Archive for the tag - sugar

How Much Sugar Is Really In Your Food?

Sugar-1Sugar, sugar everywhere. Even in places you might not expect it. Like barbeque sauce. Or vitamin water. Or ketchup. The truth is, our diets are loaded with added sugars.

It’s not always easy to decipher nutrition information on the products we consume. It’s hard to put things in perspective without some sort of context.

Ketchup is a perfect example. One serving of ketchup has 3.7 grams of sugar. That doesn’t sound like a lot – but what does it really mean? First, notice the serving size – which is a fairly modest one tablespoon. Second, know that 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon. Since there are only 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon, nearly a third of ketchup is just sugar.

Cow’s milk is another high sugar culprit. One cup of 1% low fat milk has 13 grams of sugar. Compared to the 33 grams in a can of coke, it doesn’t sound like much. But remembering our teaspoon conversion (4 grams of sugar = one teaspoon), that’s more than 3 teaspoons in a single glass of milk! And this is one of the many reasons that I’ve switched to unsweetened almond milk which has exactly zero grams of sugar.

Americans eat an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. By paying attention to the nutrition information in the foods we eat – and understanding what that nutrition information actually means – we can take the first big step in cutting that statistic.

Coca-Cola Removes Flame-Retardant Chemical & Everyone Misses The Point.

mountain_dew_bvo_570Sarah Kavanagh, a teenager from Mississippi, noticed a curious ingredient in some of her sports drinks called brominated vegetable oil or BVO.

BVO is a controversial additive which was generally recognized as safe – that is, until the U.S. Food and Drug administration withdrew that categorization. In the European Union, India and Japan, BVO is banned. Interestingly, BVO has also been patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant. In a nutshell, there are some health concerns for BVO – especially if consumed in very large quantities.

As a result, Kavanagh started petitions on change.org and beverage companies took notice. Last year, PepsiCo announced that it would remove the chemical from Gatorade. This week, Coca-Cola noted that it’s in the process of removing BVO from its entire line of beverages – including Powerade, Fanta Orange and Fresca.

These developments are a great victory for consumer power – but I’m not celebrating just yet. The reality is, BVO or not, soda and sugary drinks are completely unhealthy beverages; they’ve been linked to a number of very serious diseases and conditions like obesity, liver damage, tooth decay, kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and more.

When it comes to the whole discussion of BVO in soda and sports drinks, we’re mistaking the forest for the trees. The reality is, soda and other sugary drinks may be just as harmful as the BVO that’s making headlines.

“Eat healthy and exercise” isn’t an attention-grabbing, headline and it’s not something people want to hear. But talking about healthy lifestyles that combine proper nutrition with physical activity is a far more productive conversation than petitioning to make soda minutely less toxic.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Is Brown Sugar Healthier Than White Sugar?

Brown Sugar

Brown rice is healthier than white rice. Whole wheat bread is healthier than white bread. So does the same logic apply to sugar? Is brown sugar a healthier alternative to white, table sugar?

The vast majority of brown sugar is simply white sugar with molasses added back in. Interestingly, molasses occurs naturally in sugar – but manufacturers bleach out the molasses to produce white sugar. White sugar is transformed into brown sugar by the reintroduction of molasses in carefully measured amounts to control the color and consistency. As such, it’s accurate to say that most brown sugar is even more processed than white sugar.

Because of the molasses, brown sugar does have trace amounts of certain minerals – but not in any significant quantity. There’s really no nutritional advantage between the two sugars.

Instead of trying to figure out which sugars are healthier, it makes more sense to spend that time and energy developing strategies for reducing added sugar from your diet.

Here’s What Coke’s Billboard Should Really Say…

My Rhode Island home is in the tough part of town. Unemployment is high. Food assistance programs are prevalent. And opportunities are far and few between.

But in contrast to the grey skies and muted color palette of the vacant mill buildings and abandoned factories, a bright new billboard has been erected atop a decaying brick warehouse. Much like the billboard below, it shows Santa drinking a Coca Cola beverage – and it offers a message of hope. “Open happiness,” it says.

Coke Billboard copy

Is it a coincidence that this billboard is in a poor community? Probably not. According to studies, low-income adults get 9% of the daily calories from soda. For high income adults, that number is just 4%. And soda is cheap. In fact, it’s often cheaper than water. It’s why Coca Cola is one of the biggest recipients of SNAP dollars through the federal food assistance program. Moreover, because low income communities have less access to resources and education, this population is likely to be less informed about the health risks of soda consumption.

