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Hello! Dr. Alvi here,

Are carbohydrates unhealthy?

This is one of the most common questions my patients ask me. In order to answer this question, lets start by taking a look at what carbohydrates actually are.

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients our bodies need. The other two are fat and protein. Each macronutrient serves its own specific function and all three are a vital source of nutrition. It is important to remember that many Whole Foods have some combination of these three macronutrients.

When evaluating the carbohydrate content of a food, its important to look at the TYPE of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates can be broken down into complex and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in naturally occurring unprocessed or minimally processed foods such as health promoting whole grains and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates are found in both unhealthy processed or refined foods and health promoting fruits.

Grains can be broken down to whole grains and refined grains. We can use the schematic of a whole grain and refined grain above to understand the difference between the two types.

As you can see, a WHOLE grain (shown on the left) is full of fiber, nutrients, minerals, and phytochemicals while a REFINED grain is stripped away of some of the most nutritional components of the grain. The refined grain (shown on the right) is devoid of the beneficial bran and germ layers and left with the higher carbohydrate endosperm.

Studies have shown that those eating WHOLE grains have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and even premature death. Those eating refined carbohydrates may increase their risk of the same chronic diseases.

So in summary, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Eating a doughnut is NOT the same as eating Kale or Oatmeal. Complex carbohydrate and Whole grain options are Quinoa, Brown rice, Oats, and Amaranth.


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Hello, Dr. Alvi here,

Let’s talk about fruit.  As an Endocrinologist, I often get asked about it:

  • Is it healthy?
  • Does it have a lot of sugar?
  • Can I eat any fruits, or stick to certain ones?

There is certainly a lot of misinformation out there, so it’s a topic that deserves the time to be discussed!

The answer to these common questions can be explained simply by looking at what fruit is providing nutritionally, alongside a deeper dive into the the evidence-based literature  supporting how healthful fruit can be. 

Fruits NATURALLY contain simple sugars such as fructose, glucose, and sucrose. Sugars commonly ADDED to a lot of foods are these exact simple sugars. Since these simple sugars are found in both foods, they are indeed the root of the confusion and misinformation. 

Let’s talk about what the whole fruit provides: HEALTH PROMOTING Water, Fiber, Nutrients, Minerals, Antioxidants, and Phytonutrients.  There are many studies to support the favorable outcomes of fruit on health. One large epidemiological study showed higher fruit consumption being associated with a lower risk of Diabetes.  

Let’s talk about what added sugar provides: Essentially it provides Empty Calories. Sugar sweetened beverages in particular have been linked to Type 2 diabetes. 

My take away is basically the same message when it comes to nutrition – to look at foods as a whole package and the benefits they can provide to optimize overall health. 

I love all fruit, but mangos are my top favorite fruit.  What are your favorite fruits?

References:

  1. Du et al. Fresh fruit consumption in relation to incident diabetes and diabetic vascular complications: A 7-y prospective study of 0.5 million Chinese adults. PLOS med. 2017
  2. palmer et al. Sugar sweetened beverages and incidence of type 2 DM. Archives of Internal Medicine 2008.

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May 20, 2019 Plant-based News

Dr. Saadia Alvi believes in the power of plant-based nutrition. Here, she discusses the benefits of changing your nutrition habits.

One of the keys to maintaining a healthy weight is sustainable nutrition habits – making changes to, and sticking with, the types of food you eat on an ongoing basis. This does not mean you have to make sudden, drastic changes to what you eat; taking simple steps toward eating better will help your nutrition.

For many people, evolving their nutrition to better-for-them foods is a realistic approach to changing their habits and their tastes. If you like what you are eating, you will eat those foods. As you get more comfortable with “new” foods, spices and recipes, you’ll naturally expand your palette. Deciding to improve your nutrition is a great excuse to get creative in the kitchen.

I emphasize plant-based nutrition because the positive results of eating more whole and plant-based foods are well-documented. The quality of the food is also important – whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits are the healthier options. While technically plant-based, foods like potato chips and French fries are not great choices for your best nutrition or ideal weight.

