Raw cacao comes from the beans of a rainforest tree. Chocolate, that much loved favorite, is a byproduct of these beans and combines milk, sugar and additional ingredients along with the cacao beans.
There’s currently quite a bit of heated disagreement on whether raw cacao is healthy or not. Note that several sources state that little solid research is available to substantiate some claims that cacao is unhealthy.
One of these claims states that cacao is dangerously addictive and therefore, harmful to one’s health. Like coffee, cacao is a stimulant and concerns focus on over consumption leading to disturbances in sleep and potential agitation of the kidneys as well as liver damage. Among the more extreme concerns are that cacao in high doses can cause hallucination and at the least alter moods negatively leading to potential paranoia and depression as well as causing rapid heartbeat.
These arguments seem weak in the face of cacao’s many stated health benefits. Naturally sugar free and unlikely to cause allergic reactions in its’ raw form, cacao offers many health benefits such as being a mood elevator that’s packed with powerful antioxidants offering lowered blood pressure and protection from heart disease and cancer. Cacao also comes with healthy fats and has an ORAC rating of 28,000.
Again, in the face of the potent health benefits of cacao, many of the concerns about its’ unhealthiness appear extreme and even a bit silly. It’s all about maintaining balance in one’s diet as over consumption of many foods could lead to disastrous health effects. As a type 1 diabetic, I was thrilled to discover cacao, eat it several times a week in moderation and have absolutely no intention of giving it up!
Food Facts: Why is Spinach Good for Diabetics?
Spinach is one of those foods that “wows”. Ranked high on the list of the world’s healthiest foods, spinach offers particular benefits to the diabetic in terms of blood sugar balancing and reduction of inflammation.
While high in a number of nutrients, spinach is notably highest in magnesium and iron both and magnesium improves insulin sensitivity (1). It’s also high in the vitamins and minerals: Vitamin B2, B6, Vitamins K, A and E. Spinach is also rich in Folate, Calcium, Potassium, Manganese and Copper. Although not a fatty food, spinach is also a source of the good Omega 3 fatty acids.
As an anti-inflammatory, spinach contains carotenoids (a category of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients) and flavonoids (also phytonutrients) that are known to be powerful antioxidants also with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. The anti-inflammatory characteristics of spinach are especially notable within the digestive tract.
For those diabetics with digestive issues, spinach offers some true benefits.
Spinach is also listed as the number one source of chlorophyll from the world’s healthiest foods. While the definition of chlorophyll states that it’s the green pigment in green vegetables, chlorophyll offers significant health benefits and is considered a superfood. Chlorophyll deserves a research page of it’s own but for our purposes here regarding spinach, know that chlorophyll helps to eliminate free radicals by protecting our cells from oxidative damage. Chlorophyll has been shown in research studies to play an effective role in reducing Candida overgrowth as well.
Nutritional information for 1 cup of cooked spinach is as follows: Serving size: (1) cup, cooked, Calories=41.40, Fat=.47gr, Carbs=6.75gr, Fiber=4.32gr, Net Carbs=2.43gr, Protein=5.35gr
Grapefruit and Diabetes
After blindly ignoring fruit for about 14 years (following multiple recommendations that Type 1’s ignore fruit because of its’ high sugar content), I recently had an “aha” moment about fruit and starting doing some research.
As a nutritionist, I’m well aware of the multiple benefits of fruits and even though I eat and drink a lot of greens, I knew that I was missing out on some very significant health benefits by ignoring fruit in my diet.
Since I really like grapefruit, I decided to start my research there. As it turns out, grapefruit can help lower insulin resistance from its’ flavonoid, naringenin, a powerful antioxidant. It also helps to reprogram the liver to get rid of excess fat instead of storing it there. Another great thing about grapefruit is that it binds itself to toxins, helping to flush them out of your body. (Dr. Sears).
As a very high source of vitamin C, grapefruit supports the immune system, another benefit for diabetics. Vitamin C is also known to promote cardiovascular health as well as reducing inflammation. Grapefruit has been researched and shown to lower LDL cholesterol as well.
There is a caveat against eating grapefruits though as it can increase circulating levels of certain drugs including statins. So, if you’re taking statins or have a question about grapefruit’s interaction with any other drugs you’re on like Metformin, always check with your doctor or pharmacist before adding grapefruit to your diet.
