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Eating the right food and taking the time to enjoy it can improve your health

COURTESY: COATES KOKES - Taking time to enjoy a family meal can also lead to eating smaller portions since it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to tell you youre full.The power of food is unbelievable.

The vitamins, nutrients, minerals and fiber in the foods we eat help fuel our bodies and keep us healthy. But just like burning the wrong fuel in your car will have negative consequences, poor diet and lifestyle choices can negatively impact your health.

You can improve your health by consistently choosing nutritious foods over less healthy options that are full of fat, sugar and preservatives. A balanced diet of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products will help manage your weight, as well as your risk for diabetes and other related chronic health diseases.

Type II diabetes develops when the body does not make enough insulin, does not use insulin effectively, or both. Consuming excessive processed, sugary foods, combined with lack of exercise and poor lifestyle choices increases risk of diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause damage to your eyes and kidneys, and even lead to heart disease or stroke.

“Diabetes is a growing concern for doctors everywhere as more patients, young and old, are diagnosed with the chronic disease,” says Dr. Lee Bertheau, a diabetologist at Adventist Health Portland’s Diabetes and Endocrine Center. “Improving your diet and getting regular exercise is the best combination to prevent diabetes or limit its effects if you’ve already been diagnosed.”

Approximately 287,000 adult Oregonians have been diagnosed with diabetes, and it’s estimated that another 100,000 don’t know they have the disease. The Oregon Health Authority also estimates that more than one million adults in the state may have prediabetes.

The number one cause for Type II diabetes is obesity. Research has shown that 80-90 percent of Type II diabetes cases are caused by obesity.

This November for National Diabetes Awareness Month, Adventist Health is encouraging Oregonians to make a few changes to help maintain or prevent diabetes through improved food choices and weight management.

“Eating nutrient dense, real foods and limiting highly processed foods can help prevent diabetes,” says Irene Franklin, registered dietitian at Adventist Health Portland. “Sticking to a healthy diet can be challenging, especially during the holidays when comfort foods and sugary sweets are always around. But there are tasty alternatives and healthy holiday tips that can help prevent weight gain, diabetes and other diseases.”

Franklin and health experts at Adventist Health Portland have a few recommendations for improving your diet this holiday season and preventing unwanted weight gain. Making improvements to diet and lifestyle now can help prevent diabetes later.

  • Savor the flavor and pass on seconds. Slow down when you eat! It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full. Instead of devouring everything on your plate, take time to enjoy each bite, as well as the table conversation. This will help you avoid overeating.
  • Mix things up with new recipes. Instead of mashed potatoes made with cream and butter, try cooking a cauliflower mash using coconut cream, ghee and garlic. Replace the butter and brown sugar in your candied yams recipe with orange juice and maple syrup.
  • Cook with healthy alternatives. Mayonnaise, butter and heavy cream are delicious, but can double the amount of fat in a recipe. Instead, try using low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt to give your holiday dips and dishes the creaminess and consistency they need.
  • Cut out the sugar. Holiday pies and other desserts are loaded with sugar. Try cutting down on the amount of sugar the recipe calls for. All natural juices and fruits can be used to sweeten up desserts.
  • Limit your dessert. It’s easy to load up your plate or nibble throughout the evening on cookies and sweets without thinking about all the sugar you’re consuming. Sometimes it can be difficult with all the options, but try limiting yourself to one dessert item following a holiday meal. Sweets are an everyday battle though, so try to limit dessert to once or twice a week.
  • Bring a side dish. You may not have control over the food being served at the holiday party or Thanksgiving dinner, putting your lifestyle and health goals in the hands of your host. Offer to bring a side dish that you know is tasty, and healthy. Try roasting asparagus spears with parmesan cheese or Brussels sprouts with olive oil and sea salt.
  • Control your portions. It’s easy to go overboard during the holidays. Rather than gorge yourself, stick to the portions you’d normally eat. Also, remember to eat breakfast and lunch on holidays, that way you won’t overeat at dinner. Portion control is challenging, but helpful for maintaining optimal health. When it comes to day-to-day meals, check labels for serving sizes, as well as sugar and fat content, to prevent overeating.
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