Harvard and Nurses Study on fats and carbohydrates

Harvard and Nurses Study on fats and carbohydrates


I read a lot of stuff about diabetes, and everything related. And I have a particular interest in food as it relates to diabetes, health and weight. Don’t we all?

“Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good”, an article from Harvard School of Public Health, is one of the best articles I’ve read in a while on the topic – it’s easy to read – and it expresses what I think to a tee. 

Primarily, that America got fatter when we took fat out of foods and put sugar in. That we have become obese, not due as much to eating fat, as eating refined carbohydrates. And yes, bad fats like Trans fats found in most fried and baked goods, are bad for you, but good fats like avocados, nuts and olive oil are healthy and your body needs them to function properly.

This is relevant whether you have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, want to lose weight or frankly, in my book, are just walking around on the planet.

Here are a few major tale-away messages from the article:

• Bad fats, meaning trans and saturated fats, increase the risk for certain diseases. Good fats, meaning monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, do just the opposite. They are good for the heart and most other parts of the body.

• When people cut back on fat, they often switch to foods full of easily digested carbohydrates—white bread, white rice, potatoes, sugary drinks, and the like—or to fat-free products that replace healthful fats with sugar and refined carbohydrates. The body digests these carbohydrates very quickly, causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike. Over time, eating lots of “fast carbs” can raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes as much as—or more than—eating too much saturated fat. 

• It’s important to replace foods high in bad fats with foods high in good fats—not with refined carbohydrates.

It’s worth reading the entire article and if need be making some adjustments in your diet and see if they don’t benefit you.


Chia seed deliciousness, the power of Omega 3s

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 1.45.30 PM

I don’t usually post recipes – scratch that,  I never post recipes, but this one is so simple, so few calories, fat and carbs and such a great way to get your chia seeds! 

Huh? Okay, if you don’t know, chia seeds are an incredible source of omega 3 fatty acids. They provide health benefits on par with fish and fish oil and contain fiber, protein, antioxidants and minerals. They’re the new broccoli!

The trouble with these little seeds is they have no taste and a funny texture. When put them in any liquid, they ooze a gelatinous texture. It’s not really pleasant or unpleasant – just weird. But, with this recipe, you’ll love them.

OK, here goes:

Chill a can of coconut milk overnight – I use Trader Joe’s light coconut milk.

Blend in 4 tablespoons of chia seeds. I get my chia seeds in the health food store, any brand. For the blending I use a whisk which seems to work well to mix in all the ingredients.

Add 4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and whisk. To be honest, I only use two which I find chocolatey enough.

Add half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and two packets of artificial sweetener or Stevia.

Whisk all the ingredients and put in the fridge. Overnight it will turn into a miraculous kind of pudding. Kind of like the texture of rice pudding. Fruit on top is optional.

You can calculate the carbs and calories, but it’s not a lot, and it’s an absolutely delicious way to get the benefit of these powerhouse anti-oxidants. It seems we benefit from two tablespoons of chia seeds a day so I eat a few spoonfuls of this pudding each day.

Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy these little seeds.

Eat more micronutrients, get healthy and lose weight

Try to catch this program if you can on your PBS station: 3 STEPS TO INCREDIBLE HEALTH! with Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Dr. Fuhrman’s proposition is the American diet is tremendously devoid of micronutrients the body needs to stay strong and healthy. As a result we are largely in a constant state of “toxic hunger”, always looking to eat more to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling it creates. Fuhrman says 65% of most Americans’ diet is comprised of micronutrient-devoid foods – processed and refined foods.

He proposes the answer for losing weight and having a healthy life is to eat more micronutrient dense foods. He uses the acronym GOMBS for a guide:

G – Green Vegetables

O – Onions

M – Mushrooms

B – Berries and beans

S – Seeds and Nuts

If you’re following the many who have been saying this the past few years, this is not news, but Fuhrman explains why this is the case in an easy to understand scientific way based on his medical training.