While the billboard offers a message of hope by linking Coca Cola with happiness, the reality is quite different. Soda consumption has been linked with a number of ailments and conditions including obesity, liver damage, tooth decay, kidney disease, diabetes, heartburn, osteoporosis, hypertension, heart disease and impaired digestion. Doesn’t sound like happiness to me.

As such, I’ve taken the liberty to redesign the Coca Cola billboard in Photoshop to correct for inaccuracies. I hope you enjoy. And happy holidays, Coke.

Coke Billboard Parody1

Coke Billboard Parody2

Coke Billboard Parody4

7 Foods with More Sugar than a Krispy Kreme.

donutIt’s no surprise that Krispy Kreme doughnuts are unhealthy. After all, they’re basically fried globs of sugar and flour. With 10 grams of sugar, that’s about 42% and 28% of the daily recommended limit for women and men respectively – at least, according to the American Heart Association.

Still, Krispy Kreme doughnuts are far from the worst sugary offenders. And many high-sugar foods definitely pass under the radar.

Case in point, you may be surprised to find that the following foods all have more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut:

  1. Skim milk. With 13 grams of sugar, a single cup of skim milk has as much sugar as 1.3 Krispy Kreme doughnuts. As a healthier alternative, opt for unsweetened almond milk; it has zero grams of sugar.
  2. Dried cranberries. Though they sound healthy, most dried cranberries are sweetened to counteract their bitterness. But with 26 grams of sugar, there’s nothing bittersweet about it! That’s more sugar than two and a half Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Eat only unsweetened dried fruit – and do so in moderation. Fresh fruit, with its water content, is always more filling.
  3. Cereal. If a cereal is called “Smart Start” or “Raisin Bran Crunch,” you might think that you’re purchasing a healthy, low-sugar breakfast. But with 17 and 20 grams of sugar per serving respectively, you’re at the equivalent of about two doughnuts. And that’s before the milk! Though they’re not always easy to find, look for cereals with no added sugars. Most have 7 grams of sugar or less.
  4. Yogurt. Yogurt is another food that sounds healthy – and sometimes it is! But yogurts with fruit at the bottom, added flavors or honey are not smart choices. Some have as many as 28 grams of sugar. Instead of eating the sugar equivalent of nearly three doughnuts, opt for plain yogurts – and check the nutrition label.
  5. Sports drinks. Though Gatorade is a great recovery drink for high endurance athletes, most of us drink it while sitting on the sidelines. We don’t need all those simple carbs to sustain our energy levels; the result is consuming 35 grams of sugar in a single 20-ounce bottle. That’s 14 grams of sugar per cup. Instead, stick with water. If you want some flavor, squeeze some lemon juice into it.
  6. Salad dressing. Crazy but true! A single serving of “Ken’s Fat-Free Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette” has 12 grams of sugar per serving. In fact, the very first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, which is really just a fancy way to say sugar. Don’t be fooled by fat-free labels. It’s not synonymous with healthy – and many fat-free foods contain extra sugar to make up for the flavor. There’s no fat in sugar… but it can definitely still make you fat!
  7. Fruit smoothies. Let’s be clear. Fresh fruit has a lot of sugar. An apple, for example, has 19 grams of sugar. But a fresh apple also has nearly one-fifth of your daily value of slow-digesting fiber; it helps you feel full longer and prevents a spike in blood sugar levels. Juices remove all that great fiber – and you’re just left with the sugar. Many of the packaged smoothie drinks in grocery stores are perfect examples of this process. A single 12-ounce Odwalla Superfood Smoothie has 37 grams of sugar and very little fiber. It’s the equivalent of almost four doughnuts. Instead of buying a smoothie, make one. And use whole fruits rather than fruit juices. Use a base of almond milk and ice to cut down on sugar and calories.

Were you surprised by the amount of sugar in any of these foods? Let me know in the comments below!

Is Honey Healthier Than Sugar?

honey-41I get a lot of emails asking about honey and whether or not it’s nutritionally superior to table sugar. So, let’s take a look.

First things first, honey is natural. Table sugar, on the other hand, is heavily refined. But just because something is natural doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for you. Lard is natural. Dog poop is natural. Snake venom is natural. I wouldn’t recommend eating any of them. Natural isn’t a synonym for healthy.

