All posts by Susan Burke March

About Susan Burke March

Susan is a registered and licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator, with advanced certificates in adult and adolescent and pediatric obesity management. She works with individuals and as an expert consultant to corporations and organizations to create and deliver innovative lifestyle strategies designed to improve health and accomplish weight goals.

Legumes! New Information Shows Even Greater Health Benefits


Legumes may lower risk of type 2 diabetes

Written by Ana Sandoiu
Published: Sunday 2 April 2017

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health concern in the United States and across the globe. New research shows that a high consumption of legumes significantly reduces the risk of developing the disease.
[various types of legumes]
A new study suggests that a high consumption of legumes can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 35 percent.

The legume family consists of plants such as alfalfa, clover, peas, peanuts, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, and various types of beans.

As a food group, they are believed to be particularly nutritious and healthful. One of the reasons for this is that they contain a high level of B vitamins, which help the body to make energy and regulate its metabolism.

Additionally, legumes are high in fiber and contain minerals such as calcium , magnesium, andpotassium. They also comprise a variety of so-called phytochemicals – bioactive compounds that further improve the body’s metabolism and have been suggested to protect against heart disease and diabetes.

Finally, legumes are also considered to be a “low glycemic index food,” which means that blood sugar levels increase very slowly after they are consumed.

To make people aware of the many health benefits of legumes, the year 2016 has been declared theInternational Year of Pulses by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Pulses are a subgroup of legumes.

Because of their various health benefits, it has been suggested that legumes protect against the onset oftype 2 diabetes – a serious illness that affects around 29 million people in the U.S. and more than 400 million adults worldwide. However, little research has been carried out to test this hypothesis.

Therefore, researchers from the Unit of Human Nutrition at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain, together with other investigators from the Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea (PREDIMED) study, set out to investigate the association between legume consumption and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study also analyzes the effects of substituting foods rich in proteins and carbohydrates with legumes, and the findings were published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

High intake of lentils lowers risk of type 2 diabetes by 33 percent

The team investigated 3,349 participants in the PREDIMED study who did not have type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study. The researchers collected information on their diets at the start of the study and every year throughout the median follow-up period of 4.3 years.

Individuals with a lower cumulative consumption of legumes had approximately 1.5 weekly servings of 60 grams of raw legumes, or 12.73 grams per day. A higher legume consumption was defined as 28.75 daily grams of legumes, or the equivalent of 3.35 servings per week.

Using Cox regression models, the researchers analyzed the association between the incidence of type 2 diabetes and the average consumption of legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, dry beans, and fresh peas.

Overall, during the follow-up period, the team identified 266 new cases of type 2 diabetes.

The study revealed that those with a higher intake of legumes were 35 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than their counterparts who consumed a smaller amount of legumes. Of all the legumes studied, lentils had the strongest association with a low risk of type 2 diabetes.

In fact, individuals with a high consumption of lentils (defined as almost one weekly serving) were 33 percent less likely to develop diabetes compared with their low-consumption counterparts – that is, the participants who had less than half a serving per week.

Additionally, the researchers found that replacing half a daily serving of protein- and carbohydrate-rich foods – including bread, eggs, rice, or potatoes – with an equivalent serving of legumes also correlated with a reduced risk of diabetes.

The authors conclude that:

“A frequent consumption of legumes, particularly lentils, in the context of a Mediterranean diet, may provide benefits on type 2 diabetes prevention in older adults at high cardiovascular risk.”

“Detox” Naturally – Eat Your Way To Better Health

Your body is a natural detoxifier – In ScienceBasedMedicine, we learn that, “The liver performs a series of chemical reactions to convert toxic substances into ones that can be eliminated in bile, or the kidneys. The liver is self-cleansing – toxins don’t accumulate in it, and unless you have documented liver disease, it generally functions without any problem. The kidney excretes waste products into the urine – otherwise the substance stays in the blood. To argue that either organ need a “cleanse” is to demonstrate a profound ignorance of human physiology, metabolism, and toxicology.”

But no doubt, we eat foods that aren’t the best for us – we may drink too much alcohol and not enough water.  Getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables daily may take some planning, but I guarantee that if you follow this eating plan for at least a week, you’ll get fabulous nutrition without being hungry or resorting to a “detox” diet plan.

Prepare to succeed!  Go shopping, stock up on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy (if you choose) –

If you are hungry, feel free to add more vegetables – they are unlimited – this guide is the minimum servings you need daily.

A great website with a FREE database of foods is the USDA’s SuperTracker.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 14.37.10


First, create your profile.  Then, choose your goals – weight loss, maintenance, or weight gain – you can even get recommendations for pregnancy – pre-pregnancy, or first, second, or third trimester.  Put in your vitals – height, weight, age, sex – and goal – and see the recommendations for nutrition, portions, and even click on each food to find out more.  It’s our USA Tax Dollars at work!

woman exercise

Calories Equal Food: What to Eat: How Many Servings Do You Need?


