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How Much Sugar is Too Much?

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How much sugar is too much?

Everyone’s talking about how bad sugar is for you. There are even entire documentaries on the topic. The amount of information in the “health waves” can be crazy sometimes.

Sugar is not a health food, as you know. And “added sugars” (ones that are not naturally found in whole foods like fruit) are particularly bad. They’re not only bad for diabetes; but, also for your waistline, mood, and energy levels.

So let’s look at sugar more objectively, shall we? Is there a good balance that can be found? (Spoiler alert: It may not be what you think.)

Plus, I have a fabulous dessert recipe for those times you crave the white stuff (and it doesn’t even have any white stuff in it!).

How Much Sugar is Too Much?

It’s official! Organizations and governments are (finally) declaring a maximum amount of daily sugar intake.

While this is a step forward, there are still a few problems. One – they don’t all agree with each other. And, two, I don’t necessarily agree with them either.

We all know sugar is NOT a health food. It isn’t full of nutrition, and excess consumption is not associated with great health.

The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. And this “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.

So let’s talk about how much sugar is “too much.”

Added sugar vs. naturally occurring sugar. What do some of the officials say?

Before we talk about the “official” numbers (and why I don’t agree with them), you need to know the difference between “added” sugar and “naturally occurring” sugar.

Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.

“Added sugars,” on the other hand, are concerning. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. “Added sugars” are also in baked goods, candies, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.

There’s a download here that you may find helpful when identifying the different sugars.

So, “Total sugars” = “Naturally occurring sugars” + “Added sugars.”

The “official” change is the new Nutrition Facts tables. You may remember that in Canada and the USA, they declare the amount of sugar, but don’t give it a %DV (% daily value); this means, they’ve never had a “benchmark” maximum daily value to use. They haven’t declared how much is too much. Now, both countries are implementing a %DV for sugar.

In Canada, the %DV is based on 100 g/day of total sugar. You may remember we discussed these numbers at my recent presentation on understanding food labels and the new Canada food guide.

Unfortunately, this number is large because it includes both naturally occurring and added sugars. The %DV is in-line with the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation’s recommendations of no more than 90 g of total sugars per day.

In 2008, the average daily total sugar intake in the USA was 76.7 grams per day; this is less than these two benchmarks. Yet, it doesn’t seem that people are getting healthier.  I’d argue that 100 g per day total sugar is still too high.

In the USA, the labels are changing too. They are not declaring “total” sugars but will differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugars. They have decided on a maximum of 50 g of “added” sugars each day. Unfortunately, this is still more than the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum of 24 g/day added sugar for women, and 36 g/day added sugar for men.

What is a better daily sugar goal?

While these official numbers are a step in the right direction, they’re not what I would recommend.

For one thing, I’d ditch as many processed food as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period. I wouldn’t recommend eating your “daily value” of sugar from sweetened processed foods. I don’t recommend even 50 g of “added” sugar per day. Get your sugar from whole, unprocessed fruits first.

Second, you don’t even need to max out your daily sugar intake. I promise! Try to reduce your sugar intake below these “official” amounts for an even better goal.

Tips to reduce your sugar intake

Here are some of my most popular recommendations to reduce your sugar intake, so you don’t get too much:

  • Reduce (or eliminate) sugar-sweetened beverages; this includes soda pop, sweetened coffee/tea, sports drinks, etc. Instead, have fruit-infused water. Or try drinking your coffee/tea “black” or with a touch of cinnamon or vanilla instead.
  • Reduce (or eliminate) your desserts and baked goods and bake your own instead. You can easily reduce the sugar in a recipe by half. Or try my delicious (no added sugar) dessert recipe below.
  • Instead of a granola bar (or other sugary snack), try fruit, a handful of nuts, or veggies with hummus. These are easy grab-and-go snacks if you prepare them in a “to-go” container the night before.

Let me know in the comments your favorite tips to reduce your sugar intake!

Recipe (No added sugar): Frosty

Serves 1

¾ cup almond milk (unsweetened)

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)

½ banana, frozen

Ice cubes

Instructions

Add everything into a blender except ice. Blend.

