More Control Than We Think – Pandemic Strategies for Healthy Eating

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Katie Bacon

As you look toward staying healthy in the new year, meaningful changes to your diet may help you manage glucose levels and maximize health in the face of COVID-19. Four experts – Whole Cities Foundation’s Dr. Akua Woolbright, low-carb guru Dr. Mariela Glandt, San Francisco General’s Dr. Rita Nguyen, and Harvard’s Dr. Lee Kaplan – shared insights for eating well, finding affordable food, and keeping your body’s immune system strong.

As we’ve learned more about COVID-19, it’s become clear that the virus presents a particular threat to people who have diabetes or other metabolic conditions, including obesity. With that in mind, I spoke with a range of experts who had specific, actionable tips on how to make nutrition and lifestyle changes during the pandemic, with an eye toward improving glucose management and metabolic health – even at a time when increased stress may make that more difficult. Though their perspectives and advice differed, each expert agreed that the disruption caused by COVID is a good time to make changes. Many of their suggestions offer ways to improve health – and not just during COVID. Others offer ways to make your money stretch further at a time when many people are economically on the edge (especially in the diabetes community), yet are also looking for healthier ways to eat. Though many of us feel helpless right now, we actually have more control than we may think, and the small decisions we make about food each meal can lead to positive changes.

All of the interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity. For more nutrition information for people with diabetes, click here.

  • Dr. Mariela Glandt is the founder and director of the Glandt Center for Diabetes Care in Tel Aviv, Israel, which specializes in treating diabetes through very low carbohydrate diets. She is also the author of How to Eat in the Time of Covid-19.
  • Dr. Lee Kaplan is an internist and gastroenterologist, a leading researcher, and the director of the Weight Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • Dr. Rita Nguyen specializes in internal medicine and has served as the Director of Chronic Disease Prevention for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, where she founded and directed the city’s Food As Medicine Collaborative. Currently, she is leading the department’s efforts to write COVID-19 guidance for all city sectors.
  • Dr. Akua Woolbright is the National Nutrition Program Director at the Whole Cities Foundation, an independent nonprofit foundation started by Whole Foods Market with the goal of increasing access to fresh, healthy foods and quality nutrition education.

What advice are you giving people during COVID, particularly in terms of nutrition?

Akua Woolbright: I have a mantra that I recommend: whole foods, plant based. Eat from the Earth, things that your great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother would have found in her outdoor environment. Another way I like to say that is food made by nature, not by people.

When I say plant-based, I don’t mean that everyone should necessarily be vegan or vegetarian, but that by building our meals around green and colorful vegetables, colorful fruit, whole grains, legumes, a few nuts, and seeds, our food starts to become micronutrient dense. We’re naturally getting less of what we don’t need (excess calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol) and more of what our bodies use for fuel and energy – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.

Instead of looking at one diet for weight loss and something else for high blood pressure and then doing something else for cancer prevention and then thinking about diabetes, I try to construct a diet that will be beneficial to all of our systems, organs, cells, and DNA. Here are some of my strategies:

  • That mantra “whole foods, plant based” can be used as a touchstone when you’re walking through the grocery store, when you’re going to restaurants, and preparing meals in your home. Try to avoid those packaged food products.
  • For someone who has diabetes, lean more on the green and colorful non-starchy vegetables. Go more towards the tart fruit like berries, and avoid starchy produce.
  • To start, think about changing breakfast. Breakfast in America tends to be pancakes, cereals, all of that stuff. And so instead, perhaps eat some beans for breakfast. That sounds crazy to people, but we know that beans with resistant starch can help regulate blood sugar for the rest of the day. Beans are simple, they’re affordable, and you can mix them up so many different ways – pinto beans with chili powder, curried black beans – I try to get people to be creative.
  • Start lunch and dinner with a large salad or a vegetable soup. This will give you a lot of micronutrients and fill you up with some bulk in fiber so you’re better able to manage your blood sugar and your cravings.
  • Drinking plenty of water is important. Some of your water can come from eating watery fruits and vegetables and drinking herbal teas. Herbal teas are great because they’re high in antioxidants and vital nutrients. And by getting proper hydration, you can remove toxins from your body and curb hunger.