Another caveat is to avoid drinking grapefruit juice if you’re diabetic and eat the fruit instead. An 8 ounce glass of grapefruit juice has roughly 20 carbs in it compared with 9 carbs for ½ grapefruit itself.
Total carbs for ½ of a pink grapefruit is 10.34 grams with fiber at 1.41 grams for a net carb load of 8.93 grams of carbs rounded out to a total of 9 grams of carbs for ½ of a grapefruit. I compared the carbs in pink versus white grapefruit and there was only a slight difference. At roughly 40 calories and just short of 1 gram of protein, grapefruit is also often a recommended fruit for weight loss.
Sweet Talkers report on Coconut Oil
Recently there was a USA Today article entitled, “Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy”.
This article was based on a recent AHA (American Medical Association) report stating that it is better to use corn, canola and other oils rather than coconut oil due to the high level of saturated fat in coconut oil.
Sweet Talkers is always trying to clarify contradictory info for you, and so, we would like to point you to a rebuttal from GreenMedinfo. A link below will take you to their full article.
In the meantime, we have looked through the many articles this report has inspired about coconut oil and will report on these below the line.
We’ll start with some bottom line observations and suggestions. We hope this reduces some of the confusion.
Link to the full GreenMedInfo article:
The bottom line:
The AHA says that coconut oil is bad for you because it contains saturated fat, raises LDL cholesterol and has no offsetting favorable effects. Coconut oil does contain saturated fat which raises LDL (bad cholesterol). But it also contains MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides) which raise HDL (good) cholesterol.
The truth is that there is no scientific study that shows that coconut oil causes harm or that it causes heart disease.
The best suggestion we have derived from a study of this controversy is to use coconut oil in moderation. Be sure you are using unprocessed (virgin) coconut oil and supplement it with Avocado oil for your other oil needs.
Now some facts and reports from our research. There will be some direct quotes noted.
Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, however, it is very low in Omega-6 and very high in Lauric acid. When suggesting that saturated fats are all bad, the AHA is really referring to hydrogenated fats – that is, trans-fats. If you are using coconut oil, always use virgin, unprocessed coconut oil that is not hydrogenated. Coconut oil fats are mostly Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFs). These produce energy, are easier to digest, permeate cells easily, go directly to your liver and have NO NEGATIVE EFFECT ON INSULIN production!
Coconut oil’s saturated fat is mostly made of of medium chain triglycerides (MCT) which the body handles differently than LCT
Most other oils consist of Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFs) and are difficult to break down, put strain on your pancreas, liver and digestion system and are generally stored as fat.
Even the AHA reported that clinical trials that compared direct effects on cardiovascular disease of coconut oil and other dietary oils have not been reported. In fact, there is no scientific study that shows that coconut oil causes harm.
“In fact, no evidence exists that the naturally occurring high saturated fat intake had any kind of harmful effect”
The AHA report suggests using more corn and soy oil. Please don’t. These oils are normally processed from GMO crops which are heavily soaked in RoundUp. Glyphosate (the primary ingredient of RoundUp) has recently been put on the carcinogenic list in California.
“50 percent of the fat content in coconut oil is a fat rarely found in nature called lauric acid. If you're a frequent reader of my newsletter, you already know that I consider lauric acid a "miracle" ingredient because of its unique health-promoting properties. (Dr. Axe)
Lauric acid is a powerful virus and gram-negative bacteria destroyer, and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on Earth! Lauric acid raises HDL.”
There are 2 kinds of LDL – the light fluffy kind and the small dense kind. The small dense kind is the most dangerous one and is caused by carbs, sugar and heavily processed oils. Not coconut oil.
Cholesterol’s role in human health is complex. You need it for optimal brain function. And just like the old studies that said eggs were bad for you since they were high in cholesterol, observations, studies and opinions change all the time. It’s hard to know who and what to believe. What’s best is to use coconut oil (along with other things you eat) in moderation. We do know that a powerful way to reduce your risk of heart disease (which is a concern for those of us with diabetes) is to limit refined carbs and sugar. This is something we can all live by.
Coconut oil can raise cholesterol levels (specifically LDL) but higher cholesterol does not always cause heart disease. Many heart disease sufferers have normal cholesterol levels. As well, coconut oil also raises HDL cholesterol.