Add a handful of ice cubes and pulse until thick and ice is blended.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Double the recipe to share.

References:

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-labelling-changes.html?_ga=2.256456139.1337838755.1500915116-364691916.1498677123

https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm#images

http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/reduce-sugar

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Added-Sugars_UCM_305858_Article.jsp#.WXYtbYjys2w

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-sugar-per-day

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/truth-about-sugar

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-break-the-sugar-habit-and-help-your-health-in-the-process

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-spot-and-avoid-added-sugar

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-too-much-added-sugar-increases-the-risk-of-dying-with-heart-disease-201402067021

Disclaimer

The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your diet, taking supplements or making any changes to your health care regimen.

Phytic Acid-The Mineral Reducer

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You may have heard of phytic acid as a “mineral reducer,” and this is very true. Eating raw nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes can prevent your body from absorbing some of the minerals from your food. 

But phytic acid has another side too.  It has some health benefits.

Do you soak or sprout your nuts, seeds, grains and legumes?

Is it to help improve their digestibility? To help increase their nutrition?

Perhaps, it’s to reduce phytic acid?

Phytic acid is naturally present in most nuts, seeds, grains and legumes; it is the plant’s storage form of the mineral phosphorus and is used as energy when the plant starts to grow.

The highest levels of phytic acid are found in rice bran, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, and walnuts.

Phytic acid and minerals

You may have heard of phytic acid being referred to as an “anti-nutrient”.

Phytic acid binds to the minerals iron, zinc, and calcium preventing them from being fully absorbed when eaten; this is why phytic acid is known as a “mineral reducer.”

FUN FACT: Phytic acid’s effects only apply to mineral-containing foods in the current meal. Once digested, there is no mineral reduction on any future meals and there is no impact to the minerals your body has already absorbed.

Phytic acid’s health benefits

Phytic acid isn’t all bad – it has some health benefits too.

It can act as an antioxidant. It can also help reduce your risk of kidney stones, heart disease, and even some cancers.

Because it loves minerals (which are metals), phytic acid in your gut can also bind to any heavy metals (the metals we don’t want too much of) that may have hitched a ride with your food.

How to reduce phytic acid

As you can see, phytic acid shouldn’t be a huge concern, unless your main foods at most meals are nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Because many of these are nutritious foods, you probably don’t want to cut all of them completely out of your diet.

Considering both the good and bad properties of phytic acid, you may still want to reduce how much you consume. Maybe you want to increase your mineral intake. If so, here are two popular methods to naturally reduce phytic acid:

  • Soaking – Place nuts, seeds, grains or legumes in a bowl, cover with water and leave overnight. Then drain the water and rinse before eating or preparing.
  • Sprouting – After soaking, draining, and rinsing, place damp nuts, seeds, grains or legumes into a container that’s exposed to the air (like a mason jar with a mesh lid). Every 8 hours or so, re-rinse them and drain the water. Continue doing this for a few days until you see sprouts peeking out.

Tip on soaking beans. As a bean (legume) lover I prefer to make my bean dishes from “scratch”. Meaning, I purchase dry beans and soak them overnight in a bowl with plenty of water. This is key. In my experience, if the beans are above the water line when you check them in the morning the chances are they won’t soften during the cooking process. The beans have to be well covered with plenty of fresh water during the overnight soak which also speeds up the cooking process. I also believe everyone could benefit from eating more beans!!

Why do soaking and sprouting help reduce phytic acid in certain foods? It is because being wet is a “sign” to leave their dormant (dry) state and start a new life.  Enzymes activated during soaking and sprouting deactivate phytic acid to use its energy and stored minerals for the plant as it begins to grow.

Conclusion

Phytic acid has a bad rap as a mineral reducer. It’s found in nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Yes, it most definitely prevents absorption of critical minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, if they’re in your gut at the same time. Phytic acid in food can become a health concern if you are deficient in these minerals, or if your diet is largely based on nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.

But, if you eat a varied diet, then phytic acid shouldn’t be as much of a concern. In fact, phytic acid does have some health benefits.

If you want to reduce it in your food, you can soak or sprout your nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.

