What Is Borderline Diabetes (Prediabetes)?

What are the Signs of Borderline Diabetes (Prediabetes)?

What is Borderline Diabetes?

Borderline diabetes, also known as prediabetes, is a condition in which blood sugar is higher than normal, but not as high as it is in diabetes. It is the result of insulin resistance, or reduced effect of insulin on certain cells in your body. 

Borderline diabetes often progresses to diabetes as insulin resistance increases, but knowing that you have it gives you an opportunity to take steps to lower your risk for developing diabetes. Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) can help you make lifestyle changes that can help you halt or reverse borderline diabetes.

How to Know if You Are at Risk of Borderline Diabetes


Nearly 1 in 3 American adults have prediabetes, but only a fraction of them know it. If you are unsure if you have borderline diabetes or you have risk factors for it, your doctor can order blood tests. There are a few that can determine prediabetes.

Test Normal Result Prediabetes Diabetes
A1C (Glycated Hemoglobin)
Under 5.7%
5.7% to 6.5%
Over 6.4%
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
Under 140 mg/dl
140 to 199 mg/dl
Over 199 mg/dl
Fasting Glucose
Under 100 mg/dl
100 to 125 mg/dl
Over 125 mg/dl

If your first test comes back in the prediabetes or diabetes range, your doctor may order a repeat test before making a diagnosis.

Borderline Diabetes Signs and Complications


Most people with borderline diabetes do not have any signs or symptoms. However, some people have darkening of the skin on the back of the neck or armpits. If prediabetes progresses to diabetes, signs can include excessive hunger and thirst, weight loss, increased frequency of urination, and fatigue.

If untreated, borderline diabetes is likely to progress to type 2 diabetes, and complications can include loss of vision, diabetic neuropathy, and kidney disease. Prediabetes is also a risk factor for high blood pressure and cholesterol.

What Causes Borderline Diabetes?


Genetics and lifestyle both affect risk for prediabetes and diabetes. These are some non-modifiable risk factors, or risk factors that you cannot do anything about.

  • Older age
  • Family history
  • Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander

There are many modifiable risk factors, or risk factors that your own choices can affect. They include the following.

  • Being overweight
  • Not being physically active
  • Having a diet high in red meat and added sugars
  • Having a diet low in vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts

Lark DPP can help you address the modifiable risk factors for diabetes to keep your risk as low as possible.

Treatment for Borderline Diabetes


While a diagnosis of borderline diabetes can be jarring, the condition is usually very treatable. In most cases, lifestyle changes can lower risk for diabetes by well over 50%. Steps to take include:

  1. Losing weight
  2. Increasing physical activity
  3. Improving diet
  4. Managing stress
  5. Getting more sleep

A small proportion of patients with prediabetes may be prescribed a medication, such as metformin, to improve insulin sensitivity.

Diet for Borderline Diabetes


If you are overweight and have prediabetes, losing weight can be the best way to lower risk for developing diabetes. Losing a lot of weight is good, but so is losing just a few pounds. Losing 5 to 10% of your body weight (say, 10 to 20 pounds) can cut risk by over half, and losing just over 2 pounds can cut risk by 16%.

Lark DPP can help you set and work towards weight loss goals without making dramatic changes to your lifestyle. Instead, small changes can help you lose weight and keep it off. These include:

  • Serving smaller portions of higher-calorie foods, such as refined carbs, fatty meats, desserts, and fried foods
  • Choosing water, tea, or coffee instead of beverages with calories
  • Cutting restaurant meals in half and saving the rest for later
  • Eat slowly, enjoy your food, and stop eating when you are barely full
  • Fill up on vegetables and lean proteins before moving to calorie-dense foods

The types of foods you eat also affect your risk for diabetes. These tips can help you choose a good prediabetes diet.

  • Have plenty of non-starchy vegetables, such as greens, eggplant, zucchini, onions, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
  • Choose whole-grains instead of refined grains. Examples include whole-grain bread and pasta instead of white, brown rice instead of white rice, whole-grain cereal instead of refined, and whole-grain crackers instead of white.
  • Include fresh fruits.
  • Eat more fish and plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, soy products, and nuts, instead of fatty meats and processed meats.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened foods and beverages.
  • Bake, broil, steam, grill, and roast instead of fry.
  • Select nuts, olive oil, and vegetable oil rather than butter, lard, and shortening.

Physical Activity and Borderline Diabetes


Along with losing weight, getting physically active is one of the most effective things you can do to reverse insulin resistance. The general goal is to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity. This can be in any combination, such as 30 minutes, 5 days a week, or 10 minutes, 3 times a day, 5 days a week. 

Almost any activity that gets your heart pumping faster and makes you breathe hard counts. It could be brisk walking, hiking, doing the elliptical trainer or stepper, stationary biking, taking a group fitness class, such as aerobics or Zumba, or playing tennis or basketball. Housework such as gardening, raking leaves, and shoveling snow also count. Lark DPP can offer suggestions on what activities to consider and how to fit more minutes into your life.

Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP)


A Diabetes Prevention Program, such as Lark DPP, is designed to help people with prediabetes prevent or delay progression to type 2 diabetes. A DPP has a specially-designed curriculum to help you learn about weight loss, increasing physical activity, and lifestyle tips to help you stay as healthy as possible.

Lark DPP is a health coach available 24/7 via your smartphone. Lark DPP is fully recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the National Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program. The personalized program includes help with weight loss, nutrition, and increasing physical activity through small behavior changes and establishing habits. In addition to offering the CDC curriculum, features of Lark include real-time feedback when you log meals or snacks, tracking of weight, physical activity, and food intake, and insights around diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. You may be eligible to use Lark for free through your healthcare insurance!

Insulin Resistance Diet

Insulin resistance often progresses to type 2 diabetes when unchecked, but what you eat has a significant impact on whether and how fast it happens. In fact, If you have prediabetes, improving your diet may be the most effective way of reversing it. The National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is designed to help with an insulin resistance diet to prevent or delay diabetes if you have prediabetes.

An insulin resistance diet to slow or reverse insulin resistance includes losing extra pounds if you have them, choosing certain nutritious foods, and limiting others. Lark DPP personalized coaching can help with weight loss and a healthy diet to fight insulin resistance.

What Is Insulin Resistance?


Insulin resistance is a condition in which cells in your body are not as sensitive to the effects of insulin as they used to be. Insulin is a hormone from the pancreas that helps muscle, fat, and liver cells in your body take up blood sugar, or blood glucose. With insulin resistance, cells need more insulin than normal to be able to take up the same amount of glucose from the blood.

Insulin resistance starts out mild and can progress. It may become severe enough to cause prediabetes and eventually diabetes. Many people may only find out that they have insulin resistance when they learn that they have prediabetes, or high blood glucose. Some people do not know they have insulin resistance until they develop diabetes. However, catching insulin resistance or high blood glucose when you have prediabetes can help you prevent diabetes.

Weight Loss and Insulin Resistance


Being overweight or obese increases risk for developing insulin resistance and being diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes. More than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese according to a measure called body mass index (BMI), which considers height and weight. You can use this calculator to check your BMI.

While the bad news is that excess weight raises risk for insulin resistance, the good news is that losing weight helps. The great news is that losing just a little bit of weight helps dramatically. The DPP encourages participants to lose 5 to 7% of body weight. To put that in context, that amount is 10 to 14 pounds if you weigh 200 lb., or 8 to 11 pounds if you weigh 160 lb.

If that is too much for you, consider this: each 2-lb. chunk of weight you lose can lower your risk of developing diabetes by 16%. Is that worth fighting for? If you agree that it is, here are a few tips that can lead to weight loss.

