Posts Tagged ‘Sugar’

Will the controversy about non-calorie sweeteners (NCS) ever end? Probably not. But we can keep up with the latest research and make informed decisions about whether or not to use them. Some claim NCS promote weight gain. However, many studies disagree and point out that they may lower the total number of calories we take in and thereby decrease weight.

Since beverages sweetened with sugar are a major source of excessive calories in the diet, substituting NCS for sugar-sweetened beverages helps with weight loss. While some suggest NCS increase appetite, a 2014 study debunks the idea. NCS don’t increase cravings for more sugar or cause us to eat more calories from other foods.

For several years health professionals have recommended NCS for people with diabetes. They serve as a valuable tool in diabetes management and effectively give sweet tasting options while keeping carbohydrates in check. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 40 percent of Americans will develop diabetes at some point during their lifetimes. NCS increase diet flexibility to meet personal health and dietary goals for those who are pre-diabetic or already have the disease.

While scattered studies continue to condemn the use of NCS, decades of studies fail to find them the culprit. Those with diabetes as well as those who want to get or keep their waistlines in shape can safely and effectively use them. Of more than 22,000 people studied from 1999 to 2008, consumers who used NCS also were less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise, and tended to live healthier lifestyles.

What can you believe? Until more definite research proves them harmful, you can confidently choose your favorite NCS for a sweet taste while cutting calories in your diet.





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Eating trends vary from year to year. The same holds true for 2015 as we reach this year’s half-way mark. The Dairy Council of California compiled a list of these food-related shifts, many that emphasize better health. See if these changes have influenced your lifestyle.

Healthy eating has come to mean more than nutrients. The term now encompasses environmental issues; GMO produced foods, hormones and antibiotics used in food production, organic foods, and water usage.

Dietary patterns shifted for the forthcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The committee compiling the guidelines discussed not only the healthly style patterns of the U.S., but the healthy Mediterranean and vegetarian style patterns as well.

The use of sugar remains controversial. Most health professionals agree that we, as a society, consume too much. Sugar is often implicated in such conditions as diabetes and obesity. New guidelines may advise reducing sugar added to the diet to less than ten percent of total calorie intake.

The sodium controversy continues. Major health organizations differ on the current recommended levels of 1500 to 2300 mg/day. Currently, consumption of sodium is about double the recommendations. Some health groups maintain that lower sodium levels benefit only about one-third of the population and certain segments of people need more sodium than currently suggested.

Protein remains the major nutrient for building muscle. It also plays a significant role in weight management, bone health, and blood sugar control. Meat and dairy continue as sources of highest quality protein. Protein seems to benefit consumers more when eaten at evenly distributed intervals throughout the day.

Probiotics and gut microbiome interests have increased in recent years. Who would have considered this area as a major player for health? Probiotics benefit intestinal health and the immune system. Current research has focused on its preventive effects in chronic diseases including cancer, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Microbiome may influence processes that affect health and disease as varied as food digestion to brain function.

Snacks now provide about one-fourth of the daily calories consumed plus a great proportion of the day’s supply of fat, sugar, and salt. Snacks can taste good and add substantially to the day’s nutrient needs. However, too many people continue to indulge in less nutritious choices.

Nutrition education is changing. The increasing use of technology helps consumers access their own information on nutrition needs. The internet has both good and bad sources. For reliable resources, stick with government websites to assure updated, accurate food facts.

Change is inevitable. A positive note for these 2015 trends is the expanding definitions and dialogue for substituting less nutritious foods for healthier ones. That’s a trend that affects all of us.

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By now, most have set resolutions for 2014, and perhaps many have broken them already. We declared what we wanted to accomplish this year. Some were far-reaching goals that needed time and commitment. Others required a change in mind-set.

Last year I delineated five positive nutrition principles to focus on in 2013, (Forget Diet Resolutions—Focus on Positives). Briefly these included:

  • Everyone eats food—we can’t live without it.
  • Sugar doesn’t make us fat—just the excess, especially when accompanied with high fat.
  • Diet isn’t a bad word—everything we eat is a part of our diet.
  • Add instead of subtract—eat more fruits/veggies, nix the salt.
  • Watch portion size—bigger isn’t better.

How did you make out? Maybe it’s time to review, remember, and remedy. If you made diet resolutions again and have already faltered, take heart. Any time is a good time to improve healthy eating. Review food choices you made last year. Remember what situation or specific foods may have caused you to go astray. Consider some of the following to remedy or improve eating habits.

  • Post a list on the refrigerator of healthy foods you need daily. A constant reminder makes it easier to remember to make wise choices.
  • Write down foods to buy before shopping using your refrigerator list as a guide. If you purchase healthy foods instead of unhealthy ones, that’s what you will eat because they’re available.
  • Eliminate the word diet from your vocabulary. Concentrate on each food instead of diet.
  • Put away the salt shaker. Be more diligent in reading food labels. Remember processed foods contain a lot more sodium/salt than most home-prepared dishes. When possible, purchase reduced-salt products. If you use convenience foods when cooking, such as condensed soup, omit additional salt in the recipe.
  • Invest in a good set of measuring utensils and measure recommended portion sizes until you visually recognize that amount on your plate or in your bowl.

