February is American Heart month! Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America today. Alabama is the second unhealthiest state in the nation. Louisiana currently is number one. According to the Centers of Disease and Prevention, Alabama ranks #1 in the nation, where diabetes complications are the cause of death. Alabama ranks #2 in the nation, where stroke is the cause of death. Lastly, Alabama ranks #3 in the nation, where heart disease is the cause of death. All three, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease can be prevented through lifestyle changes, especially through food and nutrition therapy.
I am often approached in the community with nutrition questions. It usually pertains to nutrition information someone heard from another. I am so glad they ask, because 95% of the time, they have been innocently misinformed. These real life experiences, along with our state’s health ranking, conclude that one or both collective reasoning’s are plausible:
- Alabamians “think” they know how to eat healthy, but in reality they do not.
- Alabamians are not willing to take the steps necessary to be healthy.
If you want to be proactive and prevent or reverse diabetes complications, and heart disease, keep reading. Here are 4 nutrition myths that I have heard since living in Etowah County and the truth behind them.
Myth 1. A low fat diet prevents heart disease No, not necessarily. It is true that a diet high in saturated fat, the artery clogging heart stopping fat derived from animal sources like meat, dairy, and processed foods, do increase your risk for heart disease, enormously! People say to me, “Yeah, but that is the good stuff!” Hold fast! If you love red meat, consider eating it only once a week, tops. Also, chill out on the butter! There are other types of fat that are actually good for your heart, and I’m NOT talking about margarine! When eaten in moderation, heart healthy fats, such monounsaturated fats, i.e. almonds, olive oil, and avocados, and polyunsaturated fats, i.e. salmon, walnuts and sunflower seeds can help decrease levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). Mono and Polyunsaturated fats decrease you risk for heart disease while increasing your good cholesterol (HDL).
Myth 2. A low-cholesterol diet prevents heart disease. This is partially true, but not the whole truth. While it is true that high blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, your physical activity, age, and gender also affect cholesterol levels. Saturated fat from meat, dairy and processed foods, and dietary cholesterol are all culprits of raising blood cholesterol. Most importantly, please note that when reading nutrition facts on a food label, the total grams of saturated fat is more relevant to increasing your blood cholesterol, than the total grams of dietary cholesterol.
Myth 3. If I do not eat any sugar my diabetes will be controlled. The concept seems correct, but there is more to it! People with diabetes don’t have to cut added sugars completely out of their diet. In fact, those that say they do not eat a lot of sugar, do not realize that they are eating too much! Added sugar is hidden in 90% of processed foods. Here’s a few examples: baked beans, BBQ sauce, flavored crackers, pasta sauce, ketchup, flavored yogurt, flavored rice, canned chili, readymade meals, 100% fruit juices, and even spices contain sugar! “Yeah, but that is the good stuff!” Not sure? Take a look at the ingredient list, not the nutrition facts! Also, added sugar is inevitably consumed if you are dining out most anywhere other than The Beautiful Rainbow Cafe, located inside the Gadsden Public Library. (#friendlydietitianplug) However, here is the deal: Sugar abstinence does not work for very long. Instead of thinking you need to be anti-sugar, try cleaning up your processed food consumption and keep your true sweet treats, like cookies, cake, candy, and other baked goodies, to once a week, maximum. Be mindful that fruit, vegetables, low fat dairy, and whole grains have quality carbohydrates that becomes glucose (blood sugar) upon digestion. A healthy human body needs these types of carbohydrates! Eaten in moderation, these wholesome food groups provide quality carbohydrate fuel for your body.
Myth 4. Salt does not matter, only saturated fat does. Nope! Salt does matter, and by consuming less salt and sodium, you help reduce your blood pressure. High blood pressure, known as hypertension, is a silent killer. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attacks. The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that a reduced sodium intake decreases the risk of death from heart disease. AHA recommends less than 2300 mg of salt/d which equates to 1 teaspoon of added salt per day. If you are dining out, eating fast food or living on a lot of processed foods, regardless of whether its marketed as “healthy” you are most likely consuming 2 to 3 times that amount.
Published in The Gadsden Times HERE
Published in Anniston/Gadsden Family Christian Magazine HERE
I am introducing a diabetes focused class for Etowah County, Alabama. Join me for “Healthy Living with Diabetes” Smart-Cart-Grocery-Tour on Thursday, Feb. 8 @5:30-7pm @ Publix in Rainbow City. Class is limited to 10 participants. First come, first serve. Enroll HERE. Sale price ends 2/7/18. $19.99/person. I am also available for private Medical Nutrition Therapy. Inquire at website.