Make Your Menus: click here for information about serving sizes of fruits and vegetables

                                                             Second Nature EatingEating smaller meals more frequently works ideally for me: I translate this eating pattern into portions: for example,
1300-1400 calories 1500-1600 calories
Breakfast ~250 ~300
Lunch ~400 ~500
Dinner ~400-500 ~500
Snack ~100 ~100-150
Snack ~100 ~100-150


What To Eat?  1300-1400 1500-1600
Starches: grains, breads, legumes, starchy vegetables 4 5
Meats and meat substitutes: Non-meat eaters, estimate ¼ cup cooked dry beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce of meat – 3 oz of tofu has 8 g of protein – see more substitutes ideas here.
4-5 6-7
Dairy and Dairy Substitutes: per cup – can choose unsweetened soy milk or soy yogurt. 2 2
Crunchy Vegetables: 1 cup raw or 2 cups leafy greens or 1/2 cup cooked At least 4- more is fine At least 4-more is fine
Fruits: 1 small-med piece or 1 cup chopped or 2 tbs dried – I don’t recommend juice 2+ 2+
Added fats and oils – -light spreads (avoid all partially hydrogenated fats, margarine), avocado is great! oils like olive or canola oil-based salad dressing are best – buy organic if possible 1-2 3+ added
Other treats, such as wine or chocolate, depending on your activities!



Sample Menu 1300-1400
Breakfast:~250 calories

1 milk

1 fruit

1 starch

1 cup nonfat milk: 1 milk—80 calories1 cup berries: 1 fruit—60 calories

about 3/4 cup cooked oatmeal: 1 starch—approximately 100 calories

Total: ~240 calories


Snack:~100 calories

1 milk


1 6-ounce cup unsweetened yogurt: 1 milk—100 calories 
Lunch: ~400 calories2 meat

2 starches


2 slices whole grain bread or cup of quinoa: 2 starch—200 calories2 ounces turkey or tuna or salmon: 2 protein/meat—200 calories


Carrots and cucumbers—free



Snack: ~100 calories1 fat 1 small handful almonds (24): 1 fat—approximately 100 calories
Dinner: ~4003 meat

1 starches

2 veggies

2 fat

3 ounces broiled fish: 3 lean protein—210 calories1 small baked potato with salsa: 1 starch—100 calories

Broccoli and tomatoes, sautéed in nonstick pan with ½ tsp olive oil and herbs: free veggies plus 1 fat—50 calories

Tossed salad with vinegar, lemon, and ½ tsp olive oil—50 calories

Snack ~1001 fruit

1 milk

Sugar-free hot chocolate—60 calories½ Granny smith apple, sliced thin—40 calories



Sample Menu 1500-1600
Breakfast:~300 calories

1 milk

1 fruit

1-2 starch

1 cup of nonfat milk: 1 milk—80 calories1 whole cup berries: 1 fruit—60 calories

1- cup cooked oatmeal cereal: 1-2 starch—approximately 150 calories


Snack:~150 calories

1 milk

1 fruit

1 6-ounce cup unsweetened yogurt: 1 milk—100 calories1 whole orange: 1 fruit—60 calories
Lunch:~500 calories

3 meat

2 starch

1-2 fat



Large tossed salad: free vegetables3 ounces canned salmon or broiled fish: 3 meat

Whole wheat pita bread: 2 starch

1 tablespoon nonfat salad dressing: 1 fat



Snack: ~100 calories1 milk

½ starch

1 nonfat unsweetened yogurt or Greek yogurt: 1 milk2 tablespoons nugget cereal or wheat germ: ½ starch
Dinner: ~500-6003 meat

1-2 starch

1 fat

Shrimp with broccoli4 ounces medium-sized shrimp sautéed with 1 teaspoon olive oil; garlic, tomatoes, red peppers, and snow peas:

3-4 lean protein, 1 fat—approximately 300 calories

Big tossed salad with vinegar, lemon, and ½ tsp olive oil—50 calories

½- 1 cup brown rice: 1-2 starch—100-200 calories

Snack ~1001 milk

1 fruit

Sugar-free hot chocolate—60 calories½ Granny smith apple, sliced thin—40 calories
Total: about 1500-1600 calories Opt for a glass of red wine or a square of dark chocolate—approximately 100 calories


Small Changes, Big Rewards for Weight Loss

We are so lucky to live here in Cuenca, Ecuador, the land of an abundance of interesting and exotic vegetables and a cornucopia of fruits – however, this bounty of produce doesn’t mean that it’s any easier to lose weight and keep it off.  Many have brought their S.A.D. (Standard American Diets) with them – and it’s not hard to understand why – just about everything you can find in American grocery stores is available here in Cuenca.

