The Lowdown on the Lipid Panel

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in our body cells and our blood. We need cholesterol, as it aids in digestion, hormone, bile acid and vitamin D production and more. We get cholesterol from two sources. Our liver makes it and the rest we get through the foods that we eat. Which foods have it? If it has a tail, a face, a wing, a gill, a hoof, a mommy or comes from one of these, it has cholesterol. If it comes from the ground, it’s cholesterol free. If you don’t have heart disease, you shouldn’t exceed more than 300 mg of cholesterol through food per day. To help remember that number, I tell people to have no more than a perfect game in bowling, yes that’s 300. If you have heart disease, lowering that daily cholesterol intake to 200 mg is better. Many of us get a lot more cholesterol than we should have in a day. For example, if you eat just one egg yolk, you get close to that 300 number. Your lipid profile consists of four components: total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and HDL. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is commonly known as your “bad” cholesterol. I like to tell people that it’s like a bus of hoodlums that travels from your liver to through your arteries, dropping off the hoodlums to hang around your arteries where it can start to grow into a crowd on your artery walls. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is your good cholesterol. I tell patients that it’s like a paddy wagon that picks up the hoodlums (LDL), takes them to the liver where...

What’s the best way to lose weight?

Losing weight boils down to a simple mathematical equation. If you put more calories in your body than you burn, you’ll gain weight. If the calories you consume equal those that you burn, expect to maintain your weight. Finally, if your calories in are less than your calories out; you’ll lose weight. But don’t go on a fad diet or a very restrictive one. These can backfire in the long run. Cut 500 calories per day through diet and exercise and you should lose 1 pound per week. Don’t skip meals, eat a balanced diet consisting of lean proteins, veggies, fruits, whole grains and lowfat dairy. Monitor portion sizes and method of food preparation. And don’t forget to...

I’ve heard a lot about fiber. Why’s it so important?

Fiber is found in plants, so foods such as fruit, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, cereals and whole grains will contain it. We don’t digest it, yet it does a lot of good things for us. There are two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar. Insoluble fiber can help our digestive system and keep us regular. There’s crossover between the foods that contain these, so I tell people to enjoy a variety of higher fiber foods. Fiber also fills, so if you’re trying to lose weight and reducing portion sizes leaves you hungry, including higher fiber foods in your diet will help. The average person in the United States gets about 14 grams of fiber. That’s not enough. The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults get between 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. If you’re not eating a lot of fiber now, don’t double your intake overnight. You’ll be unhappily bloated and more! Add fiber slowly into the diet and drink adequate amounts of...

I have diabetes. Should I be on a low carbohydrate diet?

People with diabetes shouldn’t go on a low-carb diet. In fact, almost 50% of total calories should come from carbohydrate. It’s our main energy source. But it’s likely many of us eat way more carb than we should. Three to four servings of carbohydrate per meal is enough for most of us. That’s 45 to 60 grams of total carbohydrate per meal. Fifteen grams of total carbohydrate for a snack is appropriate. Examples of serving sizes (15 grams of total carbohydrate) include one slice of regular sandwich bread, 1/3 cup of rice or pasta, ½ cup of beans, ½ a cup of oatmeal, ½ a banana (or a small banana), 1 small whole piece of fruit or ¾ cup of blueberries. Carbohydrate should be paired with a protein. Milk and yogurt have both protein and carbohydrate and can be eaten by itself as a snack. Please don’t eat carb by itself unless you have low blood sugar. Avoid fruit juice and regular soda (unless you have low blood sugar). Treat desserts as small items for special occasions. Don’t skip meals and take your medication properly. Maintain or get to a healthy weight. Diabetes and carrying too much weight on our frames love each other. They’re husband and wife, best friends for life. Please consult your personal physician and/or dietitian for guidance and an individualized meal...

Sweet or Sour? The Scoop on Sugar Substitutes

I often say that sugar substitutes, aka artificial sweeteners, can evoke a similar emotion among us as politics often does. Many of us embrace a candidate wholeheartedly, others cautiously dip in a toe or two, while there’s another group of us who are ardently against them. That’s okay. We have the right to our own opinions and choices. Given that, many of us consume sugar substitutes in beverages and in thousands of other products. Some of you may be surprised to know that sugar substitutes also can be found in some toothpastes, mouthwashes, cough drops and even some medicines. Sugar substitutes, like Equal, Sweet’N Low, Splenda and Truvia are very concentrated and therefore sweeter versions of the real thing. The theory is that we therefore use less of them. Most of us likely do just that. And that’s a good thing. Because I recommend that we look at these artificial sweeteners as we should most things. Moderation is key. There are some benefits that can be realized from these little colored packets. They basically have no calories, so they can be an aid in weight loss/weight management. I hear some of you in the anti-sugar substitute camp already sighing. But consuming more calories than we burn can cause us to gain weight. Sugar substitutes can help us cut calories. There have been several studies, including a small one from Denmark recently reported inDiabetic Living magazine. Using healthy subjects, it was found that drinking 4 cups of regular sugar-sweetened soda over a 6 month period resulted in a much greater increase in total cholesterol, triglycerides and abdominal fat than those who...