Honey is sweeter than table sugar, so less is needed to achieve the same level of sweetness. However, honey also contains more calories – so when it comes to sweetness per calorie, honey and table sugar are pretty similar. It is worth noting that, unlike table sugar, honey does contain some nutrients like vitamin B2, vitamin c, calcium, zinc, potassium, etc. But these vitamins and minerals occur at just trace levels and won’t do much to help meet government guidelines.

There’s also some science on the subject. One study found that honey may be beneficial in reducing glucose intolerance. In a separate study, researchers found that honey can help lower the body’s glucose levels when compared to dextrose and sucrose. On the flip side, honey is 40% fructose – and there are numerous studies linking fructose to various ailments and diseases.

Before your head starts to spin, let’s keep things simple. Table sugar isn’t good for you. And even though honey might be slightly better, it’s still a very unhealthy food choice. It’s like asking which is better: A head-on collision at 55 mph or 50 mph? While 50 mph is slightly better, neither collisions is advisable. And so is the case with sugar and honey.

If you really want to eat something healthy, go munch on some broccoli.

P.S. Keeping in mind that honey is calorie dense and packed with carbohydrates, it can be a good source of energy if you’re engaged in some sort of endurance activity – like a long kayak ride or hike. In that case, go for it! But in everyday life, most of us are getting way too much sugar and far too many calories.

How to Break Your Sugar Habit: 7 Tips.

sugar addictionMmmm…. Sugar.

According to experts, sweet is the first taste that humans prefer from birth. But it’s also extremely addictive. In fact, one study found that sugar is more addictive than cocaine.

Unfortunately, eating too much sugar can result in weight gain, metabolic disorders (a precursor to diabetes) and even some forms of cancer. In other words, it’s not good – and most of us are getting way more sugar than the recommended daily limit.

Breaking a sugar habit isn’t easy. But it’s possible. And these tips will help:

  1. Eat a little, not a lot. When wanting to indulge in something sweat or sugary, just have a few bites. A Cornell study found that eating a few bites satisfies cravings as much as larger portions. When it comes to sugary foods, think portions of 100 calories or less.
  2. Wait it out. Cravings come and go; most last only a few minutes. Distract yourself for 10 minutes by reading a book, calling a friend or watching Davey Wavey Fitness YouTube videos.
  3. Work it out. Better than waiting out cravings, engage in exercise – even if it’s just a short walk. In fact, one study found that chocolate cravings dropped significantly after physical exercise.
  4. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit. Unlike eating candy or chocolates, fruits are packed with essential nutrients; in addition to satisfying your sweet tooth, you’ll load up on vitamins, minerals and fiber. I keep frozen, unsweetened cherries in my freezer for this very purpose. One or two cherries totally does the trick. Try bananas, apples, berries or anything else!
  5. Eat regular meals. Skipping breakfast, lunch or dinner can result in unstable blood sugar levels and irrational cravings. Keep your blood sugar in check by eating regular meals and by favoring complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates (think brown rice and wheat bread over white rice and white bread).
  6. Don’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners. While artificial sweeteners may cut out the calories, they still feed your sugar addiction and they elevate your risk for obesity. Artificial sweeteners are not the answer!
  7. Find a substitute. If you have a habit of eating dessert after dinner, replace your sugary dessert with something healthier. Instead, you may decide to opt for a soothing cup of tea.

If you have any tips for kicking your sugar habit, please share them in the comments below!

Difference Between Sugar and Added Sugar!

sugarIf you look at the nutrition information for a banana and a serving of Starburst candies, you might be surprised to notice a few similarities – including the amount of sugar. Both foods have about 28 grams of sugar.

Of course, there’s a difference: A banana has naturally occurring sugar while the candies have added sugar. What’s the difference? And is one for of sugar healthier than the other?

All sugars are a form of carbohydrate. According to Calorie Count:

Naturally occurring sugars include lactose in milk, fructose in fruit, honey and vegetables and maltose in beer. Added sugars originate from corn, beets, grapes, and sugar cane, which are processed before being added to foods. The body cannot tell the difference between naturally occurring and added sugars because they are identical chemically.

Sugar is sugar, and we know that all of us get way too much of it. In fact, the average American eats 130 pounds of sugar per year. But the story doesn’t end there.