I never heard of Dr. Fuhrman when I started eating this way several years ago, but I can attest to the fact that it did cause me to lose weight and I have kept it off without diet or struggle or hunger and I do believe with all my being that “Food is Medicine.”


The Food Pyramid turns into “My Plate”

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 4.02.39 PMMy Plate for healthy meals

Last week Michelle Obama and the US Agriculture Department replaced the 20 year old food pyramid with a simple icon, “My Plate.” 

My Plate is now the quintessential guide for healthy eating: a plate divided into quarters of slightly varying sizes representing how to create a healthy meal. It contains a larger quarter for vegetables, slightly smaller for grains, and slightly smaller for both fruits and protein. The hope is that it will help eaters avoid oversized portions and eat more nutritious meals.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said after almost 20 years of preaching nutrition through a food pyramid that USDA officials now say was overly complex, obesity rates have skyrocketed. The new symbol is simple and gives diners an idea of what should be on their plates when they sit down at the dinner table.

In fact, it appears only one quarter of people who recognize the food pyramid ever used it. Further surveys show people are confused about what they should eat and most have no concept of portion sizes or balancing calories for weight control.

I heard about the “Plate Method” when Maudene Nelson, registered dietitian and diabetes educator at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, reviewed a myth for my book, “50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life and the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It”. In myth number 26, “There is one specific diabetic diet I should follow” Nelson called “the plate method” for creating healthful meals magic. It’s in the Tips Box on page 142. She gave a little more specific instruction:

Fill half your plate with any variety of colorful veggies low in carbohydrates, such as asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, carrots, or cauliflower. Fill one-quarter of your plate with carbohydrate-dense foods such as potatoes, rice, beans, corn, or legumes, and fill the remaining quarter with lean protein such as chicken, fish, lamb, pork, or beef. Meals made with the Plate Method naturally contain a moderate amount of carbohydrates, little fat and cholesterol, and a good amount of fiber.

Funny thing is with the exception of fruit on my plate, I use fruit for snacks, this is how I typically eat. Dinner is chicken or fish, beans and a green veggie. 

Seems Mr. Vilsack should have come to me years ago! 

“Eat less!” says the government


It makes you wonder why it’s taken the government so long to say the obvious to a nation of people two-thirds of whom are obese, “Eat less!” Finally they’ve said it in their latest nutrition guidelines that came out on Monday.

Along with those blunt words come equally blunt words naming names – drink “water” instead of “soda.” Oh, my.

Of course I wonder what finally got the government to get with the program given the entrenched powerful food lobbyists in Washington who cannot be pleased. Not when the government says eat more nutritionally dense foods.

As for general dietary recommendations regarding what to eat, those haven’t changed: eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and less salt and saturated fat. 

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest remarks how much more valuable these guidelines are than the “big vague messages” of, well, …hmmm…only last year. She cites before these new guidelines just issued that the message was to eat more vegetables which could have meant adding a slice of tomato to your hamburger. Now the recommendation is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Of course I know a lot of diabetes educators and dietitians who’ve been saying that for years. It’s called the “Plate Method” and is an easy way to create a healthy meal.

Many food manufacturers have recently begun reconfiguring their recipes to cut down on added sodium. Will restaurants now cut down on portions? When I eat out, I typically share an appetizer and take half my dinner home. 

As obvious as the government’s recommendation is, equally obvious, at least to me, is it will not be easy to do this unless everything around us supports eating less. For instance, government farm policies need to be overhauled to provide incentives for farmers to plant more fruits and vegetables. Prices for them need to drop and access to them needs to rise. School cafeteria food needs to change, airport kiosks need to have healthier options etcetera, etcetera.

But I’m pleased. After decades of the government, like in the fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, saying what beautiful clothes the naked Emperor is wearing, federal regulators have finally put on their glasses and declared,  “hmmm…you look a little naked there Emperor.” 

You can read more in, “Government’s Dietary Advice: Eat Less,” in the NY Times.


Food Is Medicine appears on HuffPost


chicken on saladI posted another version of my beef with food – that food is medicine – on The Huffington Post. 

It appears as a lead story today.  

