Posts Tagged ‘sugar’
Wednesday, September 5th, 2012
According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, adolescents in states with strict laws regulating the sale of snacks and sugary drinks in public schools gained less weight over a three-year period than those living in states with no such laws. This is great news! However, while half as many U.S. adolescents as in 2006 can still buy high-calorie sodas in schools, other sugary beverages remain easily available at schools, a recent survey showed. University of Michigan Ann Arbor researchers found the trend in a survey of more than 1,900 public schools, which has grown as the institutions banish sodas from vending machines, school stores and cafeterias.
It is concerning to me, as well as, many other public health experts and medical professionals that there is very little regulation of other sugary beverages sold in schools. Schools should be setting the example of making healthful choices for life. The fact that fruit drinks, sports drinks and other beverages with added sugar and calories that could lead to obesity over time can still be bought easily in schools reflects a nationwide trend that consumers view these drinks as healthier alternatives.
What kids and adults alike need to realize is that these drinks that can still pack excess calories and sugar. Consider this statistic: Consuming one 12-ounce (355-milliliter) sweetened soft drink per day increases a child’s risk of obesity. Research shows that these sugary drinks directly relate to higher incidents of obesity and many youth – and adults – are still consuming them unnecessarily. They were designed for athletes who have been sweating for an hour or more, not for children as they walk across campus or eat their lunch.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), added sugar is defined as any sugar or syrup that is added to foods during processing or preparation, and sugar or syrup that is added at the table during meal times. Soft drinks and sweetened beverages are the number-one culprit in Americans’ diets, with one can of soda containing 8 teaspoons and almost 130 calories of sugar.
Additionally, sodas and other beverages high in sugar are among the most prominent factors contributing to our nation’s obesity epidemic. Consider this: A 32 ounce sports drink has 14 teaspoons of sugar!
The AHA recently released new guidelines limiting the amount of added sugar considered acceptable for a healthy diet. Preschoolers with a daily caloric intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories shouldn’t consume any more than 170 calories, or about 4 teaspoons, of added sugar a day. Children ages 4-8 with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 calories should consume no more than 130 calories, or about 3 teaspoons a day. As your child grows into his pre-teen and teen years, and his caloric range increases to 1,800 to 2,000 a day, the maximum amount of added sugar included in his daily diet should be 5 to 8 teaspoons. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting juice intake to 4-6 ounces – which is less than 1 cup (118-177 milliliters) – for kids under 7 years old, and no more than 8-12 ounces (237-355 milliliters) of juice for older kids and teens.
Specifically, sports drinks or electrolyte replacement beverages are designed to replace fluids after vigorous exercise and generally contain sodium and potassium to help fluids absorb in the body. Even after strenuous exercise (continuous vigorous exercise for more than 60 minutes) research indicates that sports drinks serve no added benefit over water. Additionally, studies show that consumption of too much added sugar can make kids have a harder time learning and can cause erosion of tooth enamel from the acidity and dental cavities (or caries) from the high sugar content.
Such drinks should be regulated in schools in favor of water, low-fat or nonfat milk and 100 percent vegetable juices with no added sugar. The Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies of Sciences which advises the U.S. government on related issues, has already called for the elimination of regular sodas, allowing sports drinks only for certain student athletes, and limiting other diet or caffeine-free drinks to high schools students. USDA’s pending rules are supposed to cover food and drinks sold in school vending machines, snack bars, school stores and cafeteria “a la carte” lines. In the meantime, some school districts across the United States have already sought to make voluntarily efforts to push healthier vending machine options.
These voluntary efforts are much needed and hopefully continue to become commonplace. In the meantime, here are some tips to limit soda and sugary beverages in your child’s diet:
-Kids are very visual. Show them how many teaspoons of sugar are actually in a can of soda. It is basically like eating straight up sugar packets!
-Infuse water with fun fruits and veggies that your child likes. For example, cucumbers, strawberries and watermelon all make great choices.
-Add a splash of 100% fruit juice to seltzer water for a healthy fizzy drink.
-Make a fruit smoothie with frozen bananas, low fat yogurt and 1 tbsp of reduced fat peanut butter.