I try to have some urgency around the changes we need to make to lead healthier lives – we can do so much more to support our own health.

Mariela GlandtMy message is that now, more than ever, is the time to pay attention to our metabolic health. And the best way I know of to do that is to reduce how much insulin your body needs, by changing the way you eat. I argue that when you lower insulin levels, it can be possible to correct metabolic issues, like heart diseasehigh blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. There is a much greater chance of getting severely ill if you have a complicated metabolic condition.

So how can you improve metabolic health? By avoiding the foods that demand insulin, which are carbohydrates and sugar. For the people I work with who have type 2 diabetes, I recommend a ketogenic diet (high in fat, low in carbohydrates). Type 2 diabetes is the body telling you, “Please, don’t bring in any more sugar; I don’t have anywhere to put it.”

As far as bang for your buck, you can see many more effects from changes to diet than from exercise or other aspects of lifestyle. It’s really worth paying attention to what you put in your mouth. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Go as “real” as possible – the least amount of store-bought and processed food. Stick to the outer aisles of the grocery store for the fresh food. Try to make things at home. Chicken, fish, eggs, and vegetables. That in itself brings you a lot closer to health.
  • Drop that bowl of cereal in the morning and have two eggs instead.
  • I’m against snacking. I think we should eat enough fat and protein to feel full without snacking. Aiming to eat no more than three meals a day can help to decrease insulin levels throughout the day.
  • Eat dinner as early as possible, because humans are not meant to be eating during the night time. That one change of eating earlier can be really helpful in terms of reducing insulin levels.

Rita Nguyen: The people I typically see are at our county hospital, so they tend to be economically and socially disadvantaged. Now, with the economic stress brought on by COVID-19, more people are facing similar economic situations to my patients. When you have plenty of money and access to food, it’s much, much easier to comply with dietary recommendations for diabetes. In the setting of restricted resources, I tell my patients that portion control becomes more important because you’re not able to always pick the healthier items, and oftentimes you may be only able to purchase or access shelf-stable foods.

For people facing financial constraints, here’s what I suggest:

  • You may end up eating more carbs to keep yourself full, but you should be particularly mindful to seek out complex carbs rather than simple carbs, and whole grains whenever you can (although some of the nicer whole grains are more expensive).
  • Try to cook from scratch as much as possible.
  • Protein is meant to keep people full longer and has less of an effect on your blood sugar.

People can do these things anytime, but these strategies become even more important when you’re facing real limitations in what you can purchase.

The final piece of advice I give is to quit smoking. The leading cause of death among people with diabetes is heart disease, and smoking contributes greatly to heart disease. Plus, cigarettes are expensive. If you smoke a pack a day, that costs over $2,000 a year. I totally understand that increases in smoking and drinking happen when there’s increased economic stress. But for some people, if you point out the economic and health costs, it can help them quit.

Lee Kaplan: Because we’re all eating at home to a much greater extent during COVID, we have the opportunity to learn how to cook and eat less processed foods than we did previously. This disruption provides a good time to make long-term lifestyle changes – whether it’s reducing stress or getting better sleep or eating healthier food. That’s the silver lining of all this. You can build new patterns with a keen eye toward where you eat, when you eat, how you eat, and what you eat, which all become part of a healthier dietary lifestyle.

To decrease the risk of developing diabetes, other metabolic diseases, cancer, and heart and vascular disease, you want to eat the diets that have been shown to improve specific risks [read about the American Diabetes Association’s dietary guidelines for diabetes here] – for instance, you want to follow diets that have iron, Omega-3s and Omega-6s, and are low in saturated fats, have no trans fats, and are low in concentrated carbohydrates. But none of those recommendations, in my view, has been demonstrated to cause substantial or durable weight loss. So, you should follow these diets for their health benefits, not because they will necessarily cause weight loss.