It’s still about simple changes. Just as bad habits form by doing the same thing over and over, repeating small changes becomes a habit for healthier eating. Hopefully, you made strides toward improved eating in 2013. If so, good job. Keep going. If not, it’s never too late. Focus on adjustments you want to make before 2015. Get going and make it a happy healthy year.


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Many consider diet drinks as a way to reduce sugar and calories while still enjoying colas and beverages. Is that a good idea?

In recent years, children have more than doubled the amount of diet beverages they drink. Since 2008, adults increased their intake from 19 percent to 25 percent.

But controversy continues. Recent studies of more than 42,000 Americans found that those who drank diet drinks tended to weigh more than those who drank water. Other studies noted that consumers of diet drinks increased their risks for metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors more likely to result in type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and strokes). But those same participants who drank artificially sweetened beverages and ate a healthful diet were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those who consumed a poor diet (18 and 20 percent, respectively).

Compared to regular sugar-sweetened colas or moderate intake of diet colas, drinking diet beverages daily may increase risks for stroke, heart attacks, and other heart-related conditions. In animal studies, artificial sweeteners boosted appetite and food intake—as  yet unproven in humans.

So, are diet drinks good or bad? A study of 33,000 Americans published in September 2012 provided proof for the harmful effects of sugary drinks in certain people. Sugar interacted with genes that affected weight. All of us have a few of those genes, but some have more than others. Those with genes predisposed to weight gain that drank sugary drinks put on more weight, regardless of exercise or overeating. In this study, diet drinks did not increase risks for obesity.

In a 2012 position paper, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stated that “consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive sweeteners and nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS). . . [as] guided by current federal nutrition recommendations.” (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0014899/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0003096/ ).

How does all this information translate for you and me? One study suggested that children replace diet beverages with milk or water. That’s a good thought for all ages, but will we do it?

What we know scientifically at this point is that evidence remains inconclusive. Sugary drinks will cause weight gain, and diet drinks may cause greater risks for certain health conditions.

The wisest choice seems to be moderation. Try drinking fewer sugary and artificially sweetened beverages. With a conscious effort, you can improve your weight and health while researchers continue to seek what is good or bad.

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As the American Diabetes Month draws to a close, we get into full swing for holiday eating. If you have diabetes, do you have to avoid all sugar-containing foods? The role of sugar in preventing or treating this disease confuses many. Test your knowledge by answering the following statements as true or false.

1.         Sugar in the diet can cause diabetes.

2.         Excessive weight is one of the greatest risks for developing type 2 diabetes.

3.         Total carbohydrate affects blood glucose levels (sugar in the blood) more than sugar.

4.         Those with diabetes can have desserts made with sugar if they substitute small amounts for other carbohydrate-containing foods.

5.         Carbohydrates include sugar, starch, and fiber.

If you answered the first question as false and the rest as true, congratulations. You understand the relationship of sugar in the diet and the condition of diabetes.

The idea that sugar can cause diabetes is a myth. Eating sugar has nothing to do with acquiring the disease. Regardless of the source of calories, weight (BMI over 25)  is a major factor in developing type 2 diabetes.

In past years, researchers suspected that sugar increased blood glucose levels, but the total amount of carbohydrate consumed has more effect. Those with diabetes, however, should use discretion and save sugar-sweetened foods for special occasions.

Carbohydrates are found in the following food sources.


  • Natural sugars: fruits (fructose) and milk (lactose)
  • Added sugars: table, brown or powdered sugar (sucrose), molasses, honey, maple syrup and other less well-known sources

Starches or complex carbohydrates

  • Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, corn, green peas, and lima beans
  • Legumes: dried beans (pinto, navy, kidney) and peas (black-eyed and split)
  • Grains: breads, cereal, pasta, and most cakes and pastries

Fiber may benefit health in several ways. It helps regulate digestion, provide a sense of fullness, lower cholesterol levels, and reduce possibilities of colon cancer. Adults need about 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. Foods containing larger amounts of fiber include:

  • Beans and legumes: as listed above
  • Fruits and vegetables: especially those eaten with the peel or seeds (berries)
  • Whole grain products: cereals, breads, and pasta
  • Nuts: tree nuts and peanuts provide excellent sources of fiber, but limit the serving size because small amounts contain lots of calories.

Check labels. First, note the serving size and then the total amount of carbohydrate. Labels list each sugar, but remember, it is the total amount of carbohydrate that affects blood sugar levels most.

You don’t have to skip all desserts through the holidays. If you have diabetes, pamper your sweet-tooth without creating problems by using caution and remembering the above suggestions.

For more information see  http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/sweeteners-and-desserts.html?

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Just when you thought you were helping the body by substituting artificial sweeteners for sugars, along comes evidence to the contrary.

