A day without halvah is like a day without sunshine

UnknownHalvah, Tahini-based sweet

Yesterday I had a friend over for lunch. A friend who grew up in Mississippi, lives in Texas, and with whom I’m touring for a week in late April her home state. I thought since she will shortly introduce me to hush puppies, cheese grits, biscuits n’ gravy and chicken fried steak, oh, my god… (And yes, we are both diabetic and will have to test, test, test and walk a lot), I thought I’d introduce her to one of my favorite sweets that I was sure she’d never come across–halvah. Have you?

Like the 1979 advertising campaign,You Don’t Have To Be Jewish To Love Levy’s Jewish Rye” you don’t have to be Jewish to love halvah, but if you’re not, nor of middle-eastern descent, you may never have tasted it. 

Halvah is a sweet that has a texture as described by my Mississippi friend, this way, “Boy, that just melts in your mouth!” It comes in vanilla, chocolate, plain and/or with nuts. My personal preference is marble with nuts. The common ingredients are: tahini (sesame seed paste), sugar or honey, water and sesame oil. 

The Shocking Nutrition Facts:

1 bar (8 oz)

Total Fat: 66 g

Saturated Fat: 11g (the “unhealthy” fat)

Polyunsaturated Fat: 30 

Monounsaturated Fat: 21 g

Total Carbohydrate: 128 g

Dietary Fiber: 10 g

Protein: 23 g

Mind you to eat one bar for me would be unconscionable. You can also find low fat, low sugar halvah in some specialty stores, but it’s not easy to find and frankly, it doesn’t taste half as good. I say eat the real thing in small portions. I buy it at a middle eastern shop where it’s sold in chunks off a huge mound, think of a big wheel of cheese. My eating directions: Cut a small sliver (very thin slice, likely half an ounce), pop into mouth and savor. Cut one more sliver and repeat. Wrap halvah and put back into the refrigerator before you eat the whole thing.

When my friend’s step-daughter came to pick her up, she knew what halvah was and went right for it. So of course I packed it up for them to take with them on their trip home. But, I just happen to have bought another package yesterday. 

Test your food knowledge!

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 1.29.29 PMStill more to learn about healthy food choices

Working at home, I try not to miss Oprah when Dr. Oz makes an appearance, usually it’s a Tuesday and usually I’m procrastinating. Last week Dr. Oz and David Zinczenko, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine were helping overweight teens better understand calories, fat, how much one needs to eat, serving size, etc. Safe to say, it was a good lesson for us grown-ups too. 

Mid-way thru the program the doctors gave Oprah and the audience a quiz comparing two foods/meals, many of which are in Zinczenko’s new book,Eat This Not That For Kids. Which of the two meals/foods below they asked are healthier based on calorie, fat and sugar content. Guess what? Most of the audience, including moi, failed miserably. 

1. Turkey bacon or regular bacon? Answer: Regular bacon. Both turkey bacon and regular have the same amount of calories and fat, but turkey bacon has a ton more sodium. Why? To make it taste like regular bacon!

2. A multi-grain bagel with low fat cream cheese or a glazed donut? Answer: Glazed donut. The multi-grain bagel and cream cheese have 500 calories compared to the donut’s 180 calories. And don’t be fooled — the multi-grain bagel is refined carbohydrate. Just because it’s got a variety of grains doesn’t mean they’re whole grains, and when it comes to bagels, they’re not.

3. Bacon and eggs or French Toast sticks? Answer: Bacon and eggs. It’s got 250 calories compared to the toast sticks 400 calories! 

Enough to say, even when you think you’re pretty smart about eating healthy, you can still be fooled. Zinczenko’s book has many more of these shocking food comparisons and I think it’s just as apt we adults learn this as kids. 

One of the few questions I actually answered correctly is don’t skip breakfast! Most people who do consume 450 more calories/day.

Grappling with food on the road and a sunny Christmas in Sydney

opera house

I can’t complain about a vacation that’s taking me from Queenstown, New Zealand, to Sydney, where we are now, to Singapore, Tokyo and San Francisco before I arrive home. Yet one thing that’s tough, beside the jet lag and time zone changes and more frequent blood sugar testing, is eating almost all your meals at restaurants where you can’t control your food, let alone half the time knowing what it is–well that will come in Singapore. 