To the greatest degree possible during this time, you should also:

  • Decrease stress.
  • Have physical activity in your life.
  • Get healthy sleep.
  • Normalize your body’s internal rhythms through regular patterns of eating and sleeping, and accommodating third shift work or travel as needed.

Do you have specific recommendations around trying to boost the immune system during COVID?

Akua Woolbright: I like to make sure that we’re getting a variety of colorful produce at every meal. Every color corresponds to a different set of nutrients that feed different parts of the body. By eating a variety of colorful produce – purple foods, red, orange, yellow, green, brown, white – you are feeding different systems and organs, and really drilling down into your cells with nourishment and the ability to heal and rejuvenate the body.

When we’re looking for immunity, the three colors that stand out are orange, yellow, and green foods. This includes things like citrus, yellow or orange peppers, squashes, even some sweet potatoes, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and cabbage. They’re all effective in strengthening immunity, and those green foods give an added boost by removing toxins from the body.

I also like to talk about high-quality protein and making sure that people with diabetes and those who are trying to build a healthy immune system are careful to get enough protein throughout the day. Aim for at least 10 grams of protein, up to 20, spread throughout the day at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Why is protein so important for blood sugar and maybe even weight loss? It helps to stabilize cravings and blood sugar and makes you feel more even and balanced, allowing you to make active choices.

The quality of protein throughout the day is also important because our immune antibodies are made from protein. So we’re looking at lean meat: salmon is particularly great for immune boosting. When I’m looking for a plant-based protein powder, I’m looking for something clean, made with few ingredients, and with the protein coming from hemp, brown rice, or green peas.

With the pandemic economy, many people have even less ability than they did before to buy certain foods. How do you talk to people about healthy food choices at a time when so many are so economically stretched?

Rita Nguyen: Right now, it’s all about connecting people to resources through things like food pantries and food pharmacies, because you can only go so far with advice.

Healthcare can’t ignore the fact that you have to address food insecurity. You can’t assume that the person sitting in front of you has been employed the last nine months and has enough to eat. For people with diabetes facing food insecurity, if you maintain the dose of insulin or other medications, you either risk hypoglycemia because they’re not eating consistently, or maybe you’re under-treating them because their eating habits have changed. So for any diabetes healthcare professional, I think screening for food insecurity should be part of the standard of care at least during the pandemic.

Mariela Glandt: It’s a matter of prioritizing and looking for the sales. You can get meats that are on sale. Eggs also provide a huge amount of nutrition, they’re amazing, and they’re much cheaper than meat.

Akua Woolbright: I kind of treat this like church, where I give you all of the Ten Commandments, all the dos and don’ts. But then I tell people, “You’re going to start where you are and do what you can. If you can only go buy the fresh produce or dried beans, do that. If you can buy one new item, figure out which one you like and start there.”

Some of the recommendations I help people think through are logistical. If there’s one person in your neighborhood or your family who has a car, maybe you come together and drive further out to a grocery store that’s more affordable. Maybe you find hardy produce on sale, like cabbage, carrots, or squash, that will last for two to four weeks. Or look for fresh produce on sale. You purchase it and freeze it for later.

I talk to people about being creative in how you use frozen foods and canned and dried beans to stretch what you have so you can go to the grocery store less frequently. In the face of the coronavirus, we don’t want to be out in the grocery store every day anyway.

I eat very simply, and that’s how I encourage others to eat too. I make this wonderful curried chickpea dish with canned chickpeas. It’s a little bit of curry powder, turmeric, salt, garlic in the skillet with some oil. Add the chickpeas, stir them all up until they start turning yellow from the curry and the turmeric and then let them just simmer for a minute. Then I top that with whatever greens I have, and then maybe some chunks of tomato. I put that on top of some brown rice, and I am happy. And chickpeas are inexpensive.

Any other tips you are giving your patients now, specifically in terms of COVID?