A 2006 study found that substituting aspartame sweetened products for sugar-based ones resulted in weight loss of nearly a half-pound per week. Food Insight (July/August 2008) reported that “low-calorie sweeteners can be effective for weight management.” But a Purdue University study that same year found that saccharin led to increased appetite and weight gain in rats.

Two recent studies indicate diet colas may increase problems we don’t want. A Texas study of subjects aged 65 to 74 found that over nearly a decade, those who drank diet colas had a seventy percent greater increase in waist size than those who avoided artificially sweetened drinks. When consumption increased to two or more diet colas per day, waist circumference increased 500 percent or five times that of their non-diet drinking friends. Over a span of seven to eight years, diet colas significantly increased the chance of becoming overweight.

How could this be? According to researchers, you can fool the sense of taste, but you can’t fool the brain. Artificial sweeteners confuse the body’s ability to tell when you are full and may trigger appetite. They may also damage brain cells and inhibit feelings of fullness.

A 2004 position paper in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (Vol. 104:2), reported “Nonnutritive sweeteners do not affect glycemic response and can be safely used by those with diabetes.”  Now recent studies refute those findings. The sweet taste of artificial sweeteners may cause the body to produce insulin which blocks the body’s ability to burn fat. Mice fed aspartame in their food for three months had higher blood sugar levels than mice that ate regular food. Other studies have linked diet colas to increased incidences of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.

What should you do? Like all foods, moderation is the key. Beverages such as unsweetened juice, low-fat milk, or plain ol’ water may be wiser choices. Diet colas contain no nutritive value, and now studies find they may cause harm. Limiting the amount you drink can decrease concerns about the impact of diet colas on health and whether they help your figure or make you fat.






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Happy Valentine’s Day! Valentines is the fourth biggest holiday of the year for purchasing candy. For this special day, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of candy will be sold. Can you enjoy those sweets without shame?

Sugars have been blamed for diabetes, hyperactivity in children, and obesity. Are these accusations truth or hype?  The good news—research fails to support the beliefs of many that sugar causes these conditions.

Diabetes: All sugars and starches break down in the body to glucose. The body uses insulin to change blood sugar (glucose) into body energy. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces insufficient amounts or no insulin. Type 2 diabetes, the most common, results when the pancreas cannot make enough insulin for body needs. Sugar does not cause diabetes, but obesity as a result of consuming too many high-calorie foods is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.  

Hyperactivity: In the early 1970s, Dr. Benjamin Feingold proposed the theory that diet, namely sugar, affects children’s behavior. More than 20 scientific studies failed to support that claim. While activities such as parties or other events with excessive sweets may cause excitement, scientific evidence maintains that sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children.

Obesity: With the growing epidemic of obesity, is sugar the villain? One teaspoon of sugar yields 15 calories. According to the Sugar Association, those calories are no more fattening than 15 calories from other sources. Eating too many calories makes you fat. However, excessive sugar, like other high-calorie substances, will add to weight.

Are there negatives to sugar in the diet? Sugary foods can cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels that plunge sharply. Thus, while sugar may trigger a quick energy response, the sudden drop can result in tiredness or weakness. Some studies do link sugar to dental caries (decay). Foods, such as candy, that adhere to the teeth or that are held in the mouth create ideal environments for development of tooth decay. Although significant at all ages, prolonged mouth contact to sugar is especially harmful to children.

So, what are your best options for Valentine’s Day and everyday when faced with delectable sugar-filled goodies? Make the holiday and the loving thoughts linger by sharing with others and limiting your choice to one or two morsels. With moderation and careful selection of other foods, you can enjoy that sweet pleasure—guilt free.

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What better time to talk about sweets than February. Romantics may express love to their Valentines with a box of candy.  Such treats have lots of sugar. As you gobble down those tasty morsels, will you think about health? Facts about sugars and sweeteners may help salve your conscience. Not all sweets are the same. Those heart-shaped goodies may contain one or all three categories of sweeteners: caloric sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or artificial sweeteners.

The most familiar caloric sweetener is sugar (sucrose). Sugar appeals to all ages. Most folks seem to come wired to enjoy sweet tastes. Is that a bad thing? Are there good or bad sugars?   

That depends on who you ask. According to the American Heart Association, most women should not consume more than 100 calories per day from sugar and most men should limit their daily intake to150 calories. That’s approximately six and nine teaspoons, respectively. On average, though, Americans eat or drink the equivalent of more than twenty-two teaspoons of sugar daily for a total of about 350 calories. To put into perspective, one twelve-ounce cola has about eight teaspoons of sugar.

America’s Sweet Tooth

The use of sugar steadily increased to an average U.S. annual intake of nearly 135 pounds. That’s a lot of sugar, and those calories can pack on pounds. Should you cut back on this favored food item?

The Sugar Association maintains that sugar is not the culprit. Many health professionals agree. Sugar is not harmful in reasonable amounts.

Some people have more of a sweet tooth than others. If you are one of those, keep candy and other sugary foods out of sight. Better yet—don’t have it in your house.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, will that candy affect your health? Will it make you fat? Read next week to find out. You may be surprised.

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