Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Keep My Intake of Dietary Minerals High

Back in the '90's, I once listened to a set of tapes (yes cassette tapes) put out by a dietary supplement company that stated that most of the effects of aging a due to mineral deficiencies. I didn't quite believe it then; there was an obvious conflict of interest. I couldn't easily check research; the internet didn't exist, at least not in its current incarnation. It dropped off my radar.

Today, I decided to do some of that research. I have already been trying to keep my mineral intake high, but my reasons were simply that it made sense. I wanted to look for more to help me with this article. Here is what I found. (And let me add that I am blessed to belong to a couple of great library groups and a couple of great academic groups that give me free access through one channel or another to most scholarly journals!)

The first study that seemed promising was done by the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute. (I find it interesting that a children's hospital group decided to study aging.) They found that deficiencies in iron, zinc, magnesium, and manganese as well as the vitamins biotin and pantothenic acid did correlate with increased signs of aging at younger ages. Because the elderly, poor, and obese are particularly likely to have deficiencies in these nutrients, correcting the deficiency may be a good way to increase the health of these vulnerable groups. This research makes sense because lack of proper amounts of these nutrients are related to DNA decay which is the process which many believe to be ultimately responsible for aging and death in the absence of other disease.

Then I seemed to hit a road block. There were a lot of studies looking at the relationship between nutrition and cancer, and nutrition and heart disease, but most didn't seem to have the kind of data I was looking for. There were a lot of studies about nutrition and aging in rats, but they were sort of confusing, and I really don't know if the results will apply to humans. Also, I am thinking that aging probably isn't only caused by nutritional deficiencies for the obvious reason that everything grows old and dies. I could still be wrong, but it doesn't feel that way to me.

So, I gave up. I did learn a lot of things. There was one study that looked at serum levels of various chemicals that did show that the elderly who have higher intakes of vitamin C have more strength and endurance. I didn't find anything in the vein of connecting mineral intake to slower aging.

Still, I think it is good to err on the side of higher mineral intakes. It is important to remember that the RDA's are set to avoid deficiencies, not to be optimum intake levels. Although, I do not want to be poisoned by my diet, I feel safe that my high vegetable and fruit intake will not compromise my health and will provide plenty of minerals to keep me strong into old age.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Eat Foods Rich in Various Beneficial Polyphenols Frequently

Polyphenol is not a term that many American's are familiar with. Polyphenols are things in food, often colorful, that have been shown over and over in research to provide health benefits to humans. Unfortunately, no one is sure why or how. Originally, it was thought that there primary benefit was functioning as antioxidants, but further research seems to show that this isn't the truth. There are so many different polyphenols in so many different groups of fruits and vegetables that it is really hard to isolate them and pinpoint what exactly they do.

The moral of the story equals eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables from different groups and families and of different colors and properties to make sure that you are getting as many healthy polyphenols as possible. I have a list that I use that divides fruits and vegetables into groups based on the polyphenols in them. I try to eat foods from every group on a regular basis. This is one of the keys to healthy eating in my opinion.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Eat a Diversity of Foods

Although I put this fourth in the hierarchy of how I eat healthy, I will admit that it is a difficult one for me. I am a creature of habit, and it is easiest for me, especially when I am busy, to just eat the same things day after day. The way I avoid doing this is by eating a lot of similar things sort of on a rotation.

So there are some things I eat a lot. I eat organic field green and spinach mix that I can get at Wegmans very cheaply. I usually eat it with thin slices of turkey. I roll turkey around huge bundles of greens, and it is so good! I eat frozen berry mix mixed with plain Greek yogurt often. I have coffee with cream every day. I regularly eat the same types of vegetables that I like sauteed and raw and steamed and roasted. I mix it up by trying to not eat the same things every day. If I had a can of beets yesterday, I probably won't choose to eat that today. If I had a Luna bar, I may not eat another for three or four days. If I had fish yesterday, I will choose beef or pork or chicken today.

The reason I mix it up is twofold. First, I want to be able to maximize the nutrition that I get from my food. If I am always eating the same things, I may be missing out on some things. Second, I am never 100% sure of the safety of our food supply. Eating a wide variety of foods minimizes anything harmful that I may be ingesting.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Limit Carbohydrates

Limiting carbs was how Diana and I were first able to control our blood sugar and subsequently lose weight. This makes sense since technically diabetes is simply your body's inability to process carbohydrates properly. Note, we didn't cut our carbs drastically. We just lowered them by making better food choices. In my case, I kept my carbohydrates to typically under 125 grams a day. Diana aimed for under 85 but was mostly successful in staying under 100. (Diana is more sensitive to carbohydrates than I am.)

Now, it is fairly natural for me to rarely eat rice, pasta, bread products, or sugary foods.  I occasionally will add a bit of whole grain pasta, brown rice, or bulgar to soup. I will also sometimes add a few legumes like black beans to a vegetable dish. These are additions to foods mostly consisting of vegetables and meats though, not things that I am having a whole serving of at once. I do eat fruit, including dried fruit, but I avoid fruit juices except for a little lime in some diet soda sometimes.