Lee Kaplan: COVID is creating all kinds of stress, including a lot of economic stress for people. Be aware of that and pay attention. Stress is a huge negative factor in all the health conditions we’re talking about, whether it is obesity, diabetes, or liver disease. I think it’s very important to try to find new ways of relieving the stress, if possible. Whether through walks, time for solitude, or whatever activities help you relax.

Mariela Glandt: The virus is going to go around. It matters where it lands. It matters if it lands on fertile soil or not; I think that how metabolically healthy you are plays a really big role here. So in this regard, we have more control than we think. I’m not saying we have all the control, definitely not, but at a time when we can feel helpless, there’s a lot we can do to try to be healthy – and we can start by deciding what to eat.

Click here to read more about nutrition and diabetes.

About Katie

Katie Bacon is a writer and editor based in Boston. Her daughter, Bisi, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in August, 2012, when she was six. Katie’s writing about diabetes has appeared on and ASweetLife. Katie has also written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and other publications.


Review: The Impossible Burger – Good for People and the Planet

The folks at Impossible Burger, along with their dedicated team of scientists, farmers and chefs have spent years trying to figure out how to deliver the goodness of a burger without the killing of animals. By creating this meatless burger, Impossible Burger uses a fraction of the Earth’s resources. Impossible Burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions. Hearing these statistics made me really want to try it, and start exploring alternate types of burgers.

What Is It Made of?

Impossible Burger is made from proteins, flavors, fats, and binders just like any other burger except the ingredients come from plants. The “magic ingredient” that makes these burgers seem like the real deal is called heme. Heme is a basic building block of life on Earth, including plants, but it’s uniquely abundant in meat. This is what makes the burger smell, cook, bleed, and taste like a hearty burger. The Impossible Burger 2.0 replaced the wheat protein with soy protein, which not only added flavor but some dietary fiber as well.

One thing I loved to see is that Impossible Burger delivers the same amount of protein, 19 grams per serving, and iron as a beef burger — but its protein comes entirely from plants, it contains no hormones or antibiotics, does not create a reservoir for dangerous pathogens, and contains no cholesterol or slaughterhouse contaminants. The bioavailable protein, iron, and fat content are comparable to conventional 80/20 ground beef. Launched in 2019,  the new Impossible Burger contains 30% less sodium and 40% less saturated fat than their original recipe. Here are the ingredients and nutrition facts for their current recipe.

From Impossible Foods website

How Does It Taste?

I prepared the burger on a bun, smothered in cheese and pickles and it looked exactly like a beef burger. The smell also matched what I would expect from a burger joint. When I bit into it, I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor and found it to be quite juicy. It had a texture and taste that rivals meat and didn’t seem like the other veggie/plant-based burgers I have tried.

When I tried the original burger a few years back, I had to take into account that it contained wheat when figuring out my insulin dose. This time I took a very modest amount and it didn’t spike my blood sugars at all. The replacement of soy protein was a great improvement with the 2.0 but make sure to look out for a delayed protein spike about an hour or so post-meal.

 Impossible Burger

Photo credit: Impossible Foods

Where Can I Get Impossible Burger?

Since my last review, the Impossible Food brand has grown quite a bit. They are now available in restaurants and groceries worldwide, including Starbucks! Check here for locations near you.

What’s Next for Impossible Burger?

The team at Impossible Burger is working to transform the global food system by inventing better ways to enjoy the food we love, without sacrificing flavor. The Impossible Burger is their very first product, and they have since added Impossible plant-based pork and sausage to their list and I am anxiously awaiting their next new product. Enjoying food that is good for your body and your planet is a win-win!


Healthy Kitchen Swaps to Improve Blood Sugar and Diet

Eating healthy and learning to make better food choices is easier than ever, with the internet at our fingertips giving us boundless wisdom and guidance. Fresh fruits and vegetables are easily found at every grocery and corner store, but it’s not always easy, nor does everyone know where to start. Sometimes “swapping” one thing out for something similar is the easiest way to eat healthier.

