I’ve given quite a few presentations on diabetes prevention and management in the past few weeks, so it’s no surprise that I have the Glycemic Index (GI) on my brain. The GI is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate-containing food raises your blood sugar. Foods are rated on a scale of 1-100 based on how fast they raise blood sugar compared to a reference food, usually white bread or pure glucose:
<55 = low GI (good)
55-69 = moderate GI
>70 = high GI (bad)
Foods with a low GI raise blood sugar slowly, meaning they provide a steady source of energy that helps keep blood glucose levels stable. Foods with a high score raise blood sugar quickly, and cause it to drop just as fast, leading to unstable glucose levels. Blood sugar fluctuations can be dangerous in diabetics, and can cause issues such as increased hunger in between meals, lack of energy, and moodiness in most people. Therefore, it’s important to choose foods with a low GI as much as possible in order to keep blood sugar stable throughout the day. If you must reach for a high-GI food, try to pair it with a low-GI one to avoid blood sugar fluctuations. GI values for over 100 foods can be found here.
Several factors can affect GI, so the aforementioned GI chart is just a guideline. Be aware of the following GI influencers:
- Fat and fiber content. Foods that contain fat or fiber take longer to digest, so they can help stabilize blood sugar. Choose foods that are made with heart-healthy unsaturated fats (rather than saturated or trans fats), and contain at least 3g of fiber per serving.
- Ripeness and storage time. As fruits and vegetables ripen, the starches they contain are broken down into simple sugars, thus increasing their sugar content. Therefore, the riper the fruit or vegetable, the higher its GI. A ripe banana has a GI of 62, which is bordering on high. A slightly under-ripe banana, however, will keep blood sugar much more stable.
- Processing. There is only one ingredient listed on the carton of orange juice I drink most mornings: oranges. One would think that an orange and orange juice would have exactly the same GI, but processing actually increases the GI of most fruits. When fruits are juiced, they lose their skin, seeds, and other components that provide most of the fiber they naturally contain (and many of the nutrients, as well). When fiber is lost, there is not much left to help slow down digestion, so blood sugar – and GI – rises more rapidly in “processed” foods like fruit juice.
- Cooking Time/Method. Al dente is the preferred way to cook pasta in Italy, but most Americans like their pasta slightly softer. However, just like slightly under-ripe fruits and veggies have a lower GI, so do many slightly under-cooked carbohydrate-containing foods, like pasta. Again, this has a lot to do with starches being broken down into sugars, so cook your pasta according to the directions for “al dente” in order to give it a slightly lower GI.
All of this being said, while GI is important, the amount and type of carbohydrate you’re eating also matter. Be sure to choose complex carbs like fruits, veggies, and whole grains more often, and limit your intake of refined carbs like those made with white flour in order to help keep your blood sugar levels where they need to be.
Flaxseeds pack a lot of nutrition in a small package. They’re a great plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help decrease inflammation and lower cholesterol levels. They’re also extremely high in fiber and lignans, chemical compounds found in plants that act as an antioxidant. Whole flaxseeds are not fully digested by our intestinal tract, so for the most nutritional benefit, choose ground flaxseed, which can easily be found in grocery and specialty stores. I like to sprinkle ground flax on cereal and oatmeal, but it’s also great as a substitute for oil in baked goods. Here, flax adds a healthy twist to dinner rolls.
2 tbsp fast rising instant yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups whole-wheat flour
¾ cup ground flax seed
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups lukewarm water
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a bowl, mix yeast, 2 cups each all-purpose and wheat flour and ground flax.
3. In a large bowl, beat sugar, eggs, and salt. Add water and stir.
4. Add flour mixture to the liquid and beat until well blended.
5. Add remaining flour and knead.
6. Let rise 15 minutes.
7. Punch down and let rise again 15 minutes.
8. Punch down and form into buns.
9. Let rise one hour.
10. Bake 20 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack. Makes 4 dozen buns.
Recipe adapted from the Flax Council of Canada
Cold, snowy, windy winter weather can easily deter even the most avid exerciser, but what’s going on outside doesn’t have to be an excuse not to exercise if you have the right equipment inside your home. I’m an advocate of building up a home “gym” for a number of reasons, the most important being that there is no excuse not to exercise when everything you need to do so is right in front of you. If you work out at home, you don’t have to factor in travel time to and from the gym, so it’s easy to fit in one or more quick workouts throughout the day. Home exercise is also a lot more cost effective than joining a gym, since you only need to pay for your home equipment; once it’s purchased, that’s it – there are no monthly fees or major upkeep charges.
