Tag Archives: diabetes

The Pegan Diet

I hear about the paleo diet fairly frequently still, but I recently heard about new variant of paleo – the pegan diet. The pegan diet is sort of a combination of paleo and vegan. At first, I thought that sounded impossible. The whole point of paleo is to eat meat, the whole point of vegan is to not. But this a unique diet that takes ASPECTS of each individual diet.

Followers of the pegan diet eat 75% of their food as fruits and vegetables. These should mostly be non-starchy and “low glycemic” fruits. All of this is to help balance your blood sugar levels.

The other 25% of the diet is made up for grass-fed, responsibly raised animal protein. Fish is especially encouraged. Healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and omega-3s are also encouraged.

Both of these steps seem much less restrictive than the original diets to me, and mostly in line with a general healthy diet. The real kicker is eating less than ½ cup of gluten-free grains per meal and less than 1 cup of legumes(beans) per day.

The diet creators state that the benefits are reduced inflammation and better blood glucose control. There are no long term studies to prove any benefits of this diet.

Overall, I don’t see anything wrong with the diet itself. It would be difficult to follow and could be quite expensive – focusing on organic, responsibly raised foods, etc. Some sites point out dining out would be quite difficult which could be isolating to some. It does seem unnecessarily restrictive – if you aren’t allergic to dairy or gluten, there isn’t a NEED to avoid them. However, if you are diversifying your intakes, you could have a nutritionally adequate diet without them.

My final thought: compared to vegan or paleo, this is less restrictive and possibly easier to follow. But I don’t know that it is necessary for good health.

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Q&A: Intermittent fasting

Q: Many people I know are using “intermittent fasting” to lose weight. Is it effective? Are there health benefits? Should I try it?

A: Thank you for your questions as always. I actually have a few family members who follow an intermittent fasting “diet”, so I was very interested to research some more about this.

Intermittent fasting is followed in various forms by different people. The basics are that you limit your eating to a set number of hours per day. Most people it seems go with an 8-10 hour period, but I’ve heard of some restrict it down to only 2 hours per day.

What results are we seeing in scientific studies? Studies have shown that people have as good weight loss as just restricting their overall intake without a time restriction. But studies also indicate there may be benefits in relation to blood glucose and fat levels, which is good news for those at risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Why? This article from Harvard Health goes in much greater detail if you are interested. But in short, when we eat carbohydrates, one of two things can happen. First, those carbs are used for energy, which requires insulin (insulin levels are high). Second, they can be stored as fat. In between meals, when the body needs carbs but there aren’t any available (insulin is LOW), the body breaks down the fat for energy. This is good. We want the body to do this. But if we are CONSTANTLY eating, insulin levels stay high and we never break down that fat. Also, constantly overload of insulin can lead to our body not responding well to insulin, which can lead to diabetes.

But isn’t fasting hard? For some people, it can be. The Harvard article mentions some research that shows putting your eating period earlier in the day makes it easier rather than later (so 7 am-3 pm vs 12 pm – 8 pm). I think the timing of your fasting period is likely to be very individualized based on your preference and schedule. If you already aren’t a morning eater, don’t start just because of fasting.

Don’t want to fast? Me either. But there are some good take aways for EVERYONE, even if you aren’t intermittent fasting.

-Stop eating ALL the time. Allow insulin levels drop and you can burn some fat.

-“Hunger” in and of itself isn’t a horrible thing. Letting it get out of control so you eat out of control can be bad, but a little bit of hunger between meals is ok.

-Don’t eat late at night. This is likely to be just junk foods and shortens the periods of low insulin levels at night.

-Find what works for you. Fasters need to find the 8 hours that work best for them. Find what “schedule” of eating works best for you, be it 1, 2, or 3 meals a day. There is not a generic diet that will be perfect for everyone. You have to make it work for you!

Hope that helps!

Send questions to kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com.

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Aspartame

Everyone has an opinion on what you should or should not eat when you are pregnant, it seems.  Recently, a man at the grocery store told me I should not buy a certain light yogurt since “it contains aspartame which is toxic for the baby, you know”.  I tried to pleasantly smile and show him where it says on the front of the package that the yogurt contains no aspartame.  This made me stop and think more about aspartame.

Aspartame is a very common artificial sweetener.  Commercially, it is known as Nutrasweet and Equal.  It can be found in some sugar free products as well.  It is not found in products that have been heated to a high temperature however, since it is not very heat stable.

Aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than regular sugar.  It is made by combining two amino acids – aspartic acid and phenylalanine.  When we eat aspartame, it is broken down to these two amino acids and methanol.  The amino acids are clearly safe to have in our bodies, unless you have a special medical condition.  Methanol can be toxic in high amounts, but the amount generated in the breakdown in the regular consumption of aspartame is less than the amount of methanol created by digesting some natural foods.

Research to this point has not shown any adverse health effects from consuming aspartame, although it has been accused of causing cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, ADD, and many other issues.  While research is ongoing, it is considered safe to consume in moderation.

The FDA has a set a recommended upper limit for consuming aspartame at 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.  Few people would ever consume that much.  For example, a 200 lb person could consumer over 4500 mg of aspartame in a day.  That would be 23 cans of diet soda or 129 packets of tabletop sweetener.  Hopefully, you can see there are health consequences of consuming those amounts of these products beyond any concerns about aspartame.

What is my opinion?  I don’t like putting a lot of fake ingredients into my body, for sure.  However, I also know there are detrimental effects of consuming excessive sugar – such as excessive weight gain which can lead to diabetes and a multitude of other health problems.  I drink diet soda, on the rare occasions I drink soda.  I also see the benefit of sugar free products for those with diabetes.  As always, I think moderation is key.

Happy eating!

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Small changes can help you have a better life

I just read about two different studies that provide even more evidence that even small changes can have big impacts on your health.

In the first study, researchers found that substituting on serving each day of water, unsweetened tea or unsweetened coffee for a sugar sweetened beverage (such as soft drinks, sweetened tea/coffee, fruit drinks, etc) decreased overall risk of type 2 diabetes, regardless of obesity. That means, even if you don’t lose weight, swapping your Coca-Cola for a glass of water can help prevent diabetes later on. Seems a good swap to me.

The second study looked at the effects of replacing sedentary time with light physical activity. Replacing two minutes per hour of sedentary time with light physical activity, such as walking, lowered the risk of dying. Think about it. If you got up from your desk every hour for just a couple minutes and went for a walk, you would improve your health. Seems fairly simple, doesn’t it?

Obviously, no single study is conclusive. But this adds to the mountain of evidence available that even small changes can improve your health, even if it doesn’t change your weight or appearance.

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