A Heartfelt Ode to Oats

  • By Twyla McGann
  • 22 Feb, 2017

by Erika Brown, RD

There’s nothing quite like a hearty bowl of oatmeal to warm you up on a chilly February morning. And since oats are famous for keeping blood cholesterol in check, it seems only fitting to celebrate them during Heart Month .

But oats are no one-trick pony. There are many reasons why oatmeal was your Grandma’s favourite breakfast – and should be yours too!

The Heart of the Matter

Most comfort foods aren’t exactly known for their health benefits – but oats are an exception to the rule!

Research shows that oats help lower elevated blood cholesterol thanks to a special type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan. Just one bowl of cooked oatmeal serves up the 3 grams of beta-glucan shown to trigger a 5 - 7% drop in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol ( 2 ). Studies also show that replacing refined grains with oats can help lower blood pressure ( 3 ).

But wait, there’s more: Large flake and steel-cut oats are low glycemic  foods, meaning they're slowly digested and gradually released as sugar into the bloodstream. This makes oats especially useful for people with diabetes who need to control their blood sugars.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the fibre  in oatmeal is also good for our waistlines. Whole grain oats are high in complex carbohydrates and fibre, which help you feel full for longer and eat less during the day. So oats in the morning may be the perfect way to end late night nibbling.

A Heart of Gold

What makes oats so oatstanding ? One serving of cooked oats (¾ cup) fills you up with a satisfying 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fibre – all for just 166 calories ( 1 ).

But that’s not all: Oats are also loaded with heart-healthy minerals like magnesium , which helps control blood pressure, and iron , which helps deliver oxygen-rich blood to your heart and body.

Eat to Your Heart’s Content

Okay, so you’ve hopped off the gravy train and onto the oat boat. But with so many options it can be hard to choose the right oats to satisfy your craving.

A good rule of thumb is that the slower your oatmeal cooks, the better it is for you. Although instant and quick-cooking oats are easy to prepare, you’ll pay for that convenience with less nutrients and more added salt and sugar.

Whenever possible, choose regular, slow-cooking oats. They can be used in baking and cooking and are ready on the stovetop in just 10 minutes. Steel-cut oats are an even healthier choice. They take about 20 minutes to cook; but since none of the nutrients are removed in the processing they're well worth the wait.

Oats can be enjoyed any time of the day in many different ways:

  • Start your day with a bowl of hearty oatmeal. Instead of sugar, sweeten it by adding banana slices and cinnamon while the oats are cooking.
  • Make your own granola by mixing oats with dried fruit, nuts and honey. Bake until golden and crunchy.
  • Boost the fibre in your baking by adding oats into muffin, loaf or pancake batters.
  • Mix oats with lean ground meat or beans when making burgers, meatballs or meatloaf.

For a delicious and heart-warming start the day try the Fruity Breakfast Oats  from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan .

References

1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Cereal, hot, oats, large flakes, dry, Quaker. Retrieved from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do

2) Othman RA, Moghadasian MH, Jones PJ (2011). Cholesterol-lowering effect of oat β-glucan. Nutrition Reviews, 69 (6): 299-309. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00401.x

3) Tighe P et al (2010). Effect of increased consumption of whole-grain foods on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk markers in healthy middle-aged persons: a randomized-controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92 (4): 733-740. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29417

#ABfoodfight

By Alyssa Grams 19 Jul, 2017
Article compiled by Breanna Mroczek  with information from Dr. Mathew Estey, Clinical Chemist and Co-Director of Chemistry at DynaLIFE Medical Labs, and Dr. Christopher Naugler, Calgary Zone Clinical Department Head, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Medical Director
By Alyssa Grams 19 Jul, 2017
Post by Erika Brown
By Alyssa Grams 17 Jul, 2017

Symptoms

Imagine this. Recently you’ve noticed that your child hasn’t been acting quite like their usual self lately. You can’t quite pinpoint it, so you chalk it up to a rough week. But maybe that rough week turns into two.  You start to think on their behaviour more and you grow more concerned; they are always asking for extra water or juice at breakfast, they seem to be constantly hungry, they’re rushing off to the bathroom more frequently, and they are tired as soon as they step in the door from school.

Although these symptoms may seem common for children who may not have had a good night’s rest or for those going through puberty, that’s not always the case. These symptoms should be taken seriously, and if you notice these in your child for a prolonged period of time, you should discuss a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test with your doctor. An A1C test will determine your child’s average blood glucose level over the past 3 months. If your child’s A1C level is 6.5 or over, if could mean that they have Type 1 diabetes.