Then real life comes flying in to the idyllic lull. Just today a friend back home sent me this article from theNew York Times about how low GI foods (non-starchy, non-sweet foods that raise blood sugar less and more slowly) are better for diabetics than the highly touted whole grain diet. In other words, your blood sugar will rise less and more gradually if you trade in your whole grain bread for nuts, beans and certain high-fiber crackers. 

I’ve known this for quite some time having tested my blood sugar about a zillion times to see my reaction to different foods. So, for me, every day (when I’m not traveling around the world) begins with slow-cooking steel cut oatmeal, to which I add ground flax seeds, cinnamon, low fat yogurt and peanut butter. If I eat bread or ordinary cereal my blood sugar goes off the charts. 

Luckily here in Sydney we’re staying with friends so I’ve stocked the larder with my healthy foods and gotten the expected grimace when I offer to share my yogurt and peanut butter combo. I still don’t know why Danon hasn’t produced such a flavor but no one seems to share my enthusiasm for it. So yesterday my day began with my usual oatmeal and then I had a salad with toasted almonds some raw broccoli, a few slices of ham and a spoonful of hummous for lunch and most nights here it’s fish and greens, since my friends are healthy eaters too, and there’s nothing Bruce can’t sear on the Barbie and make delicious. Of course, Singapore and Tokyo will prove to be problematic again because most dishes are rice-based. And so I will need to stick to grilled meats, miso soup and sashimi. God knows when I first lived in Tokyo 20 years ago the rice was always my menace.

But, back to Sydney. Soon we’re off to the ferry for a 15 minute ride over to the city to buy some Christmas gifts. Still having a little trouble reconciling Christmas carols with bright sunshine and 80 F temps. Guess I’ll just have to force myself to get used to it. 

 

Test your carbohydrate knowledge

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Since it’s Columbus Day and Columbus was in search of spices (or so I think I remember) it seems fitting to have a little food quiz today. 

Whether you use the Exchange System or Carbohydrate Counting to measure your meds against your carb intake, here’s a little quiz by virtue of Accu Check and their cute, bite-size refrigerator magnets to see if you know your carbs.

Before you look at the answers posted on the graphics to the right (and if you already did come back tomorrow and try this again. If you’re my age you won’t remember what you just saw), ask yourself how many exchanges or carbs you think are in the foods below:

1. 1 small apple

2. 1 large baked potato

3. 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, same as 1 cup raw

4. 1 cheeseburger with bun

5. 1 cup of French Fries

Since I still have 15 more magnets, I imagine we may go through this exercise again in the near future with different foods.

By the way, I got these magnets at the American Association of Diabetes Educators conference this summer, so I can’t tell you whether they’re available anywhere. But I imagine if you’d like a set, it couldn’t hurt to contact Accu-Chek and find out.

4 sides of my diabetes teepee

I walked out of my weekly grocery shop the other day looking at my cash receipt and it struck me: this is why at 55 years old (yes, you know that now) and 36 years living with diabetes, I’m in the shape I am. This list is how I eat, and it’s one of the sides that forms my diabetes Teepee: half my diet is vegetables, then whole grains, fruits, fish, low-fat dairy, nuts, dark chocolate and red wine. Yes, there’s a cup or two of coffee a day and the odd treats, but my basic diet never wavers and hasn’t for nearly the last decade. And, I’ve learned to love it. There is no sense of sacrifice here.

My daily hour walk constitutes the second side upon which my diabetes house leans and the third is being responsible with my medication: testing, calculating and correcting. At times a pain in the royal butt, ’tis true, but I prefer to know where I am most of the time to keep myself on course. 

The fourth side of my teepee is more like a small deck–and that’s managing my mind. When it all gets too much, when I can’t bear the little red dots all over my abdomen, when I resent I have them because I’ve taken so many injections for so many years, when I’m merely walking to meet a friend or from the subway and I’m going low–before my thoughts scramble completely–I think, “Why do I have to live like this???” And then I just accept that I do, and that I can handle this.