  • Eat a higher proportion of low-calorie foods, such as vegetables, fruit, and lean proteins.
  • Eat a smaller proportion of high-calorie, low-nutrition foods, such as fried foods, sugary foods and beverages, refined starches such as white bread and pasta, fatty meats, and processed snack foods.
  • Take smaller portions of higher-calorie foods.
  • Enjoy each bite and chew it thoroughly.
  • Drink more water to reduce hunger.

Lark DPP helps you set and achieve weight loss goals through small, manageable changes.

Foods That Can Reduce Insulin Resistance


Some foods and nutrients can reduce insulin resistance. Certain others, though they may not directly reduce insulin resistance, have been linked to a lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes. These foods may be helpful for preventing or delaying diabetes.

  • Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa, shredded wheat, and bulgur.
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring. 
  • Non-starchy vegetables, such as greens, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, carrots, beets, green beans, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Nuts and peanuts
  • Legumes, such as lentils, split peas, soybeans, and garbanzo, navy, black, pinto, and other beans.
  • Fresh fruit, such as berries, oranges, apples, pears, cantaloupe, and watermelon.

Five Quick Swaps to Support Insulin Sensitivity

  • Look for heart-healthy fat sources, such as fish, olive and vegetable oils, avocados, and nuts, instead of fried foods and fatty meats.
  • Select whole grains and whole-grain products instead of refined ones, such as bread, flour, rice, cereal, pasta, and crackers.
  • Choose fish and plant-based proteins instead of red or processed meat.
  • Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, sports drinks, fruit drinks, and flavored/sweetened tea and coffee.
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables instead of chips, cookies, or French fries.

Foods That Can Increase Insulin Resistance


There are a few foods that can increase insulin resistance or risk factors or risk for developing prediabetes or diabetes. These are some foods to consider limiting or eating only occasionally.

  • Red meat, processed, and cured meats, such as ribs, steaks, ham, pepperoni, bologna, salami, hot dogs, ground beef, and luncheon meats.
  • White potatoes, such as chips, French fries, hash browns, and mashed potatoes.
  • White bread and other products made with white flour, such as bagels, pita, English muffins, croissants, muffins, and other baked goods.
  • Other refined grains and grain products, such as white rice, pasta, and crackers, and refined cereal.
  • Sugar-sweetened foods, such as cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream, candy, jam, and certain flavored foods, such as flavored oatmeal and many flavored yogurts.
  • Fried and battered foods, such as fried chicken, fried fish, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, zucchini sticks, and fried shrimp.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Solid fats, such as butter, lard, and shortening.

Lark DPP can help you keep track of when you choose these foods, and offer suggestions for healthier alternatives.

Carbohydrates on an Insulin Resistance Diet


Can you eat carbohydrates with prediabetes? Do you need to avoid carbs? The topic can generate heated debate, but it turns out that both sides can be right, and both sides can be wrong. It appears that going “healthy” is more important than whether you go “low-carb” or “moderate-carb.” 

If you do choose to eat carbohydrates, opt for higher-fiber, more nutritious sources, such as whole grains beans, and fruit, while limiting added sugars and refined starches. If you opt to limit carbs, it is best to limit fatty and processed meats and unhealthy fats, while emphasizing plant-based proteins, fish, and healthy fats instead.

“Healthy” Sample Day “Unhealthy” Sample Day
Moderate-Carb
Breakfast: Shredded wheat with yogurt, berries, and nuts
Breakfast: Bagel and jam with caramel latte
Lunch: Veggie burger with lettuce and tomato on a whole-grain English muffin, carrot sticks, tangerine
Lunch: Cold cut sub with potato chips and a cookie, soda
Dinner: Salmon, whole-grain pasta tossed with tomatoes, side salad
Dinner: Spaghetti and Alfredo sauce, breadstick, pie
Low-Carb
Breakfast: Omelet with egg plus egg whites, cheese, spinach, and tomato, plus avocado,
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs made with butter, and cheese
Lunch: Bunless turkey cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato, celery sticks, strawberries
Lunch: Bunless bacon cheeseburger with fried onions
Dinner: Baked pecan-crusted tilapia served with roasted asparagus, fruit salad with nuts
Dinner: Steak with butter, creamed spinach

Help with an Insulin Resistance Diet


Following an insulin resistance diet can be challenging, but Lark DPP can help. Lark’s personalized coaching can help you set and work towards goals in weight loss and healthy eating as you make small changes to establish long-term habits. Features include food logging, instant feedback, 24/7 unlimited accessibility, and tips for achieving your goals.


FAQs of Insulin Resistance Diets

  1. Should I avoid carbs if I have prediabetes?
    • A recent study has shown that choosing healthy sources of carbs is more important than whether you go “low-carb” or “moderate-carb.” 
  2. Is red meat okay?
    • If eaten occasionally and in measured amounts, as it can increase insulin resistance.
  3. Why is insulin resistance important?
    • Insulin resistance starts out mild and can progress. It may become severe enough to cause prediabetes and eventually diabetes. Many people may only find out that they have insulin resistance when they learn that they have prediabetes, or high blood glucose. Some people do not know they have insulin resistance until they develop diabetes. However, catching insulin resistance or high blood glucose when you have prediabetes can help you prevent diabetes.

Why Eating While Watching Television Can Make You Gain Weight, and How to Stop It

The hidden calories of eating and watching TV

Evidence is strong that people who watch more television are more likely to be overweight. That is something to be aware of if you are trying to lose weight or are worried about your current or future health. There are many reasons why TV watching and other screen time, such as using smartphones and tablets, may lead to weight gain. 

There are just as many ways to stop it from happening to you – or stop it from continuing if it is already happening. Lark can help raise awareness of your habits and also support you in developing new habits to get out of the habit of eating unhealthily while watching television.

Why Television Leads to Weight Gain


There are many reasons why watching television and other screens, such as smartphones and tablets, increase risk of weight gain. These are a few of them.

People Eat While Watching TV

Eating at the screen is ingrained in our culture. From movie theater snacks to sports watching parties to TV dinners, the habit of eating while sitting in front of a screen can form at an early age. These are not likely to be healthy foods, with common examples including buttered popcorn at the movies, pizza and wings while watching the Super Bowl, and chips or cereal while sitting down for some evening entertainment.

Diets tend to become higher-calorie and less nutritious when the television is on during meals. This may be because foods served on these occasions may be less nutritious, such as frozen dinners or restaurant delivery. Another possibility is that you may eat more while watching television or playing video games than you might if you were doing something else or were solely eating.

TV Ads Show Less-Healthy Foods

Think about the food commercials you have seen recently on television. The majority of them were probably for processed or fast foods that are not terribly nutritious. Common foods advertised on TV include candy, such as Snickers, M&Ms, and Reese’s, chips, crackers, and boxed or frozen meals such as macaroni and cheese or pizza. Fast food restaurants may advertise burgers, usually oversized or with bacon, cheese, or another high-calorie “extra,” fried chicken, and nachos.

All these foods are considered calorie-dense, which means they have a lot of calories in a small serving. If you eat the way television commercials are trying to convince you to eat, you are likely to get more calories, sugar, fat, and sodium than you need, and less fiber and other nutrients than you should get for optimal health. 

TV Ad-Makers Know How to Reach YOU

Marketers are clever. They know how to reach their audience. Food ads in children’s programming may promote sugary cereals, fast food meals with a toy, and snacks with recognizable mascots or labels.