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Friday, July 29th, 2011
It’s hard to find a child who doesn’t love sugary foods, and chances are the processed or packaged food your child eats has some amount of added sugar. New research suggests that this trend has spiraled out of control and is causing serious health consequences for families. Foods that are high in added sugar (soda, cookies, cake, candy, frozen desserts, and some fruit drinks) tend to also be high in calories and low in other valuable nutrients. As a result, a high-sugar diet is often linked with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
A recent American Heart Association (AHA) scientific statement containing specific guidelines on limiting sugar intake has sparked conversation about just how much sugar people should consume and how to make cutting back less bothersome.
How Much Sugar Should You and Your Kids Consume?
The guidelines, published in the August 2009 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, state most women should consume no more than 100 calories, and men no more than 150 calories, of added sugar. These numbers average out to about 6 to 9 teaspoons, or 25 to 37.5 grams, of sugar a day.
Preschoolers with a daily caloric intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories shouldn’t consume any more than 170 calories, or about 4 teaspoons, of added sugar a day. Children ages 4-8 with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 calories should consume no more than 130 calories, or about 3 teaspoons a day. As your child grows into his pre-teen and teen years, and his caloric range increases to 1,800 to 2,000 a day, the maximum amount of added sugar included in his daily diet should be 5 to 8 teaspoons.
A study conducted by the AHA found children as young as 1-3 years already bypass the daily recommendations, and typically consume around 12 teaspoons of sugar a day. By the time a child is 4-8 years old, his sugar consumption skyrockets to an average of 21 teaspoons a day. The same study found 14-18 year old children intake the most sugar on a daily basis, averaging about 34.3 teaspoons. That is about four times the recommended amount!
For this reason, it is extremely important to be able to recognize sources of added sugar in your diet, understand why consuming extra sugar can be harmful to health, and how best to limit added sugars.
Beware of Hidden Added Sugars
Added sugars are sugars and syrups included in foods during processing or preparation, as well as sugars and syrups that consumers add themselves. According to the AHA statement, a healthy and well-balanced diet contains naturally occurring sugars present in fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and many grains. Naturally occurring sugars supply healthy nutrients while still fulfilling people’s cravings for sweets.
The best way to determine whether a food contains added sugar is to read the ingredient list. Although added sugars may appear in a variety of ways, in terms of calorie content, all added sugars are essentially the same. The names for added sugars used on food labels include those listed below:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
As of now, sugar grams listed on the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels don’t distinguish naturally occurring sugars from added sugar so it is important to scour the ingredients list for hidden sources of sugar.
The main sources of added sugars in the Western diet include soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages such as fruit juices and sports drinks. In fact, according to the AHA statement, between 1970 and 2000, the per-person daily consumption of caloric soft drinks increased by a whopping 70%! While you may know that such foods are sugar sweetened without reading labels, there are other items that may not be so obvious. Examples include ketchup, barbeque sauce, baked beans, and even some salad dressings.
The Problem With Sugar Overload
High intakes of added sugar have been linked to overweight and obesity, a lower intake of essential nutrients, increased triglyceride levels, hypertension, and inflammation. All of these are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which is what the AHA scientific statement addresses on specifically. In addition, too much added sugar in the diet can also “take up space,” leaving little room for healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, and lean sources of protein.
Defeat the Sweets
Start out small, and note that beverages are often a great starting point for change. Beverages are especially problematic because research shows that liquid calories are not as satiating as calories consumed as solid food. As a result, people don’t compensate for liquid calories in the same way they do calories from solid food. Quench your thirst with these healthier alternatives:
- Plain or carbonated water being the best choice
- Add a splash of your favorite fruit juice to a glass of sparkling water
Although there’s no added sugar in 100% fruit juice, the calories from the natural sugars found in fruit juice can add up. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting juice intake to 4-6 ounces (118-177 milliliters) for kids under 7 years old, and no more than 8-12 ounces (237-355 milliliters) of juice for older kids and teens.