I can’t say it’s ever fun, I can’t say there aren’t times I don’t throw a pity-party (usually I’m the only guest) because I work like a dog maintaining my health on top of the work the rest of my life takes. But I can say at 55 almost everyone I know has something: cancer, parkinsons, obesity, aphasia, and I wouldn’t trade “mine” for “theirs.” Over the years, diabetes has helped me become even healthier than I would have been without it–and not many people with an illness can say that. Look, it’s written all over my grocery receipt.

Want to lose weight and get healthy? Nutrient-dense foods.

Are you ready to Eat to Live?

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.28.58 PM

Maybe he’s just another hawker wanting to sell books or sit next to Oprah, or maybe he’s got it right. Joel Furhman is a doctor and up and coming weight loss healthy eating guru. I’m now reading one of his earlier books, Eat to Live, from 2003 and here’s his proposition in a nutshell: Make the overwhelming bulk of your diet nutrient-dense foods and you’ll avoid disease, particularly heart disease and cancer, your diabetes’ symptoms may go away if you’re type 2, your blood pressure and cholesterol will lower and you’ll lose weight and maintain a “normal” body weight. Furhman says most of our weight, ills and diseases come from our (profit-making-big-business) unhealthy American diet which is high in fat, refined carbohydrates and calories and low in nutrient-dense foods, leaving us hungry, unsatisfied, fat and unhealthy.

Further, our most recent mania to control portions is like putting a band-aid on a levy that’s bursting; limiting our portions of non-nutritive food may cut some calories but it still leaves us nutritionally deficient with over stimulated appetites. He says if you have type 2 diabetes you can eradicate insulin resistance using his eating plan, if you have type 1 you can dramatically lower your insulin requirement. And I believe him. It seems common sense to me that the over-processed, packaged, chemically-formulated and steroid-pumped, refined junk we eat causes weight gain and disease.

Furhman just hates the food pyramid the U.S. Department of Agriculture rolls out each year and proposes one of his own. Drum roll please: our personal food pyramid’s bottom, the foundation of our diet, should be built on vegetables and leafy greens, then fruit, beans and legumes, whole grains, with the top of the house giving us a trickle of non-fat diary, animal protein and healthy fats derived from foods like nuts and avocado. If you think you’ve heard this a million times, his USP (unique selling proposition) is he rates foods according to their nutrient density. Something by the way is going to soon make an appearance in supermarkets. But what I found compelling was Furhman’s forceful argument, continue to eat unhealthy foods and your sickening yourself every day, want to truly “fortify” yourself against disease? Do it with food, not drugs. Highlights from his book:

1. Olive oil is not the miracle drug we all thought, 97% of its fat will go straight to your hips so use it limitedly.

2. Leafy greens like salad greens and green vegetables are 1/2 protein, 1/4 carbs and 1/4 fat. Who knew? You don’t need to eat a side of beef to get enough protein if you’re eating lots of veggies.

3. If you’re eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies you’re getting enough water. 8 glasses a day, fugedabout it, 3 is plenty!

4. Furhman agrees, don’t be fooled be foods that say “fortefied.” A spray of folic acid won’t do it.

5. Animal protein whether white, as in chicken or red, as in beef is equally disease causing. Fish is better but even fish should only be eaten 2xweek and mercury-free.

6. Don’t worry about getting the right mix of veggies and beans etc. on your plate to get your protein covered, eat this healthy way and you will.

Mind you, always, any significant change in your eating plan may create a change in your blood sugars, which means a change in your medication–and I guarantee you if you follow this plan you will definitely need less medicine, whether you’re on orals or insulin. So, be alert and discuss this with your health care provider. If you have a condition like kidney disease you may not be able to eat enough veggies, fruits, nuts and legumes for this to work for you, so please don’t undertake this without consulting with a professional. Also if you have vitamin or mineral deficiencies talk with a professional before making any dietary changes.

You might call this a super-charged slightly left of center vegetarian eating plan, but many vegetarians rely on refined carbs and saturated fats like pasta, crackers, pretzels and cheese, which are not nutrient-dense, whereas this plan is mostly vegetables, fruits and beans. Whole grains, healthy fats and animal protein are parceled out according to your weight loss goals.

