What is Glycemic Index and how to use it to eat healthy?

Dear Dr. Mo: I am trying to lose some weight and improve my diet. Is there a way to shop around for good foods that will load me with less sugar and help me eat healthier?

Foods with high GI will shoot your sugar through the roof

Foods with high GI will shoot your sugar through the roof

Dear reader: The total amount of carbohydrates we consume (with a meal or with a snack) mostly determines what happens to our blood sugar levels right after we eat. But, it’s not just the absolute amount of carbs that’s important – the food itself also plays a big part. So, for example, a serving of white bread or white rice has almost the same effect as eating pure table sugar— it produces a quick, high spike in blood sugar. On the other hand though, a serving of something like zucchini, beans or squash has a slower, smaller effect.

Strategically picking good sources of carbs can help us control our blood sugar and in most cases, our weight although I don’t want this to sound too simple. The levels of our activity, age, sex, overall health and metabolism and genetics are all important parts of the equation.

Okay so let me give you one good way we can choose our foods: we can use the glycemic index (GI) to know how much any given food boosts blood sugar.

The glycemic index gives us the effect a certain amount of specific food would have on blood sugar as compared with the same amount of pure glucose. This means that a food with a glycemic index of say 20 boosts blood sugar only 20% as much as pure glucose would. One with a GI of over 90 acts almost like pure glucose.

Glycemic index is easy to use, just choose foods with a low(er) index rather than higher whenever you can. Here’s the breakdown: Continue reading

Fiber and health

Add fiber-rich foods to your daily diet

Dear Dr. Mo: I am looking to improve my diet and fiber comes highly recommended as something to eat daily. What is it and where to get it from? How much is enough?

Dear reader: The reason fiber is highly recommended as a part of any healthy diet is simple – it is really good for you.

Previously, it was thought that fiber was a significant factor in preventing colon cancer but as it turns out, most of the evidence show that fiber has no such effect in prevention of this disease.

Still, fiber has many other good effects, for which it is considered a must-have in our everyday diets.

So, what does fiber do for us?

Fiber helps prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes (by improving insulin resistance), constipation and diverticulitis (an intestinal problem). It helps to regulate cholesterol levels by slightly reducing the “bad” LDL cholesterol. And last, but certainly not the least of good effects is the increase of the bulk of foods making us feel fuller for longer – that’s another way fiber helps us in avoiding overeating and being overweight.

What is fiber and where to get it from?

Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate form found in plant foods.There are two types of fiber: Soluble and Insoluble Continue reading

The 5-second rule – can you eat food you dropped on the floor?

Dear Dr. Mo: I’ve been told that if I dropped my food on the floor and picked it up within 5 seconds, it would still be safe and clean to eat –

Food gets contaminated immediately

Food gets contaminated immediately

bacteria didn’t have enough time to jump on it. Is that true?

Dear reader: To answer your question on the so called ‘5-second rule’ simply, this rule is not correct and NO, no small amount of time can pass to still allow us to pick the food up from the floor and safely eat it – germs free; and I mean no amount of time – not even a millisecond, or even less than that – not even a nano or a piko or however unimaginably small amount of time you want to use as a yard stick. Continue reading

What is healthy eating?

Dear Dr. Mo: How do we really define healthy eating? Where should I begin?

healthy eating means versatility in colours, shapes, sizes and tastes

healthy eating means versatility in colours, shapes, sizes and tastes

Dear reader: Healthy eating could mean different things for different people so when you hear or read that you should eat healthy, there comes a logical question – what does it mean for you?

En générale, healthy eating means choosing the right types and amounts of different food for your age, sex, activity level, health and of course, taste!

I have written extensively about food choices and types so explore my previous posts, some of which are here: Mediterranean diet, Importance of breakfast, Myths about healthy eating, Foods for a lower cholesterol, Eating healthy on the road, Fiber and health, Healthy foods etc.