A loyal fan already wrote me,

What an inspiring article to read first thing in the morning – thank you for your latest Huffington Post piece on healthy eating.  

Great tips in there – and makes me glad I have a fridge full of fresh produce waiting for me at home for tonight’s episode of Top Chef (a weakness of mine).”

It also occurs to me maybe I should let you know one of my little secrets for health. 

I not only have a medicine cabinet in my bathroom, but I also have one in my kitchen. 

It doesn’t have a mirror on it, although to be frank that would be a great incentive to eat healthy, wouldn’t it?. But it does have these big shiny silvery doors. 

I’m sure having a medicine cabinet in my kitchen is not particular to New York City. You probably have one too.

And just to show you I’m a woman of my word that food is medicine, I’ve put up a picture of what you’ll find in my kitchen medicine cabinet most days. 

Come to think of it there’s probably more medicine in my kitchen medicine cabinet than in my bathroom medicine cabinet. 

I like to think that’s a good thing.

Food is medicine


For the last several months I’ve really shifted my view about food. I see it as medicine. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but I see what I eat as either making me more healthy, or less. I see what I eat as being almost as important to my health as my insulin.  

Now that doesn’t mean I have a perfect diet. But it does mean I’m more motivated to eat foods that are nourishing me — infusing me with healthy anti-oxidants and strengthening my overall body and fitness, rather than degrading it, or setting me up for the side effects of unhealthy eating – heart disease, overweight, guilt and personal frustration with myself. 

So I wanted to share this great article from Men’s Health magazine giving their take on the 40 Best Age-Erasing Superfoods.  

My healthy eating, and by this I mean smaller portions and eating mostly vegetables, fruit, beans and lean protein, automatically maintains my weight. I’m trimmer these last several years than I’ve ever been, and without trying. Healthy eating also gives my psyche a reason to feel pretty good about myself every day instead of guilty and frustrated. But you got that already, didn’t you? 

And so you know I’m not just blowing smoke, it’s reflected in the blood tests I get twice yearly: A1C 5.7%, LDL (lousy) cholesterol 108, some would say a little high, yes, it’s in the family, but my HDL (good) cholesterol is an astronomical 107, triglycerides 50 mg/dl, blood pressure 90/60 and a heart Al Pacino would say is “Strong like bull.” 

If you’re curious what I typically eat here’s my day food-wise:

Breakfast – a bowl of steel cut oats, I cook, to which I add: flax seeds, sunflower seeds and fruit, and then top with a spoonful of non-fat Greek yogurt, non-fat cottage cheese, and a spoonful or peanut or almond butter. I can’t tell you how much I like this – it’s creamy, crunchy, sweet and delicious. I could eat it for every meal. Maybe having a breakfast I love and knowing I get to eat it every morning, helps me stick to my healthy eating throughout the day; I know a reward is coming tomorrow morning.

Lunch – usually left over veggies from last night’s dinner, or a spinach salad, with some feta cheese or a slice of turkey and some beans. I may add avocado or cooked squash depending upon what’s in the house. If I eat lunch out it’s usually a spinach feta omelette with one slice of whole grain toast. No butter. Olive oil, herbs and mustard are my main taste-boosters. Butter, mayonnaise, bottled salad dressing and such I don’t use anymore. 

Dinner – usually fish or chicken grilled, broiled or sauteed with a mix of veggies and beans. Snacks are usually nuts, particularly walnuts (yes, they have fat, healthy fat which you need, just don’t eat too many), veggies, less sugary fruits like berries, melon, peaches and after dinner usually some dark chocolate.

Now you’re thinking I must be a monk, or a martyr, keeping to such an austere meal plan. I know you think that, people have said it to me. But neither is true. It’s just that over the years, particularly after reading Bernstein’s book, Diabetes Solution, I’ve rid most of the refined carbs from my diet knowing how much they made my blood sugar swing from high to low; it was awful. Now I have tons more control. And feel better. And, to be honest, while rapid-acting insulin and pumps give us more spontaneity, routine as in eating similarly day to day, makes my blood sugar more predictable.