In our above example of a banana versus Starburst candies, no one would argue that the candy is a healthier choice. That’s because the banana comes loaded with essential nutrients that our bodies need. The candies, on the other hand, don’t.

Here’s the deal: Many foods that contain naturally occurring sugar also contain some really great stuff – so you need to pay attention to other things like vitamins, minerals and fiber to get a more complete picture. Foods with added sugar are often nutritionally devoid. Think donuts, cake and soda.

And it’s worth noting that a nutrition label doesn’t distinguish between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. You’ll have to read the ingredients carefully to see if sugar is added. If ingredients like barley malt, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, maltose, molasses, etc., are listed, then you’ll know there is added sugar in the food product.

Having said that, it’s still wise to minimize all forms of sugar. Naturally occurring sugar is still sugar, and there are plenty of ways to get nutrients without the sweet stuff – added or otherwise.

Is Dried Fruit Healthy?

Dried Fruit MixWhat’s not to love about dried fruit? It’s easy and convenient. It’s delicious. AND it can satisfy your sweet tooth cravings. But is it healthy?

The answer is yes, no and it depends.

In the purest form, dried fruit is really just fruit with the water removed. In essence, all the good stuff is left behind. Dried fruits are often rich in the fiber, vitamins and minerals that your body needs. And if you’re feeling sluggish or if you’re engaged in a high endurance activity like hiking or kayaking, dried fruit can provide your body with a much-needed jolt of energy. In this sense, dried fruit is smart choice.

However, many people forget that dried fruits have just as many calories and sugars as their fresh counterparts. A dried plum, for example, is just a fraction of the size of a fresh plum; it can be eaten in one bite. And because it seems so small, many of us will eat 3 or 4 or 5 or more. But it adds up fast. A cup of pitted and dried plums has more than 400 calories, 111 carbohydrates and 66 grams of sugar. While dried fruit can be healthy in moderation, it’s important to carefully monitor consumption.

Moreover, pay attention to the ingredients in your dried fruit. Dried fruit is already sweet and added sugar isn’t needed. But this is America, and a good number of brands add sugar to their dried fruits. When you add sugar to dried fruit, it essentially renders it into candy. Pay attention to the ingredients on the nutrition label and avoid any products that list sugar, corn syrup, etc.

While fresh fruit is the recommendation, dried fruit is a solid and more convenient alternative – and definitely a huge step up from snacking on chips, candy or ice cream.

Is Juicing Healthy?

Dear Davey,

What is your take on juice fasting? Is it a good option for those wishing to lose weight?

Sincerely,
Julio

155352030Dear Julio,

The long and short of it is that juicing to lose weight is a fad diet. It’s not sustainable long term – and it’s not something that I’d recommend.

There are a few issues with juicing.

For one, the act of juicing strips the fruit or vegetable of its fiber content. Most of us don’t get enough fiber as it is, and juicing doesn’t help. Without the fiber-rich skin that the juicer leaves behind, juice acts a lot like soda. Stripped of fiber, juice can result in unhealthy blood sugar spikes. And fiber also helps you feel full longer.

Many juice diets also lack protein. Much like fiber, protein helps you feel full; without it, you’ll can be subject to extreme hunger pangs that may sabotage your diet. Moreover, inadequate protein intake can cause reductions in muscle mass during weight loss. Protein performs many other important functions – like helping to control blood glucose and providing a boost to your metabolic rate.

Extreme dieting and radical calorie restrictions may result in initial weight loss. But keep in mind that the body is very resilient – and if it goes into starvation mode, it will fight like hell to preserve any fat stores. Starvation diets result in large decreases in the body’s metabolism – and are thus are generally associated with equally large increases in weight once food consumption resumes.

Juicing fans claim a number of benefits including decreased cancer risk, lower risk of heart disease and a boost to the body’s immune system. They also espouse the detoxifying properties of juicing. Though I’ve yet to see any scientifically valid evidence supporting the detox claim (your liver and kidney detoxify your body with or without juicing), the other benefits likely have more to do with eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables rather than juicing. Indeed, plant-based diets to lower the risk of many cancers and diseases – but it has nothing to do with juicing.

In moderation, consuming fruit or vegetable juices can be perfectly healthy and part of a balanced diet. Many of the juices are rich in nutrients – but juicing isn’t a weight loss or diet program in and of itself. Moreover, nothing beats eating the whole fruit or vegetable – skin and all.