These simple kitchen swaps will not only help your blood sugars, but can help with weight loss (or maintenance) and heart health as well, without sacrificing on flavor. By reducing your calorie intake only 50 calories per day, you can lose up to 5 pounds a year! Check out these swaps and see if anything may work for you!

Opt for Fresh Fruit over Dried

Instead of eating 100 grams (around 3.5 ounces) of craisins, try opting for 100 grams of grapes instead. The craisins will cost you 325 calories, whereas the grapes, only 69. This saves you a whopping 256 calories! Additionally, fresh fruit’s high water content more easily will fill you up, and you won’t be as likely to overeat, as opposed to dry fruit.

Sweeten Your Coffee with Cinnamon

Everyone loves a little sweet coffee or tea in the morning, but it doesn’t have to cost you calories. Adding cinnamon (1 tsp)  to your brew instead of sugar or honey (1 tsp), will not only save you 10 calories per serving, but will embolden your morning blend with metabolism-boosting polyphenols, and the powerful antioxidants in cinnamon that help curb insulin resistance. One study showed that participants who ate cinnamon daily lowered their blood sugars between 18-29%.


Photo credit: Georgia Vagim (Unsplash)

Go Popped Instead of Crisped

Watching a movie with friends? Try opting for popcorn instead of chips. While one cup (28 grams) of chips is 150 calories, a full six cups of popcorn (27 grams) is only 100 calories. Top it with nutritional yeast for a vitamin-packed snack: one tablespoon contains 2 grams of protein, and 30–180% of the recommended daily intake of B vitamins. It is especially rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

Go EVOO Instead of Butter

High-quality extra virgin olive oil (EVVO) is a great substitute for melted butter in both cooking and baking. Olive oil is lower in saturated fat than butter and contains beneficial antioxidants. Eating extra virgin olive oil can also help with insulin resistance and prevent type 2 diabetes. A large analysis found that including olive oil in one’s diet could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 13%. In comparison to a low-fat diet, a diet high in olive oil was also found to help normalize blood glucose in people who already had type 2 diabetes. One study found that a mostly Mediterranean diet enhanced with extra virgin olive oil decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes by more than 50%.

Have a Healthier Breakfast

Swapping out sugary granola for high fiber oatmeal or cereal will undoubtedly save you many calories, carbohydrates, and grams of added sugar. Eating only 1/3 of a cup (50 grams) of Gypsy Crunch Roasted Granola has over 260 calories, and 28 grams of carbohydrates (and most people will easily eat 1 full cup as a serving), whereas 1 cup of unsweetened oatmeal only has an average of 166 calories per serving, and 27 grams of carbohydrates. Additionally, oatmeal does not have any added honey, artificial sweeteners, butter, or emulsifiers that can quickly turn a healthy breakfast into more of a dessert.

By making these easy and quick swaps, you can save hundreds of calories per day, and more easily meet not only any weight-loss goals you may have, but also HbA1c goals as well! What easy swaps have you found to be helpful in your diabetes journey? Share this post and comment below; we’d love to hear from you!


Registered Dietitian Shares How to Stay Healthy at Home

The COVID-19 pandemic has left us all in fear, especially for those who are elderly or have pre-existing conditions. Knowing that we fit this demographic adds an extra layer to this difficult time. We’ve all been staying at home and trying our best to keep our minds and body active and healthy. I reached out to my diabuddy, Ben Tzeel, MPH, RD, and CSCCS to get his advice on how to get through this time at home.

Hi Ben, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I know you are a registered dietitian (RD) and strength coach and you are very active within the diabetes online community and doing your part to advocate, educate and support others dealing with this disease. You spend your time sharing your expertise on nutrition and exercise, even offering one-on-one coaching, helping people living with diabetes achieve better glucose and weight management. Both of these are even more trying during this crisis. I thought it would be nice for our readers to hear a perspective of a type 1 RD on how to remain healthy while at home!

How long have you been living with type 1 diabetes?

