April 20, 2023
298: Eat Your Way to Better Health: The Color-Coded Food Guide | Maya Health Tip

Maya Acosta discusses the popular tool which categorizes foods into green, yellow, and red based on their nutritional value and health impact. Whether you are dealing with diabetes or heart disease or simply want to lose weig...

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Maya Acosta discusses the popular tool which categorizes foods into green, yellow, and red based on their nutritional value and health impact. Whether you are dealing with diabetes or heart disease or simply want to lose weight, you will want to look closely at green-light foods for optimal health.

Key takeaways:

  • Adhering to the traffic light system can help individuals make healthier choices and improve their health by emphasizing the consumption of green light foods, limiting yellow foods, and avoiding red light foods.
  • Learn how foods can be used to improve your health.
  • The green light category includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. The yellow light category includes foods higher in fat, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and soy products. The red light category includes animal-based foods, processed foods, and all oils.



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Maya Acosta 00:00

The traffic light system for food is a popular tool used to help people make healthier food choices. The system categorizes foods into green, yellow and red colors based on their nutritional value and health impact. Green light foods are considered the healthiest and most nutrient dense options. In contrast, yellow light foods are still healthy still, they should be consumed in moderation, and red light foods are the least healthy and should be avoided or consumed sparingly. In today's episode we will explore each category talk about how each have facts, insulin sensitivity and weight gain, and will provide you a list of foods that you should focus on. As always, additional information on the topic can be found on my blog, healthy lifestyle solutions.org forward slash blog. Also check out my online Amazon store which contains books and other kitchen products that I often recommend on my show. That's Maya Acosta dot store. Okay, let's get into it. Before we tackle the traffic light system to food I want to tell you about this past Saturday, so Walk With A Doc event. We had more people show up for our walk than ever. We have been promoting the heck out of our walks every month. But this time that Texas Medical Association did a massive promotion on really for Dr risks and Walk With A Doc initiative, which costs many new people to attend our walk, it felt a little overwhelming because I could not get everyone signed in. And I was also focusing on giving out free shirts to our walkers. We now have a private Whatsapp group for our current walkers to share resources and keep everyone informed. If you have walked with us in the past and want to join the WhatsApp group, message me on Instagram that's at healthy lifestyle solutions. And let me know that you want to join, you do have to download the app scan the QR code that I'll give you and make sure that you choose to receive notifications in your settings. Please make sure to wear your Walk With A Doc shirt. Our next walk will take place on May 20 at noon. Also next Tuesday we hit 300 episodes on the podcast. I will have Dr Reyes on the show joining me as we reminisce on how we began the podcast. We will also talk about how the podcast has evolved. Remember every Monday I have Dr Riz on as a guest expert in his doctor in the house series. Every Tuesday I have a guest interview. And every Thursday I offer a solo episode with a health tip like this one. Okay, let's get started adhering to the traffic light system can help individuals make healthier choices and improve their health. By emphasizing the consumption of green light foods and limiting yellow foods and avoiding red light foods. Individuals can help to lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Several plant based physicians such as Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Neil Barnard and Dr. John McDougall also have their list of food recommendations. Dr. Greger uses the Daily Dozen app to detail the best foods for optimal health. I had an entire episode on the daily dusts and you can check out episode 280. To hear more about that. In addition to promoting better health outcomes, the traffic light system can help people make more informed decisions about their foods. By providing a simple and easy to understand framework for categorizing foods. This system can make it easier for individuals to make healthier choices and develop better eating habits. Because we have been touching on diabetes on the Monday episodes with Dr. Risk. I want to focus on the mastering diabetes traffic light system. However, as I previously mentioned, other physicians such as Dr. John McDougall and Dr. Neil Barnard also use a system very similar to the one I will reference to guidance support individuals as they learn what foods they should incorporate into their diets. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn discourages a high consumption of foods in the yellow and red light categories when managing heart disease. All of this will make more sense when we dive into each category. In their book mastering diabetes. Cyrus comm Bada and Robbie Barbaro present a revolutionary approach to managing and sometimes even reversing type two diabetes. The concept of green, yellow and red light categories is central to their method. The green light category includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains and they golems these are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet rich and fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. When you consume these foods you feel full and satiated. The yellow light categories include foods that are higher in fat, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives in soy products. While these foods are still healthy, they must be consumed in moderation and they have a higher calorie density that can lead to weight gain. Additionally, some people with diabetes may need to be cautious about their fat intake, which can cause insulin resistance and high blood glucose. While you will solely find plant based foods in the yellow category, they are the plant foods that are slightly process such as alternative pasta made from lentils, quinoa, beans, and brown rice. You may be surprised to find soy products in the yellow category. But remember that while soy beans have protective phyto estrogen, which can reduce your risk of breast cancer, soy beans contain more fat than other beans. And the more you process a soy to make soy milk, the less you will want to consume if you want to improve your insulin sensitivity. The red light category includes animal based foods, processed foods and all of the oils. Contrary to what other fad diets and calves say about olive oil excetera they still affect insulin sensitivity and contribute to weight gain. Processed foods are nutrient deficient and loaded with additives and preservatives. People often ask me what are they supposed to eat.