What about the rest of us? Chances are that there are a few commercials for YOU. For example, are you a:

  • Mom who is concerned that her children are not eating enough? Enter irresistible (and sugar-packed) chocolate hazelnut spread.
  • Overwhelmed dad in charge of dinner? Enter (starchy, fatty) mac and cheese.
  • Working parent? Enter a takeout offer for a bucket of fried chicken and mashed potatoes to take home to the family for dinner.
  • Stressed woman? Enter (sugar-laden, calorie-dense) chocolate caramels.

Online ads and ads you see while using your smartphone are far more personalized. Marketers may have information about you based on your internet and social media usage, and the ads you see are often chosen specifically for you.

Watching TV Does Not Burn Many Calories

Watching television barely burns more calories than sleeping. An 80-kg person burns about 100 calories an hour watching television. In comparison, in an hour, an 80-kg person burns about 400 calories from bicycling, 640 calories jogging at 5 mph, or 320 calories walking briskly. In fact, you burn more calories than watching television by doing almost anything, whether washing dishes, doing the laundry, or rearranging your closet or kitchen drawers.

The point is that the time you are spending watching television is time that you are not spending doing other things that burn more calories. The same is true for when you are sitting on a couch or lying down on a bed while scrolling through your notifications or posting on social media. That lack of calorie expenditure can lead to weight gain.

How to Avoid Weight Gain from TV Time


Being aware of screen time and food ads, choices, and strategizing about what to eat and how to spend your time, can help fight weight gain linked to screen time.

Cut Back on Screen Time

Cutting back on screen time gives you less of a chance to eat while watching TV, playing video games, or using your tablet or smartphone. A good first step is to note exactly how much screen time is in your typical day, since it may be more than you think. Once you know when your screen time is occurring and how much there is, you can try to plan alternative activities for those times. For example, if you normally watch an hour of TV after dinner, you could cut back to 30 minutes of TV and 30 minutes of reading, taking a walk, cleaning the house, making tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch, or pretty much anything else!

By the way, there does not seem to be a link between time spent working at a computer and obesity, so we cannot suggest that you use “weight gain” as an excuse to quit your job! (Still, eating at the desk may be stressful and, possibly, germy, as bacteria tend to be present in the workplace).

Increase the Quality of TV Time

There may be times when skipping the television is not an option because a favorite team is playing, a new episode is airing, or you simply need to space out. Adding a bit of movement while watching television can change the sedentary experience into an active one. These are some options.

  • During commercial breaks, you can march in place, do squats, lunges, calf raises, push-ups, arm swings, and anything else you can think of.
  • Invest in a treadmill, stationary bike, or pedal pusher, and keep moving while you are watching.

Enjoy Your Food More

Eating while distracted, such as while playing video games or chatting on social media, can lead you to eat more while feeling less satisfied. Instead, focusing on your meal or snack away from the screen can keep you aware of how much you are eating, how hungry or full you feel, and how delicious your food tastes.

Keep a Food Log

Mindless munching in front of the television can add up quickly. A handful of chocolate candies , the rest of the bag of chips, and some frozen pizza snacks, plus a soda or some beer, can total over 1,000 calories: possibly over half a day’s worth, while it only felt like a small snack. Even nutritious foods can be detrimental if you overdo it. A 3-ounce bag of peanuts, for example, while a source of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, has 500 calories that may take only a few minutes to consume.

The simple act of logging what you are eating while you are eating it can make something click in your brain. It can alert you which foods you are choosing and how much you are eating. You may just realize that it is not worth it.

Plan Snacks Before Sitting Down

Planning your snacks before sitting down to watch television can help keep you from eating too much or too poorly while watching. Knowing what you will eat and how much can empower you to:

  • Eat slowly, since you have only a limited amount of food to consume.
  • Enjoy what you are eating, since there is no rush to get to the next snack.
  • Select healthy snacks that will make you feel good later.
  • Watch the food commercials without wondering if you should go get a similar snack from your kitchen.

Some healthy snacks can be:

  • Baby carrots, celery sticks, or other raw vegetables.
  • Fresh fruit.
  • Grilled chicken breast strips.
  • Air-popped popcorn.

Know Why You Are Tempted

Next time you are tempted by a food ad, ask yourself what grabs you about that ad. You may discover that it is not the food itself that is calling your name, but the circumstances surrounding it. For example, a commercial for bologna (a fatty, high-sodium processed meat) may be appealing because of the promise of a happy family eating sandwiches at an outdoors picnic. Are you really craving the bologna, or the warm fuzzy feelings of family time?

Get Help

If you think your screen time may be causing weight gain or getting in the way of weight loss, Lark can help in many ways.

  • Raise awareness, as you log foods, of how much you may be eating in front of the screen.
  • Let you know how much sitting you are doing in a day.
  • Send reminders to get up and move if you have been sitting motionless for a while.
  • Track your activity so you can see if you have been sedentary or active during the day or week.
  • Suggest healthy snacks.
  • Suggest activities to help you get active instead of sitting in front of a television.

Five Food Swaps to Lower Blood Pressure

Foods to help lower blood pressure

Lowering blood pressure with food

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects 1 in 3 Americans, and many more are at risk. While many factors affect blood pressure, what you eat is among the more influential. An eating plan modeled after the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can lower blood pressure within just a couple of weeks. 

It does not take much to create a healthier diet, and here are just a few examples of simple swaps that can make a difference. For more help, Lark for Hypertension can guide you towards following a personalized DASH-style diet and making other lifestyle choices that can help you lower blood pressure.

DASH Meal Plan (for a 1600-calorie diet)

Category

Amount

Examples

  • Grain
  • 6 oz. per day
  • 1 slice of whole-grain bread, ½ cup cooked whole-grain pasta or oatmeal, ⅓ cup cooked brown rice
  • Vegetables
  • 3 to 4 servings per day
  • 1 cup lettuce or spinach, ½ cup raw or cooked carrots, broccoli, eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes
  • Fruit
  • 4 servings per day
  • 1 medium fruit, ½ cup fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit
  • Reduced-fat dairy products
  • 2 to 3 servings per day
  • 1 cup yogurt or 1.5 ounces cheese
  • Lean proteins
  • 3 to 4 ounces per day
  • 1 ounce skinless poultry, lean meat, fish, shellfish, or 1 egg
  • Nuts, seeds, legumes
  • 3 to 4 servings per week
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter, seeds, or nuts, ½ cup cooked beans, lentils, or split peas
  • Fats and oils
  • 2 servings per day
  • 1 teaspoon olive and vegetable oils, 1 teaspoon margarine, 2 tablespoons avocado, 1 tablespoons light salad dressing
  • Sweets and added sugars
  • Up to 3 per week
  • Sugar-sweetened soda and other beverages, candy, jelly, baked goods, syrup
  • Sodium
  • Up to 2,300 mg/day
  • (high-sodium foods include): canned soup and chili, dressings and condiments, pickles, snack foods, bread, deli meats, processed foods

 1. Oatmeal for Honey Puffs


Benefits: more fiber and whole grains, and less sugar, sodium, and refined grains.

Many breakfast cereals, such as puffed wheat and rice, corn pops, and cornflakes, often contain highly-processed refined grains and sugar. Regular or unflavored oatmeal is a high-fiber whole grain, without added sugar, that may help keep blood pressure in check. Mixing your oatmeal into yogurt, a high-calcium, high-protein food, and adding some potassium-rich, fiber-rich fruit, such as strawberries, can lower blood pressure further.

Overnight oatmeal, made by soaking oats in milk or yogurt and storing it in the refrigerator overnight, can save time in the morning. If you prefer a cold breakfast cereal, there are plenty of low-sugar, whole-grain choices such as shredded wheat, regular (not honey) oat “O’s,” and bran flakes.

