Choosing Natural Sweeteners for Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you should carefully choose foods that you consume, particularly sweet products. You can use some sugar, but it is important to monitor how much carbohydrates you consume per day. If you believe that you exceed your limits often, you should think of using sweeteners for diabetes.

Initial Information about Natural Sweeteners

It is good if you reduce the consumption of sugar by replacing it with natural alternatives, but you should know that some sweeteners like brown sugar, corn syrup, honey and maple syrup have lots of carbs and a high glycemic index as well. That is why you should choose sweeteners that will not increase your blood sugar. We offer you to check out the following two natural sweeteners that may be a great alternative to sugar: agave nectar and stevia.

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar, which is obtained from Agave plant, has been used as a sweetener for years. It was especially popular among the Aztecs. This nectar has the same consistency as honey and comes with a sweet taste. One of the best advantages of agave is that it comes with a lower glycemic index (GI) than honey or sugar, which is about 20-30 (sugar has a GI of 60-65).

21 g of the nectar have 60 calories and 16 g of carbohydrates, and the same amount of sugar contains 64 calories and 16.8 g of carbs. Since the sweetener has a lower glycemic index, it is beneficial for people with diabetes.

Stevia

Stevia has been used as a sweetener for a long time. The plant grows in South America and has leaves that resemble those of the mint family. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar, which means that you only need to use a little bit of it. You can try to find Truvia, which is a great sugar substitute product containing some Stevia. The product is sold in small packets, each of which contains an equivalent to two teaspoons of sugar. There are no calories in Truvia and only 3 g of carbs per serving (two teaspoons of sugar come with 32 calories and 8.4 g of carbohydrates).

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Phenolic Acids: Benefits and Dietary Sources

There are more than 8000 polyphenolic compounds found in various plant species; among them, phenolic acids, flavonoids and lignans are the most important.

Scientific research reveals that polyphenol-rich diet reduces the risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Polyphenols are so called life-prolongers since they prevent certain diseases that often lead to fatal outcomes.

Phenolic acids are a group of phytochemicals with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The list of phenolic acids is quite long, and some of them were thoroughly studied in connection with human health.

Acetylsalicylic Acid

Aspirin, a synthetic form of acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), is widely used to prevent and treat heart attacks. This compound has two important properties – it prevents the formation of blood clots and has anti-inflammatory qualities.

Unfortunately, like any other drug, aspirin has notable side effects. It irritates the stomach and can cause complications like gastritis, peptic ulcer, and gastric bleeding.

However, salicylic acid is also found in natural plant products. According to recent studies, lack of these products in our diet might increase the risk of hearth and blood diseases. Salicylic acid also gives fruits and veggies many of their beneficial properties.

In vegetables, the salicylate content ranges from 0 to 6 mg. It is higher in fruits and berries, 2.1 to 7.8 mg. Dries fruits like apricots, dates, and raisins are high in salicylic acid, as well as cucumbers, tomatoes, and black tea. Spices like curry powder, thyme, and paprika have the highest content, though we commonly use them in small amounts.

Some researchers find that the increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases is caused by the lack of salicylates in our food. Grains, meat, fish, and dairy products, which are very poor in salicylates, usually make the most of our diet. Taking only 25-30 mg of salicylic acid daily would significantly reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks, not to mention the strong antioxidant properties that slow down the aging process.

Fresh fruits and vegetables will enrich your diet with beneficial phenolic acids. Don’t forget to add curry powder, turmeric, thyme, and rosemary to your dishes. Ginger powder is also great to add in drinks like tea, coffee, and juices.

Ellagic Acid

Ellagic acid is great for cancer prevention. Recent studies have shown that ellagic acid is one of the most effective anti-cancer agents. It works similar to the drugs used in chemotherapy, but, unlike synthetic pharmaceuticals, natural plant compounds aren’t toxic.

Precancerous cells can appear in the body at any age; they transform into real cancer cells rather slowly. Over time, carcinogens cause multiple gene mutations, which make the malignant cells more viable. At a certain point, they form something like micro-tumors, which are still very difficult to diagnose.

This process can take from one to fifty years, and during this time precancerous cells are very sensitive to external influences. At different stages of cancer development, anti-cancer agents from food can provide protection to our body.

Berries, fruits, and nuts are rich in ellagic acid; its highest content is found in raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries.

Antioxidant properties

Even vitamins A, E, and C cannot compete with antioxidant properties of phenolic acids. Oriental spices have the highest antioxidant activity index (AAI), berries and fruits follow them right after.

Among berries, blueberry has the strongest antioxidant properties. In addition, blueberries help to increase our visual acuity and reduce blood sugar. Phenolic compounds found in blueberries reduce the risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke.