Maya Acosta 06:46

So let's focus on the green light foods. Again, these are the foods that are very similar to the Daily Dozen. With the exception of nuts. Again, we're talking about insulin sensitivity and even weight gain. So if you want to improve those two areas, we say focus on green light foods which are plant based whole foods low in fat and fiber rich. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. And you may recall that I had an entire episode dedicated to the benefits of consuming fiber rich foods last week. The green light foods are where you will find these fiber rich foods these foods have not been stripped of their fiber. Examples of green light foods include unprocessed whole plant foods that are low in fat, I will add a more detailed list on my blog. So late goons like beans, black beans, Great Northern beans, lentils, peas, and so many more will be in the list. Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, farro, spelt millet, buckwheat and on starchy vegetables like potatoes and that includes white potatoes and sweet potatoes, butternut squash, Tara, yams, pumpkin and so many more. Non starchy vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, artichoke, and many more leafy greens, all sorts of greens too many to list but let us arugula, spinach, turnip greens and collard greens, fruit that includes mango, bananas, oranges, and this is the largest group that is listed in the mastering diabetes book, mushrooms and that's a variety of mushrooms, whether they're fresh or dried, herbs and spices, again, whether they're fresh or dried, try all of them and of course, all sorts of sprouts. Overall green light foods are essential to a healthy diet for people with diabetes. They are packed with nutrients, fiber and antioxidants that can help to promote healthy blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and support overall health and well being. by prioritizing green light foods and minimizing the yellow and the red light groups. People with diabetes can take control of their health and improve their quality of life. Now yellow light foods should be consumed in moderation as we previously said, as they can significantly impact blood sugar levels more so than the green light foods. These foods are still considered healthy and nutrient dense still they should be consumed in moderation, or in combination with green light foods. So yellow light foods include minimally processed foods or whole plant based foods that are higher in fat content. Again, those are avocados nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters, plant based milks, coconut meat soy products, olives, pasta alternatives, dried fruit that includes dates and raisins and apricots and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and coconut kefir. When you consider avocado nuts and seeds, you will notice that Dr. Caldwell so Stan also recommends that individuals with heart disease minimize these foods to improve their arteries. This talk about the soy products and mastering diabetes soy products are considered yellow light foods rather than green light foods. While soy products soy products are a good source of plant based protein they are also considered to be processed. In addition, soybeans themselves contain more fat than other beans, which can impact their overall calorie density. For these reasons, it's recommended that you consume soy products in moderation. Red light foods should be avoided or consumed sparingly and can contribute to insulin resistance and other health issues. These foods are low in fiber and other nutrients and can lead to weight gain and other health problems when consumed in excess. In addition, red light foods can be addictive and trigger cravings making them difficult to resist for some individuals. By limiting or avoiding red light foods, individuals with diabetes can help to improve their blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation and improve their overall health and well being red light foods also contain saturated fat dietary cholesterol and trans fats contributing to insulin resistance. So the foods in this category include red meat, white meat, eggs, all dairy products, all oils, fish and shellfish. Processed make foods like croissants and cookies and muffins, all sorts of sweeteners, refined white foods like white pasta, white bread, white sugar, white flour, coconut products, processed vegan foods and this is all you know includes various burgers, vegan burgers and vegan cheeses and being an ice cream. Now on episode 286. I dedicated it to the myths associated with carbohydrates. Many of the heavily processed vegan foods fall into the red light foods. These are like I said, the vegan burgers and the cheeses and ice creams, these foods are stripped of their fiber and nutrients and they will affect your insulin resistance and also cause weight gain and these foods are also contribute to heart disease and other chronic conditions. In that particular episode on the myths associated with carbohydrates, I really focus on the difference between complex carbohydrates which fall into the category of Whole Foods, they're unrefined. They're the whole foods like in the green category. And then the processed foods are the foods that are in the red category that are stripped of their fiber in their nutrients and have a bunch of additives preservatives and other things that are not good for your health. And so you might want to visit that episode as well. 286 Now in addition to what we eat, Massereene diabetes focuses on what we drink because beverages also affect our insulin sensitivity. So let's talk about green light beverages. They include water infused with a squeeze of lemon pieces of fruit like cantaloupe or cucumber, carbonated water, green tea, herbal teas and green juices. Now I was surprised to learn about green juices because sometimes we're told to stay away from green smoothies if you have insulin resistance problems. Green juices have various green vegetables such as kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, and parsley. These vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that benefit overall health and can help prevent chronic diseases. Green juices are low in calories and high nutrients making them an excellent option for those looking to lose weight or to improve their health. They are also a great way to add more vegetables to your diet, especially if you struggle to eat enough greens daily. It is important to note that green juices should be consumed in moderation and not replace whole fruits and vegetables. These beverages as listed above are hydrating and contain beneficial antioxidants making them an excellent choice for individuals with diabetes, yellow light beverages. These can be consumed in moderation but should be balanced