 2. Chicken Breast for Bologna


Benefits: less sodium, saturated fat, and fewer calories and nitrates.

Bologna is a fatty processed red meat, with 2 to 3 times the calories per serving as chicken and a load of sodium and saturated fat. The DASH eating plan includes up to 6 ounces of lean protein, such as chicken, each day. Other lean proteins include tofu, egg whites, salmon, tuna, turkey, and beans.

Using whole-grain instead of white bread can make your sandwich even healthier. Other possible swaps include cucumbers for pickles to lower sodium, adding lettuce and tomatoes to increase fiber and potassium, and spreading hummus or pureed avocado instead of mayo or butter on your bread to make the fats healthier.

 3. Carrot Sticks for Potato Chips


Benefits: More fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, and less starch, unhealthy fat, and sodium.

Potato chips and tortilla chips are full of refined carbs, excess fats, and sodium. Other crunchy snack foods, such as pretzels and crackers, are just as high in refined, starchy carbs and sodium. Crunching on carrots or other vegetables instead dramatically cuts the carbs, fat, and sodium. Adding a little protein can make the snack healthier and more satisfying. These are some examples.

  • Carrots or celery with peanut butter.
  • Broccoli or cauliflower florets with hummus.
  • Bell pepper strips with fat-free, low-sodium refried beans.

If raw vegetables really will not do the trick for you, there are other crunchy snack options that are healthy. Air-popped popcorn, roasted garbanzo beans or soybeans, and whole-grain low-fat crackers are all possibilities.

4. Fruit for Dessert


Benefits: more fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, less added sugar and excess fat, and fewer calories.

Consuming high amounts of added sugars, such as those in most desserts, is linked to higher blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. In addition, baked goods, such as cake, cookies, pie, and muffins, tend to contain high amounts of refined grains, while dairy-based desserts, such as pudding, ice cream, and frozen yogurt tend to be high in saturated fat. In contrast, whole fruits have no added sugars, but can satisfy a sweet tooth and provide important blood pressure-lowering nutrients at the same time.

A piece or handful of fresh fruit is an easy option, or you can bump up the nutrition with some healthy additions. For example:

  • Baked apples with cinnamon and walnuts
  • Pureed frozen banana with optional cocoa powder and/or peanut butter
  • Parfait with plain yogurt, blueberries, and toasted oats
  • Strawberries with ½ ounce of at least 70% dark chocolate

5. Bonus: Water for Soda


Benefits: fewer calories and less sugar

Regular sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages, such as fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks, are packed with sugar and calories. Sweet tea and flavored coffee beverages, such as frappuccinos, mochas, and lattes, are also sugary choices. A single 8-ounce portion of a soft drink has 25 grams of added sugar, which is the maximum recommended amount for a day. A 20-ounce bottle has 60 grams of sugar and 250 calories.

In contrast, water is calorie-free, sugar-free, and freely available. Staying hydrated supports proper blood pressure regulation and makes it easier for the body to eliminate toxin. If plain water is not for you, ice water or water with lemon or lime wedges, strawberry slices, or basil or mint leaves can work. Decaf unsweetened tea and coffee are hydrating, too.

The great thing about these swaps, besides that they work to lower blood pressure, is that they are not too hard to make. Lark can help you pick and choose ones that fit into your lifestyle, and work with you so that they can become habits. With smart choices, you can help manage your blood pressure.

Smoking and the Damage to Your Heart

Smoking carries high risk to your heart health

February is American Heart Month, and a great time to reflect on how to protect your own heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, responsible for one in four deaths, and hypertension is also linked to heart problems and stroke. Smoking and other forms of tobacco use damage your heart and cardiovascular system, and quitting tobacco can be one of the most effective steps you can take to protect your heart.

Whether you are ready to quit, you are just thinking about it, or you have tried a few times are are ready to try again, quitting tobacco use, or even trying to quit, can be great for your heart health and have many other benefits. This month, why not take some time to learn about heart health and how you can protect it, high blood pressure and how to prevent and manage it, and how to get help for quitting tobacco use if you want it. Lark can help with all of these with always-available, compassionate coaching based on behavior change techniques that work.

Tobacco, Heart Health, and Blood Pressure


Cardiovascular disease refers to any disease that affects your cardiovascular system, which includes your heart and blood vessels, such as veins, arteries, and capillaries. Smoking can contribute to heart damage and cardiovascular disease in many ways[1].

  • Damaging the heart and lining of the blood vessels when they come into contact with the thousands of chemicals in smoke that are carried by blood cells that should be carrying clean oxygen.
  • Increasing plaque build-up in the arteries due to the extra chemicals in the blood, leading to atherosclerosis.
  • Increasing risk for blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes, due to thicker blood and plaque.
  • Causing peripheral artery and vascular diseases which can lead to amputations.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects 1 in 3 American adults, and is a major risk factor for stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease. It is known as the “silent killer” because it can be present for years without causing any symptoms. It results from too much pressure of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels. Smoking may increase blood pressure by activating your sympathetic nervous system, which you may feel when your heart and breathing rates increase when you use tobacco.

Small Changes to Improve Heart Health


Though heart disease is serious and widespread, it is also often preventable. It does not take much to lower your risk, since small steps that fit into your lifestyle can be effective. Lark can coach you in making small changes that can become habits and lead to lasting improvements in cardiovascular and other aspects of health. These include:

  • Losing weight.
  • Increasing physical activity.
  • Eating more vegetables, healthy fats, and high-fiber foods.
  • Limiting sugary, salty, and fatty foods.
  • Getting adequate sleep.
  • Managing stress.
  • Quitting tobacco.

In addition, as prediabetes and diabetes are risk factors for heart disease, using Lark Diabetes Prevention Program or Lark for Diabetes if you are eligible can help control blood sugar levels.

Managing Hypertension


If you have high blood pressure, the same lifestyle changes that promote heart health can help lower blood pressure (do be sure to check with your doctor if you have hypertension, since there may be differences in the best approach if you have complications, such as chronic kidney disease, or other chronic conditions, such as diabetes). 

What Happens When You Quit Using Tobacco?


The benefits of quitting start almost immediately. This is an approximate timeline [2].

  • 20 minutes: blood pressure decreases and heart rate returns to normal.
  • 12 hours: carbon monoxide, a toxic chemical, leaves the bloodstream.
  • 1 to 9 months: coughing decreases and there is less shortness of breath.
  • 1 year: risk of coronary heart disease is half of what it was when you were smoking.
  • 4 years: risk of stroke is the same as a non-smoker’s risk.
  • 5 to 10 years: risks for mouth, throat, esophageal, and lung cancers decrease.
  • 15 years: risk for coronary heart disease is the same as that of a non-smoker.

In addition, there are gains in quality of life. Imagine not needing to “go out for a smoke” on your break or in the middle of family activities, or not worrying about starting a fire in bed or elsewhere in your home from a smoldering cigarette butt. Your taste buds will wake up, and you will not need to wonder if you smell before you go out in public[3].

With all these benefits, it is no wonder that more than two-thirds of tobacco users want to quit, and half have tried to quit within the past year. 

Quitting Tobacco: Challenges and Help


There is no question that quitting is hard because of physical addiction to, and emotional dependency on, nicotine. Withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, more coughing, increased hunger, constipation, and fatigue. You may feel irritable, depressed, and foggy.

It can help to know that the physical discomfort peaks 3 to 5 days after quitting, and may be gone by the end of a month. After that, the greatest challenges may come from environmental cues, such as lighting up at the end of a meal, when you feel some stress, or when you are with certain friends. Having an alternative plan, such as popping a breath mint to finish meals, can help fight the urge to quit.