If your goal is weight loss and better health, but you’re loathe to “go on a diet” because you hate that feeling of deprivation so typical in restrictive diets, try this trick.  Make ONE change each week, and see what happens…just by adding less fat to your food, or substituting a non-calorie beverage for a high calorie one can produce calorie deficits that show up in pounds and inches off.

Make some small changes and see how quickly the pounds can come off.  Small changes in what you eat and drink can have HUGE benefits!

On a baked potato:potato with salsa

Skip the added fat – save 100 calories per pat of butter – replace with 2 tbsp of fresh tomato salsa and…

…realize the potential to save 8-10 pounds of calories per year – by reducing 75 calories per day.

When dining out – you order pasta:

Gourmet fish, Mediterrean style

An entrée of pasta and cream sauce has about 1200 calories! You select grilled fish and vegetables and save at least 400 calories…you are more satisfied from lots of lean protein and fewer refined carbs…

…realize the potential to save up to 12 pounds of calories per year!


Your typical breakfast is a bran muffin:

A bran muffin might sound healthy, but they’re typically full of oil and sugar…it can have more than 500 calories, depending on it’s size…because it’s full of sugar, it shoots your blood sugar up, then crashing down, making you feel hungry within just a few hours.

cereal milk berries

Instead you switch to a cup of whole-grain, low sugar cereal, a cup of low or nonfat milk, and a full cup of berries…

…you reduce the calories for breakfast by at least 200, you feel better! There’s a potential for creating a 20-pound weight loss calorie deficit in a year!


Your habit is to drink a can of soda in the afternoon – you like that caffeine pick-me-up…

Each 12-oz regular soda has 150 or more “empty” sugar calories – shoots your sugar up, and crashing down again.  Instead, you reach for water, agua con gas, or a diet soda …

Potential calorie savings daily over the year equates to almost 16 pounds of fat – just skip the sweet stuff.

By the way, if you’re watching your calories, that 12-oz glass of juice has as many calories as a 12 – oz soda!  It would take at least 5 or more oranges to make a 12-oz glass of juice – would you peel and eat five oranges in a sitting?  No, you’d be full at 1 or 2.  Skip the juice, drink herbal tea, or water – and lose weight with just a few heorange instead of OJalthy changes. It’s hard to eat an excess of calories from fresh, whole vegetables and fruits, but it’s oh, so easy to quaff calories quickly when you’re drinking juice.




Take a look at your usual diet – and then make it better!  Just a few small changes can pay off big-time.  You can save hundreds of calories daily, thousands yearly just by ditching fried foods and choosing baked, broiled, grilled or sautéed.  Hundreds of calories saved by cutting back on added fats like buttering your bread or over-using salad dressings and added cheese means 10, 20, 30 pounds lost within one year, just by making your choices reflect your goals.

Pizza – Making it Healthy!

I had some friends over for dinner recently – I made pizza – whole wheat flour and semolina crust, topped with lightly sautéed spinach, onions, garlic and tomatoes.  I’ve found this very nice reduced-fat (30% fewer calories from fat) mozzarella cheese from SuperMaxi.  I’ve got a nonstick pizza pan that is ancient!  But it still works, and I don’t feel uncomfortable about eating two slices, knowing that I’ve chosen ingredients that won’t break my calorie bank.

I’ve recently joined the mailing list for America’s Test Kitchen – they review cooking equipment, post recipes and lots of great info about food science.  I enjoy Chris Kimble’s weekly podcast – he’s low key, philosophical about food, and his interviews are always interesting – I listen as I’m walking on the Tomebamba river in the morning, or as I’m walking to Spanish class.  I recommend it!

 Susan’s PizzaScreen Shot 2015-06-03 at 08.22.50

Here’s a recipe for my pizza:

Depending upon weather conditions and where you live (high humidity, altitude, etc.), you may need more or less flour, so go slowly.
I use a Kitchen Aid Mix-master with a dough hook attachment.  I’ve had this model for more than 12 years and it still works perfectly, but any stand mixer with a bread hook will do.  By the way, since the dough needs to be kneaded, a blender won’t do.  You can also make the dough the old-fashioned way and burn some calories at the same time.  Add flour to the yeast mixture slowly, a ½ cup at a time, mixing well with a wooden spoon until dough can be turned out onto a floured (preferably cool) surface.  Then, knead for at least 6 minutes (adding remaining flour), until dough is elastic.

Pizza Dough
1 cup warm, not scalding, water
1 packet or 2 Tbsp active, dry yeast

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp honey
½ cup whole wheat flour
approximately 3-5 cups unbleached bread flour
1.  Place warm water, yeast, and honey in the bowl of the mixer.  Stir to dissolve
yeast, add ½ cup of whole wheat flour, stir until incorporated, and wait about 15 minutes, until it gets a bit bubbly.