Almost 21 years!

Did your diagnosis play into your choice of becoming a registered dietitian and strength coach?

Yes! Absolutely. Growing up, I’d go to the endo every three months as I was supposed to, and as an athlete, I’d have a ton of questions about blood sugar management during practices, games, and more. I played baseball and volleyball and began lifting weights when I was fifteen. Still, no matter who I would talk to – endo, dietitians at the clinic, etc. – no one seemed to have any definitive answers, and it became a “figure it out for yourself” type deal, which got frustrating.  I started to take training more seriously in college, and learned nutrition was the X factor that could level up my training and my diabetes, so I ultimately became an RD.

How has your overall health and blood sugar management been leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic?

For me, it was pretty status quo – I was training as I usually do, five days per week with a combo of strength and interval cardio, and my blood sugars were pretty solid.  Life for me was normal, as it was for most of us.

When you heard the virus was picking up speed, what were your first thoughts? Fears? How did you prepare for staying at home?

I first heard about it in the end of January and didn’t pay it much attention, but once large events started getting canceled, including the Arnold, where I was supposed to meet up with some other members of the T1D tribe, I started to take it a little more seriously.  I actually went to Costco to stock up on food in case there was a lockdown, which for me in Florida didn’t happen for another four weeks. I wouldn’t say I was scared, but I definitely knew it was something serious and contemplated how I would adapt to stay at home life and minimal leaving.

Right now, people want to get in and out of the grocery store quickly. What are your staples foods that help keep you on track with your goals?

Great question. For me, before anything else, I’m planning out my meals ahead of time, so I have a plan going into the grocery store and don’t have to go up or down aisles unnecessarily. I’m thinking of my proteins (chicken, turkey, pork, canned tuna, salmon, cheese, greek yogurt, eggs), my vegetables (greens, peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, and more), and my fiber sources (chickpea or black bean pasta, whole grain bread/tortillas) and making sure each meal has them, and then getting food according to the recipes.

You’ve also got to have snacks that are delicious but won’t throw you off track – NRG bites are a favorite of mine, quest chips, and enlightened ice cream have all come in handy so far.

We are all trying to come up with quick, easy meals. What are some quick go-to ideas that will keep us on track despite this?

I’m the world’s laziest chef, so I love cooking up a ton of meat and veggies in the Instapot and portioning it out for a few days, but by having the protein on hand along with the foods mentioned previously, you can create things super quick. Tacos, burritos, anything Mexican, tends to be a winner for easy and delicious, any type of salad with chicken is a go-to, and I love peanut butter and jelly on the high fiber tortillas.

Things are getting harder for many financially. Do you have any healthy inexpensive snack or meal suggestions?

If you can buy in bulk, go for it, especially for meats and produce – just cook it up and you can freeze it after portioning it out. It saves a lot of money and also, time.

For snacks, you can’t go wrong with something as simple as veggies and hummus, cheese sticks, or even crackers and tuna.

I know a lot of us are stressed…very stressed. How do you suggest people combat emotional eating? 

Stress will wreak absolute havoc on your blood sugars, so lowering it is going to be key to success. To combat emotional eating, try to situate yourself with some sort of barrier between you and the food, like sit in another room.  When snacking, portion it out, put the container away, and consider moving to a room away from the food so you can’t just get up and go grab some more. But also divert your attention to something else that is hopefully more constructive, like going for a walk or reading a book.

Many people thrive on routine, which is really hard to achieve right now. Do you find you have more success with eating right when you stick to a routine and schedule? 

Routine is key right now – keeping things as normal as possible for eating is going to help you feel your best from both an energy and blood sugar standpoint.  Once you start introducing eating at strange times, eating foods you normally wouldn’t, and eating from sheer boredom, that is where things could become a bit more haywire, and once you fall off the tracks, it can spiral out quickly if you don’t stop it.

Many people want to remain active but aren’t sure exactly how. Besides going for long walks, what are some basic exercises people can do at home?