The obvious choices for home workout equipment – treadmills, stationary bikes, and rowing machines, can be pricey and take up quite a bit of space. All of the equipment I recommend here is inexpensive, cost-effective, and can easily be stored in even the tiniest of apartments (I speak from experience on this last point). Choose one or more of these items, and you’ll soon be incorporating exercise into your daily routine, no matter the weather.
– Come in a variety of formats: different lengths of time, types of routines, activity levels
– Prices range from $5 to $25
– Consider an assortment of 2-, 5-, 10-, 12-, 15-, and 20-pound dumbbells
– $15 to $25 per set
– Choose one with a comfortable cushion that’s long enough for your body.
– Costs about $40
– Great cardio workout
– A good jump rope costs about $10, although you can buy one for as little as $1!
– Perfect for a great cardio or strength training workout
– Cost ranges from $50 to $100
– An alternative to dumbbells
– Provides a good strength workout for the upper and lower body
– A set of varying resistance costs about $12
– Can be used in a variety of flexibility, strength training, and balance exercises
– Great for stretching, sit-ups, pushups, overhead presses, and many more
– Costs about $30
While turnips may not be the best-known or most popular root vegetable, they’re just as versatile and tasty as their distant cousins carrots and sweet potatoes. Turnips in their whole form provide a lot of bang for your buck, as both the root and leaves are edible. Turnip roots are a good source of fiber and high in Vitamin C. Turnip leaves, or greens, like many other green leafy veggies are rich in Vitamins A, C, K, folate, and calcium. When you buy turnips at the store, get creative and try to use the entire vegetable to make multiple, healthy dishes.
2 lbs. turnips
½ cup Skim or 1% milk
3 tsp. butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Rinse and peel turnips. Cut them into large, even pieces. Put them in a pot, cover them with cold, lightly salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook turnips until very tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, gently heat the milk over low heat. Add butter and melt it into the milk.
3. Drain turnips, return to the pot, and place over medium low heat to dry out the turnips a bit.
4. Mash turnips until as smooth as possible or run them through a ricer. Stir in warmed milk and melted butter. Add pepper to taste. Serve mashed turnips hot.
Turnip Green Soup
1 bunch of turnips with greens, or 3 or 4 turnips and 1 bunch of turnip greens
2 small onions or leeks
2 or 3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 to 6 cups homemade or low-sodium vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Remove the greens from the turnips, if necessary. Wash and rinse the greens, cut them into thin strips, and set them aside.
2. Peel the turnips, chop them into small chunks, and set aside.
3. Peel and finely chop onions or clean and finely chop leeks. Set aside.
4. Thinly slice garlic and set aside.
5. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium high heat. Add the onions or leeks, sprinkle with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes.
6. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
7. Add the chopped turnips and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook until turnips are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
8. Stir in the turnip greens and cook until the greens are tender, about 2 minutes.
9. Taste the soup and add seasonings to taste. Serve the soup hot, garnished with black pepper.
Recipes adapted from About.com
Thanksgiving is upon us, which means that it’s time to start dreaming about all of the tantalizing food that will be a part of your holiday feast. More than likely, your meal will include at least one variety of cranberry sauce, which could be a good or bad thing. On their own, cranberries are a good source of fiber and are rich in antioxidant polyphenols, which can help keep your immune system strong as flu season approaches. When they’re combined with loads of sugar and preservatives to make the cans of cranberry sauce that are most often found on Thanksgiving tables, however, cranberries transition from a health food to just another ingredient in a sugar-laden side dish. Cranberry sauce doesn’t have to be unhealthy if you prepare it yourself and watch the sugar content. The recipe below is just as tasty as the cranberry sauce you may be used to – and it’s something for which you can feel good about reaching for seconds.
Fruit and Nut Cranberry Sauce
1 bag (12 ounces) whole, fresh cranberries
⅓ cup sugar
1 orange, juiced, plus ½ tsp zest
½ cup roasted pistachios, chopped
1 firm pear, cored and chopped
¼ tsp ground cumin
1. In a medium saucepan, cook the cranberries, sugar, and orange juice over medium until the cranberries burst (about 10 minutes). Let cool.