What causes heart disease is OXIDIZED cholesterol. This comes from 3 places: Fried foods, Excess consumption of polyunsaturated fats from veggie oils and smoking.
Veggie oil causes oxidation, which causes heart disease. Coconut oil contains the fewest oxidation-causing polyunsaturated fats of any oil on the market.
We actually need saturated in our bodies. 50% of our cell membranes are made of saturated fatty acids.
Remember that everyone responds to foods differently. The best way to know how a food like coconut oil is affecting you is by running tests with your doctor.
As an example of how careful one must be in deriving conclusions from studies, here is an interesting story we found:
in a double blind study participants were randomly assigned to eat in one of two halls. One served polyunsaturated fats with meals and the other saturated fats (specifically coconut oil). After 8 years the study reported that the polyunsaturated fats group had a reduced risk of heart disease BUT they also had an increased risk of cancer. Mortality rates between the two groups were pretty much identical.
But here’s where it gets really interesting. There were only 1,000 participants. And the saturated fat group had twice the number of heavy smokers. When the data was re-analyzed, it was found that those who died of heart disease were mostly heavy smokers and that the Veggie oil group sill had more cancer than the other group! The specific details of any study are of the utmost importance.
Coconut oil improves fat burning, calorie burning, supports brain function, reduces appetite, fights belly fat and enhances immune function.
Recommendation: Ditch veggie oil and use coconut oil in moderation along with avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil.
A Japanese study of 58,000 men followed for 14 years found no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease.
Coconut oil can help feed the brain especially where there is insulin resistance. Beware though, a high carb diet can reverse the benefits of coconut oil.
“Coconut oil does not produce an insulin spike in your bloodstream.”
Finally a few more technical quotes:
“When non-hydrogenated coconut oil supplements have been provided, studies often find evidence for modest benefits of coconut oil consumption on lipid profiles (10,11). Animal studies have shown that coconut oil in particular lowered total cholesterol, lipoproteins and phospholipids (12). The reason for this is that coconut oil is composed of medium chain fatty acids which are rapidly metabolized in the liver into energy and does not participate in the biosynthesis and transport of cholesterol (13). In fact, coconut has lauric, capryllic, capric, myristic, palmitic fatty acids. Animal studies have shown that capryllic and capric fatty acids have no effect on cholesterol levels while lauric, myristic and palmitic fatty acids are equivalent in their cholesterol raising potential (14). Coconut oil which is rich in lauric acid has less effect on total cholesterol and LDL-c and is a better alternative to butter and hydrogenated vegetable fats (10).”
“What's more, although the USA Today article declares the dangers of saturated fat, a recent meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which compiled data from 21 studies including 347,747 people that were followed for an average of 14 years, concluded that there is no appreciable relationship between saturated fat consumption and incidence of cardiovascular disease or stroke (Siri-Tarino, Sun, Hu, & Krauss, 2010).”
“Another meta-analysis published in 2015 in the British Journal of Medicine concluded that there is no association between saturated fat and risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, type 2 diabetes, or all-cause mortality (the risk of death from any cause) (de Souza et al., 2015)”
“Along similar lines, a trial published in the American Journal of Nutrition in 2016 showed that eating a high fat diet, and deriving a large proportion of calories from saturated fat, improved biomarkers of cardiometabolic risk and insulin resistance, such as insulin, HDL, triglycerides, C-peptide, and glycated hemoglobin (Veum et al., 2016). The researchers conclude, "Our data do not support the idea that dietary fat per se promotes ectopic adiposity and cardiometabolic syndrome in humans" (Veum et al., 2016).
In actuality, saturated fat has been demonstrated to exert beneficial effects on levels of triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), the latter of which has been characterized as the "good cholesterol” that scavenges or transports cholesterol deposited in the bloodstream back to the liver (Mensink, Zock, Kester, & Katan, 2003). Saturated fat has also been shown to elicit minimal effects on apolipoprotein B, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, relative to carbohydrates (Mensink, Zock, Kester, & Katan, 2003).”
Sweet Talkers cannot recommend using or avoiding coconut oil. We are not licensed doctors and we stress that any health decisions you make should be made in conjunction with your own health care professional. We strive to report the most objective facts we can find. Coconut oil is high in saturated fats but the MCTs and Lauric Acid contained therein somewhat mitigate the dangers reported in the AMA report.