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Culinary Rx: A Family Physician's Three Rules for Optimizing Diet & Protecting Against Diabetes

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PHOTOGRAPHY by
Olivia Hayo
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April 24, 2019
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Nutritional health is the most important vital sign I measure in my office.  Food is what you feed your growing children, what you bring to a family gathering, and ultimately what keeps you from becoming chronically sick.

What you eat is just as powerful as medicine, especially when it comes to preventing the progression of diabetes, and you don’t need a complicated diet plan to begin optimizing your health.

Fill Half Your Plate With Plants  

I emphasize to my patients with diabetes that studies show that meat and dairy worsens insulin resistance, so decreasing or substituting either or both is a step in the right direction.  Having grown up in a big Mexican family, I was always made to believe that meat was the most important part of a dish, but I’ve since learned that it's seasonings and flavors that make the memories!

Vegan recipes are a great way to ensure you’re cooking with more vegetables, which should be the highlight of every meal, rather than an afterthought. Simply substituting avocado for butter or dressing introduces a fiber-dense vegetable, full of healthy fats without skimping on taste.

A new favorite vegan recipe I found on EdibleSanDiego.com is the Cajun-Spiced Chickpea Cauliflower Tacos recipe, which is anything but bland.

Choose the Right Carbs

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Carbs have gotten a bad name these days, and some, like white rice, breads, and pasta, are low in nutritional value and fiber and cause sustained spikes in blood sugar that are difficult to control even with medication.  However, complex carbohydrates, like beans, whole grains and nuts, are loaded with fiber and protein and are a great way to fill-up sans the sugar spike.

The Southwestern-Spiced Comfort Bowl is loaded with healthy carbohydrates and I love that it can be done 100 different ways with a variety of whole grains, beans and legumes.

When shopping, check the nutritional information on packages and choose foods that have a lower carb-to-fiber ratio (at least <10:1, and ideally <5:1).  

Make Every Meal Count

You have an opportunity to improve your wellness every time you pick up your fork. Don’t wait for New Year’s Resolutions or even the start of a new week to make positive choices.  Small changes add up to major health improvements, and that can start with your next meal.

If you go out for a decadent meal, balance it out the next day. Conscious eating isn’t about punishment or guilt, but about eating in a way that makes us feel our best. There is certainly nothing sad-salad about Chili-Lime Avocado Salad, and with only a few ingredients, even non-cooks can have it on the table in minutes.

About the Author

Dr. Angelica Neison is a Family Physician with Sharp Rees-Stealy. She is currently pursuing studies in Culinary Medicine to help promote food as medicine to prevent and potentially reverse chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.  

Her passion is to improve the culinary literacy of her patients, and Sharp Rees-Stealy recently approved special extended appointments in which she has the opportunity to teach culinary medicine through hands-on cooking.

For more culinary tips, follow Dr. Neison @Flavors4WellnessMD.

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