So how to do it? How to eat healthy? Continue reading

Milk – what’s good about it, what’s not and the alternatives

Dear Dr. Mo: Is it true that most people are to extent lactose intolerant? Does dairy long term slows ones’ metabolism or truly have a power to boost it? Would you recommend substitutes for dairy for those people with lactose intolerance?

Milk's OK

Milk’s OK

Dear reader: I’ve been drinking milk my whole life – I grew up on it, as was the case with many other kids and as it is the case today. Kids need milk to grow, that’s for sure.

Adults? As with most things, there are benefits and there are risks.

So what’s good in milk and other dairy?

It’s a good and relatively inexpensive source of protein, calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D does not really naturally occur in milk but in most countries, milk is fortified with it so you find it there. Continue reading

Mediterranean diet – a healthy way of eating

Dear readers: Many posts on this site discuss different aspects of a healthy diet and mostly emphasize the importance of balanced, versatile and flexible but

Versatile and healthy food choices

Versatile and healthy food choices

healthy food choices, whether you are staying put or travelling.

This pattern of eating could be named in different ways and many have heard of the so called Mediterranean diet, which is in fact exactly that – a variety of good foods arranged in a flexible manner throughout the day.

The most recent and very exciting results came out of one Spanish trial just a few days ago, proving without a shadow of a doubt, the benefits of this ‘Mediterranean’ eating style. Continue reading

The importance of eating breakfast

Dear Dr. Mo: How important is breakfast for my health? Should I skip it if I want to lose some weight? I see some of my friends do this.

Dear reader: To answer simply – breakfast is the most important meal of the day and you should never skip it.

That said; let me quickly give a few important reasons for this.

Make it a healthy choice

Make it a healthy choice

Fist and foremost, if you want to lose some weight or just maintain the one you have (especially if it is a healthy one and feels good to you) eating breakfast every morning is the way to go.

I’ve spoken to people whose strategy was to skip breakfast thinking they would reduce their daily amount of calories – you are guessing already – they have failed at that. The reason such a strategy doesn’t work is because without a proper breakfast, you become very hungry by lunch time and not only that but you drive your body into energy conservation mode in which calories are being conserved and stored rather than spent and where your metabolism slows down – all of which is bad news for weight loss. Continue reading

Caught a cold?

Dear Dr. Mo: What exactly is ‘common cold’ and how to recognize it – is that the same as flu? Should I be worried and what to do?

Dear reader: These days you can’t seem to escape people who sneeze, cough, have a runny nose or all of it together – in fact, you may be one of them.

Don’t worry, it’s usually nothing serious, just a mild viral infection of upper airways also known as common cold and it requires no special treatment.

Chicken soup helps in recovery

Chicken soup helps in recovery

The symptoms of common cold may bug us for up to two weeks at a time and if we can maintain our daily function, if there are no serious muscle or joint pains, no high fever or strong headaches and prolonged fatigue it’s not the flu or other serious conditions and you shouldn’t be concerned. But if symptoms persist even after two weeks or start to get worse after 7 – 10 days, visit your doctor to see what’s going on.

Over 100 viruses can cause a common cold and you may experience anything from a runny nose to sore throat, cough and sneezing to watery eyes and strong congestion. Part of the package may also be mild muscle ache and headache, slightly elevated body temperature, mild fatigue and upset fellow elevator passengers. Those unlucky enough may get all these symptoms at once. Continue reading

Multivitamins – yes or no?

Dear Dr. Mo: How useful are multivitamin supplements and when should you take them? I tend to take them during the winter when I think I might be more likely to catch a cold from my students…

Dear reader:First of all, try to eat a healthy diet – this goes without saying. A multivitamin daily dose does provide some help against nutritional deficiencies but cannot and should not replace the natural way we take in vitamins – through a healthy and balanced diet. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, nuts and low in red meat and unhealthy fats.  For those people who manage to eat a healthy diet like that, a multivitamin may have little or no benefit.

Healthy diet removes the need for multivitamins

I realize however that many people don’t manage to eat such balanced and healthy diets for a variety of different reasons, some economic, some behavioral, some social etc.  In such cases, as well as in cases like yours (prophylactic), a simple message is this: a daily multivitamin is a good insurance policy for your nutrition!

