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White Foods
The Worthy and the Worrisome

by Matilde Parente, MD

Although the recommended general-population upper limit for daily sodium intake is 2,300 mg, most American adults are advised to stay within an upper limit of only 1,500 mg sodium per day, or the amount in about one-half teaspoon of table salt. This lower limit applies to all adults 51 or older, people with diabetes, African-Americans, and people with high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease. Eating too much salt has been linked to an increased risk of death or disability from high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

To reduce your daily sodium intake, use the sodium content information on packaged or processed food labels to help guide you to lower-sodium choices. Limit the number of meals you eat in restaurants, if possible, or request no-salt-added or reduced-sodium dishes. Best yet, prepare more foods from scratch using fresh produce, low-sodium proteins, and naturally salt-free flavoring ingredients such as herbs and spices.

White foods to enjoy
White beans, such as cannellini, Great Northern, and garbanzo (chickpeas), are diabetes-friendly foods that warrant a place at the table. As an inexpensive and vegetarian protein option, beans are also rich in B vitamins, fiber, iron, potassium, and other nutrients. Beans are also filling, and the soluble fiber in them helps to regulate blood cholesterol levels. Try serving protein-rich dips of mashed white beans, lemon, garlic, and herbs with cut-up, crunchy vegetables.

Cheese appears on some bad-white-foods lists. While cheeses high in sodium or saturated fat are best limited or avoided, there are some lower-sodium and lower-fat choices. Ricotta cheese has a creamy texture and a nutrient profile that boasts protein, calcium, vitamin A, and folate. Low-fat and skim products are widely available. Try adding ricotta to pasta along with tomatoes and vegetables to create a nutritious, rich-tasting dish.

Goat, mozzarella, and cottage cheeses can also be diabetes-friendly food choices when consumed in moderation. Ounce per ounce, most goat cheeses are lower in sodium and saturated fat than hard cheeses. Cottage and mozzarella cheeses vary widely in sodium content. Check the Nutrition Facts panels on cheese labels to select lower-sodium cheeses.

White-fleshed fruits and vegetables are perfect for nearly anyone’s healthy diet. Tasty, white-fleshed apples and pears provide vitamins, phytochemicals, hydration, slowly released energy, and fiber. Reams of scientific literature demonstrate the health benefits of both white-fleshed and colorful fruits. A 2011 study from the Netherlands examined the risk of stroke over several years among more than 20,000 adults. The researchers found that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables, particularly of apples and pears, was associated with a lower risk of stroke.

Bananas are another white-fleshed fruit that can be a part of a healthy diet. A six- to seven-inch banana contains 23 grams of carbohydrate and nearly 3 grams of fiber that is mostly soluble. Bananas are rich in vitamins and minerals and are a good source of potassium, packing 362 milligrams into a small serving. A potassium-rich diet is associated with better cardiovascular health, including lower blood pressure and a lower risk of stroke. The GI of bananas spans the intermediate range, with less ripe bananas ranking at the lower end.

Many white vegetables make up for what they lack in color with plenty of nutrients and flavor. Parsnips, for example, are a low-calorie root vegetable that are high in fiber and other nutrients. Try replacing potatoes with parsnips in soups, stews, and mash recipes, or roast them in the oven to enhance their natural sweetness and earthy flavor. Other white-fleshed root vegetables that can act as healthful and easy side dishes — requiring minimal preparation beyond boiling, mashing, or roasting — include turnips, rutabagas, and celery root.

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Which Whites?



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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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