated
- Don’t over-exercise on fasting days
- Don’t overeat starchy carbohydrates following the fast
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
Another popular diet plan last year was the ketogenic eating plan. The keto plan includes 20-50 grams of carbohydrate a day, or less than 10% of your daily intake. it is considered similar to the Atkins diet plan by some. You miss out on many nutrients from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. It also consists of 20-30% protein and up to 70% fat intake. The fat can come from unsaturated fats including nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, olive oil, or canola oil. Another (poor) choice would be eating a high saturated fat diet including marbleized red meats, high fat fried cheeses, coconut oil, lard, butter, bacon and sausage. The keto plan forces the body to burn fat for energy instead of glucose obtained from carbohydrates. The keto creates “nutritional ketosis”, which is very different from diabetic ketoacidosis. This tends to speed up weight loss and may help with remission of diabetes.
If done correctly, it is safer for overweight people with type 2 diabetes, not type 1 diabetes. Some studies have shown a lower A1C level, weight loss, and a reduction in diabetes medication use. It may lead to symptoms of an upset stomach, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, dizzy spells, or constipation. The ketogenic diet is difficult for most people to follow and seems to offer better results for males than females. It may have a negative impact on your gut microbiome since the diet eliminates grains, most fruits and starchy vegetables.
Long term risks include a higher incidence of kidney stones, kidney, and liver problems. If you do decide to follow a keto diet, consult a health professional, stick to whole natural foods and not processed, packaged keto friendly foods. There are variations in the keto diet. There is the lazy keto, the eco-keto and the ketotarian diet which pushes lots of leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables.
Ketogenic Diet Bottom Line:
- Created in 1924 to treat epilepsy
- Not enough evidence or data on long-term benefits for people with diabetes. In a 2013-2018 review of literature, it states it has potential to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity and decrease blood pressure
- Keep up diligently with your health care provider if you decide to do it
- Test blood sugars more frequently as it may lead to hypoglycemia
- Ask about checking ketone levels
- Reduces levels of Vitamin A, C, K, and folate
What Are Meat Extenders?
Meat extenders have been used in Asia for over 2000 years. Using meat extenders are an interesting concept for those trying to become more plant based without giving up meat entirely. “Meat extenders” encompass a broad term and do not always mean the bad stuff like “meat fillers”. Meat extenders are specific foods that can be added to lean beef, chicken, pork, lamb or turkey to enhance texture, taste and moisture of the food. Included would be:
- Chopped Mushrooms: They give a richer, meatier texture and flavor to dishes. Mushrooms contain B vitamins, selenium and dietary fiber. Cook and drain liquid before adding to meat.
- Lentils: They are very affordable, add protein, fiber, iron and folate to your meal. You can add them cooked and pureed to your meat as a binder, in place of breadcrumbs.
- Beans: Rinsed and mashed canned beans add texture and moisture to your dishes. Add dark beans such as black or kidney beans to ground beef or light beans such as northern or garbanzo beans to chicken or turkey.
- Prunes / Dark Raisins & Golden Raisins: A little goes a long way, since dried fruit contains a high amount of sugar and calories. Use 2-4 prunes, or 1 tablespoon of dark/golden raisins when adding to a recipe. They are high in fiber, taste and add a rich, spicy taste. Soak dried fruit for 5 minutes in warm water. Puree the fruit, then add. It will add bulk and sweetness to your meat.
- Whole Grains: Oats, bulgur and quinoa can be added to meat for fiber, texture and a rich, deep flavor. Use grains that are already cooked and ground to add to the meat.
- Seeds and Nuts: Ground peanuts, almonds or pine nuts are a wonderful addition to a meat dish as well as ground chia, hemp or flax seeds. Even wheat germ can add bulk and texture to your meat or poultry meals.
- Textured Soy Protein: This is made from regular soybeans and it is a complete protein dried into crumbles. Once rehydrated, they are similar to ground beef in texture and flavor.
Meat extenders can reduce your intake of regular meat and lower your intake of saturated fats. They can be added to burgers, meatballs, Sloppy Joes, tacos, lasagna, spaghetti sauce, or chili.
Plant Based Mediterranean Diet
A “plant-based diet” varies widely in definition. Some exclude all animal products while others include fish, poultry and yogurt. Randomized, controlled trials indicate that, “plant-based diets, particularly vegan, show lower cardiovascular disease and higher brain power in humans”. The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is plant based. It revolves around vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans, olive oil, and whole grains. There are moderate amounts of dairy, poultry, eggs and seafood included. Red and processed meat is limited and if eaten, it is in small quantities.
The Mediterranean diet is still considered “one of the healthiest eating styles on the planet”. This style has been studied for over 50 years and it continues to show evidence of a longer life span when used. It was voted one of the top eating plans in US News and World Report in 2019, along with the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). It encourages eating healthy fats, a bit of red wine, socialization over meals, and mindful eating, and is currently a way of eating in over 18 countries. Foods like olives, chickpeas, hummus, eggplants, artichokes, pomegranates, dates, figs, apricots, parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, fresh mint, couscous, pistachios, fish, and olive oil are all embraced.
High fructose syrup vs. fructose found naturally in fruit
There is a misconception facing many of us regarding fructose found naturally in fruit versus high fructose syrup. High fructose syrup is an added sugar that is ultra-processed, stripped of nutrients, contains no fiber, and raises blood sugars extremely fast. Besides corn, high fructose sugar can be made from beets or sugar cane. It can be added to breads, cereals, yogurts, breakfast foods, sauces, condiments and salad dressings, among other foods. High fructose syrup can have an effect on the dopamine center in your brain and it can make you have strong and powerful cravings.
Fructose is the sugar found in fruit in its natural state, and it behaves differently in your body than high fructose syrup. Fructose contains many nutrients, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and a good amount of water. Blood sugars do not spike, as seen with the processed fructose syrup. You should eat fruit in moderation and in portion size with diabetes. It is considered part of a healthy diet. Pair a handful of nuts or seeds while eating fruit to help prevent any spikes in blood sugars. Fruits with edible skins are especially good for those with diabetes such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, apples, peaches, plums, and kiwi.
The diet list in 2019, goes on and on, but these suggestions may be helpful to you, with diabetes or not.
- Fad diets do not work
- Yo-Yo dieting can be dangerous, disruptive and produce long-term consequences
- Cut greasy, salty fast food out completely
- Eat smaller portions especially when eating out
- Cook at home whenever possible
- Keep track of what you eat
- Stay hydrated with plain water or sugar-free beverages
- Check blood sugars with a meter or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to look for trends when eating new and different foods or styles of eating
- Snack in moderation with healthy choices
- Have fruits and veggies washed, sliced and ready to go
- Eat low carbohydrate/healthy fat snacks such as avocados, hummus, nut butters, salsa, cheese sticks, olives, raw, unprocessed nuts and seeds and plain Greek yogurt. Add a few whole grain crackers for complex carbohydrates
- Take 10,000 steps or the equivalent, daily
- Do not skip exercise for more than 2 days in a row
- Try for uninterrupted sleep for 7-8 hours a night
Whichever style of eating you choose in 2020, remember to make wise decisions. Check with your health care provider. Stay mindful, conscious, and engaged when eating. Develop a healthy relationship with food. Avoid the “diet crazed culture” that currently exists. When you feel full, use that as feedback to stop and possibly eat less next time. These tips will help you with your diabetes control and general health!