Candy is another sweet treat that many may find difficult to relinquish. Try substituting candy with these healthier alternatives:
- Mixed nuts, dried fruit (made without added sugar), and low-sugar cereals for candy
- 1 square of 70% dark chocolate
- Apple slices with 2 Tablespoons Almond Butter
Remember, enjoying a treat now and again is not a bad thing, which is exactly why 2 red light foods are allowed on the Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right meal plans. Those who allow themselves an occasional indulgence rather than trying to abstain often find success making healthy lifestyle changes. Those who attempt to deny themselves all sweets may not have as much success, especially if they previously consumed a lot of sugar. By taking small steps, you can begin to cut back on the sweet stuff and get on track to a healthier, green light, lifestyle.
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Friday, July 8th, 2011
Despite fewer super-sized meals, American’s waistlines continue to expand, according to a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
According to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers who conducted the study and examined surveys of daily eating habits over a 30-year period, the number of daily meals and snacks consumed by U.S. adults rose to 4.8 in 2006 from 3.8 in 1977.
Many health professionals say that frequent eating in small doses revs up the metabolism and controls hunger, and is a healthier way of eating than three big meals. However, much consideration must also be given to what and how much you eat over the course of the day, not just how often you eat.
Case in point: the analysis also found that although the size of meal portions has stabilized in recent years, the number of total calories consumed is rising. By 2006, the end of the period studied, Americans were consuming 570 more calories per day than they did in the late 1970s. A chief culprit behind the calorie gain: Americans now consume 220 more calories daily from sugar-sweetened soft drinks than they did in the 1960s, the study found.
So it’s okay to switch to diet soda, right? Not so fast. Two new studies presented recently at the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) Scientific Sessions have linked drinking diet soda to weight gain and that the artificial sweeteners in them could potentially contribute Type 2 diabetes.
In one study, researchers from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, looked at aggregate data from 474 older adults in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging, or SALSA. At the time of enrollment and at three follow-up exams thereafter, all participants reported their diet soda intake and were measured for height, weight and waist circumference. The researchers wanted to track any association between diet soda drinking and body fat over time.
People who said they drank two or more diet sodas a day experienced waist size increases that were six times greater than those of people who didn’t drink diet soda, according to researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Researchers said their results were adjusted for other contributing factors like diabetes status, leisure-time physical activity level and age.
The data didn’t say why diet sodas might play a role in weight gain, but previous research suggests it has to do with the idea that the brain is wired to expect a big load of calories when foods taste sweet or fatty, but because diet foods fail to deliver, it throws the brain out of whack. Studies in animals suggest that artificial sweetener consumption may lead to even more eating and weight gain, perhaps in part because it triggers the body to start storing more calories as fat.
A second study that found the sweetener aspartame raised blood sugar levels in diabetes-prone mice. The researchers, also from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, fed aspartame, a calorie-free sweetener used in some diet sodas, to diabetes-prone mice. One group of mice ate chow to which both aspartame and corn oil were added; another other group ate chow with only corn oil added. After three months, the mice that ate aspartame showed elevated blood sugar levels. The findings aren’t directly translatable to humans, but may still be meaningful. Maybe it’s time to switch to carbonated water.
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Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
Now that the warm weather is here, many of us will be spending time at carnivals, fairs and amusement parks — spots that can be pretty scary when it comes to meals and snacks. If you are wondering what to watch out for (besides the 100 foot drop roller coaster), here are a few rules to live by:
Not So Amusing Carnival Fare
Funnel Cake and other Fried Desserts - Snacking on snickers, dough, or oreos, that have been dipped in batter and deep fried can contain one day’s worth of fat and can pack in a whopping 700+ calories each!
SNO-CONE – The problem with sno-cones is all that sugar-laden syrup the crushed ice is drowned in. If you want to keep your sno-cone calorie counts low, you need to do one of two things. You can either a. use sugar free syrup (which means your treat will likely be calorie-free), or b. carefully monitor the amount of syrup that is poured over your ice. Sno-cone syrups usually contain 80-100 calories per ounce. Therefore, a 12 oz. sno-cone with 6 oz. syrup contains a shocking 540 calories! Stick with half the amount of syrup and your sno-cone will contain half the calories.