It’s all about bodyweight workouts to start with! Pushups, squats, lunges, planks, v-ups, side lunges, jumping jacks, burpees, and wall sits can all be combined into a circuit that will definitely make you work hard.  If you have some heavy household objects, you can use those like dumbbells to press or row.

What have you been doing to stay in shape? With being as knowledgeable as you are, are you finding it hard to adapt to our new normal while staying focused on your overall health?

It’s definitely been a little strange having not been in a gym in a month, but I’ve remained consistent at home. I’m fortunate to have a kettlebell and a few resistance bands, which is enough for me to maintain a fairly normal training routine, but again, I’m doing a ton of pushups, lunges, and squats, since those are the types of things I’d be doing anyway in the gym.  To me, the biggest key is to just move. I can say that my overall movement has been difficult, since I don’t really leave where I live, but I’ve still been getting to 5000+ steps per day.

I did create an at-home, 4-week workout program for my clients that I’ve been following as well and that has been super helpful to keeping me on track with different types of training.

Right now, a lot of people are struggling mentally. What are your coping strategies to get through this time?

Biggest thing is to focus on what you can control. None of this is an ideal situation, but dwelling on the negative is going to get you nowhere.  Focus on how you can improve, stay on track, get better, and figure out a way to adapt so when this is over, you can look back at this time and say, “Wow, I could’ve squandered that stay at home time, but instead, I feel like I’ve really used it well and gotten ahead, I’ve gotten better.  Shift your mindset’s frame from “Why me? This sucks” to “What can I do today with the opportunities I have?”

Thank you, Ben for taking the time to talk to me and for all you do for our community! It is more important than ever to take care of our mental, emotional and physical well being so we appreciate these tips!

What have you been doing to keep your mind and body active during this time at home? Share and comment below!


Keeping Your Immune System Healthy

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Mariana Gomez and T’ara Smith

Perhaps you’ve read about boosting your immune system to protect you from infections and other illnesses, including the Coronavirus. But, there aren’t any magic foods, supplements, or one-size-fits-all solutions to boosting your immune system because it’s a complex network of cells, organs, tissues, and proteins. Still, healthy living provides its benefits, including keeping our immune systems strong, and research is being conducted to study the effects of nutrition, exercise, mental health, and others on our immune response.

How Diabetes Impacts Your Immune System

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. There is not enough evidence to identify the cause but we know that our immune system insulin-producing cells are destroyed. We now know that people with type 1 diabetes are more likely to have a co-occurring autoimmune disorder. The reason that co-occurring autoimmune disorders are so common isn’t yet known. We also know that hyperglycemia can affect our immune system’s response so it would represent a barrier for recovery and fighting virus and bacteria. This does not happen only in type 1 diabetes (T1D) but other types of diabetes as well.

People with type 2 diabetes should be aware of the impact the disease has on their immune system as well. Hyperglycemia in diabetes is a probable cause of the disruption of how the immune system functions. Humans also produce “natural killer” cells that are critical to human immunity. A study showed people with type 2 diabetes have lower counts of these cells compared to those without diabetes and with prediabetes. This makes it harder to defend the body against viruses, diseases, and diabetes-related complications.

Overall, people with diabetes are more susceptible to common infections such as the flu and pneumonia. To protect your immune system, stay up-to-date on your doctor’s visits, get vaccinated against the flu, and get screened for complications.

Essential Nutrients for a Strong Immune System

Another way you can protect your immune system is through nutrition. With a healthy diet, food can help protect you against illnesses and help improve recovery. Different foods contain different quantities and types of nutrients and micronutrients. Therefore it is important to include a variety of food groups in your diet. Vitamins A, B6, C, E, magnesium, and zinc play important roles in our immune function.

How Vitamins + Minerals Help Your Immune System

Vitamins and minerals are known as essential micronutrients. Even though they are needed for our health, our bodies can’t make them on our own or enough of essential micronutrients, therefore, they must be obtained through food. There are nearly 30 vitamins and minerals the human body can’t make on its own. A healthy diet will include different groups of foods that contain some of these nutrients.

