The Not-So-Sweet Side of Sugar

ImageWe all know that excess sugar in our diet can cause weight gain and lead to diabetes.  But the latest research now reveals more serious effects of added sugar.  Here’s the latest article by IDEA Health & Fitness Magazine

Now there’s another reason to encourage clients to limit their sugar intake: Eating added sugar is associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a study published February 3 online in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study focuses on sugar added in the processing or preparing of foods, not naturally occurring sugars in fruits and fruit juices.

Recommendations for added sugar consumption vary, and there is no universally accepted threshold for unhealthy levels. For example, the Institute of Medicine recommends that added sugar make up less than 25% of total calories, the World Health Organization recommends less than 10% (but in March 2014 proposed a further reduction to below 5% for additional benefits), and the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to less than 100 calories daily for women and 150 calories daily for men, according to the study background.

Quanhe Yang, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, and colleagues used national health survey data to examine added sugar consumption as a percentage of daily calories and to estimate association between consumption and CVD.

How Much Sugar Are We Eating?

Study results indicate that the average percentage of daily calories from added sugar increased from 15.7% in 1988–1994 to 16.8% in 1999–2004, but decreased to 14.9% in 2005–2010.

In 2005–2010, most adults (71.4%) consumed 10% or more of their calories from added sugar, but for about 10% of adults it made up 25% or more of their calories.

The Risks of Too Much Sweetness

The risk of heart-related death increases 18% for people consuming an average American diet with about 15% of daily calories from added sugar, compared with those whose diets contain little to no added sugar, the study authors found.

The risk is 38% higher for people who receive 17%–21% of their calories from added sugar, and more than double for people who get more than 21% of their daily diet from added sugar, Yang said.

Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, who wrote commentary on the published research, says, “Yang . . . shows that the risk of CVD mortality becomes elevated once sugar intake surpasses 15% of daily calories—equivalent to drinking one 20-ounce Mountain Dew soda in a 2,000 calorie diet. From there, the risk rises exponentially as a function of increased sugar intake, peaking with a [400% higher] risk of CVD death for individuals who consume one-third or more calories in added sugar.”

Another key point: The study found that the added sugar that Americans consume as part of their daily diet can—on its own, regardless of other health problems—more than double the risk of death from heart disease.

“[This] new paradigm [that Yang’s research falls within] hypothesizes that sugar has adverse health effects above any purported role as ’empty calories’ promoting obesity,” notes Schmidt. “Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick.”

Guideline for Better Health

So what is a good general guideline for sugar consumption? “Until federal guidelines are forthcoming, physicians may want to caution patients that, to support cardiovascular health, it is safest to consume less than 15% of total calories as added sugar,” says Schmidt.

IDEA Fit Tips, Volume 12, Number 3
March 2014
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Low-Fat Pumpkin Spice Granola

Pumpkin Granola PicI absolutely love homemade granola.  It is incredibly easy to make and so nutritious!  The best part is that you are in control of the ingredients, it is completely customizable.   Add any combination of nuts and dried fruit, whatever you prefer.  You can even switch up the sweeteners, use honey or agave instead of maple syrup.  This recipe uses maple syrup to keep it vegan.  The possibilities are endless.  I love the fact that this recipe uses no butter or oils to hold the mixture together – the pumpkin does it all, making it low-fat with a lot less calories.  Added bonus, it makes the house smell heavenly!

It’s a great recipe to welcome in the fall season!

LOW-FAT PUMPKIN SPICE GRANOLA

Makes about 6 cups.

3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together pumpkin puree, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, and salt. Stir in brown sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla until thoroughly combined.

Add the oats, cranberries, raisins, pecans, coconut, and pumpkin seeds to the bowl. Stir to evenly coat with the pumpkin mixture.

Spread evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, stirring well at the 20 minute mark.  Note:  If you prefer your granola clumpy like I do, then spread the mixture in a thinner layer and do not stir during baking.  Do not stir until it has cooled completely on the baking sheet, then break apart into chunks.

It will not be crisp when you remove it from the oven, but it will crisp up as it cools.  Allow granola to cool for several hours before storing – so that it doesn’t get soggy!.

Source: Adapted from Pastry Affair

Key Ingredients to Staying Young and Healthy

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Healthy eating and physical fitness go together, but there are no magic foods that cause you to be 100% healthy by just eating the one food.  No, you need a variety of foods from each of these food groups each day.  It’s also important to watch the portion size so as not to overeat. Make your mealtimes pleasant and relaxed occasions and your healthy foods will work effectively with your healthy emotions to give you a healthy, youthful body.