Ice creams - Ice cream sold at carnivals is often full fat and served in sugary waffle cones. That adds up to a ton of calories –close to 1,000– for a large sized cone. Many vendors do carry individually wrapped frozen novelties. So if you absolutely must have ice cream, consider getting one of those. Otherwise, try to stick with some cold water or a diet beverage and hold off on the frozen treats until you get home.
Amusing Carnival Fare
Cotton Candy - While cotton candy isn’t exactly good for you a 1 oz. cone only contains approximately 100 calories, no fat and less sugar than one can of regular soda. This doesn’t mean you should eat cotton candy every day. However, it might be a more sensible choice in comparison to many carnival treats.
Lean protein - In general, when it comes to meals, stick with deli meats or grilled lean protein (like chicken), rather than hot dogs, pizza, or hamburgers.
Fresh fruit - Amusement parks, carnivals and fairs typically have fresh fruit or smoothie stands.
BYOT (Bring your own treats) – Keep a stash of these travel friendly treats in your bag to help you avoid eating the high-calorie snacks that pop up at parks:
- Sugar-free hard candies
- Sugar-free mints
- Sugar-free gum
- Turkey jerky
- Light cheese snacks
- Trail mix (made with nuts, high fiber, low sugar cereal, and dried fruit)
- 100-calorie packs of almonds
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Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
If you are an avid food shopper, you may have noticed that the selection of sweeteners in the baking aisle seems to have multiplied in leaps and bounds. These sweeteners tend to have exotic-sounding names, each claiming to be tastier, healthier, or more environmentally-friendly than plain old table sugar. But are they really any better? Whether you choose natural, artificial or conventional sweeteners is up to you, but this article gives you the scoop on the most common types of “natural” sweeteners to help you decide. Regardless of the type of sweetener you choose, be sure to keep in mind that published recommendations say to limit added sugars from all sources to no more than 10%-15% of total calorie intake, which is 120 calories (7.5 tsp) of sugar for a 1,200-calorie diet.
Making what we know as table sugar from sugarcane can range from a relatively simple to a multistep process, and the final result varies depending on the specific steps in the process. The sweeteners listed below are made with fewer steps on the processing chain meaning less environmental impact and more of the vitamins and minerals.
- Blackstrap molasses is the dark liquid byproduct from the third boiling of sugar cane syrup and is the most nutritious molasses, containing calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Just 2 teaspoons of blackstrap molasses will sweetly provide you with 13.3% of the daily recommended value for iron, 11.8% of the daily recommended value for calcium, and 9.7% of the daily recommended value for potassium.
- Evaporated cane juice can be used just like sugar for sweetening foods and beverages as well as in cooking. It may also be known by a variety of other names including dried cane juice, crystallized cane juice, milled cane sugar, and in Europe as “unrefined sugar”. Evaporated cane juice contains some trace nutrients (that regular sugar does not), including vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Evaporated cane juice is available in a variety of forms that vary in texture and flavor:
- Milled Cane: small grained crystals.
- Demerara: coarser grained, slightly sticky crystals.
- Muscovado: very fine crystal sugar.
Here is the scoop on some of the most common natural sweeteners that are not made from sugarcane.
- Agave nectar is produced from the juice of the core of the agave, a plant native to Mexico. It contains trace amounts of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium, but has a higher calorie count than sugar (60 calories per tbsp vs 46 calories per tbsp, respectively). The fructose content of agave syrup is much higher than that of high fructose corn syrup, which is of concern since some research has linked high fructose intake to weight gain (especially around the abdominal area), high triglycerides, heart disease and insulin resistance. Despite this, it has a low glycemic index because of its low glucose content, which means it won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar levels the way sugar does.
- Brown rice syrup- When combined with sprouted rice or barley, cooked brown rice yields this sweet liquid that contains about 13 calories per teaspoon and is less sweet than sugar. The syrup breaks down relatively slowly, providing more of a time-release energy flow than sugar does and contains some magnesium, manganese, and zinc.
