Jacklyn: I cook fairly often and make a decent effort to stay away from overly-processed stuff like condensed soups, boxed stuff, premade sauces, etc. However, what with Pinterest and various food blogs, I keep running across really delicious-looking recipes that use refrigerated crescent rolls or biscuits. I’ve always avoided those things because they seem really processed, I’m not sure if they’re really all that bad. What’s your take? For what it’s worth, my goal is really just minimizing overly-processed stuff, not eliminating anything even remotely processed from my diet.
Prevention RD: Jacklyn, I’m right there with you on being open to selecting quality convenience foods. I think the biggest thing to look for in processed foods (e.g. biscuits, like you mentioned) is hidden trans fat. The whole marketing scheme around “trans fat free” is very frustrating. While the fast food industry is touting their “trans fat-free oil” I want to scream, “ALL OIL IS TRANS FAT FREE!!!” Trans fats are created through processing and are added to ingredients to create a more desirable taste and more importantly, texture. Potatoes aren’t the problem…deep fried potatoes are the problem. Trans fat pops up all over the place and by law, trans fat only has to be disclosed on the nutrition label *if* a single serving contains more than 0.5 grams. Basically, many of us are getting 0.2 grams here…0.3 grams there…and another 0.4 grams from another food item…without even knowing it! Even if we read nutrition labels! Delve deeper into the ingredient list and look for the key words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” — if these words are present in the ingredient list, the food is not trans fat free…and the product may very well say 0 grams of trans fat and “trans fat free” on the front. What a load of bologna, huh? After ruling out the presence of trans fat in your processed items, be sure to check out things like sodium and saturated fat. While the caloric content of processed versus homemade is usually very similar, evaluating for trans fat, saturated fat, and sodium usually lead people to choosing the products they wish to home-make and the products they can find an acceptable, prepared version of 🙂 I hope that helps!
STH: I have a question about my significant other’s diabetes and blood lipid management. He was doing so well with his healthy eating, exercising, etc., but lately he’s fallen off the wagon. He ran out of his statin and his Metformin and didn’t get them refilled, and I think there’s been some (maybe a lot) stress-motivated secret junk food eating. He went to the doctor yesterday and his cholesterol and triglycerides were right back up there again. Going back on the statin will help his cholesterol but my question is what I can do, as the cook of the house, to help with his triglyceride levels. I understand that carbs, especially sugar, bring them up; are whole grain carbs as bad as processed ones when it comes to triglycerides? We basically only eat whole grain carbs at home, but I’m wondering if I need to reduce the overall amount more than I already have.
Prevention RD: STH, great question and a huge hug to your guy. Diabetes is kind of like weight loss…it’s easy-ish to get started, but keeping the motivation forever is…well, really challenging (trust me, I know!). He’s not alone. His blood sugar and triglyceride issue are feeding on each other. While you can reduce the carbohydrate in the diet (mostly simple sugars, but even complex carbohydrates and whole grains need to be considered), if blood sugars are high…there’s an excess of carbohydrate (sugar) in the body. Basically, the triglycerides are likely an issue because of the diet, but also because of the uncontrolled diabetes. It’s uncommon to see uncontrolled diabetics who have normal triglyceride levels. One thing to consider would be a therapeutic dose of omega 3 fatty acids (2-3 grams a day). Omega 3’s are proven to help reduce triglycerides (just check with a doctor first to be sure he’s not on a blood thinner or other drug that would contraindicate omega 3 supplementation). Getting back on the statin and Metformin will of course help, too. I would also make note to boyfriend that the mechanism by which Metformin works isn’t a diabetic miracle. Metformin’s mechanism works by shutting off hepatic (liver) glucose production, allowing people to get sugar from their meals, not what is stored in their bodies (we store sugar in our liver and muscle). Metformin isn’t designed to lower blood glucose levels drastically, but rather it is used in conjunction with diet and exercise to help with glycemic control. As for the carbohydrates, consider reducing total carbohydrate to about 175 grams a day (assuming a normal man’s body weight of 175ish pounds…feel free to email me his height and weight for a more accurate recommendation on carbohydrates). Avoiding simple sugars (sodas, juices, sweets, etc.) is of primary concern, but in the end, carbohydrates are carbohydrates and they will affect triglyceride levels. I hope that helps!
Please feel free to send me your question for the next Q&A! Preventionrd AT gmail DOT com.
I’m going to be on the radio this morning blasting myths about diabetes — love it! 😀