Healthy Bites 4/14/21

Here's how you can eat, think, and move this week in order to live your healthiest life.

How to Eat
What are "good" carbs?

For those of you who are trying to watch your carbs or manage blood sugars, you have probably been told to stick to eating "good carbs". But what exactly are good carbs? For the most part good carbs would (1) be whole foods and (2) have a low glycemic index or load.

Okay, whole foods you can probably figure out - nothing processed. But what about the whole glycemic index/load thing? That’s not too difficult to figure out either. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly the sugars from foods (carbs) are absorbed by the body. Foods with a low glycemic index release their sugars more slowly than those with a higher glycemic index. This leads to less of a spike in insulin (which is a good thing).

The glycemic index (GI) was calculated experimentally by feeding healthy subjects a food containing 50 grams of carbohydrates and then measuring blood sugars. The higher the blood sugar, the higher the glycemic index. The glycemic load (GL) takes into account a standard serving size of a food to calculate how much it raises blood sugar. The glycemic load is probably going to be a better predictor of how your body will respond to a food since you will likely be eating a standard serving size rather than whatever amount of that food gives you 50 grams of carbs. Low glycemic index foods are less than or equal to 55. Low glycemic load foods are less than or equal to 10. The original research on the glycemic index was done at the University of Sydney in Australia and they provide a great resource for looking up the GI and GL of your foods.

How to Think
4-7-8 Breathing for Relaxation

Breathwork has been used for centuries by many cultures to induce relaxation. It is great for releasing the stress of the day before you go to sleep. Also, you can add it to the transitions of your day - before and after meetings, before you get in the car, before you prepare or eat your meals - to approach each segment of your day in a more relaxed manner. This will reduce your overall stress.

Here is a simple technique that you can practice: inhale to a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, then exhale completely to a count of 8. Do only two repetitions at a time when you are getting started since this can make you a little light-headed until you get used to it.

How to Move
What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. HIIT has been the focus of a lot of research lately that has demonstrated that you can benefit from short, intense bursts of exercise as much or more than longer sessions of low intensity exercise. According to the CDC, only a little more than half of Americans over the age of 18 get enough aerobic activity on a weekly basis. One common excuse is not having enough time to exercise. A HIIT routine could change that since it may be as brief as a few minutes.

An example of HIIT would be using a stationary bike to pedal as hard as you can for 10 to 30 seconds followed by 1-2 minutes of recovery pedalling. Then repeat this 4 to 6 times. Pretty efficient, right? (Always check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.)

Some of the benefits of HIIT include the following:
  • 30 minutes of HIIT burns more calories than 30 minutes of other activities
  • HIIT increases your metabolism more afterwards than jogging
  • It can help you lose body fat and gain muscle (lean mass)
  • Improve how efficiently your body uses oxygen
  • Can reduce heart rate and blood pressure (like other exercise)
  • Can reduce blood sugar and insulin resistance (great for diabetics)

In the News
Seriously -  my liver’s fat, too?!

Yep, your liver can get fat, too - and cause some serious problems. Fatty liver can have many causes but the most common are alcohol consumption (alcoholic fatty liver disease, AFLD) and overweight/obesity, insulin resistance, and high triglycerides (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, NAFLD). In some people with NAFLD, the liver can become inflamed and they develop NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). NASH can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure.

Since being overweight or obese are pretty common problems in the US and Europe these days, it may not come as too much of a surprise that as many as 25-30% of people in these countries may have NAFLD.

Your doctor can diagnose NAFLD by doing a physical exam, checking some blood tests (a liver panel), and/or imaging your abdomen with ultrasound, CT, or MRI. Ultimately, you may even need a liver biopsy to determine how severely your liver has been affected.

What should you do if you have NAFLD? Avoid alcohol or medications that can damage the liver. Lose weight. Exercise. Eat a whole foods diet (avoid all processed and fast foods). Control your blood sugars.

Supplement Your Health
Vitamin D and Covid-19

Vitamin D plays a big role in your immune function, and it is a common vitamin deficiency in the Western world, especially in northern climates. Recent studies on Covid patients have revealed some interesting findings about vitamin D levels and Covid infection.

In one retrospective study of 489 patients who had vitamin D levels measured in the year prior to the pandemic, those with a low vitamin D level were about 77% more likely to test positive for Covid. (1) In another small study of hospitalized Covid patients, over 80% were found to have a vitamin D deficiency. (2)

People with vitamin D deficiencies also tend to have other medical problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. These are also risk factors for developing symptomatic Covid infections. Some physicians treating Covid patients are giving them vitamin D to aid in their recovery.

While it may not be a routine test for all physicians yet, you can ask yours to measure your vitamin D level to know if you need supplementation. For most adults, 1000 to 2000 IU of vitamin D3 is safe to take (always check with your physician before starting any supplements).


Tasty Tip
This week’s tasty tip will reinforce the importance (and deliciousness) of eating low glycemic index/load foods.

Strawberry, Quinoa, and Bean Bowl
Serves 4

2 (15 oz) cans black beans
16 fl oz chicken or vegetable broth
1 (4 oz) pkg crumbled feta cheese
2 jalapeño peppers
1 lime
1 cup quinoa
1 (16 oz) pkg strawberries
1.2 t black pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 t honey
1 t salt

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the quinoa and broth; bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Drain and rinse the black beans in a colander; set aside.
  3. Once the broth comes to a boil, stir the mixture, cover the saucepan, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the quinoa for 15 minutes. Once done, remove the quinoa from the heat and let it stand, still covered, for 5 minutes.
  4. Juice the lime into a large bowl (that will be used to mix the strawberries and jalapeño pepper).
  5. To the lime juice, add olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper; whisk together.
  6. Medium dice the strawberries and add to the bowl with the dressing. Toss.
  7. Quarter the jalapeño peppers lengthwise; remove and discard the stem, seeds, and membranes. Finely dice the peppers and add to the strawberries. Toss.
  8. To serve, arrange the quinoa, black beans, strawberry- jalapeño mixture, and feta in 4 sections in a bowl.

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