Metabolic syndrome (or insulin resistance syndrome) is a name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and diabetes. Unfortunately, it is becoming very common in the United States. According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, metabolic syndrome is present if you have three or more of the following signs: blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg (or on blood pressure medication), fasting blood sugar (glucose) equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL, a large waist circumference (men – 40 inches or more and women – 35 inches or more), low HDL cholesterol (men – under 40 mg/dL and women – under 50 mg/dL), and triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL. Having any one of these risk factors isn’t good. But when they’re combined, they set the stage for serious problems. Metabolic syndrome can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), diabetes, myocardial infarction (heart attack), kidney disease, fatty liver disease, peripheral artery disease, and stroke. The incidence of metabolic syndrome continues to rise as does the incidence of obesity. But the good news is that it is both preventable and treatable, largely with changes to your lifestyle and diet. Treatments include: losing weight (initial goal should be a BMI < 30, with ultimate goal < 25), regular aerobic exercise (get 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as walking or bicycling, 5 – 7 days per week), lowering your cholesterol (using improved diet, weight loss, and cholesterol lowering medicines, if needed), and lowering your blood pressure (using weight loss, exercise, and medicine, if needed). Good nutrition is the key to treating metabolic syndrome. Eating processed foods loaded with sugar and simple carbs significantly increases your chances of developing metabolic syndrome. Fast foods, sweets, and snack foods lead directly to the metabolic syndrome. It is critical to change your diet to one low in fat, high in fresh fruits and vegetables (7-10 servings a day), and filled with whole-grain products high in fiber. Cut out simple carbs and sugar. If you have the metabolic syndrome or some of the signs, the time to take action is now. Don’t wait for hardening of the arteries or worse to occur. Be proactive! Take control of your health. Take action today!
Mindfulness is an important concept to remember when eating. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. Most people tend to eat very quickly. Before they know it they have over eaten. Watching people eat, it seems as if their is a prize for finishing first. Eating is not a NASCAR race! Slow down! Mindfulness while eating means being aware of how each bite of food tastes. It means chewing each bite completely. It also means seeing how you feel between bites. How full are you? Do you really need another bite? It is recommended that you stop eating when you are 75% full. It takes about 20 minutes from the time you are full until your brain gets the message. This is why you feel “stuffed” 10-20 minutes after eating too much, especially when eating quickly. Stop and slow down. Enjoy your food. Eating is not meant to be a race. Pay attention to what you are eating and you will ultimately eat less. Recognize the signs of when you are getting close to being full. Stop when you are full. Do not overeat. Being mindful when eating helps you fully enjoy your meals and all the different flavors and textures of your food. It will also help you eat less and lose weight. Pay more attention during your next meal. Make your meals more enjoyable. Eating should be a pleasurable experience. Do not miss out!
Eat more beans for good health. Beans are a low fat, vitamin and fiber rich, high protein and inexpensive food. Beans can lower cholesterol levels, fight heart disease, stabilize blood sugar and reduce obesity. Beans are an excellent source of vegetarian protein. Beans can be a good alternative to meat. Beans are an excellent source of fiber. The soluble fiber in beans can help lower cholesterol levels naturally and can help stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics. Lentils have 8 grams of fiber per half cup, black beans and pinto beans have 7.5 grams per half cup, and chickpeas have 4 grams per half cup. Fiber helps fill you up with less calories which helps you to lose weight. Beans have a low calorie density – a key to losing weight and keeping it off. Beans are high in folate which can help reduce homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels can damage the arteries. Furthermore, evidence suggests beans can also reduce your risk of cancer. On the other hand, beans can cause gas. Eat small amounts at first and slowly increase the amount you eat and your body will get used to the beans. Beano can help. There are many varieties of beans to try such as black beans, lima beans, navy beans, garbazo beans, fava beans, pinto beans and cannellini beans. Try them in soup or in your salad. Beans can make good vegetarian burgers. Get creative. Make beans a regular part of your diet for good health. They are a true super food!
I get asked all the time: Which is better – butter or margarine? Margarine was originally thought to be a safer alternative to butter. Margarine has less saturated fat than butter. Then the hazards of margarine came to light. Its high levels of trans fats are worrisome, especially for those at risk for heart attack or stroke. Trans fats raise the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower the levels of good cholesterol (HDL). From the standpoint of heart disease, butter is on the list of foods to use sparingly because it is high in saturated fat, which aggressively increases levels of LDL. Margarines, though, aren’t so easy to classify. The older stick margarines that are still widely sold are high in trans fats, and are worse for you than butter. Some of the newer margarines that are low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat, and free of trans fats are fine as long as you don’t use too much (they are still rich in calories – so be careful!). You can quickly compare the health value of spreads (including butter and margarine) simply by looking at the nutrition labels on these products. Nutrition labels are now required by the FDA to include information about both saturated fats and trans fats. Your goal is to limit intake of saturated fats and to avoid trans fats altogether. “Healthier” alternatives to butter or margarine include olive oil and other vegetable oil – based spreads, which contain beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Remember though, all oils are calorie dense. (All oils are 100% fat!) For example, olive oil has 120 calories per tablespoon. If you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, stanol – based spreads (for example, Smart Balance and Benecol) may be beneficial, since regular use can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. The best advice though, is to use all spreads sparingly. They tend to be high in calories with minimal nutritional value. Fruit spreads with no added sugar are a good alternative.
One thing you can do today to start is to get rid of all the junk food in your house. Throw it all away or give it away. Anything that is high in calories, high in fat, loaded with sugar, or highly processed just throw away. Get rid of food that has little nutritional value. Do not bring it into your home. Avoid temptation. It is too easy to give into temptation when it is lying around the house. Make it as difficult as possible to eat junk food. Make it necessary to go out of the house to get junk food. Make it easy to do the right thing. Keep healthy food available. Have fresh fruit available. Cut up vegetables so they are ready to eat when hunger hits. This is an easy step that is highly effective to help you do the right thing. Do it today!