Of course, restaurants and social outings are harder to maneuver than home cooking, so he proposes using outings as a time when you indulge a little. If you’re living in this century, time is the other nasty. Who has much time to shop and prepare vegetarian meals? Furhman offers recipes, but darn, somebody’s got to make them. I mostly do the simplest thing: steam an assortment of fresh veggies every night for dinner, lunch is a spinach salad with beans, left over veggies from the night before and a little feta cheese. Breakfast is steel cut oats.

If you want to really get healthier and drop some pounds read the book, try the diet and see what you think. Wouldn’t it be remarkable to shed those 20 pounds forever, really feel full and satisfied, and watch your health transform, including your energy and outlook?

End note: I will be away this week at the American Association of Diabetes Educators annual conference in Washington D.C. I am not an educator or any other type of medical professional, merely a lay person interested in knowing what educators are learning, talking about, being taught, where their struggles are with patients, what they see for the future and will let you know.

Would you change what you eat if you considered food medicine?

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Want to get healthier? Eat better? Feel fitter? Have your “numbers” more in line with where they should be? Try this: look at what you eat as medicine, each morsel providing the nutrients that either increase your health or decrease it, because actually it does.

I’m not advocating that you can’t eat a plate of French fries or a bowl of ice cream, but I am suggesting that if you approached what you eat differently, that everything you eat is either making you healthier or having the opposite effect, would you make healthier food choices?  While vitamin and mineral supplements are useful, particularly for certain conditions, they are not quick fixes or substitutes for a healthy diet. In fact they’ve been shown to be less healthful than eating the real food that contains them because supplements contain only one trace element extracted from a whole host of nutrients that work together in the foods where they naturally exist.

Also, I have to say the notion of “fortifying” foods is somewhat misleading. It leads us to believe those foods become super healthy, but you can’t spray a nutrient on basically white bread (with a little caramel coloring or tablespoon of whole wheat flour and call it whole wheat bread) and then tell people it’s uber healthy. I firmly believe, in case you haven’t gotten it yet, that what we eat, along with physical activity and our genetics forms the building blocks of our health.

I got to wondering whether it would inspire us to eat healthier if we considered food medicine the other day when I got my annual report from my endo: A1C, cholesterol, triglycerides, microalbumin, blood pressure.

I sat across the desk from my doc shrouded in worry, I always find these things worrisome, and then found out that I’m fit as a fiddle. My A1c is in the 5’s, my HDL (good cholesterol) is as high as my LDL (bad cholesterol), my microalbumin which is supposed to be under 30 is 0.3 and on and on, one great result after another. My doctor, in fact, needing to fax my A1c report to the group I do the A1c Champion presentations for wrote on his report patient in “excellent control.”

Seeing “excellent control” I had a flash of insight why I’m in excellent control–my numbers are by and large the direct result of what I put in my body, and what I don’t, and that I walk an hour a day. I translated “excellent control” not merely into blood sugar as he meant it, but something bigger: my overarching diet and exercise routine.

Everyone with diabetes keeps hearing the mantra, “diet and exercise” and I really got it in that moment, yep, it makes all the difference. But diet doesn’t mean low calories, or the debate between low carbs and low fats: it means healthful, nutrition-rich foods, which are basically vegetables, grains, fruits, beans, and a bit of the rest, largely unrefined foods and where fats are concerned the healthy ones.

I’m not discounting the role genetics plays, you may be more prone to one thing or another based on your genes. I’m on synthroid for my underperforming thyroid, my thyroid failed me at exactly the same age it happened to my mother.

And, while my HDL is 105 and my LDL is 106, some would say my LDL should be lower, like 70 often quoted as the target for diabetics. I in fact think it should be lower as a result of my diet, but I know it’s 106 because of genetics, both my parents have high cholesterol. But genes are often triggered by our poor diets.

