Boy, did I get a surprise last week. My doctor’s office called to say my blood work came back fine except for my A1C test — the one that provides information about a person’s average level of blood glucose (blood sugar) over the past three months. It is the primary test used to determine if you are pre-diabetic or have diabetes itself.
Finally the cooler weather is upon us, which for me, is “tea time.” But, like most everything I consume, I play a game of sorts with myself to determine what’s healthiest for my body. However, tea is a bit different.
All varieties of tea — whether it is black tea, green, oolong (between green and black) or white —are good for me, and probably you too. The health benefits include keeping your mind sharp and reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Yes, tea is the number two beverage, behind water, as the most sipped beverage worldwide is loaded with disease fighting plant compounds and antioxidants.
True teas are made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis plant. Differences in flavor and color depend on the how the leaves are rolled, crushed and exposed to air before drying. Herbal teas are infused with herbs and spices.
So like anything good for you, how much should you consume? Some experts recommend having 2-3 cups per day. Since tea, like coffee, has caffeine, balance your intake with de-caffeinated varieties or take fewer sips. Black tea has the most caffeine, with 72 mgs in 12 ounces, about half of what a cup of coffee would have in the same size serving. And if your preference is decaf tea, double up on the teas bags to get the same beneficial plant compounds because the de-caf process dilutes some of the healthy compounds.
A few words of warning, though: Don’t load up your tea with sugar and cream. This can add a huge whopping of calories and sugar to your healthy routine. Also if you do not peculiarly like tea, a supplement with the green tea extract powders is not OK. The benefits you might get are overshadowed by the risks of dizziness, ringing in the ears, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, liver damage and possible death. Need I say more!
One of the things I look forward to each morning is a cup of fresh-brewed coffee. In fact, I enjoy it so much I often list it as one of the three things I am grateful for each week. My morning Joe helps me to ease into my routine; it is my time to be quiet and savor the beginning of a new day.
What I have learned is that I am not alone, 54 percent of all adults in the United States drink coffee daily. If you fall into that category, you may be happy to learn that coffee drinking is a healthy habit. Coffee is full of disease-fighting antioxidants, as are many other plants. Yes, we often forget that coffee is actually a plant. The coffee bean contains more than 1,000 naturally occurring substances called “phytochemicals.” They are antioxidants that protect cells from damage by free radicals in your body.
Drinking coffee has also been shown to reduce tooth cavities, boost athletic performance, improve mood, and stop headaches. It also can reduce your chance of getting Type 2 diabetes, lower cancer risk, prevent strokes, and fight off Parkinson disease. Coffee also improves cognitive function as we age.
So how much coffee do we need to drink each day to reap these wonderful benefits?
Researchers have found that for those who drink four to six cups per day, versus only two or fewer, their risk for Type 2 diabetes decreased by almost 30 percent. The number decreases by 35 percent for people who drink more than six cups per day. Of course, my first thought when I read this was four to six cups a day is too much. I’d be bouncing off the walls. The good news is the benefits are the same if you drink decaffeinated coffee.
Regular black coffee only has two calories so it’s a great alternative beverage to soft drinks or energy drinks. The federal dietary guidelines state that up to five cups of coffee a day are in line with a healthy diet. But make sure you go easy on the cream, sugar and other additives… We don’t want to turn a healthy habit into something that negates the good!
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, especially after 50 years of age, you know it’s an extremely difficult challenge. You should also know that keeping off those extra pounds is even harder.
According to the International of Journal of Obesity, among overweight and obese adults, only 17 percent who lost at least 10 percent of what they started with were able to keep it off long term. And those who lost more are less likely to keep it off. So why is this?
The key to lasting change in any area of your life is developing healthy habits and sticking with them. So start now to develop good dietary choices. This makes managing the weight loss far easier. It’s also important to establish reasonable goals ahead of time. You can’t reach a goal if you don’t have one. When it comes to maintaining your body weight, keep that goal in mind and hold yourself accountable.
But don’t beat yourself up if you get off track occasionally. As I often tell my health-coaching clients, change is not linear. It’s OK to slip occasionally. Just get back on track as soon as you can and continue working toward becoming the best that you can be.
It’s also important to customize your diet to fit your lifestyle once you are in maintenance mode. The key is to find what works for you personally. One diet does not fit all, and neither does one diet-maintenance plan.
Fun times, vacations, dinners out, etc. are important. It’s fine to enjoy these times. They are a part of enjoying life. So plan accordingly. Keep your overall diet healthy and practical for your lifestyle. Here’s a time-tested rule of thumb: If you eat healthy 80 percent of the time, you can splurge for the other 20 percent.
Of course, no article on maintaining weight loss would be complete without reference to exercise. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. Exercise is a great way to break through weight loss plateaus and help you manage your weight once you have reached your goals. Whether you prefer a leisurely walk around the block, an intense 10k race, or anything in between, exercise is great for maintaining your weight, your energy and a critical can-do attitude.