Though quitting is hard, help is available. Most health insurance plans provide excellent coverage for quitting tobacco. This may be out of the goodness of their hearts, but more likely, it is because quitting is worth it, financially, for the payer. Since your health can improve so much when you quit, your healthcare costs, and the amount you cost your health insurer or employer, can decrease dramatically. 

A program that includes both nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and behavioral therapy can be the most successful when you are trying to quit. Lark Tobacco Cessation, which is available as part of Lark for Hypertension, Diabetes, and Chronic Disease Prevention, can help with preparing to quit and planning strategies for when you do begin your first or next attempt. 

Boosting Your Heart Health


There are plenty of ways you can lower your risk for heart disease in addition to avoiding or stopping tobacco use. In fact, following a healthy lifestyle can lower your risk for coronary heart disease by more than 50%![4] Heart-healthy behaviors that can give you this benefit include:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight or losing weight if you are overweight or obese.
  • Getting at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity.
  • Limiting television watching to a maximum of 7 hours per week.
  • Having a diet high in whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, and omega-3 fats, and low in sugar-sweetened beverages, red and processed meat, sodium, and trans fats.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption to a maximum of 1 (for women) or 2 (for men) drinks per day.

Lark can help you work towards setting and achieving goals for weight loss and other healthy choices in your life. The app offers personalized coaching, instant feedback, logging and tracking, and timely and useful insights. With small changes in daily routines, you can turn heart-healthy choices into lifelong habits.

References

  1. https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/health-information/how-smoking-affects-heart-health
  2.  https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/benefits-of-quitting-smoking-over-time.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/cessation/quitting/index.htm
  4.  http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/65/1/43

Heart Health Tips for Men

Heart health from hims and Lark

Have you ever put diesel in your car by accident? Odds are you messed it up pretty good and had to spend some time and money getting it back to running shape. Your body is kind of the same way. Aside from the inherent risks of smoking, eating a poor diet, or drinking lots of sugary drinks, these can all also plague the health of your heart, your body’s engine. With heart disease being the leading cause of death for men, prioritizing your health isn’t an option. Focus on caring for and loving your heart this February for American Heart Month. There are tons of easy ways to make your engine, or your heart and blood vessels, run more smoothly. They can be as simple as choosing high-octane instead of diesel, and Lark can coach you in making a few changes, on your terms, using your smartphone.

Sexual Health for My Heart


A healthy sex life is important to our overall wellbeing and for our heart. Sex has many health benefits like balancing our estrogen and testosterone levels, as well as psychological benefits like increased oxytocin levels. These benefits help reduce physical and mental stress which can improve heart function. However, the physiological responses to sex rely on proper blood flow, and therefore, a healthy heart. So, for those who normally have a healthy sex life, noticing sudden changes in your performance, like erectile dysfunction, can be an early warning sign of cardiovascular issues. Though this isn’t always the case, if you have no other reason to be experiencing the change, such as new medications or mental health issues, it’s advised you meet with a doctor for a screening.

Physical Health for My Heart


Cardiovascular health deals with the overall health of your heart and blood vessels, and one of the best ways to protect it is through aerobic workouts, or “cardio” and strength training. The way you perform cardio exercise is your choice, (think jogging, cycling, shooting hoops, and swimming, for example, but on the low end, it’s recommended you aim for 30 minutes of sweat-inducing exercise a day, five times a week. Whether you are approaching middle age, or beyond, keeping a healthy muscle mass can help lower your odds of heart disease by 80%, and weight lifting and other forms of strength training can help you maintain muscle mass and metabolism. More immediately, regular exercise and cardio can help you lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol, as well as combat the onset of hypertension, a common health problem in men, by increasing blood flow throughout the body and lowering blood pressure.  Only 27% of men ages 18 to 64 hit exercise recommendations, but Lark can help with reminders, tips, and tracking to keep you honest, all discretely delivered via a smartphone app.

Emotional Health for My Heart


Though your happiness may not be directly related to your heart health, the symptoms linked to it can play a big role in your cardiovascular wellness. Issues like built-up stress can lead to disrupted sleep patterns which have the ability to cause congestive heart failure. Making sure to get a healthy amount of sleep is paramount to caring for your heart. If you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep, try taking more breaks or going to bed earlier. A few ways to destress could be scheduling a yoga class, getting lost in a good book before bed, or starting to journal as a way of reflection and looking forward. Soon enough, you’ll be getting the advised 7-9 hours and feeling refreshed the next day.  Lark’s stress management and sleep programs can put you on the path to a healthier heart.

There’s no need to make drastic changes unless you’ve been putting diesel in your car all along. Try kicking one bad habit with a good one and going from there. Your likelihood of contracting a cardiovascular disease increases with age, so don’t wait to start protecting yourself until you notice symptoms. As with many issues, Lark can help you with guidance for healthier eating, weight loss, and controlling your blood pressure.

High Carb Foods and Low Carb Foods

Download Lark’s High Carb Food List and Our Low Carb Food List

What are low carb foods?

Watching the amount of carbohydrates you eat is an important part of many diets. Whether you are trying to find foods that are low in carbs for a keto diet, or make a meal that is rich in carbohydrates to feel full, finding these foods can be a challenge. We’ve assembled a list of high-carb foods, as well as a list of low-carb foods to help you get started!

High-Carb Foods


For most people, carbohydrates are the main source of energy in the diet. Getting the right amount of carbohydrates is an important factor in weight control and health. The calorie-providing types of carbohydrates are sugars and starches, and high-carb foods are rich in one or both of these.

Another consideration is quality of carbohydrate foods. Some high-carb foods are healthy and include important nutrients such as protein, healthy fat, fiber, or certain vitamins or minerals. Others are little more than refined starch or sugar, or unhealthy fats. These are some healthy high-carb foods to be aware of. Your Lark coach can help you make more nutritious choices when you opt for high-carb foods.

Grains

Low in protein and fat, grains are nearly all carb – specifically, starch. Refined grains are especially starchy because other nutrients have been stripped away, while whole grains retain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a bit of healthy fat. Since they have similar healthy carb counts, you are better of choosing whole grains rather than refined when you can.

Refined include white bread, white rice, white pasta, and refined cereals. Whole grains include whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, oatmeal, and whole-grain cereal. Other grain-based foods include refined and whole-grain crackers and pretzels.

Fruit

Most fruit is low in starch, but high in sugar and total carbs. Raisins and other dried fruit are especially carbohydrate-dense, as is fruit juice. Bananas, pineapples, grapes, mangoes, apples, and figs are some of the higher-carb fruits. 

Starchy Vegetables

Starchy vegetables are appropriately named, but do not let their carb content scare you off. They contain fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, among other nutrients. Corn, peas, sweet potatoes, winter squash such as acorn and butternut, and potatoes are all high-carb foods with healthy properties.

Here is your high carb food list to help you

High-Carb Food and Serving Size Carbohydrates, Grams
Large cinnamon roll with icing
125
Apple pie
66
Muffin from bakery or café
65
French fries, large
64
Raisins, ½ cup
62
Crispy chicken or fish sandwich
60
Chocolate cake with frosting, 1 slice
60
Bagel, from bakery or café
60
Grapes, 1 cup
58
Low-fat granola, 2/3 cup
52
Fruit smoothie, 12 oz.
50
Raisin bran cereal, 1 cup
46
Sweet potato, 1 cup cooked
45
Regular (non-diet) soda, 1 12-oz. can
40
White or whole-grain pasta, 1 cup cooked
40
Banana, 1 medium
40
Cheese pizza, 1 slice of large
35
Apple, 1 large
30
100% fruit juice or juice drink, 8 oz.
30
Honey Nut Cheerios, 1 cup
28
Oatmeal, 1 cup cooked
28
White rice, ½ cup cooked
23
Cookie, 1 medium
22
Pretzels, 1 oz.
22
Acorn squash, 1 cup cooked
20
Potato chips, 1 oz
15
Jam or jelly, 1 tablespoon
15
White or whole-grain bread, 1 small slice (1 oz.)
15
Corn, ½ cup
15
Potato, white, ½ cup cooked
15
Beans or lentils, ½ cup cooked or canned
15
Waffle, 1 small frozen
13

Legumes (Beans, Peas, Lentils)

Beans, peas, lentils, and soybeans are high in starch, but also in protein, fiber, iron, and potassium. They are also linked to health benefits such as lower risk for certain cancers, so they can be considered a healthy carb.