I’m also not saying in considering your diet as medicine that there’s no room for fried calamari, bread sticks or a piece of incredibly delicious New York cheesecake, but consider that a day you skip your meds and know that the bulk of what you put in your body on a daily basis forms the health of your bones, your blood, your tissue, the foundation that you rest upon, and if you put in whole and wholesome foods, you know the ones that grow out of the ground and on trees, your house is going to stand on a stellar foundation.  Whereas when we stuff ourselves with less healthy foods, lots of sugar and fat, refined carbs and animal protein, rather than plant protein, we cause inflammation of our body’s tissues, the stimulus for disease and premature aging.

Too many people are eating weak, not nutrient dense, foods and believing that “fortified” on a product label is the seal of approval. The real reason portion control has become so big is we’re eating the wrong things and rather than pushing the right foods, some self invested organizations are trying to solve the problem by limiting the amount of bad things you eat. In the end, this is not the solution.

If there’s room for you to do better with your “numbers” those target ranges for all your vitals, instead of thinking about another medication to add to your regimen, think about what you eat.

I’m not giving any medical advice, or telling you not to take your medication, I’m just saying in addition try viewing the foods and beverages you put in your body, your engine, as either premium, super, leaded or leaded and to for the ones that will give you the most mileage so you’re running like a fine tuned lamborghini. Leafy greens, broccoli, kale, salmon, walnuts, spinach, blueberries, ginger, tumeric, these are not “fortified” foods, these are whole, real foods, and among the most healthful, and I like to think medicinal foods you can feed yourself.

Ask yourself: Would I make healthier food choices if I viewed everything I put in my mouth—well almost everything—as having a high or low rating of medicinal effect? I would, I do, and I can’t go back, not when I’ve seen the results of an ironically fabulously tasty and satisfying “medicinal” diet.

Why insulin can contribute to making you fat

UnknownA good rag for news & reflection

I write a monthly column for DiabetesHealth Magazine. It’s my personal opinions and experiences about living with diabetes. Of course Scott King, the publisher, likes to say it’s my, “rants and raves.” My articles also appear on their regular web site blasts. 

Yesterday their web blast featured an extremely understandable and easy reading article about the carb/fat debate, The “Fat-Free Fallacy:” Is It Obesity’s Great Enabler? 

I could condense the article here, but it’s better you read the whole thing. Don’t let the length of the article scare you, it reads fast. 

I will give you, however, my 3-bullet take away: 1) Glucose not used by the body is turned into fat by insulin, so unused carbs make you fatter than fat 2) Never skip your insulin, instead lower your carb intake. And, since you have to have three things in a list 3) The food pyramid will likely make you fatter since carbs form its foundation. 

You can take all this with a grain of salt, but I’d say pay more attention to the results you’re getting from your diet and then draw your own conclusions.

ADA’s new nutrition guidelines

I read this article about two weeks ago in the online newsletter, that I receive weekly, DiabetesInControl. It’s about the ADA’s new guidelines for nutrition. I’ve reprinted it in its entirety for those of you who want to know the entire text. DiabetesInControl is a free newsletter, you can subscribe here, written largely for diabetes medical professionals containing mostly studies and first findings, but has some interesting news for the layman regarding where research is going and what organizations are doing. What I also enjoy is Dr. Richard Bernstein’s monthly live 60 minute tele-conference where he answers patient’s questions.

What I found particularly interesting about the ADA’s new guidelines is they’re beginning to get on the bandwagon with almost everyone else noting that carbohydrates are the food group that need to be controlled regarding raised blood sugar, and they even come pretty close to admitting that they aren’t counseling people to follow stricter guidelines because people probably can’t do it. You’ll get to that part when below John P. Bantle and his ADA colleagues say, “and changes individuals with diabetes are willing and able to make.” 

Of course I think if your blood sugar or triglycerides or cholesterol isn’t where it should be, and you are not one of the people whom the ADA lumps into the above group, then you should probably apply stricter guidelines to yourself than you’ll read here. What I do find encouraging, on the other hand, is their statement that, “nutrition counseling should be tailored to the personal needs of the individual.” Here, I feel they’re looking at the whole person, their particular medical record, support systems and environment. 