I’ve also lost my taste for most sweet and fatty foods. It happens when you begin to eat “real food” again. I’m a big fan of Michael Pollans, Food Rules.  I follow his mantra: Eat food, mostly plants, not too much. 

That said, I’m not a vegetarian and I’m not a zealot. Fried calamari, the occasional slice of cheese or flourless chocolate cake, crusty bread and olive oil, anything friends make for dinner and eating everything in my house – everything – those occasional nights when the world tips out of balance also co-exist with my healthy eating. Oh, yes, so does wine with dinner. Another reward. Thank goodness years ago some French marketing guy said it was healthy.

So, check out this list of 40 Superfoods and try to put more of them in your diet. And, if you’ve tried to eat healthy before only to have given up, perhaps this is the day it will take. Here are a few tips that may help:

1. Decide why being healthy is important to you – only to you – and keep that front and center

2. Fill your house with healthy foods and throw out the junk. If when you’re hungry you can reach for a carrot instead of pretzels, you will.

3. The day you fall off the wagon, is only a day. Start new the next day. What you do in a week counts more than what you do in a day.

4. Your history doesn’t have to be your future. Ever.

5. Honor yourself enough to make healthy eating important, and your mission.

6. Know that in a few weeks, your tastebuds will change. You will lose your taste for synthetic food, sweets, salt and grease.

7. Talk yourself through a weak moment. Tell yourself if you’re dying for that piece of cake at 10 PM, you can wait till morning. 

8. Nothing’s off limits. If you need it, eat a little of it. Parcel it out onto a plate, don’t stand over it in the kitchen. You won’t stop.

9. Go slow or cold turkey. Whatever works for you.

10. Remember, you can do it – millions do. It may take time, but depending upon what you do now, next year you’ll either be exactly where you are now, less healthy or healthier.

The 1st annual “Food for your Whole Life Symposium” shows we know a lot, but aren’t making good use of it


For the public and health professionals, NYC


David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.M., F.A.C.P.


Michael Roizen, M.D. and conceptualizer ofRealAge


Eat your nuts and berries!



The first of hopefully an annual event was held this past June 6 & 7– the“Food for your Whole Life Health Symposium” – spearheaded by Dr. Oz. It was a two-day free event held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City to explore how food and lifestyle choices affect overall health. And, to better arm dietitians to help patients make better food choices.

I happened to miss the first day that was open to the general public and drew 1,000 people, but attended the second day exclusively for health professionals, largely dietitians and some diabetes educators, and media. 

I find it interesting with all the constant information coming at us these days on health and healthy eating that people just aren’t indulging in it. So I asked the same questions of everyone I met while meandering between lectures and standing on the long line into the ladies room: “Why, with all the information out there on healthy eating, are people fatter than ever?” “Why are half the people with type 2 diabetes not managing their diabetes very well?” “What has to change so that people change their behavior?”

I heard the same reply from everyone—there is too much information out there and it has become too confusing. Some of it is contradictory, and none of it is laid out for people to act on easily.

In a private interview I conducted (yes, I’m still getting used to this Huffington Post blogger status) with a key speaker at the symposium, Dr. David Katz – a Yale University researcher and authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease and a leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care – he confirmed these observations. He also pointed to the media’s collusion. With an endless need for “new” news and a ravenous appetite to titillate us, the media barrages us with an endless supply of findings that has left the general public reeling with confusion. The result:  heightened stress and not knowing what to do. The other result: people do nothing. 

Katz has been working along with several others on a nutritional ranking system called “NuVal™” that’s being piloted by Kroger, a chain grocery. Kroger is piloting it in 23 stores in Lexington, KY. It’s anticipated they will roll NuVal out to their additional 2500 stores in 31 states.

NuVal ranks foods from 1 to 100 as a guiding system on nutrition to help consumers make healthier choices among a category of food. For instance, you’ll know the healthiest crackers among all the available crackers in the supermarket.