What about vegetables that are often described as high carb? Potatoes, yams, parsnips, beets, corn, and peas? I find that these vegetables have less affect on my blood sugar (legumes also.) I rarely eat white potatoes although I will occasionally add one chopped up really small to a pot of soup. I have one small sweet potato about twice a month for lunch. Again, I find that if I am going to have a high carb item it is better to have it at lunch than at dinner. Beets have a lot off micro-nutrients in them (look at that color!) and less carbs than potatoes so I eat them fairly regularly. I will eat a whole can of beets simply drained for a snack. I will also sometimes roast a fresh beet in the microwave for lunch. We buy frozen corn and sometimes I add some to soup. We also sometimes buy canned creamed corn which I add to soup. I sometimes buy and eat frozen peas. I feel that all these vegetable carbs are better than white flour/sugar carbs because they come with a whole bunch of nutrients naturally attached.

How do the carbs stack up?  Here is a quick list, all volumes are for cooked portions.

bread, white 1 oz. slice - 14 grams
bread, whole wheat 1 oz. slice - 11 grams
oatmeal 1/2 c.. - 12 grams
rice, white 1/2 c. - 22 grams
rice, brown 1/2 c. - 22 grams
elbow macaroni 1/2 c. - 18 grams
black beans 1/2 c. - 20 grams
pinto beans 1/2 c. - 22 grams
corn 1/2 c. - 15 grams
peas 1/2 c. - 11 grams
beets 1/2 c. - 5 grams
potato 1/2 c. - 15 grams
yam 1/2 c. - 18 grams
parsnip 1/2 c. - 13 grams

It is important to note that in the American nutrition reporting system, there is no distinction between fiber and other carbohydrates so the above carb listings include all carbs. They don't give a complete picture of health benefits. Items with more fiber in the carb counts are going to have less affect on your blood sugar and be absorbed more slowly than those with less fiber. Also, the American Diabetes Association considers 15 grams of carbohydrate to be a serving.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Limit Processed Foods

I am not one of those people who think that processed foods are evil. In general, I think it a good idea to keep eating foods that are normal for people to eat in my culture. This includes some processed foods, at least on occasion. I don't see much difference from one who is terrified of eating something out of a jar or box or a piece of white bread, and someone who is anorexic. The feelings and thought patterns can be the same, and with my own personal problems with routine, compulsiveness, and rule following, I want to avoid rigidness as much as possible.

At the same time, if I am eating enough fruits and vegetables, and if I am getting adequate amounts of high quality protein, there isn't going to be much room in my diet for processed foods. Also, being diabetic, I need to limit carbs, especially processed carbs and concentrated carbs like sweeteners, and I lately I have seen a correlation in myself between eating processed foods and gastrointestinal pain. So, I limit them without being rigid.

In general, I don't eat packaged foods, breads, crackers, salty or sweet processed snack foods, pasta, rice, most processed sauces, and packaged breakfast cereals. My exceptions at the moment: I eat Luna bars and some high protein/low carb nutrition bars a couple of times a week, I eat jarred spaghetti sauce on occasion (maybe once or twice a week on top of roasted or sauteed vegetables), I eat canned cream soups that I add to homemade soup maybe twice a month, I eat regular processed peanut butter a few times a week, if I am at an event that doesn't have a lot of food choices I am comfortable with I will have a whole grain cracker or two (this would be once a month or less), I eat commercially died fruit (mostly raisins and prunes), and I eat canned vegetables (spinach, beets, and mushrooms on a somewhat regular basis). Oh! I also regularly indulge in bacon, and have maybe one hot dog a month. When I write it all down like that, it seems like a lot, but I think compared to the typical American diet, it is really quite minimal, and after "eat a lot of vegetables", "avoid processed foods" is the next eating guideline I follow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eat a Lot of Fruits and Vegetables

How many fruits and vegetables do I eat?  It is a lot. No one really knows exactly how the nutrition of our body works, especially on the micro-nutrient level, and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is one way to ensure getting a variety of nutrients. Also, fruits and vegetables are low in calories and can fill one up. In my case, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables also seems to reduce gastrointestinal pain.

In my head, I think that I try to eat around the equivalent of nine cups of raw fruits and vegetables each day. (In general, fruits and vegetables cook down so that one half cup of cooked equals one cup of raw. There are some exceptions such as vegetables that are only lightly stir-fried. One quarter cup of dried, again in general, equals one cups of raw.) In my head, I also think that the reality is probably closer to an average of eight, but I am curious so I think I will look at the weight in diet power, do some conversion and see what the reality is.

Here is what I have for yesterday -

.6 cups raspberry/strawberry/blackberry mix (unsweetened from frozen)
1.4 cups mushrooms (actual cooked .7 cups from canned)
.8 cups raisins (actual dried fruit .2 cups)
.8 cups red peppers, raw
2.6 cups spinach/field green mix, raw
.1 cup prunes (actual dried fruit .032 cups but estimated down)
1 cup spaghetti sauce (actual cooked sauce .6 cups but included some oil)
1.5 cups red peppers/carrots/onions/garlic (actual cooked vegetables in fish chowder about .75 cups)

That makes 8.8 cups. I can't say that is a typical day because I do try to eat a wide variety of foods, to mix it up. I am not always successful, but I would hope my eating patterns aren't too predictable.