Sugar and Sugar-Sweetened Foods and Beverages

These foods are less nutritious. They have carbs from added sugars and often from starches. Sugar, honey, molasses, brown sugar, and syrups are nothing but sugar, and candy and jam are nearly all sugar. So are soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sugar-sweetened coffee beverages. Cakes, cookies, pies, and other baked goods are sugary, starchy, and often high in fat. Sweetened cereals and sugar-sweetened flavored yogurt are also high-carb.

Mixed High-Carb Foods

“Mixed” foods have a few components. They can be healthy, but are often not. Examples include pizza with a high-carb crust, chips and nachos, with carbs in the potato or corn in the chips, sandwiches, with carbs in the bread, granola bars, and breaded foods, such as fried chicken and fish, onion rings, and eggplant parmesan.

Low-Carb Foods


Low-carb foods can help you out if you are on a low-carb diet for weight loss, blood sugar control, or other health reasons. Some are healthy and packed with protein, healthy fats, and/or other nutrients, but a few contain unhealthy fats. This list of low-carb foods can help you keep carbs in check and choose healthier options. Lark can also guide you in healthier choices as you watch your carbs.

Meat, Poultry, and Seafood

Meat, poultry, and fish have no carbohydrates. Some types of shellfish have a minimal amount, and processed meats, such as ham, can have a bit of sugar or starch. Although fat has no carbs, trim the fat from meat and the skin from poultry to lower your consumption of unhealthy saturated fats. Choosing fish when possible is a heart-healthy choice. 

Below is a list of low carb foods you can enjoy

High-Carb Food and Serving Size Carbohydrates, Grams
Large cinnamon roll with icing
125
Apple pie
66
Muffin from bakery or café
65
French fries, large
64
Raisins, ½ cup
62
Crispy chicken or fish sandwich
60
Chocolate cake with frosting, 1 slice
60
Bagel, from bakery or café
60
Grapes, 1 cup
58
Low-fat granola, 2/3 cup
52
Fruit smoothie, 12 oz.
50
Raisin bran cereal, 1 cup
46
Sweet potato, 1 cup cooked
45
Regular (non-diet) soda, 1 12-oz. can
40
White or whole-grain pasta, 1 cup cooked
40
Banana, 1 medium
40
Cheese pizza, 1 slice of large
35
Apple, 1 large
30
100% fruit juice or juice drink, 8 oz.
30
Honey Nut Cheerios, 1 cup
28
Oatmeal, 1 cup cooked
28
White rice, ½ cup cooked
23
Cookie, 1 medium
22
Pretzels, 1 oz.
22
Acorn squash, 1 cup cooked
20
Potato chips, 1 oz
15
Jam or jelly, 1 tablespoon
15
White or whole-grain bread, 1 small slice (1 oz.)
15
Corn, ½ cup
15
Potato, white, ½ cup cooked
15
Beans or lentils, ½ cup cooked or canned
15
Waffle, 1 small frozen
13

Fats

While all pure fats are carbohydrate-free, some are healthier than others. Opt for olive oil and other plant-based oils when you have the chance, and limit butter, margarine and shortening with hydrogenated oils, and lard.

Nuts, Peanuts, and Seeds

Peanuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and other nuts are low-carb and rich in healthy fats. They also provide protein and fiber.

Cheese

Milk is a natural source of carbs, and yogurt can have 10, 20, or more grams of carbohydrates, but cheese is low-carb. Mozzarella, cheddar, swiss, feta, parmesan, and blue cheese are just a few low-carb cheeses. Cottage cheese is also low-carb, although slightly higher than aged cheese.

Non-Starchy Vegetables

Be careful to choose low carb vegetables

You name it, it is a good choice for a low-carb food. Non-starchy vegetables are low in carbohydrates and calories, and often high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Leafy greens such as spinach and lettuces, cucumbers, sprouts, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, eggplant, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts are just a few of the possibilities.

Water and Other Beverages

Water is the ultimate calorie-free, carb-free beverage, and unsweetened herbal tea and decaffeinated green tea, black tea, and coffee are also great choices. While sugar-free diet drinks are carb-free, they are less healthy.

Getting Help

Friends, family, a personal trainer, and fitness instructors can help you along the way. A personal health coach can also help. Lark is a fully-automated program that is available to users 24/7. You can chat with your coach anytime, set and work towards exercise and diet goals, and get customized feedback and coaching. With motivation, reminders, and tracking features, Lark DPP and other Lark programs can help you hit exercise recommendations and is Fully CDC Recognized.

A Single Trick Can Get You to Your Exercise Goals

Reach your exercise goals

Do you always exercise as much as you want to? Or do you occasionally miss a workout? You are not alone if you could do with a little more exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 23% of American adults ages 18 to 64 meet recommendations for aerobic and resistance exercise [1]. That means 3 out of 4 fall short.

What if you could work out more, and see better results, easily? That is, what if the strategy did not involve working out harder or longer, or waking up earlier, or hiring a personal trainer? It turns out that for most people, there is a simple way: put on activewear that you like.

The news media recently reported on a poll that investigated Americans’ reasons for skipping planned trips to the gym[2]. The poll, conducted by PollStat and sponsored by Trunk Club, found that a whopping 92% of respondents would exercise more if they liked their activewear!

Buy Nice Clothes


We do not mean dresses and fancy suits, although you will look better in yours if you get more active. Instead, gym clothes that make you feel good can be more motivating. The poll found that 32% of people skip the gym because they do not have clothes they like. More than 2 out of 3 respondents said they feel judged at the gym sometimes because of their clothes.

Selecting clothes that are comfortable and that fit properly is common sense, but for many people, that is not enough. For them, it is just as important for them to have a style and color scheme that you like. So, when shopping, bargain basement is okay if you like and will use those clothes, but, if not, it may be worth the extra few bucks to buy clothes you love and will actually wear.

Consider the following tips.

  • Shop sales, and you may get away with some great bargains, such as two-for-one.
  • One set of workout clothes is good, and two are better. Be sure you stock up on enough so that you always have a clean set when you need one.
  • Buying new clothes if you have not worked out in a while can help you get back on track.
  • Buy clothes that make you feel good.
  • Dress for the season. More than 2 of 3 poll respondents do not try to make exercise a priority when the weather gets colder.

Benefits of Exercise

  • Lose or maintain weight.
  • Lower blood pressure and control or prevent hypertension.
  • Lower blood sugar and control or prevent prediabetes or diabetes.
  • Lower risk for heart disease.
  • Increase energy.
  • Improve strength and endurance.
  • Support brain health.

Common Excuses for Skipping Workouts

  • Not loving your clothing.
  • Too busy or stressed.
  • Bad weather or cold weather.
  • Too tired or stayed up too late last night.
  • Planning to start tomorrow.
  • Do not feel well.