Foods rich in phenolic acids play a significant role in regulating vital functions of our body. It is highly recommended to include them in our diet on a daily basis.

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What Are The Antioxidants And How To Get The Most Of Them

Antioxidants are certain substances that inhibit oxidation. By that, they are able to protect human cells from the damage, caused by free radical and other harmful agents and neutralize them. The latter may be delivered to the body through smoking, air pollution, radiation, exposure to poisonous chemicals, and so on. Also, they may be produced right in the body during normal metabolic processes.

For the most part, antioxidants are vitamins, phytochemicals, and other micronutrients. They are, for example, selenium, vitamins A, C and E, lycopene and lutein among others. The dietary antioxidants are found in many healthy foods you consume on the daily basis — various fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains are extremely rich in these substances. Also, antioxidants are contained in meats and fish, though, in smaller amounts. And, unsurprisingly, there are almost no antioxidants in junk food and sweets of all sorts.

Why Antioxidants Are Necessary

Normally, there are quite little free radicals produced during metabolic processes. Too much free radicals in the human body may lead to the development of various diseases of different severity — from cough to cancer. Antioxidants are able to neutralize them and, by that, lower the risk of all these possible diseases.

If you eat healthy products and avoid junk food, you are unlikely to be deficient of antioxidants in the normal circumstances. However, if you are, for example, exposed to harmful substances like cigarette smoke or polluted environment on the regular basis, you may need to add even more antioxidants-rich products to your ration or even consider taking supplements.

Dietary Supplements

Unsurprisingly, antioxidants, just like all the other essential micronutrients, are available in the form of dietary supplements. However, there is a problem with these products — they are not proven to be beneficial in comparison with antioxidants, contained in foods.

These substances are much more effective when they are consumed in their natural form, i.e. in the form of certain foods. When they are extracted and turned into supplements, they work much worse. The results of human clinical trials are that extracted antioxidants are not effective for death and various diseases (apart from age-related vision decline) prevention. Still, this doesn’t mean that supplements are useless in case of their deficiency and eliminating the health-related problems it has caused.

More Is Not Always Better

Though getting overdose by eating antioxidant-rich foods is almost impossible, the thing is different with the antioxidants in the form of supplements. Large doses of the latter or their combinations with certain drugs may cause harm to your health. For example:

  • Vitamin A supplements overdose may cause to fetal defects during pregnancy. It may also lead to cardiovascular problems and even cancer in the long-term.
  • Large doses of vitamin E are linked to the increased risk of early death. They may also cause internal hemorrhage.
  • Selenium overdose may cause toxic injury to the whole body and hair loss.
  • Too much vitamin C may cause dizziness and vomiting. Regular overdoses may lead to allergies.

As you can see, despite the common belief, more is not always better. If you think that taking any type of antioxidant in the form of a dietary supplement may be beneficial for you for this or that reason, you should visit your doctor for a consultation to make sure you are not mistaken. Only with proper medical control, you will get the most of the dietary supplements and avoid all the possible harm.

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What Effect Do Monounsaturated Fats Have on Cardiovascular System?

It is well known that olive oil is a part of many diets helping lose weight. But this source of monounsaturated fats also has a good impact on the cardiovascular system. Read here about what products contain “good” fats too and how useful they are for our heart.

Nowadays, monounsaturated fats are considered to be lean or “good” fats, meaning that they are very good for health. Despite the fact that scientific evidence is quite insignificant, many specialists agree that monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are useful for the general health and especially for healthy heart.

What Are MUFA?

Monounsaturated fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids with one double carbon bond. They have a liquid structure at a room temperature but if the temperature drops, they become thicker. The most well-known type of MUFA is oleic acid (omega-9) that is contained in great amounts in olive oil. Besides, MUFA include palmitoleic, erucic, eicosenic and other twelve less common acids.

It should be noted that there are two types of unsaturated fatty acids: monounsaturated, as we have already mentioned, and polyunsaturated (these fats remains liquid under all conditions). Both of them are significant for the cardiovascular system but it was proven that polyunsaturated fatty acids have a stronger effect on it.

Heart-Healthy Benefits and MUFA

Despite the circumstantial evidence in favor of making monounsaturated fats a part of a heart-healthy diet, their abilities are striking.

As for the advantages, MUFA influence blood lipids in a positive way. Due to them, the level of low-density lipoprotein (or “bad”) cholesterol is decreased and the level of high-density lipoprotein (or “good”) cholesterol is increased.

MUFA are able to reduce the blood triglycerides level. Therefore, the state of blood lipids is improved, which leads to improvement of the overall state of the cardiovascular system.

Besides, these fats prevent “bad” cholesterol particles from being oxidized, which, in turn, may cause the appearance of atheromatous plaques.