Once you have hit your weight-loss goal, it’s wise to continue to build muscle mass with exercise such as resistance training. As we age, we lose muscle mass. But many women don’t want to build muscle, only lose fat. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other. Muscle burns fat and it important for maintaining your weight and keeping your metabolism revved up. The best way to lose fat is to build lean muscle with exercise and the right amount of protein, plant based protein counts too.
If you find you are struggling with losing weight, or keeping it off, accountability may be the missing piece for you. Give me a call for a free, 30-minute optimal health breakthrough session to see how I might be able to help.
How do you prevent diabetes? What does it mean when your doctor tells says, “You are pre-diabetic?” Is the cure to stop eating foods with sugar and start exercising almost every day?
But as I re-read my prediabetes materials in preparation for a 16-week class I am
facilitating for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), I am reminded that it is so much more than that.
People who are pre-diabetic have a blood sugar level higher than normal, but not high
enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. They are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, including heart disease, and stroke.
A person with certain risk factors is more likely to develop prediabetes and type 2
diabetes. These factors include:
— Age, especially after 45 years old.
— Being overweight, especially if you carry a lot of extra weight in your abdomen.
— A family history of diabetes.
— Having an African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or
Pacific Islander racial or ethnic background.
— A history of diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes) or having given birth to a baby weighing nine pounds or more.
— Not being physically active three or more times a week.
So if you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes or you think you have some of the warning signs listed above, what can you do?
— Research shows that doing just two things can help you prevent or delay type 2 diabetes: Lose 5 to 7 percent of your body weight, which would be 10 to 14 pounds for a 200- pound person. And get at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity, such as brisk walking.
Another way is to take a class along with others who are concerned about their health. Consider joining one of my Wellness Beyond Fifty lifestyle change programs, which can help you reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58 percent.
If you do, you will discover what foods to eat and how much physical activity is required each day to achieve the results you desire. Once you have lost the weight, you will learn specific coping skills to maintain it so you can have the best health of your life.
Charleston, S.C. — one of the world’s most popular cities — is a nice place to live, especially if you have good physical health. A morning stroll along The Battery overlooking Charleston Harbor is delightful, especially during the spring and fall. You are certain to see ships entering and exiting past Fort Sumter to and from the Atlantic Ocean. The sky is typically clear with white clouds billowing in calm winds mostly from the south. The old city sparkles today — generally fit and healthy, always alive and largely well.
It’s a thriving, livable city for good reason. Its people are generally happy and healthy and work hard to keep their historic port city ship-shape, so to speak. But it could be so much better. We have too many cars and trucks constantly breaking the silence and fouling the air. We have few bicycle riders risking life and limb to share the streets, and it doesn’t have to be this way. More bike lanes and a modern, reliable system of public transportation would do wonders.
Cities — like people — must stay active to remain healthy. And fiscally speaking, Charleston appears to be doing just fine. But it’s way past time to make it easier for folks to check their cars at the door. The walking and bike lane on the “new” Ravenel Bridge on the peninsula’s east side is an obvious success, and its use is growing day after day. Having a bike lane from the West Ashley Greenway across the Ashley River is a no-brainer as well. Closing one lane of the Legare Bridge into the city makes a lot of sense to me, but even if the traffic studies prove it will do more harm than good, then why not widen the span instead? If city, state and federal government would provide the seed money, there is no doubt in my mind that the balance could be raised by walkers, bicycle riders and others in very little time. Every one of the 40,000 or more Cooper River Bridge runners would happily contribute at five dollars per year, and friends and advertisers could surely cover the balance.
Each of us needs regular physical activity to help protect ourselves from serious diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes and arthritis. Riding your bicycle regularly is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Cycling is a low-impact exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It’s also fun, cheap and good for the environment. Riding to work or to the shops will become routine with convenient bike lanes and parking areas. An estimated one billion Americans already ride bicycles every day — for transportation, recreation and sport.
All is takes is between two and four hours of cycling per week to achieve marked improvement in one’s general health. It’s low impact and less dangerous for strains and muscle injuries that most others forms of exercise. Cycling uses all of the major muscle groups, and it does not require a whole lot of physical skill. Once you learn, you seldom forget. And you control the intensity.
These are the benefits, according to health experts:
— Increased cardiovascular fitness.
— Increased muscle strength and flexibility.
— Improved joint mobility.
— Decreased stress levels.
— Improved posture and coordination.
— Strengthened bones.
— Decreased body fat levels.
— Prevention or management of disease, including cancer and diabetes.
— Reduced anxiety and depression.
— Weight control.
You get none of these benefits by sitting in traffic waiting for the light to change, a broken down car to be removed from the roadway or the police, ambulance and wrecker to clear a wreck. And the cost and convenience of building bike lanes on roads and bridges are minimal compared to building superhighways to accommodate all of the cars and will only make matters worse in time.
Charleston has some excellent bicycle-advocacy organizations whose members would be happy to join forces with you to achieve the necessary goals. Go on line. Check them out. And get busy. We all could use some help.
Plant based diets can be very beneficial to your health. Switching to a plant-based diet does not necessarily mean you must give up meat all together. But for most people, it does mean a change in food priorities.