Get Dressed


If getting to the gym and working out seem too daunting when it comes to workout time, making a smaller commitment may do the trick. Simply putting on your gym clothes and shoes can make you feel more motivated to exercise. At least, it does for 92% of the respondents to the OnePoll poll. These tips can make it even easier. 

  • Put out your workout clothes and shoes beforehand. This may be before you go to bed if you are an early morning exerciser, when you get to work if you are a lunch-time exerciser, or before you leave home in the morning if you are an evening mover. That way, when it comes time to exercise, putting on your clothes and shoes takes almost no effort.
  • Always have a couple of workout outfits clean and ready to go so you never need to be stuck washing your gym clothes instead of wearing them. In fact, 31% of poll respondents say they may skip workouts because they have no clean gym clothes that they want to wear.
  • Keep gym clothes and shoes wherever you may need them, such as at home, in the car, and at work.

Manage Stress


More than 1 in 4 poll respondents answered that they sometimes skip the gym because of stress or tight deadlines. That not only puts a damper on fitness, but can worsen the situation, since exercising is a great way to manage stress and increase focus and productivity. Skipping the gym may free up a bit of time, but the price may include increased stress and fuzzier thinking.

Another strategy may be necessary if overwhelming stress or looming deadlines are causing you to skip workouts. Simple stress management techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help. To combat tight deadlines, it may be possible to save time by doubling up exercise with other activities, such as walking to the supermarket or using a pedal pusher while typing at a computer.

Start Today


Another common theme in the OnePoll results was that tomorrow never comes. Over half (53%) of respondents said they tell themselves that they will start their workouts tomorrow, but do not. Instead, starting today can be a good idea. Or, pick a specific start date, figure out what you need to do to be prepared on that date, and get yourself ready. You may need to buy clothes, write out your workout, or phone a friend to be sure that there is no backing out at the last moment.

Use Lark


Lark will not buy you clothes or finish your work projects ahead of schedule, but this 24/7 coach may help you get in a few more workouts. Lark is compassionate and will never judge you, so no worries if you are among the 69% of people who feel judged at the gym. And if “tomorrow” never comes for you, Lark can help remind you of your healthy intentions…today.

Are you among the 35% of people who sometimes feel too tired to get to an exercise class at the gym? A few weeks of sleep coaching can help you get over that hump. Some healthy lifestyle chances, such as making nutritious food choices and managing stress, can keep you moving, too. Hitting exercise goals can make a difference in your life and health, and Lark can help.

References

  1.  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr112.pdf
  2. https://nypost.com/2020/01/14/shocking-number-of-americans-worry-about-being-judged-for-their-activewear-when-exercising/

Low-Fat or Low-Carb? Neither! Healthy Is Best!

What is the best diet to follow?

Low fat or low carb?

Is a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet better? Finally, we may have an answer, and it is great news. The answer is neither, or, to put it another way, whichever you prefer.

For years, experts urged the public to cut fat to lose weight and improve heart health. This often led not only to beneficial results such as trimming fat from meat, but also to harmful effects such as adding refined carbohydrates to the diet as a replacement for fat.

When the plethora of low-fat and fat-free products on the market did not curb the obesity epidemic, and researchers began to understand that some fats are healthier than others, opinions began to shift. Low-carb diets became popular, with bacon, steaks, butter, and eggs being among the most notorious components.

The debate has continued, but a recent study has shed some light on the low-carb versus low-fat debate. It turns out that the best diet is…a healthy one! Read on for what Harvard researchers found, how you can design your own best diet for lowering risk of mortality, and how Lark can help.

Harvard Study on Diet and Mortality

Researchers at Harvard decided to look at what people were eating and whether low-carbohydrate or low-fat diets led to a greater chance of mortality. They used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is an ongoing survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Researchers included data from everyone who was over 20 years old, who had participated in NHANES between 1999-2014, and who had provided information on their diets. They categorized diets as low-fat or low-carb, and further broke those down into healthy or unhealthy low-fat or low-carb. Next, they looked for associations between diet type and mortality, or risk of death.

Results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine. It turns out that neither overall low-carb or low-fat diets were associated with higher or lower mortality rates. That is, it did not matter whether participants ate a low-carb or low-fat diet. What did matter, though, was whether the diet was healthy. Both healthy low-carb and healthy low-fat diets were linked to lower risk of death, and unhealthy low-carb and unhealthy low-fat diets were linked to higher mortality during the study.

Low-Fat and Low-Carb Diets Defined

Carbohydrates, protein, and fat are the nutrients in the diet that contribute the most calories. Low-fat diets tend to be high in carbohydrates, while low-carbohydrate diets tend to be high in fat and protein. 

  • Sources of carbohydrates include bread, cereal, pasta, and other grains and grain products, fruit, sugary foods and beverages, starchy vegetables, beans, and dairy products.
  • Sources of protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, soy products, beans, nuts, and lentils.
  • Sources of fat include oils, avocados, butter, lard, shortening, fatty meats and poultry, seeds, nuts, and dairy products.

“Healthy” and “Unhealthy” Diets Defined

As you can gather from the above list of high-carb, high-protein, and high-fat foods, they can all range from healthy to unhealthy. Researchers in the Harvard study assigned foods and nutrients to “healthy” or “unhealthy” categories, then put them together to categorize each person’s diet according to its overall health.

No food is entirely healthy or unhealthy, but most foods are closer to one or the other. 

  • For carbohydrates, healthier ones are typically less processed, higher in fiber, and free from (or low in) added sugars. In the study, “high-quality” carbohydrates were whole grains, whole fruit, non-starchy vegetables, and legumes (beans, peas, soy, and lentils).
  • For protein, healthier ones tend to be low in saturated or total fat. In the study, researchers noted animal versus plant proteins.
  • For fats, healthier ones tend to be free from artificial trans fats and low in saturated fat compared to the amount of unsaturated fats, especially monounsaturated and omega-3 fats. In the study, researchers looked at the amounts of saturated fats and unsaturated fats.

This table can help guide choices.

Food Type “Healthy” “Unhealthy”
High-Carbohydrate
  • Whole-grain bread, pita, bagels, English muffins
  • Whole-grain cereal, such as shredded wheat, oatmeal, bran, Cheerios
  • Beans, lentils, split peas
  • Unsweetened frozen and fresh fruit
  • White bread, pita, bagels, English muffins, tortillas
  • Refined grains, such as white rice, pearl barley
  • Refined
  • Baked goods, such as cake, cookies, pie, tarts
  • Refined and/or sweetened cereal, such as most children’s cereals, flavored oatmeal
  • Potatoes, especially fried, mashed with butter or gravy
  • Ice cream, custard, pudding
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, sports drinks
High-Protein Foods
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Beans, lentils, peas
  • Soy, tofu, soy products
  • Peanuts, nuts, seeds
  • Lean ground turkey
  • Skinless turkey, chicken
  • Eggs, egg whites
  • Reduced-fat plain yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese
  • Cured deli meats, such as ham, turkey, pepperoni, salami, bologna
  • Other processed meats, such as sausage, hot dogs
  • Fatty meat, such as full-fat ground beef, ribs, bacon, fatty steak
High-Fat Foods
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil, such as canola, sunflower, safflower, corn
  • Nuts, peanuts, nut butter, peanut butter, seeds
  • Avocado
  • Flaxseed
  • Butter
  • Shortening (unless free from trans fats)
  • Lard
  • Fat in meat and poultry skin
  • Fat from frying

How Much Difference Does a Healthy Diet Make?

This study included an average follow-up period of 8 years. Compared to a diet whose healthy quality was middle-of-the-road, those who followed the healthiest low-carb diets were less 27% less likely to die during the study period. The healthiest low-fat diets were linked to the exact same benefit: a 27% reduction in mortality!