Recipe (soaked almonds): Almond Vanilla Latte Smoothie

Serves 1

¼ cup almonds, soaked overnight & rinsed

½ cup coconut milk

½ cup strong coffee, cold (or chai tea if you prefer)

½ banana, frozen

1 tsp vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until almonds are smooth.

Add ice, if desired

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: By using soaked almonds, they tend to blend up smoother than hard and crunchy dry almonds do.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/phytic-acid-101/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-phytates-phytic-acid

https://authoritynutrition.com/how-to-reduce-antinutrients/

Disclaimer

The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

The Truth Behind Artificial Sweeteners

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Do you know how artificial sweeteners act in your body? Nobody really does! Here are some thoughts as to how they affect your body, it may inspire you to reduce the sweetness in your food and drinks.

You probably know the negative health effects of eating too much sugar, especially “added sugars” like in soda pop, candy, baked goods, and many commercially-available cereals, salad dressings, marinades and sauces, just to name a few.  Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the grocery store.

Yes, ingesting refined sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin, and increases your risk for a whole host of issues.

 A while ago, one of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great, was artificial sweeteners.

The idea behind them is that you can still get the sweetness, without the calories; like when you have a “diet pop” versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.

But, it doesn’t always work out the way we think it will…

Types of artificial sweeteners

Sugar substitutes fall into several categories, but what they all have in common is that they have a sweet taste and fewer calories than plain sugar.

Today we’ll specifically discuss “artificial sweeteners,” which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet.

They’re also known as “non-nutritive sweeteners,” and include things like:

  • Saccharin (Sweet & Low),
  • Acesulfame potassium,
  • Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet), and
  • Sucralose (Splenda).

Health effects of artificial sweeteners

Negative health effects from artificial sweeteners are cited all over the place, and while many studies show effects, others don’t. Cancer? Maybe yes, maybe no. Heart disease? Maybe yes, maybe no. Not to mention that much of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to people.

I did want to point out one ironic thing to do with artificial sweeteners and weight.

One study found that people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who didn’t.

Another study has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.

While these results don’t apply equally to everyone, they do somehow seem ironic, don’t they?

How do artificial sweeteners affect our bodies?

Now that’s a million-dollar question!

There are so many ideas out there to try to explain it, but the reality is we don’t know for sure; plus, it might play out differently in different people.

  • Is it because people feel that they can eat cake because they’ve switched to diet soda?
  • Perhaps it’s because the sweeteners change the taste preferences so that fruit starts to taste worse, and veggies taste terrible?
  • Maybe artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for more (real) sweets?
  • It can be that the sweet taste of these sweeteners signals to our body to release insulin to lower our blood sugar; but, because we didn’t actually ingest sugar, our blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where we get sugar cravings.
  • Some even say (and at least one animal study suggests) that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies toward it. Addictive like eating behavior involves a lot more than just a lack of will power.  There are biochemical reasons why some people lose control over certain foods.  It has been linked to processed foods.  Processed foods are usually engineered to be “hyperpalatable” – so they taste super good.  They also contain high amounts of empty calories  (including artificial sugars), and cause major blood sugar imbalances
  • Maybe there is even a more complex response that involves our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.

Conclusion:

Understand that added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace them all with artificial sweeteners.

I highly recommend reducing your sugar intake, so you naturally re-train your palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn’t overly sweet.  This way you’re reducing your intake of added sugar, as well as not needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.

Try having ½ teaspoon less of sugar in your hot morning drink. Try reducing a ¼ cup of the sugar called for in some recipes. Try diluting juice with water.

 Your body will thank you!

Recipe (naturally sweetened): Sweet Enough Matcha Latte

Serves 1

1 teaspoon matcha powder

1.5 cup almond milk, unsweetened

1-2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey (optional)

1. Heat almond milk and maple syrup/honey (if using) in a small pot.

2. Add matcha powder to cup.

3. When almond milk is hot, add about a ¼ cup to matcha and stir to combine.

4. Add rest of the milk to cup.

 Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can steep a chai tea bag in the milk if you prefer chai tea over matcha.

References

https://chriskresser.com/the-unbiased-truth-about-artificial-sweeteners/

Disclaimer:

The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.