Maya Acosta 14:23

with green light beverages. So yellow light beverages include 100% fruit juice, coconut water, plant based milk like almond, cashew, coconut hemp, oat rice, soy and quinoa milks, starch based vegetable juices such as carrots and parsnip and sweet potato come Bucha and also fresh fruit juice like fresh orange juice. So what I find interesting is that the more that I learned about nutrition the more that I learned what I should stay away from and so not only that I learned from fiber fueled that come Bucha is not the best option for the ferment fermentation that I'm looking for probiotics I'm looking for in foods but also Kombucha is high in sugar. Red light beverages are the unhealthiest beverages that should be avoided or consumed very sparingly, as they can cause significant spikes in blood sugar levels and other health issues. Red light beverages include alcohol, soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened tea. These beverages are high in sugar and often contain unhealthy additives and preservatives. Overall by focusing on consuming more green light beverages and limiting or avoiding yellow and red light beverages, individuals with diabetes can help to improve their blood sugar control and overall health. Okay, my friends now overall, when we touch on how topic, especially related to nutrition, I usually like to wrap up by giving you some meal ideas. Mastering diabetes offers a three week meal plan to help you transition to a healthier lifestyle. They themselves start off in the book saying that you should take your time do the research and plan things carefully so that you begin to add more green light foods little at a time so that it can be sustainable, so I just pulled a couple of recipes. Some ideas of what you can have for breakfast include a Mexican bean breakfast skillet or a cauliflower breakfast scramble. For lunch. You can have a hearty sweet potato and squash soup or curried chickpea potatoes for dinner a roasted root vegetable with potato mushrooms or lentil doll with cauliflower rice. Now you'll have to go and purchase the book to get even more ideas. They also have a PDF version of the recipes. Again, you'll want to visit them at mastering diabetes.com Okay, so I can green light foods are plant based whole foods that are low in fat, high in fiber and rich in nutrients. These foods are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, again, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients. They can help control blood sugar levels, improved digestion, promote satiety and reduce the risk of chronic diseases consuming green light foods can be beneficial for people with diabetes who are looking to manage their weight and blood sugar levels. Okay, my friends, I hope that this topic was useful. I would also love to hear from you go to speak pipe.com forward slash HLS Mamia voice message and tell me what you think about this topic. And how are you managing your diabetes again, we have a four part series with Dr. Riz on Mondays where we talk about diabetes. Okay, my friends have a wonderful weekend. I hope to see you in our next walk and make sure that you always check us out on social media. Thank you again for being a listener.

Maya AcostaProfile Photo

Maya Acosta

Maya Acosta is a health and wellness educator, podcaster, and content creator from Dallas, Texas, advocating for whole-food, plant-based living. As co-leader of the Plant-Based DFW Pod, she educates the public on healthy living through various initiatives such as lectures, potlucks, and walks with the doc. Maya hosts the Healthy Lifestyle Solutions podcast and is a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine's Women's Health Interest Group. She promotes female health and covers pregnancy, thyroid issues, menopause, and more.

Maya serves as a Pod Action Committee member for PlantPure Communities, creating courses to teach other leaders how to share their messages and support their communities online. Her dedication to health outreach is evident through her involvement in various initiatives such as lectures, potlucks, documentary screenings, and walks with the doc. As a content creator, Maya covers events and makes cooking videos for social media and YouTube.

Maya's passion for helping women take control of their health has become her "ikigai," meaning her life purpose. Maya's dedication to promoting a healthy lifestyle and empowering women to take control of their health is truly inspiring.