Similarly, the least-healthy low-carb diets were linked to 16% higher risk of mortality, while the least-healthy low-fat diets were linked to a 12% greater risk. Deaths from cancer and heart disease both showed trends towards being less prevalent among the healthier eaters.

Following Your Own Longevity Diet

Without even being in a nationwide study, you can create your own diet to improve health and lower risk for mortality. As the results of this study suggest, there is plenty of room for customization in a longevity diet. Whether you love carbs or cannot imagine life without meat and cheese, there are ways to add health-promoting nutrients to, and subtract less-healthy components from, your everyday meals.

These are some general guidelines.

  • Add vegetables
  • Etc
  • Natural, whole, less processed
  • Add treats

Everyone’s diet is different, but these are some possible menus for “healthy low-carb,” “unhealthy low-carb,” “unhealthy low-fat,” and “unhealthy low-fat” menus so you can get an idea.

Food Type “Healthy” “Unhealthy”
High-Carbohydrate
  • Whole-grain bread, pita, bagels, English muffins
  • Whole-grain cereal, such as shredded wheat, oatmeal, bran, Cheerios
  • Beans, lentils, split peas
  • Unsweetened frozen and fresh fruit
  • White bread, pita, bagels, English muffins, tortillas
  • Refined grains, such as white rice, pearl barley
  • Refined
  • Baked goods, such as cake, cookies, pie, tarts
  • Refined and/or sweetened cereal, such as most children’s cereals, flavored oatmeal
  • Potatoes, especially fried, mashed with butter or gravy
  • Ice cream, custard, pudding
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, sports drinks
High-Protein Foods
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Beans, lentils, peas
  • Soy, tofu, soy products
  • Peanuts, nuts, seeds
  • Lean ground turkey
  • Skinless turkey, chicken
  • Eggs, egg whites
  • Reduced-fat plain yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese
  • Cured deli meats, such as ham, turkey, pepperoni, salami, bologna
  • Other processed meats, such as sausage, hot dogs
  • Fatty meat, such as full-fat ground beef, ribs, bacon, fatty steak
High-Fat Foods
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil, such as canola, sunflower, safflower, corn
  • Nuts, peanuts, nut butter, peanut butter, seeds
  • Avocado
  • Flaxseed
  • Butter
  • Shortening (unless free from trans fats)
  • Lard
  • Fat in meat and poultry skin
  • Fat from frying

Lark offers personalized nutrition coaching to support a nutritious diet that works for you as an individual. Features include instant feedback after logging meals, tips and tricks for fitting good food into any kind of lifestyle, and reports on progress over recent weeks. You will never be alone with Lark in your pocket!

Employee Wellness: Why Employers Need HCM Systems

There is a growing need for employee wellness programs

Human capital, or intangible assets and qualities that make up the value of a worker, is a form of skill development that should be fostered by employers. Certain qualities such as education, hard skills, intelligence and punctuality are things that employers can search for in candidates before hiring them. Other qualities, however, can be honed by employers—nurturing employees to become loyal assets. You cannot teach loyalty, but you can attain it by providing a foundation for your employees to thrive.

Employee wellness may be the most important quality of any healthy business. The benefits of utilizing human capital software for your employees’ well-being are numerous. By providing an all-in-one platform for access to employee benefits, requesting time off, and access to their records, employees don’t have to learn how to navigate multiple platforms. This will save your employees time and the stress of not knowing where to go for specific resources. 

Ease of Use for Human Resources


Your human resources staff should be busy finding amazing employees for your business, not learning how to use ten different platforms. By using an all inclusive HCM system, you won’t need one platform for onboarding, one for training, one for holiday requests, another for timesheets, and one for payroll. Save your human resources staff the headache of having to use a different platform for every task. By improving the functionality of your HCM system, you will free up your HR staff to spend more time hiring and recruiting quality talent, which will make your business more profitable and workplace more enjoyable. 

Talent Management 


According to The American Institute of Stress, “80% of workers feel stress on the job.” These stressors range from a heavy workload to a lack of job security, and “job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems.” It could be inferred that a lack of effective management, goal management, and career development are major factors in the stress that employees feel. 

By using an effective human capital management platform, managers can more effectively evaluate talent reviews, career development and performance management, based on inferences made by AI and much easier access to performance reporting for management. The implementation of HCM platforms in the workplace will reduce worker stress and make employees happier and healthier by keeping them on track for goals, knowing where they stand in the company, and clear paths to achieve those goals.

Employee Engagement From Anywhere


As more and more workplaces move to the virtual office, flexible working hours, and remote capabilities, an HCM system is necessary to give access to critical information, no matter where the employee is located. Over the last ten years there has been a growth of 91% in remote workers. That number is sure to grow as U.S. workers are increasingly only willing to accept jobs that offer flexible work hours. With this increase in employees working remotely, onboarding and training should also be made virtual, so that companies can hire and retain quality talent no matter where they are located. Flexjobs.com cites that “90% of employees say more flexible arrangements would increase morale.” By keeping morale high, employers are sure to keep quality talent, and more importantly, have healthier and happier employees in general. 

According to flexjobs.com, “80% of remote workers experience less job stress,” as well. One of the worst things for one’s health is stress. Stress can cause many negative effects in the human body including a weakened immune system, insomnia, increased depression, headaches, and more. By utilizing an HCM system, employers can make remote work easy and accessible, reducing stress for their employees. No matter where an employee is located, an HCM system allows workers to access their personal data, such as payroll, benefits, the ability to request time off, and other important information and resources. 

Another great benefit of an HCM system in the cloud is the fact that there is never a situation in which employees can’t access their information. Employees never have to worry about not being able to access their sick day requests or payroll information because of downtime for updates, or even worse, a security breach. This is another benefit in itself – employees will have peace-of-mind knowing their information is secure. With an HCM system the chances of a security breach are slim to none, since there are continuous updates. 

Integrated Employee Wellness and Fitness


An employee fitness program is essential to maintaining a healthy and happy workforce. Not to mention, a healthier workforce often means much lower costs for health coverage. With an HCM platform, employers can easily provide their employees with access to fitness programs anywhere. Employees can set fitness goals and join friendly wellness competitions, which can help to encourage fitness activities among employees and foster bonds between colleagues. With inside fitness groups, employees can reach their aspirations faster alongside other employees who have similar fitness goals and activity interests.

Companies such as Lark Health offer employee wellness programs and chronic disease management as a health benefit through their employer. Lark is a 24/7 health coach and AI-powered platform that helps employees live healthier lives through weight loss coaching, stress management, hypertension care, and diabetes prevention or management that integrates with your phone. A wellness program integrated into your HCM platform makes tracking fitness easy, too. With employee profiles, workers can easily upload fitness activity from a fitness tracking device or enter their data manually. This makes it simple for employees to easily monitor fitness goals from their employee dashboard. By utilizing an HCM platform, employees will be motivated to meet their wellness goals and in turn meet a better work-life balance and overall happiness. 

Increasing Recruitment and Retention


Employees have a lot of options to weigh when deciding where to work these days. One has to consider the city they want to live in, the transportation options available in their neighborhood, the benefits offered, the pay, the company culture, and so much more. According to benefitspro, a staggering “73% of workers said a company’s health and wellness offerings influence their decision to work there.” Retaining quality talent is a significant challenge for businesses and if employers want to recruit and retain top candidates and employees, they need to be offering a great wellness package. Employees want to see companies offer incentives for healthy living, which 20% of businesses aren’t doing, and an HCM platform will help businesses do just that. 

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