Whole foods and plant-based foods are ones that have been processed or refined as little as possible and are free from additives or other artificial substances. They provide superior nutrition as they contain no cholesterol and less saturated fat and provide the protein, vitamins, iron and omega fatty acids your body needs for optimum energy and health. Nutrition benefits including pre-biotics, phytonutrients and flavonoids.

In the average American diet, it is estimated that 32% of calories comes from animal foods, 57% from processed plant foods and only 11% from total plant foods. Of that 11%, less than 6% comes from actual whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and nuts (U.S. Dept of Agriculture).

That average diet is reflected in our weights – 31.8% of U.S. adults aged 20+ are overweight and 39.8% are obese (cdc.gov). That’s 71.6% of Americans.

As you add more whole, plant-based foods to your daily nutrition, it does not have to be an “all-or-nothing” scenario. You can start by making some simple switches, like using plant milk in your coffee or tea instead of dairy; steaming vegetables instead of frying them; flavoring foods with spices and herbs instead of fatty sauces; and adding non-animal protein to your meals like tofu, quinoa, chick peas or lentils.

In helping my patients manage and prevent chronic health conditions, I encourage them to focus on nutrition and lifestyle changes that they will adopt as their “new normal,” and thus, stick to. Just like a person didn’t gain 50 unwanted pounds overnight, it’s not always realistic to try to change habits all at once. It is much simpler to find ways to fix your favorite vegetables or non-animal proteins so you love eating them.

This sustainable approach to nutrition is why fad diets rarely work for people for the long-term. They’re just a whole lot of work – measuring, counting and restricting what you eat. They may provide short-term results, most typically due to water loss, but as soon as you deviate from the diet, your weight gain will begin anew.

Plant-based nutrition can help you reach and maintain your healthy weight with no calorie counting. Eating healthier can also lower your risk of chronic diseases including high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. A whole food, plant-based diet can be your simple “diet for life.”

Note: It is important to discuss nutrition changes with a physician to address any existing conditions or medications you take.


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April 18, 2019 Plant-based News

Working this powerful little seed and crucial vitamin into your daily routine has a big impact on your health.

Flaxseed is a seed so powerful that a couple tablespoons a day could help lower cholesterol, promote healthy skin and ward off sugar cravings. How? The small seed is a great source of fiber, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, which provide us with antioxidants.

They also:

  • help lower bad cholesterol
  • help promote healthy skin
  • help promote hormonal balance

Also ensure you are consuming Vitamin B12 every day, as the lack of it could drive to neurological consequences. The B group vitamins play pivotal roles and have a great impact on neurological health and brain cell functions. These vitamins are essential for the proper functioning and development of nerve cells.


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April 18, 2019 Plant-based News

Better nutrition, better health
As a Plant-based Endocrinologist, Dr. Alvi believes the more plant-based foods you eat, the better your health will be. Upgrading your body’s fuel with the right proteins, essential fats, complex carbohydrates, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals helps you prevent chronic disease and function at your mental and physical best.

Dr. Alvi guides her patients on eating more vegetables, fruits and fiber-rich foods while cutting back on processed foods filled with fats, sugar and salt. She emphasizes a balanced diet that works for you – no extremes, no gimmicks, no fads. Just a common-sense approach to eating with nutrition top-of-mind.

Improved nutrition helps prevent chronic disease. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight, combat aging and improve your immune system. Simple changes to plant-based foods can also save you the health care costs of chronic conditions that poor diet accelerates.

The connection between better nutrition and better health is well documented. Some examples:

  • After 18 weeks participants following a low-fat plant-based diet lost an average of 9.48 pounds, dropped 13 points off their LDL cholesterol score and lowered their biochemical markers for Type 2 diabetes. [The GEICO Study, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012]
  • A study at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio found a plant-based diet without “dairy, fish meat and added oil” reduced coronary artery disease symptoms in 94% of patients and reversed the disease in 22%. [The Journal of Family Practice, 2014]

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Saadia Alvi, MD believes in the power of both evidence-based conventional and lifestyle medical approaches to prevent, manage and treat endocrine conditions. After 13 years of practice, she opened her membership-based care practice to help her patients actively pursue better health.

Her practice is based on conventional evidence-based medicine. An Endocrinology Specialist, she is Board Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in the specialties of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism.

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