I have what I'd call a vaguely informed idea of the nitty-gritty of nutrition, i.e. how the body converts carbs into energy, uses protein to build and repair tissue, and flushes out fiber. You know, all that stuff... But over time, my vague knowledge seems to get more and more vague if I don't brush up a bit.
So a few months ago -- at a very yuppie campground here in N. Cal (the kind with electric blankets in the tent cabins and a yoga center) -- I picked up a brochure to order a nutritional video called "Sweet Fire: Understanding Sugar's Role in Your Health." It's taken me this long to get around to sitting down and concentrating on watching the whole hour, but boy, I'm glad I did! I expected it to be some ultra-alternative organic-food love fest. But instead, it turned out to be a highly informative and practical crash-course in what different foods do to your body, and how to pick the foods that promote good health.
Mary Toscano is a former engineer-cum-certified Nutrition Educator. On film, she comes across like that one biology teacher in high school that everyone loved: the one who could make the complexities of science accessible to even the most clueless jocks. It's actually entertaining to watch her talk about hydrogenated fats and essential fatty acids. I learned, and was reminded of, a whole heck of a lot of important info about eating healthfully. A few highlights, from my view:
* Good carbs/bad carbs - simple sugars are worst, complex carbs are better because they are paired with other substances your body needs, and they absorb more slowly.
* Do you see "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" fats listed among the ingredients of that product you just picked up off the supermarket shelf? If so, avoid it like the plague. These trans fats raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower your good cholesterol (HDL) at the same time. Double-whammy!
* Fiber is actually a type of carbohydrate, but is indigestible, therefore does not raise your blood glucose or provide calories. In fact, it helps clean out your system, if you know what I mean.
* Do you know why Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are good for you? These are the fats that occur naturally in foods, like in fish, nuts and avocados. Mary says that when it comes to changing your diet, "Think Add," as in adding these beneficial foods. I like that approach much better than the "Think Avoid" approach we're usually expected to take.
* Free Radicals may be a partial cause of diabetes. Huh?? I had absolutely no idea that there was an established theory that these "unpaired electrons" -- aside from affecting aging -- may also be instrumental in causing chronic illness. Yikes!
* Essential dietary supplements - Mary boils it down to three: EFAs (like Fish Oil); Chromium (believed to enhance insulin action - for T2s only, of course), and some form of antioxidant, to offset those damaging Free Radicals. The latter should preferably contain OPC, or Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins, which help strengthen weakened blood vessels, Mary says.
Did I mention that the Sweet Fire video was NOT specifically designed for people with diabetes? One thing that threw me off was Mary's contention that HYPOglycemia (yes, low BG) is supposedly an early sign of Type 2 diabetes. This goes against everything I've learned to date (?)
In any case, don't come away thinking I've spilled the (nutritious, high-fiber) beans entirely, and that you won't need to watch the video now. 'Cause there's a whole lot more information packed in that hour! It's a $25 investment for the DVD, but I can pretty much guarantee that you'll get more our of it than your first half-dozen appointments with a dietitian (with all due respect). This is just so much more convenient, too. And you'll finally understand how your body runs on sugar, but how it's your job to keep that "sweet fire" in check.