Article: The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has updated its guidelines regarding medical nutrition therapy (MNT), including the use of low-carbohydrate diets to prevent diabetes, manage existing diabetes, and prevent or slow the rate of development of diabetes complications. The revised position statement, which is published in the January issue of Diabetes Care, updates those from 2002 and 2004, presenting evidence-based data published since 2000 and grading of recommendations according to the level of evidence available, based on the ADA evidence-grading system.

John P. Bantle, and colleagues from the ADA write,  “The goal of these recommendations is to make people with diabetes and health care providers aware of beneficial nutrition interventions.”  “This requires the use of the best available scientific evidence while taking into account treatment goals, strategies to attain such goals, and changes individuals with diabetes are willing and able to make. Achieving nutrition-related goals requires a coordinated team effort that includes the person with diabetes and involves him or her in the decision-making process.”

In addition to listing major nutritional recommendations and interventions for diabetes, the updated position statement stresses the importance of monitoring metabolic parameters, including glucose and glycated hemoglobin levels, lipids, blood pressure, body weight, and renal function, during therapy. Such monitoring will help evaluate the need for changes in MNT and thereby optimize outcomes. The authors note that many aspects of MNT require additional research.

Some of the specific recommendations include the following:

Individuals with prediabetes or diabetes should receive individualized MNT, preferably administered by a registered dietitian knowledgeable about the components of diabetes MNT (B).

Nutrition counseling should be tailored to the personal needs of the individual with prediabetes or diabetes and his or her willingness and ability to make changes (E).

Modest weight loss in overweight and obese insulin-resistant individuals has been shown to improve insulin resistance and is therefore recommended for all such individuals who have or are at risk for diabetes (A).

In the short-term (up to 1 year), either low-carbohydrate or low-fat, energy-restricted diets may be effective for weight loss (A).

Patients receiving low-carbohydrate diets should undergo monitoring of lipid profiles, renal function, and protein intake (in patients with nephropathy), and have adjustment of hypoglycemic therapy as needed (E).

Physical activity and behavior modification aid in weight loss and are most helpful in maintaining weight loss (B).

When combined with lifestyle modification, weight loss medications may help achieve a 5% to 10% weight loss and may be considered for overweight and obese individuals with type 2 diabetes (B).

For some patients with type 2 diabetes and a body mass index of 35 kg/m2 or more, bariatric surgery can markedly improve glycemia (B).

Primary prevention for individuals at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes should include structured programs targeting lifestyle changes, with dietary strategies of decreasing energy and dietary fat intakes. Goals should include moderate weight loss (7% body weight), regular physical activity (150 minutes/week) (A), dietary fiber intake of 14 g/1000 kcal, and whole grains comprising half of total grain intake (B).

Intake of low-glycemic index foods that are rich in fiber and other vital nutrients should be encouraged (E), both for the general population and for those with diabetes.

Data do not support recommending alcohol consumption to individuals at risk for diabetes (B).

Secondary prevention, or controlling diabetes, should include a healthy dietary pattern emphasizing carbohydrate from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat milk (B).

A key strategy for achieving glycemic control is to monitor carbohydrate by counting, exchanges, or experienced-based estimation (A). Use of glycemic index and load may be modestly beneficial vs considering only total carbohydrate (B).

Sucrose-containing foods should be limited but can be substituted for other carbohydrates or covered with insulin or other glucose-lowering medications (A). Glucose alcohols and nonnutritive sweeteners are safe within daily US Food and Drug Administration intake levels (A).

Saturated fat should be limited to less than 7% of total energy (A), and trans fat should be minimized (E). In individuals with diabetes, dietary cholesterol should not exceed 200 mg/day (E).

At least 2 servings of fish per week (except for commercially fried fish) are recommended for n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (B).

Protein should not be used to treat acute or prevent nighttime hypoglycemia (A). High-protein diets are not recommended for weight loss (E).

If adults with diabetes choose to use alcohol, intake should be restricted to 1 drink per day or less for women and 2 drinks per day or less for men (E) and consumed with food (E).

Practice Pearls

Previous research has suggested that MNT can reduce glycated hemoglobin levels by approximately 1% for patients with type 1 diabetes and 1% to 2% for patients with type 2 diabetes.

The current guidelines do not recommend low-glycemic index or high-protein diets for the routine treatment of patients with diabetes. Moreover, most patients with diabetes should not routinely receive supplements or vitamins.