Diagnosis

As a parent, your child’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis can be earth shattering for both you and your child. So many thoughts can go through a parent’s head; why does it have to be my child? How is my child going to live with this? How am I going to be able to give my child everything they need now that they have this condition?

Every parent and child will go through this journey in their own way, but it is important to know that Type 1 diabetes is a disease that can be managed, and proper management will allow your child to live a healthy life. As for the questions, you have as a parent, we would like to help by providing you with a few answers.


Why does my child have to be diagnosed with Type  1 diabetes? Where does Type 1 diabetes come from? What could wehave done as parents to prevent it?

Type 1 diabetes is not a preventable disease. It is a mixture of genes and environment. Although scientists do not know the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes , they do know that genes and environment play a role . They have figured out that individuals who have a certain type of HLA complex (human leukocyte antigen on chromosome 6) may be susceptible to Type 1 diabetes. This complex can create an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by a viral infection.

Simply put, when your body tries to fight the viral infection, it may also attack beta cells in your pancreas—cells that make insulin. This process usually takes several years before symptoms develop. The right combination of genes (HLA complex) and environment (exposure to a viral infection) can contribute to the onset of type 1 diabetes.


How is my child going to live with this condition?

Diabetes will be a day-to-day change in you and your child’s life. Your child will require insulin injections. You might even be required to administer insulin injections for your child depending on recommendations from the doctor. You will also want to revaluate the lifestyle that you and your child live. Focus primarily on the diet and exercise your child gets. And remember to stay on top of these few daily tasks you will need to complete:

  • Administering insulin
  • Monitoring blood glucose
  • Making sure that your child is eating a healthy, balanced diet with diabetic guidelines (incorporating things like carb counting can help to manage blood glucose levels)
  • Ensuring that your child is getting exercise on a daily basis (involving them in two sports can mean practice up to four days per week and games on weekends)

Although it may not happen everyday, your child will go through highs and lows with their diabetes. Both diabetic highs and lows are serious and can be life threatening

Symptoms of a diabetic high and low are:

  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision

Symptoms of a diabetic low also include:

  • Headaches
  • Excessive sweating
  • Paleness
  • Shaking

You and your child’s first encounter with can be frightening. If you prepare yourself to know that symptoms and you are able to react accordingly, you can make your child feel safer in the earlier stages of this condition.


How am I going to be able to provide everything my child with everything they need to take this condition on?

The biggest change a parent can have on their child’s life is setting a great example. Your child relies on you and looks up to you. As a parent you should eat healthy, exercise, and take on proper responsibility for your own health. Your own accountability will benefit your child in the short-term and long-term. Additional support from friends and family will also help your child manage emotional and physical effects of the diabetes diagnosis. You may also consider joining a diabetes support group or participating in a run to fund diabetes research.

Advice from the following people can help ease the stress of your child’s diabetes:

  • An endocrinologist
  • A pharmacist
  • A nurse
  • A certified diabetes educator
  •  A registered dietitian
  •  An eye doctor
  • A dentist
  • A community of those who have children with Type 1 diabetes

As a parent, the best thing you can do for your child is simply to be there for them. Communicate with your child in a way that is supportive and will help to boost their self-esteem. Allowing your child to be open and honest with you will make treating diabetes that much easier.

No parent wants to see their children suffer. Remember that diabetes was not something that your child was marked for, and it isn’t your fault as a parent. As a family, you can work through this disease together, and put your child down a path of success.

By Alyssa Grams 10 Jul, 2017

Article by Breanna Mroczek. Photography by Darren Greenwood Photography.

By Carmen Johnson 04 Jul, 2017

You’ve seen the ads: “Cut out bananas and banish belly fat forever.” It seems like the world is going bananas over a simple piece of fruit.

It’s a bit strange. They’re almost identical in carbs to a delicious pear, but nobody seems to be preaching safe pear practice. So why do bananas get a bad rap? Why do people suddenly find them so un a-peel-ing?

Don’t be Split on Bananas

Many have tried to bruise the banana’s reputation by spreading the rumour that they’re loaded with carbs and sugar, instantly leading to weight gain and sending your blood sugars into a spiral. This is nothing more than a far-fetched fruit fallacy.