In other words, when planning your menu, build meals around fruits and veggies, and not meats. This simple shift will do more to ward off chronic disease, spark energy and keep you in shape more than any other diet plan. Such a plant-based diet allows for lots of fish and some lean meat, but the focus is on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
A type 2 diabetes time bomb has already been set off in the United States, especially here in the South, and it is doing more damage than any terrorist attack thus far. The best defense for contracting diabetes? Change your diet so that the emphasis in on fresh vegetables and whole grains instead of fatty meats.
Americans especially are subject to heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States. One in three American adults have high blood pressure. The best way to protect yourself? Change your diet. Emphasize fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead of fatty meats. Fact: The higher your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, the lower your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Eating eight or more servings of fruits and veggies a day (most of us eat only 1.5 servings), cuts your risk of a heart attack or stroke by 30 percent.
A smorgasbord of recent dietary studies have shown that vegetarians consume fewer calories, and thus weigh less and have lower body mass indexes, than non-vegetarians. So why not shift your entrée priority from meat to fruits, veggies and whole grains? You will feel fuller on fewer calories, weigh less and have a lower body-mass index. Hello? Can you hear me?
Another fact: Fiber keeps you regular by aiding in digestion and preventing constipation. It also helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Consuming mostly plant-based meals packs your system with fiber, thus helping it run clean.
Worried about failing vision? Eat carrots, which are loaded with vitamin A. But don’t stop there. Your eyes also benefit from a plant-based diet rich in spinach, kale, squash, kiwi and grapes. The lutein and zeaxanthin pigments in these foods combat cataracts and macular degeneration.
How’s you skin? Dry and itchy? You need oil. By cutting back on saturated fats from animal products, there will be less chance of your skin pores clogging with the wrong stuff. Focusing on a plant-based diet means consuming more vitamins, pigments and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables. Lycopene in tomatoes, for example, helps protect your skin from sun damage, and the vitamin C in sweet potatoes smoothes wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen.
Walk into a name-brand drug store and check out the colorful vitamins and minerals aisle. Look at all the health supplements! Need more energy? Less wrinkles? Sleep? Iron? Goat Weed? It’s like a Yellow Brick Road. A bottle of every vitamin and mineral you’ve ever heard of and more are right there waiting for you. All you need is red shoes for clicking and a credit card.
But there is lesson in the story of the magnanimous Wizard of Oz. He’s a nice guy. He’s also a fraud. So don’t be fooled by the glitz. Nutritional supplements are not all they’re cranked up to be.
We mentioned this subject before in this space because it is very important. The message is worth repeating. Americans spend $11 billion annually on vitamins and minerals, and “baby boomers” are especially vulnerable to the latest fads because they are at the age where they are especially vulnerable to quick fixes regarding their health. So get real. If you’re feeling like something’s missing in your diet, it probably is. But the solution will not be found in an over-the-counter pill.
Supplements cannot prevent or cure illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Supplements are no substitute for a good, well-rounded diet. Consuming too many supplements on a regular basis is not healthy — especially if you are on an aspirin regime or blood-thinners.
Also understand that too much Vitamin A increases your risk of osteoporosis. Too much Vitamin E can elevate the chances of your having a stroke. Too much iron can raise your risk of heart problems. Excesses of anything in pill form can build up in your body fat and become toxic. Also try to get outside in the sunshine daily for a while. It’s the best source of Vitamin D.
The key to proper consumption of vitamins, minerals and all the so-called natural supplements is to talk first to your doctor or dietitian about it. Tell her what’s bothering you. Give her a list of what you typically eat each day, including fruits, vegetables, fortified cereal and low-sugar juices. Ask her if a multivitamin is right for you, and listen carefully to her instructions.
Also, don’t be fooled by labels that proclaim a supplement is “all natural.” This is a typical sales gimmick. But do pay close attention to the nutritional information panel on the bottle. The percentage of the recommended daily value (DV) of each ingredient should be no lower than 100 percent and no higher than 300 percent.
Ask you health professional about that too. She knows!
Alcohol of any kind — beer, wine and spirits — is harmful to your health, but again a qualifying notation may be necessary regarding red wine. A recent study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine says people with Type 2 diabetes benefited from a daily glass of red vino.
The two-year study was done in Israel on 224 patients with controlled Type 2 diabetes. The subjects were alcohol abstainers who typically drank water and followed a Mediterranean diet without calorie restrictions. Each participant agreed to drink either 5 ounces of mineral water, 5 ounces of white wine or 5 ounces of red wine at dinner during the study period.
After two years of participation, the red wine drinkers increased their HDL (“good’) cholesterol by about 10 percent, and generally decreased their ratio of bad cholesterol to good cholesterol. The positive changes did not occur in white-wine the drinkers.
However, both red- and white-wine drinkers lowered their triglycerides and fasting plasma glucose levels compared to the water drinkers.
But it’s very important to note that the wine drinkers consumed only 5 ounces daily. So, as we’ve noted here previously, be very careful if you drink any kind of wine. Do not over do it!