Why nine cups?  Well, in the somewhat infamous Harvard Nurses Health Study, the largest study of its type (there were nearly 110,000 subjects), it was found that eating eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day correlated with a 30 percent drop in the chances of getting cardiovascular disease, or suffering a heart attack or stroke. This is definitely a statistically significant number. A similar result has been found in several other large studies in Europe. One study in particular looked at the risk of stroke and the risk of heart disease as separate entities. It found that those eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day had a 20 percent decrease in the chance of having a stroke, and a 20 percent decrease in the risk of having a heart attack.

Terry Wahls purports that her M.S. is controlled by a high fruit and vegetable diet, in her case nine serving a day. She claims that this type of diet may help control all autoimmune diseases. She is doing testing and trials and so far I have not seen results out there of any research, but I am hoping that some will be forthcoming. Unfortunately, I know it can be difficult to get research subjects to sustain a change in diet for any length of time.

So, I choose to err on the high side, and without actually keeping track (because I have too many other things to track), I aim loosely in my mind for nine cups and usually I think I come close.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How I Do It

I have written a bit lately that I am eating healthy. For me, this improves my physical health. If I eat the way that I am right now, my blood sugar is more even, my pain is lowered, my energy is increased, and I am unlikely to have any painful gastrointestinal issues. Unfortunately, I have not found a method of eating that cures all my health woes, but this way helps.

I thought I might try to define what I mean when I say that I am eating healthy. There are several things that I take into consideration when I am choosing what foods to eat. The following is a list of those considerations in order of importance.

1. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.

2. Limit processed foods.

3. Limit carbohydrates.

4. Eat a diversity of foods.

5. Eat foods rich in various beneficial polyphenols frequently.

6. Keep my intakes of dietary minerals high.

7. Eat a healthy balance of fats every day including omega 3's.

8. Count calories.

9. Take a daily multivitamin or eat a nutrition bar that mimics a multivitamin.

I will elaborate on these in a series of blog articles over the next few days.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Yesterday was a hectic day. I had to get my work done because we have a couple of bills due this Friday plus we need gas money for an event on Saturday, but we were also having company for dinner, and I lost an hour in the morning because Diana had a job for the day. (That is a good thing that eventually means more money, but yesterday, it was a contributing factor to my rush.) I worked on my breaks, and I really wasn't eating very much. My food wasn't optimally nutritious either although I still stayed on the side of healthy eating that prevents my gastrointestinal issues.

Dinner time came, and I rushed to fit in enough calories. After our company left, I ate more to make up for a minimal breakfast and lunch. Again, not optimally healthy but not exactly bad for me. My overall carb intake was fine, but I did have more carbs after 9:00 p.m. than I ever do, and I ate about 2/3 of my calories for the day after 5:30 p.m.

Today, I woke up with a headache. I haven't had a headache in a long time. I also was very tired until around 4:00 p.m. or so. Very oddly, I had gained 1.4 pounds after losing weight everyday or staying the same for two weeks or so. Well, the headache could be hormonal. The tiredness could be from lack enough quality sleep for a few nights. The weight gain could be normal fluctuations especially after losing so regularly. I think though that it had to do with my eating yesterday. That gives me incentive to make eating regularly and healthily a priority.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ups and Downs of My Health and Eating

Wheee! I have been on a little journey with my eating. It started with making a conscious effort to eat healthier about six weeks ago. Then came stomach difficulties. The stomach difficulties occur whenever I eat unhealthy.  Unfortunately, I can't pin them down better than that.

Maybe I should say fortunately because it seems my only option at the moment is to eat healthy every day. That isn't a bad thing. Then I started gaining weight. Not a lot, but maybe two pounds a week, and I was eating healthy. I was very worried that I had some sort of health issue that was causing the weight gain. Maybe it was causing the weight gain and the stomach problems. I told a few people, and they were concerned. I looked up unexplained weight gain online and found a lot of blog posts by people whose doctors were very rude when they made appointments for this reason or expressed this concern. The doctors mostly said they were probably depressed, and needed to eat less and exercise more and probably take antidepressants.

I wasn't going to deal with that, and I was getting really worried so I decided to track. Lo and behold, I was only eating around 800 to 1000 calories a day! Now, I have always been one of those people who say that of course you won't gain or not lose weight because you aren't eating enough. I have even put myself on 900 calorie a day diets in the past and lost a lot of weight. Well, often when I am skeptical of something that is real, the powers that be decide to show me a thing or two! Obviously, eating too little, even if it is very healthy, can put a slowdown on weight loss and in odd situation even cause a slow weight gain. (I do feel that with time it would even out.)

Anyways, I put myself back on a minimum of 1500 calories a day and immediately started losing weight. I still can't stray from my eating plan without getting sick though.  Very annoying, especially on days like today, when it seems that everyone in the family is munching on candy and poptarts, and I am struggling to get down a bowl of berries and yogurt to get in the last of my calories. I stay strong by knowing that I am doing the right thing and that it is worth it to my health and my quality of life.