2. Stir in the zest, nuts, and cumin. Makes 6-8 servings.
Recipe adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray. November 2013.
Here we are on the fourth week of our Stress Less Challenge. How many of you are feeling less stressed since you started this challenge? I have to admit, I was skeptical at first that something as simple as participating in this challenge would help to reduce my level of stress. Well, 21 days down and I can honestly say I have found myself less stressed. I have learned to turn my commute into a less stressful event. I have also learned not to “sweat the small things.” I find I have wholly embraced the challenge to my advantage. I trust most of you have found alternative ways to reduce stress other than the techniques listed in our handouts.
I have done some research this week and have come up with a few additional ideas I happen to agree with to help us all reduce stress. First is Reflection. Reflect on what is important to you. This helps you to re-center yourself, which makes the stressful situation less of a stressor. Many of us, myself included, tend to focus on the negative and not on what can be a positive. If you look for the positive, you will find you are less stressed.
One of my personal favorite discoveries for stress reduction is chocolate! A piece of dark chocolate can brighten your outlook and reduce stress. A daily dose of dark chocolate (70 percent cacao or higher) is a proven antidote to stress. It has also been said that it can lower your risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease – three less things about which to stress. Cacao beans are rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant. They help to counteract the anxiety-producing hormone cortisol. I know you are smiling just thinking about having chocolate! Just make sure you are having dark chocolate, as milk chocolate has not been shown to be a proven stress-reducer.
Here are a few other foods that have been shown to reduce stress: Cantaloupe is loaded with Vitamin C, which is crucial for fighting stress. Blueberries are loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants, which lower stress. Broccoli is filled with B vitamins known to relieve stress. Broccoli also contains folic acid, which has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, panic, and depression. The vitamins in almonds are great stress relievers: Vitamins B2 and E, magnesium, and zinc. Isn’t it nice to know that you can eat, in moderation, to reduce stress!
You won’t hear from me for the next few weeks. I will be finishing up my Stress Less Challenge! I wish you well over the next few weeks of the challenge. I will blog once more when I complete the challenge to give you my thoughts on how I did. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. Don’t let the holiday stress you…use your challenge tips to make the day enjoyable!
Walnuts are one of my favorite nuts – and not just because they’re fun to crack open. They make a tasty addition to baked goods, salads, and pasta dishes, and are one of the best plant-based sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, of which many of us have a hard time consuming enough. Walnuts are also a good source of the antioxidant Vitamin E and an excellent source of iron, manganese, and several B vitamins. The next time you are tempted to just use walnuts as a topping or mix-in to your main dish, challenge yourself to think outside the box and use them in a new and innovative way, such as this smoothie.
1 cup walnut halves, rinsed (about 4 ounces)
3 cups water, plus more for soaking the walnuts
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup walnut milk
1 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup ice cubes (about 8)
1. To make the walnut milk: Place walnuts in a bowl and fill with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Cover and set aside at room temperature to soak at least 1 hour to 12 hours. Drain walnuts and rinse thoroughly. Combine walnuts, 3 cups water, honey, vanilla, and salt in the carafe of a blender then blend on low until very smooth, at least 2 minutes.
2. Combine all smoothie ingredients except the ice in the carafe of a blender and blend on high until the dates are broken up and the mixture very smooth, at least 1 minute.
3. Add ice and blend briefly on high until ice is just broken up. Pour into chilled glasses and serve immediately. Makes 3 servings.
Recipe adapted from the California Walnut Commission
So here we are on the third week of the Stress Less Challenge. Is everyone finding the challenge easy to follow? I have to admit, some days are harder than others (especially when you sit in traffic!). I find I talk to myself more; that is, I say, “Don’t let this stress you out. Breathe.” Taking that breath makes all the difference some mornings when I’m navigating city traffic.
Last week I mentioned I was going to try different techniques for stress reduction. My newest find – Lavender! Oh, the wonderful, calming scent of lavender! Lavender has a fresh, sweet, floral, herbaceous aroma that is soothing and refreshing. It is a great aid for relaxing and winding down before bedtime. Just a small bit of lavender oil yields relaxation in abundance. Try putting just a few drops on your pillow at night and you will be lulled into a relaxing sleep. I have tried this a few nights myself. I am happy to report it really does work. You might want to try putting a lavender-scented plug-in in your work space to keep you calm throughout the day.