For one, at just 105 calories, a medium banana puts a mere 5% dent in a 2,000-calorie diet ( 1 ). Yes, bananas do contain starch and sugar, which does cause blood sugars to rise, but that doesn’t mean you should steer clear! First off, our bodies need carbs to function. Second, there is a world of difference between the sugar  in fruit and that found in pop, cake or candy. Unlike sweets, bananas are rich in naturally-occurring sugar, plus 3.5 grams of fibre and a ton of nutrients needed for good health.

Bet on Bananas

Fibre—like that found in bananas—is essential for weight and blood sugar management. It helps prevent overeating by making you feel full for longer. It also helps to slow the absorption of sugar. Just-ripe bananas and other carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels ( 3 ).

Another boast for the banana is that it packs, on average, more than 400 milligrams of heart-healthy potassium . That’s almost 10% of your recommended daily intake! Potassium is vital for normal muscle, nerve and brain function and is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure .

Since many Canadians may not be getting enough potassium in their diet ( 2 ), bananas are a tasty way to up your daily dose

Go Bananas!

Still think bananas are to blame for all your weight woes? Here’s the truth: No one food is responsible for the number on the scale.

A diet high in fibre-rich fruits and vegetables —including bananas—is a key ingredient for a healthy body weight and reduced risk of chronic disease.

Bananas are a carbohydrate-rich food. If you're watching your blood sugars, be mindful of your portions. Otherwise, there's no monkey business when it comes to bananas. Unless you have been told to limit them by your doctor, there’s no reason to shun this simple fruit.

Some tasty tips to enjoy bananas:

  • Use mashed ripe bananas to boost the flavour and nutrition in your favourite muffin recipes.
  • Freeze overripe bananas for smoothies or baking.
  • Add chopped banana to your oatmeal while it’s cooking. This releases natural sugars so you can cut back on added sweeteners.
  • Roll up a banana with some protein-rich nut butter in a whole grain tortilla for an easy breakfast on the run.

For a healthy version of your favourite summer treat make sure to check out the Breakfast Banana Splits  recipe in the P ure Prairie Eating Plan   Cookbook.

 

References

1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Banana, raw . Accessed June 7, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/serving-portion.do?id=119

2) Health Canada, Food and Nutrition (2012). Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Food Intake Alone? Accessed June 7, 2017 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/surveill/nutrition/commun/art-nutr-adult-eng.php

3) University of Sidney, Glycemic Index Database (2017). Banana, raw. Accessed June 7, 2017 from http://www.glycemicindex.com/index.php

 

By Alyssa Grams 04 Jul, 2017
Based on guidelines from Diabetes Canada. Illustration by Breanne Kelsey.
By Alyssa Grams 26 Jun, 2017

For most of us, our phone is our world. It connects us, informs us, and even gets us up in the morning. So it’s no wonder that our phones can help us manage our diabetes too! With over 50 apps available, there’s the perfect app for everyone. Some apps cost you money, but you’re already spending enough on your treatments! So here’s 5 free apps to help keep you on track.

By Alyssa Grams 26 Jun, 2017

Article by Caitlin Crawshaw. Illustrations by Julia Minamata.

By Alyssa Grams 21 Jun, 2017

Last week’s article touched on the different types of artificial sweeteners that are meant to work as sugar substitutes. We also talked about some of the reasons it may be a good idea for diabetics to stay away from artificial sweeteners. Now, we will dive a little deeper into the problems these sugar substitutes could have on your health and the balance of the good bacteria in your gut.

The most popular study to make this claim happened in 2014. The study showed that mice who ate saccharin (a component of some artificial sweeteners) developed a glucose intolerance. The sweeteners created an imbalance in the gut bacteria of the mice. These bacteria are responsible for converting food to fuel or fat.

The team wanted to make sure this also applied to humans, so they continued the study on seven healthy people who consumed the maximum serving of saccharin suggested by the FDA for six days. Four of these individuals were on the road to glucose intolerance—a step towards a diabetic diagnosis.  

The team concluded that this was only a preliminary study but did create grounds to explore this research further.

By Alyssa Grams 19 Jun, 2017
Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Dr. Andrea Haqq eagerly anticipated bisects to her pediatrician -- and not for the sticker at the end of the appointment. "I was always really interested in medicine," she explains. While her peers clambered off the examination table at the end of check-ups, Haqq lingered with questions about paediatric medicine and her doctor was more than happy to chat with his curious patient. By the time Haqq reached high school. her paediatrician was lending her medical texts on paediatrics and medical education, and had become a mentor as she considered her career path. 
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