Using the dough hook attachment on slow speed, add bread flour in about ⅓ cup at a time (about 3 cups—or more as needed) and then increase speed and knead until dough comes together and doesn’t stick to the mixer bowl.  You should be able to stick your index finger into it and leave a slight impression—it shouldn’t be too sticky to handle.

Coat a large bowl with cooking spray, place the ball of dough in the bowl, turn once to coat, then cover with plastic wrap or your bowl’s cover. Let sit for 30 minutes until the dough approximately doubles.  Now you’re ready for pizza!

Punch down and follow directions for pizza below.This recipe makes enough for two thin-crusted pizzas. You can also refrigerate dough in a large zip-lock bag—just shoot a quick spray of cooking spray inside—for about two days.

Before making the topping, “stage” your dough.  Roll out or spread in a nonstick pizza pan or rectangular pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray and cover with a dishtowel—let rise a second time, at least 45 minutes. The recipe for dough makes one large pizza…with a thin crust.  Do this so the dough has a chance to raise again—it makes the crust good and chewy.

Pizza Topping
Cooking spray
red pepper flakes: ⅛ tsp (optional)

red onion, small diced (about 1/2 cup)

garlic, 2-3 cloves, diced

spinach, fresh, 10-oz pkg, rinsed and patted dry – or try collard greens or kale
mushrooms-sliced, 1 cup—I like Portobello, but any will do!
tomato-fresh, 1 large or 2 medium, chopped

Fresh basil – 1/2 cup shredded (optional) or 2 Tbsp dried Italian herbs
Part-skim mozzarella cheese—or any shredded hard cheese like Parmesan-shredded or grated

Coat a nonstick sauté pan with a quick spray of cooking oil and heat over low-medium heat.

Sauté red pepper flakes over medium heat for 1 minute.

Add red onion and garlic; stir and cook for 2 minutes – don’t let garlic burn – it will turn bitter.

Add spinach or other greens; cover and cook 3 minutes; uncover, stir, cover, and cook for another minute or so, until wilted.

Stir in mushrooms and continue to cook, covered, for about 5 more minutes; uncover and cook for 2 minutes until all liquid is evaporated.

Let cool about 10 minutes, and then spread over the dough.

Sprinkle on chopped tomato and basil, and then sprinkle on cheese.

Bake in the middle of the oven at 455 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is browned.

Optional additions:


Tofu, shrimp or sardines:  Boost the protein by adding tofu, fresh or frozen shrimp or canned sardines.  Use firm tofu, drain and pat dry, and cut into medium dice.  For the shrimp, use fresh or frozen small-medium; rinse and drain sardine.  Scatter over the pizza before sprinkling on the cheese.
Makes 8 slices

Nutritional information per slice (approximate):
Calories 207
Fat 2-3g
Saturated fat 1g
Trans fat 0g
Cholesterol 4mg
Fiber 5g

Sodium 100mg
Protein 8-10g (depending if you add fish or tofu)
Carbohydrate 5


Red Bananas – Pura Vida

Oh My!  I just love red bananas!  Until I arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador, the only bananas I’d peeled were those long, skinny, yellow ones – how about you?

You don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve uncovered the smooth, silky, creamy, slightly orange flesh of Red Dacca (the official botanical name)…so don’t miss it.

Now, I’m not one to memorize the genus and species of the fruits on my table, but the red banana has it all over the common yellow one.  Red bananas are shorter but plumper, almost hearty…the flavor sweeter, more red red bananacomplex.

According to Wiki, in Ecuador red bananas are known as Platano colorado or Plátano rosado. 

All bananas are nutritionally fabulous – they’re high in potassium and soluble fiber, making them heart-healthy.


And although they contain about 14 grams of total (not added) sugar, their glycemic index is relatively low – this is attributed to the fiber plus the fruit is rich in pectin.  Pectin helps blunt the natural sugar’s impact on blood glucose levels, so eating rich bananas aren’t off limits to people with diabetes.  Plus pectin is good for digestion.  Read more about the nutritional benefits of bananas on The World’s Healthiest Foods. 

We drove to to Machala from the Yungilla valley, and passed hectares and hectares and hectares of banana plantations – amid the thousands of rows of yellow bananas

mercado banana

we spied patches of our favorite red ones.  On our way back we bought a bunch from a roadside stand.  Sure, one dollar can buy you 10 – but until you’ve seen them, this statement just is a bunch of words – it doesn’t do it justice.  Each single red banana weighs the equivalent of two – even three yellow bananas.  They’re just big, fat, wonderful fruits. I’m in love 🙂

Back here in Cuenca, we buy red bananas at the 10 de Augusto mercado, on Calle Larga between Tarqui y Padre Aguirre.  Once you’ve had a red, you’ll never go yellow again.