According to the Mayo Clinic, we have a ton of reasons to love bananas, especially when we need to diet. The fruit has a lower GI impact than many other fruits, provides a solid amount of fiber to keep us feeling full, and serves up the perfect cocktail of vitamins and minerals with virtually no fat. This fruit really shines when you need to shed some weight off your midsection, and knowing exactly how they affect your body helps us form the perfect attack strategy to melt belly fat.
Bad for your health…
Sometimes even the most seemingly harmless habits can lead to serious health issues. For example, did you know that not getting enough sleep can lead to diabetes, or that eating while you’re emotional or stressed can lead to weight gain or obesity?Samantha Boesch
Carbs, carbs, carbs—what about them?https://www.diabetes.org/nutrition
When you eat or drink things that have carbohydrate, your body breaks those carbs down into glucose (a type of sugar), which then raises the level of glucose in your blood. Your body uses that glucose, or sugar, for fuel to keep you going throughout the day.
Knowing what kind and how many carbs to eat is important for managing diabetes. Eating too many carbs can raise your blood glucose too high. This can cause trouble if you do not have enough insulin in your body to help deliver the glucose to the cells in your body. Eating too little carbohydrate can also be harmful because your blood glucose may drop too low, especially if you take medicines to help manage your blood sugar. Balance is key!
There are three main types of carbohydrates in food—starches, sugar and fiber. As you’ll see on the nutrition labels for the food you buy, the term “total carbohydrate” refers to all three of these types. And as you begin counting carbohydrates, you’ll want to stay away from food that has high carbs and instead choose a more balanced nutrient mix of carbs, protein, and fat.
The goal is to choose carbs that are nutrient-dense, which means they are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and low in added sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fats.
When choosing carbohydrate…
Eat the most of these: whole, unprocessed non-starchy vegetables.
- Non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, and green beans have a lot of fiber and very little carbohydrate, which means little impact on your blood sugar.
Eat more of these: whole, minimally processed carbohydrate foods.
- Fruits like apples, blueberries, strawberries, and cantaloupe
- Whole intact grains like brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, and oatmeal
- Starchy vegetables like corn, green peas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and plantain
- Beans and lentils like black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and green lentils
Eat less of these: refined, highly processed carbohydrate foods and those with added sugar.
- Sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea, and juice drinks
- Refined grains like white bread, white rice, and sugary cereal
- Sweets and snack foods like cake, cookies, candy, and chips
Foods high in starch include:
- Starchy vegetables like peas, corn, lima beans and potatoes
- Dried beans, lentils and peas such as pinto beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas and split peas
- Grains like oats, barley and rice (The majority of grain products in the US are made from wheat flour. These include pasta, bread and crackers, but the variety is expanding to include other grains as well.)
As for sugar, there are two main types:
- Naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk or fruit
- Added sugars such as those added during processing such as fruit canned in heavy syrup or sugar added in to a cookie
On the nutrition facts label, the number of sugar grams includes both added and natural sugars.
And as for fiber …
Remember that it comes from plant-based foods, so there’s no fiber in milk, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish. Healthy adults need between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day.
Good sources of dietary fiber include:
- Beans and legumes like black beans, kidney beans, pintos, chick peas, white beans, and lentils
- Fruits and vegetables, especially those with edible skin (like apples and beans) and those with edible seeds (like berries)
- Nuts—try different kinds. Peanuts, walnuts, and almonds are a good source of fiber and healthy fat, but watch portion sizes, because they also contain a lot of calories in a small amount.
- Whole grains such as:
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whole grain cereals, specifically those with three grams of dietary fiber or more per serving, including those made from whole wheat, wheat bran, and oats
is trending. In the past year, several professional athletes and celebrities have come out promoting a plant-based diet. New vegan products have emerged in restaurants and grocery store shelves and a peak in interest has flooded physician and dietitians’ offices. Now, a new study gives even more incentive to try it out.
A systematic review covering 11 clinical trials and published in the British Medical Journal compared plant-based diets with other diets in individuals in their 50s. They found a plant-based diet could potentially improve the health of the majority of individuals, especially people living with type 2 diabetes.
Though the sample size of the studies reviewed were small, the results were impressive. Researchers learned the diet significantly improved psychological well-being, quality of life and management of type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, markers that may predict cardiovascular disease (such as cholesterol and triglycerides) were also decreased. This was an important finding since having diabetes makes you more likely to develop heart disease.
In six of the studies reviewed, participants either cut down or completely eliminated medications for diabetes or other associated conditions, such as high blood pressure. Four of the studies compared a plant-based diet to official diabetic associations’ recommended diets and in all cases, the plant-based diet was associated with better results.
Anastasios Toumpanakis, the lead author, noted the study included controlled trials conducted in five different countries across four continents. That indicates the results can most likely be applied to other settings and individuals.
The benefits of a plant-based diet
Dr. Jeffrey Soble, associate professor of cardiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago (and a vegan himself) was not involved in the study, but commented that this research only builds on the evidence that a primarily plant-based diet is healthy — not only for people with diabetes, but for everyone.
Soble noted we’re bombarded with low-carb, high-protein and high-fat diets that have very little evidence showing long-term effectiveness. Comparably, Soble noted numerous studies show the metabolic benefits of plant-based diets. Recent studies have shown plant-based diets can help to reduce the risk of obesity, certain cancers and early death.
Toumpanakis explained the diet can be consumed during all stages of life, referencing a 2016 position paper from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that stated a vegetarian diet (defined in the paper as a diet that does not include meat, seafood or products containing those foods) is appropriate for all stages of life, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and athletes.
One major benefit of a vegan diet is weight loss. Toumpanakis noted that in all but one of the included studies, the people following a plant-based diet had no portion control, meaning there was no restriction in calorie intake. Despite that, people experienced weight loss, which has been shown to improve diabetes control.
How to incorporate a plant-based diet
Adapting a vegan diet is not always easy. In fact, the study showed participants struggled with starting it.
Soble stressed the ability to follow a plant-based diet is highly dependent on a few things:
the diets of the people around you
how available plant-based foods are
how educated you are on vegan cooking
It’s important to remember not all vegan food is healthy. After all, most candy and white bread products are vegan.
A majority of the studies in the meta-analysis were not only vegan, but low-fat as well. So Soble encourages his patients to focus more on moderate amounts of olive, safflower and canola oils.
As in any healthy diet, it’s crucial to decrease your consumption of white refined grains and sugar, as well as adding in more fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins like beans and legumes.
If going completely vegan seems too difficult, Soble noted any shift away from the traditional American diet (filled with sugar, fast food and processed food) is movement in the right direction. Starting with a Mediterranean diet would be a very healthy first step, he suggested.
This study, and those that came before it, provide strong incentives to reduce animal products in the diet. Talking to your physician, dietitian or someone you know who is already on the diet may also help you in incorporating a vegan pattern into your lifestyle.
For more healthy living advice, sign up for our One Small Thing newsletter. Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, R.D., is the manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @KristinKirkpat.