Diabetes will not be also ignored. MUFA can’t treat this disease but it can help people suffering from type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance syndrome. If polyunsaturated fats are replaced with MUFA in a diet, it decreases insulin resistance and improves the word of blood vessels. Sometimes it can even help lose some weight.

In spite of these facts whether they are circumstantial or not, unfortunately, there is no specific evidence that MUFA prevent the development of ischemic heart disease.

Mediterranean Diet and Monounsaturated Fats

Olive oil that, as we all know, is rich in monounsaturated fats, is a main source of fat and an essential part of Mediterranean diet. There have been many clinical studies, and now this diet is associated with decline in mortality, especially in mortality from heart diseases and different types of cancer (prostate, colon and breast cancer). This diet also seems to prevent heart seizures and heart attacks.

The Mediterranean diet slows down the development of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The diet includes: fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood, legumes, natural spices and greens, wholemeal bread, nuts and, of course, olive oil in large amounts. Poultry and cheese are also a part of the diet. According to dieticians, the Mediterranean diet is so healthy mainly due to a high intake of monounsaturated fats.

Sources of MUFA

  • olives;
  • extra virgin oil;
  • avocado and avocado oil;
  • almond;
  • peanut;
  • cashew nut;
  • eggs;
  • red meat;
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Heart-Healthy Diet FAQ

The risk of cardiovascular disease rises among people eating unhealthy food. If you have problems with blood pressure or any of chronic heart diseases, you are to control your daily ration. What products and eating habits are good for your heart?

It is a well-known fact that eating heart-healthy food helps to prevent cardiovascular disease. At the same time, there has been much a great confusion recently as to what products actually belong to this diet. Should one stick to low-fat food or opt for a low-carb ration? Many questions and almost no exact answers.

Key guidelines for a heart-healthy diet

With all confusions, there is a growing consensus on the general rules of heart-healthy eating. They are quite simple to obey:

  1. Control the number of calories per day only necessary to maintain healthy weight and not to gain extra pounds.
  2. The more vegetables and fruits, the better.
  3. Choose whole grain breads and pastas.
  4. The red meat should be limited. Replace it by chicken, fish and legumes to gain a good portion of protein every day.
  5. Avoid using products containing trans fats.
  6. Exclude processed foods, especially processed carbohydrates.

In order to feel better, you should only follow these simple tips, and your confusion will disappear.

What about low-fat and low-carb foods?

Followers of low-carb diets have been fighting proponents of low-fat eating for many years, and the main apple of discord is a right dietary approach. However, if you compare the recent recommendations from both sides, you will find much in common.

At last, low-fat followers have had to admit that specific fats do good for your health. According to official dietary guidelines, the worth of low-fat eating is overrated. And the same is with carbohydrates.

As a result, general recommendations from low-fat and low-carb zealots now resemble each other, although both camps do not want to admit it. In fact, they look a lot like the basic rules of heart-healthy eating, listed above.

The Mediterranean Diet

Most patients with heart problems stick to this diet, as it seems the best compromise between low-carb and low-fat sides. The Mediterranean diet takes the best features and leaves aside the worst features of both viewpoints. It also contains the basic rules of healthy eating.

In addition, according to the recent clinical studies among more than 400000 participants, people who followed it for 5 years had a 20% less risk to die from cardiovascular disease or cancer. Studies have also shown that women and men on this diet have improved blood pressures and blood glucose levels, cholesterol values and reduced a risk of metabolic syndrome, in comparison to people on low-fat or other poor diets.

Learn the following tips for the Mediterranean diet:

  • Replace red meat with fish;
  • Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits;
  • Limit fatty dairy products;
  • Exclude butter, baked goods and foods containing trans fats;
  • Use only olive or canola oil for cooking;
  • Eat a handful of walnuts, pecans or almonds per day;
  • Drink a glass of red wine in the evening (check this tip with your doctor).

 

Other tips for a heart-healthy life

Make six rules of healthy eating a part of your daily life and you will definitely feel better. In order to increase the quality of life even more, follow these simple recommendations:

  • Opt for products containing omega-3 fatty acids;
  • Eat more nuts, as they reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by 40% if taken 4-5 times a week;
  • Do not drink much alcohol. 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer per day raise HDL and decrease LDL, but heavy drinking brings only damage to your heart;
  • Limit salt in your daily food.

According to medical experts, combining heart-healthy eating with regular exercises helps to maintain reasonable weight and reduce the risk of heart problems. Of course, there are some factors in losing extra pounds that cannot be controlled easily (for example, genetics and psychological features). However, daily or even weekly training will help a lot. Although it takes much dedication and a power of will, it is under your control, so you can use it if you care for your health. In additions, doctors say that it is better to be fit than thin if you have heart problems.

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