This week, I also learned some more about what stress management techniques do and do not work for me. Listening to a relaxation CD does not work for me. I found it didn’t keep my attention long enough. I would actually tune out the CD and not pay attention. I think my multitasking efforts have foiled me on this one. I do find when I am using a yoga DVD, the tone of the voice of the instructor is very calming. Maybe I am just not ready for the CD technique yet.
Would you believe raking leaves actually helped me relax?! I love being outside anytime of the year. I think the combination of the fresh air, the beautiful colors of the leaves, and the scent of fall in the air made a wonderful combination for relaxation. Plus, this accounted for many hours of physical activity to help release loads of endorphins!
Where will the next week take me in this challenge? I think with the holidays coming up it might be time to schedule some “me time” with myself. I’m already running around preparing for Thanksgiving. I think I need to schedule some time to do something fun and relaxing for me. I also suggest you do the same for yourselves before we are full swing in holiday preparations! Here’s to a successful third week of less stress for all of us!
Mention the words “Brussels sprouts” to most people, and you’ll immediately illicit a groan. Brussels sprouts’ bad reputation as a strong-smelling and unpleasant-tasting vegetable is often the product of overcooking, and therefore undeserved. When prepared correctly, Brussels sprouts are full of flavor (in a good way) and nutrients. They’re high in fiber and an excellent source of Vitamins C and K. Brussels sprouts are also rich in the cancer-fighting compounds sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, making them a nutritional powerhouse on which you don’t want to miss out. Try roasting Brussels sprouts, as in the recipe here, to bring out their sweet side and lock in all their vital nutrients.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons good olive oil
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves.
3. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Recipe from Food Network
By Guest Blogger Janine Brady, Business Development Officer, Metro Credit Union
Metro is proud to be the credit union for Massachusetts State Employees. Their goal is to provide exceptional service and expert guidance to help you achieve your financial goals! Janine Brady, Metro’s Business Development Officer, offers some tips to help start you along the journey toward becoming financially fit.
Everyone’s heard this before, but don’t live beyond your means. The best way to stay fiscally fit is to be responsible. Budgeting, debt repayment, and saving are good habits to establish.
Budgeting is like making a doctor’s appointment a year in advance. Think proactively. Make it a point to balance your expenses and income. There are plenty of financial resources available to you. Get a budget sheet and start plugging away. Budget sheets focus on what money is coming in and what money is going out. Start with the bare necessities (housing/utilities, transportation, food, insurance, and medical expenses) and then move on to non-essential spending (dining out, entertainment, personal shopping, vacations etc). I’m not suggesting you give up your big vacation, but plan for it so the vacation doesn’t sit on a credit card balance long after your tan fades. Some credit unions even have Vacation and Christmas clubs so that you can contribute on a weekly basis to a separate account for that specific purpose.
Want to give yourself a shock? Tally up how much money you spend on coffee or cigarettes a month. These little things add up and may make you consider adopting healthier lifestyle habits as well.
Pay off Debt
Along with a budget comes repayment of debt. Debt can take the form of a number of things, including school loans, credit card balances, car and personal loans, and of course, your mortgage. The key is to plan and balance what you’ve taken on as debt. The rule of thumb is to pay off higher APR balances first, so you’re paying less in interest.
Want to get ahead financially? Save. There are a million ways to save, but you need to be in the mindset to pay yourself first. Saving will help in the long run, especially with normal, but large,expenses that unexpectedly come up. That’s why it’s great to have a savings to tap into, so you don’t have to rely on a credit card when these things happen.
Here are some savings options:
Basic Savings – The traditional route and always a good choice if you like to have immediate access to your funds.
Money Market – Secure investment, which offers access to your funds and tiered rates based on balances.
CDs – A timed deposit that locks in your money at a certain rate to earn interest over a certain period of time – usually ranging from 3 months to 5 years. You cannot gain access to your funds without a withdrawal penalty until that term is up.
IRA (for retirement) – Tax-deferred earnings, which are then invested in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.You can access your IRA funds after a certain mandatory age.
Pay yourself first – set up a payroll deduction. Deposit a certain amount each pay period into a savings account, club account (Christmas or Vacation) or an IRA. What you don’t see, you don’t miss!
If you follow these tips, you will be well on your way to achieving financial wellness! For more information on how Metro Credit Union can help, go to www.metrocu.org.