- Date Sugar- Though it’s called “date sugar,” this sweetener is not a form of sugar. It’s actually an extract taken from dehydrated dates. It contains some essential minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
- Honey, made by bees from the nectar of flowers, is a ready-made sweetener that contains traces of nutrients. Some research suggests that consumption of honey raises blood levels of protective antioxidant compounds in humans. However, when raw honey is extensively processed and heated, the benefits of certain phytonutrients are largely eliminated. Please Note-Do not feed honey-containing products or use honey as a flavoring for infants under one year of age; honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores and toxins that can cause infant botulism, a life-threatening paralytic disease. Honey is safe for children older than 12 months and adults.
- Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees, which is filtered and boiled down to an extremely sweet syrup. It contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals (like manganese and zinc) than honey. “Maple-flavored syrups” are imitations of real maple syrup. To easily tell the difference, read the ingredients list on the nutrition label. True maple syrup contains nothing but “maple syrup.” Imitation syrups are primarily made of high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and/or artificial sweeteners.
Remember, even sweeteners touted as natural or nutritious, like the ones discussed, don’t typically add a significant source of vitamins or minerals to your diet. However, there’s nothing wrong with the sweetness that a little sugar or other natural sweeteners add to life, so long as it’s done in moderation.
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Friday, June 19th, 2009
It seems that everybody is talking about the evils of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). But what is fact and what is simply hearsay? Here we will give all the facts about HFCS.
What, exactly, is HFCS?
High-fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener and preservative. HFCS is made by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose – another form of sugar. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose. Because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar, high-fructose corn syrup has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods.
Is HFCS an artificial sweetener or made from chemicals?
No. A little less than one year ago, on July 08, 2008, the FDA clarified that HFCS can be labeled as a natural product. To be classified as natural, a food product must be made from an all-natural product and contain no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives.
How does HFCS compare to table sugar?
HFCS and sugar are virtually interchangeable! They have the same sweetness and composition. Contrary to its name, HFCS does not contain a lot of fructose. The ratio of fructose and glucose in HFCS and table sugar is practically the same. The human body cannot tell the difference between HFCS and sugar. High fructose corn syrup does not provide a sensation of increased or decreased fullness nor is it metabolized differently in the body.
Is HFCS responsible for the obesity epidemic?
Everybody wants to find the root of our country’s obesity epidemic. Many people have blamed HFCS. According the Mayo Clinic, HFCS is NOT to blame!
Statement from the Mayo Clinic:
So far, research has yielded conflicting results about the effects of high-fructose corn syrup. For example, various early studies showed an association between increased consumption of sweetened beverages (many of which contained high-fructose corn syrup) and obesity. But recent research – some of which is supported by the beverage industry – suggests that high-fructose corn syrup isn’t intrinsically less healthy than other sweeteners, nor is it the root cause of obesity.
HFCS itself does not increase the risk of obesity. Obesity is caused by taking in more calories than you burn. Many foods containing HFCS have lots of calories. Therefore, if you eat a lot of these foods, you will gain weight. Sugar is no different. If you eat too much sugar, you will gain weight. HFCS is no more likely to cause weight gain than regular sugar.
Does HFCS have more calories than regular sugar?
No! Both HFCS and sugar have four calories per gram. HFCS should not alarm you more than other sugars.
How else does HFCS affect the foods we eat?
High fructose corn syrup doesn’t simply sweeten food, it enhances and balances its flavors. For example, HFCS in yogurt enhances the fruit and spice flavors and regulates the yogurt’s tartness. HFCS acts similarly in foods such as tomato sauces and other condiments. In beverages, HFCS provides stability and helps keep flavors constant throughout the product’s shelf life.
If you are concerned about the amount of HFCS in your family’s diet, consider these tips:
1) Limit the processed foods you keep in the house.
2) Avoid foods that contain a large amount of added sugar, in any form.
3) Choose real fruit over fruit juice or fruit-flavored drinks. Even 100 percent fruit juices contain a large amount of sugar.
4) Avoid soda and other sweetened beverages!
The bottom line: There is no nutritional difference between HFCS and sugar. They contain the same number of calories and are made up of the same ratio of glucose and fructose. All forms of sugar will cause weight gain if eaten in abundance. Limit all forms of sugar to ensure a healthy diet!
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