Right now NuVal is in 600 stores with another 400 stores rolling it out later this year.  Katz believes if people begin to choose the most nutritious foods in most categories, these small shifts can make a significant health difference. Katz also shared with me that his wife, a PhD, returned to their house one day with five loaves of supermarket bread and said basically – You pick the healthiest one!  

Katz also said regarding diabetes that many doctors tell their patients in very vague terms what to do, like “Lose some weight” and “Get some exercise.” These directives fall right off patients’ shoulders as soon as they walk out of their doctor’s door. He also said most doctors think diabetes patients are “non-compliant” because they have no willpower, but Katz made it abundantly clear that it is not a matter of willpower, but the enormous lack of translating all this information into easy-to-understand, actionable steps.

The day I attended the symposium, the speakers elucidated us on the upcoming changing dietary guidelines, likely out in November, and took us through a healthy eating map from childhood through old age. The message, throughout however seemed pretty consistent: eat mostly fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.

Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic with numerous other impressive titles behind his name, and Oz’s writing partner, closed the event outlining Cleveland Clinics’ progressive “Lifestyle 180 Program” that they first test-piloted on employees of the Clinic with remarkable results and a cost-savings to the Clinic well worth the investment.

For patients, the program encompasses a six week immersion program that is geared to change the four factors 75% responsible for chronic illness: smoking, food choices and portion sizes, physical inactivity and stress.

Very briefly, the program includes overhauling one’s cultural climate, largely your kitchen ridding it of toxic foods, having participants experience “I can do it” aha moments, muscle memory of right eating and exercise and a buddy system. One of the bottom line messages was – while our genes are our inheritance, our lifestyle determines whether they get turned on or not.

For those with diabetes who have gone through the program, Roizen said 60% were able to discontinue one or more of their medications for blood sugar, cholesterol or hypertension (high blood pressure) within six months.

Most of the people I met at the event thought it was of value and, for me, it only points to the urgency with which we are all recognizing we must turn this ship around that is so badly headed in the wrong direction.   

The principal sponsor of the event was the California Walnut Commission. Affiliated sponsors numbered 7, including Healthcorps and the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.  

I did manage to sample the delicious wild blueberries which I was told are available in my favorite grocery, Trader Joe, as well as other chain groceries. I also got to grab a few packets of 1 oz servings of walnuts – that’s about 7 whole walnuts. Unfortunately, I also managed to forget the bag I stowed them in, leaving it under my conference table. 

Obviously, I need to eat more berries and walnuts to improve my aging memory!

Eat real food, here’s how you do it

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 9.54.16 PMIn search of real food

From time to time I see a book worth mentioning and my latest little thrill is Michael Pollan’s, “Food Rules.” Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, seems poised to be another Michael Moore, aiming his sword at our food giants’ factory floors and over populated animal pens. 

The American food system, according to Pollan, sets us up for obesity and ill health as 90% of what’s in our supermarkets and is easily accessible, affordable and available isn’t real food but food-like substances. Chemicals mess with our metabolism and overly sweet and salty foods leave us craving more of the same. I happen to agree with him wholeheartedly. 

Pollan says doctors encouraged him to write the book because they don’t have time to give patients the food lecture and what they’d like is a pamphlet they can hand patients with some rules for eating wisely. In Pollan’s article on the Huffington Post, “Food Rules”: A Completely Different Way to Fix the Health Care Crisis,” a cardiologist remarks, “You can’t imagine what I see on the insides of people these days wrecked by eating food products instead of food.” 

After spending years trying to answer the supposedly incredibly complicated question of how we should eat in order to be maximally healthy, Pollan discovered the answer was shockingly simple: eat real food, not too much of it, and more plants than meat. Or, put another way, get off the modern western diet, with its abundance of processed food, refined grains and sugars, and its sore lack of vegetables, whole grains and fruit. Again, he gets my thumbs up. This is, by the way, how I’ve been eating the last several years and maintaining both my weight and my A1Cs in the 5’s.

“Food Rules” weaves humor and real life practicality into simple, straightforward rules for making healthy food choices. You can read it in an hour and be a lifetime wiser.

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.