The ADA has issued practice guidelines for screening, diagnostic, and treatment interventions that are known or believed to improve health outcomes of patients with diabetes. Each recommendation is graded by the ADA as A, B, C, or E to indicate the level of supporting evidence.

Diabetes Care. 2008;31(Suppl 1):S61-S78.

The continued carb debate

It’s really amazing what a muddle we are in over food these days. It’s on our morning new programs every day, nutritionists telling us, “How to eat, what to eat, what not to eat, what children should eat, how to make pancakes that look and taste like brownies…” Weekly doctors, gurus and alternative healers discourse on Larry King Live about diets, non-diets, trans-fats and why Americans are increasingly obese.

In my last entry I wrote about how my low carb diet has helped control my blood sugars and reduce my insulin requirement. I wondered aloud why everyone doesn’t see the logic in less carbs in = less meds in. But, I must admit, having recently picked up a book that takes this to the extreme — The PH Miracle for Diabetes, The revolutionary diet plan for type 1 and type 2 diabeticsby Robert O. Young — that everything is relative. 

Young says diabetes, largely type 2 but I believe he’s including us type 1s, is caused by our body’s overly acidic PH level (the acidity or alkalinity of our internal fluids). Our over acidity, if I understand him correctly, comes from eating carbs. Carb intake causes the body to flood itself with the ‘fight or flight’ hormones: cortisol, adrenaline and insulin, which cause inflammation. Inflammation, which causes corrosion of our body tissues, prompts a too acidic PH level. Sorry, as you might have guessed, chemistry and physics were not my strong suits. Young says we need to make our PH level less acidic and more alkaline, and the way to do this is through a diet largely of vegetables.

Dr. Andrew Weil, alternative medical guru, says many of today’s diseases and health ailments are caused by inflammation and he advocates ananti-inflammatory diet. Even Gary Taubes author of, Good Calories, Bad Calories, says our over consumption of carbs, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup type additives, trigger a genetic predisposition to haywire our hormonal system and cause unsuspecting citizens to put on weight. Taubes says, it is not our over consumption of calories that is making us fat, but this haywire handling of refined carbs and these other ills in our diet. Seems no one can agree on what makes us fat but these three pundits are speaking a similar language about illness.

So, what to do? Several years ago I vacuumed the refined carbs out of my diet. Admittedly, I felt pretty virtuous doing this. But now Young says I should get rid of: coffee, tea, chocolate, alcohol, grains, dairy and exist almost exclusively on vegetables, fish and what he calls his “green drink” — juiced vegetables with some magic powder in it. Hmmm…I suppose if I was forced to do this, I could, but it really doesn’t sound like a happy life. And, given that he says a positive attitude is an important aspect of his eating plan, I’d fail miserably. Tears shedding all over my clothes and furnishings.

Many times people tell me they’d like better blood sugar control. Yet when I mention reducing their carbs they say, “Hey, I’m human, I want to enjoy what I eat.” Well, for me cutting way back on carbs was not a major hardship and I like the return benefit. I’d already cultivated years of cozying up to veggies and cutting back on butter, muffins, fries and white bread. Then, when I restricted my carbs a little more, like not eating grains too often and eating one piece of whole grain toast with my omelet instead of two, it gave me the kind of control that makes it worth it to me.

But, truly, Dr. Young, I must be weak — I just couldn’t go the distance as you propose. Giving up yogurt, cottage cheese, dark chocolate, wine, manchego and gruyere cheese, the occasional fried dish and friend’s birthday cake would be downright unsocial, not to mention aggravating. So it really is up to each of us where we feel the trade-off is worth the return.

There are plenty of case studies in Young’s book where people proclaim following his diet changed their lives, even to the degree that they don’t need any diabetes medication anymore, including insulin. I imagine that’s type 2s talking. While I understand if I didn’t eat anything that raised my blood sugar, I could probably cut out my bolus insulin entirely, my basal insulin is not optional. We still need insulin for various bodily functions. So if this regimen and its possible benefits appeal to you, check it out. I’m not playing advocate here, just reporting the news.