Micronutrient malnutrition results in a lack of vitamins and trace minerals that can affect the response of our immune system to fight different health conditions. The NIH lists the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for vitamins and minerals. While this provides general guidelines for different age groups, please talk to a nutritionist or your doctor about recommended intakes for you.

Vitamin A is an anti-inflammation vitamin that helps develop and regulate the immune system and protect against infections. This Vitamin can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, eggs, and milk. While vitamin A is important, it is possible to consume too much of it. High intake of vitamin A from supplements and some medications can cause headaches, dizziness, coma, and death. According to the NIH, pregnant women shouldn’t consume high doses of vitamin A supplements.

Vitamin B6 helps improve immune response to the increase in the production of antibodies, a protective protein produced by the immune system to fight antigens in the body. Vitamin B6 is found in a variety of foods. Food sources of vitamin B6 include pork, fish, poultry, bread, eggs, cottage cheese, tofu, and wholegrain foods such as oatmeal and brown rice. Getting too much vitamin B6 from food is rare. However, from supplements, long-term use for a year or more can lead to nerve damage.

Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid, helps your immune system by fighting free radicals that cause cancer and other diseases. It’s a popular nutrient to fight or treat the common cold. While focusing on vitamin C consumption may not prevent you from getting sick, it could decrease the length and severity of cold symptoms. It also helps by stimulating the formation of antibodies. This vitamin can be found in oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries, tomato juice, among others. Too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps.

Vitamin E works as an antioxidant, which protects the cells from damage by free radicals and helps the body fight infections. This vitamin can be found in sunflower seeds, almonds, vegetable oils, hazelnuts, and spinach and other green leafy vegetables. There isn’t a risk of consuming too much vitamin E from foods. Precautions should be taken when taking supplements, which could interfere with other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Magnesium is a nutrient that our body needs to regulate the function and work of our muscles and the nervous system. It is involved in the process of forming protein, bone mass and genetic material. It is found in legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, milk, yogurt among others.

Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight bacteria and viruses and is needed to produce proteins and DNA. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood, the body requires zinc to grow. Zinc can be found in oysters, red meat, poultry, crab, lobster, cereals, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.

Drinks That Help Your Immune System

You can find or create your own drinks to help your immune system. Some beverages you may want to try at home that are high in important immune-friendly vitamins are:

*Juices may be high in carbs and sugar, so if you can, opt for unsweetened teas like green/chamomile teas, or whole fruits.”

Alcoholic beverages are generally fine to consume in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a weaker immune system. Heavy drinkers are more likely to get pneumonia and drinking too much alcohol at once can slow your body’s ability to ward off infections.

Should You Use Supplements to Help Your Immune System?

Supplements are used in cases where diet is not able to sufficiently provide micronutrients. While supplements aren’t meant to replace a balanced diet, they’re used to help people with other health conditions and may be prone to nutrient deficiencies. Many vitamin and mineral supplements can be purchased over the counter. But, check with your physician or a registered dietitian nutritionist to see if you actually need them. If you’re taking other medications, talk to your doctor on how vitamin and mineral supplements can interfere with those drugs.

Other Things You Can Do to Stay Healthy

A healthy diet is definitely a big part of remaining healthy. Other things you can do on a regular basis to maintain your health is to practice good hygiene (i.e. washing your hands), see your healthcare provider routinely, keeping an emergency medical plan and your emergency contacts updated. Also, prioritize physical activity and refrain from smoking. From a mental and emotional health perspective, practice stress-relieving techniques and know the signs of diabetes burnout.


Review: The Only Bean – A High-Protein, High-Fiber, Low-Carb Alternative to Pasta

I gave up pasta pretty early on in my diagnosis. I would say pasta and pizza were the two things I just figured weren’t worth the hassle. I find them both to be fattening, heavy, and not good for my weight or my blood sugars, so I stay away. Up to now, I have found […]