Taking a daily multivitamin and perhaps some extra vitamin D is an inexpensive way for you to fill in some of the nutritional gaps and make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

There are even added health benefits to such habits – Folic acid found in most multivitamins helps prevent neural tube deficits in newborns if women take it before they become pregnant and during pregnancy; this acid also lowers risk for breast and colon cancer and heart disease. Continue reading

Low-carb foods – is low-carb healthy?

Dear Dr. Mo: I’m considering a low-carb diet. I’m thinking to cut my calories in order to support my weight-loss plan. Is it a good idea and what are some low-carb foods to start with?

Dear reader:Eating a low carb diet as a way to lose weight may sound attractive but it may also backfire as such dieting could drive our body into an energy conserving mode. In this mode, the body stores more fat for a rainy day than it normally would – this is because we provide insufficient amount of calories over a longer period of time and in anticipation of yet another calorie-poor meal, our metabolic engine slows down and conserves energy more and more.

Veggies are a great source of nutrients while being low-carb.

What this actually means is that over time, eating a low carb/low calorie diet may turn out to bring more fat during intermission when ou are not on a diet and even during the diet itself. Read about counting your calories as a tool to plan your weight loss.

Still, low-carb food could be useful to control your blood sugar and to support your weight loss but only in combination with other foods with complex carbs, protein, fiber etc. What I’m saying is that a balanced diet is more efficient and certainly healthier than any extreme diet in which some nutrients are almost completely eliminated – i.e. low carb diets.

Here are a few well-known and smart low-carb choices I’d use every day in combination with other healthy foods to maintain a healthy diet and attain and maintain a healthy weight: Continue reading

Fiber-rich foods – your allies in healthy weight loss

Dear Dr. Mo: I wish to lose some weight and I know fiber is important part of a good weight-loss plan. My diet so far has not been very healthy and I am trying to improve it. Which foods do you suggest as a good source of fiber?

Dear reader: Nutritional super foods, rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other health preserving compounds are all around us. And yet, we succumb to advertising and our own cravings for sugars, greasy junk food and the simple fact that fast food is easier to acquire, it’s more readily available and in truth, it is often cheaper.

Colorful salads are a sure shot when it comes to fiber-rich food

The first step is to become aware of these things and understand that in the 21st century, eating healthy presents a real challenge and asks for will power.

The magic word in today’s healthy diet which attains and maintains a healthy weight and good shape is, planning.

I say that in any weight loss plan, a strategic goal has to be Attain and Maintain.

To Attain and Maintain, you need proper tools, one of which is dietary fiber.
Fiber absolutely has to be on your daily menu – it not only helps in weight loss by keeping you fuller for longer and by regulating your bowel movement, it helps regulate cholesterol levels and ratios in the blood, preventing both weight gain and heart disease, Type 2 diabetes etc.

To help in your planning, here are some fiber-rich (super)foods you could include in your everyday meals: Continue reading

Ordinary foods that keep you healthy

Dear Dr. Mo: Which foods should I always include in my diet to improve my health and why?

Dear reader: It goes without saying that good dietary habits are good for our health – but what is not often emphasized enough is just how good that is.
It has been widely recognized by medical community that by simply increasing your daily consumption of fruits and vegetables you are lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes – and when I say lowering I mean really lowering it by 50 to even 70%!

Bananas are a nutrient powerhouse

There are of course other benefits too: an antioxidant called Lycopene in tomatoes, watermelon and red grapefruit is linked to protection against breast and prostate cancers, chances of developing kidney cancer are greatly diminished by frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables and fiber rich foods keep your intestines work properly preventing constipation, intestinal illness and help control your weight by keeping you fuller for longer.
We all have different appetites, habits and tastes but vegetables and fruits should be an integral part of our daily diet and many adults need roughly two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables per day.

Here is my selection of some ordinary foods, which I consider rich in all the nutrients you need to turn your daily diet into a health promoting and health protecting habit. Continue reading