Berries

You may like all types of berries or just one or two favorites, but you can never go wrong by adding a few fresh berries as a quick energy snack or frozen berries made into a luscious smoothie in place of calorie laden desserts. Berries are high in vitamin C across the board, but some are high in other nutrients as well. Choose ripe blueberries for vitamin C and heaps of anti-oxidants for the health of your circulatory system. Gogi berries are less well-known but are wonderfully rich in many of the nutrients your body needs to be nutritionally and physically fit.

Citrus

The foods of the citrus family are widely recognized as a valuable source of vitamin C. Choose fully ripe citrus fruits for the best nutritional value and choose citrus as near to the tree as possible. Tree ripened fruits picked at the peak of perfection and consumed with hours of picking give you the top nutritional rating. Try grapefruit for breakfast. Add a dash of fresh squeezed lime to your salad as a dressing and enjoy slices of orange with coconut in a light honey dressing for dessert.

Vegetables

The variety of vegetables is amazing. For people who are vegetarian or vegan, choosing vegetables to be part of a nutritionally sound diet is a way of life. Your vegetable group provides many of the minerals required in a good diet. For example, you may realize that potassium is necessary for healthy nutrition. Many people claim the benefits of potassium found in a single banana. But did you know, you can also get adequate potassium in your diet by eating a stalk of broccoli? Try a salad of fresh young spinach topped with pine nuts and stirred with lightly cooked penne’. Feta cheese and a light vinaigrette dressing to create the perfect light luncheon meal.

Whole Grains

Like many other of the best foods, choosing only one type of whole grain for your meals doesn’t provide all the variety you need to be nutritionally sound. Often, mixing two or more whole grains together will give you complete proteins. For example, brown rice and wheat kernels with a spicy seasoning are a popular dish in many countries.

Salmon

Salmon is lean fish and nutritionally one of the best seafood choices.  It is rich in the essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 oils that are noted as helping improve the functioning of the brain.  Salmon baked whole with just lemon or lime as a seasoning, makes a fantastic main dish or a hearty luncheon featured menu item.  Salmon is also commonly found in chilled seafood dishes.

Legumes

A legume is the name for a variety of fruits with a single dry seed. Legumes are sometimes called pods. Examples of edible legumes are soybeans, peas, dried beans and peanuts, among others. Legumes are rich in iron and high in fiber, making them excellent nutritional choices. Peanuts are a type of legume that have been used to make hundreds of different products some edible and others with various types of helpful uses.

Nuts and seeds

Nature has packed a lot of goodness into small packages. Most everyone has heard of walnuts and pecans which are very good nutritional products, but did you realize that flax seeds are brain food–containing critical non-meat sources of the Omega-3 oil.

Lean proteins

The keyword here is lean. Americans eat far too much protein compared to the rest of the world. Cut down of portion sizes–three ounces will provide all the needed protein needed for your day.  Also, trim all visible fat from your protein source. Alternatively, use non meat substitutes such as the complete proteins found in vegetable dishes like beans and brown rice.

Tea

Depending on the type of tea you prefer, you can get an energy boost from a cup of green tea, or the calming effect of chamomile tea.  Start your day with Earl Grey Breakfast Tea.  Mint tea is great any time of the day for a refreshing boost and when taken after meals, can help with digestion.  Herbal teas are soothing, tasty and full of natural goodness.  Non herbal teas when used in moderation, can help you energize and stay alert.
Healthy Fats

Olive oil is probably the healthiest substance you can use to keep fat in your diet.  You can use it on your salad, mix it with a little vinegar to create a homemade vinaigrette.  Olive is delicate and it good for moderate temperature cooking, however, high heat causes olive oil to break down and oxidize.  For high heat cooking, coconut oil is a great option as it’s oxidization point is much higher allowing it to retain much of its healthful nutrients.

10 Steps You Can Take To Slow Down Aging

images-4Aging is a complex process that involves many areas of your body. It’s unlikely that any one product or pill could cure all of the ailments of aging. However, there are things you can do that not only will help you age more slowly but will improve your quality of life.

Your best bet for a long and healthy life is to:

1. Eat a varied and healthy diet.  Include plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods. Fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins all play a part in keeping your body functioning at its best. Drink lots of fluids to maintain healthy skin and flush out waste. Eating right will help you maintain a healthy weight.

2. Exercise every day.  Exercise improves appetite, makes healthy bones, gives you a better emotional outlook and improves digestion and circulation. Exercise makes you stronger and helps you lose weight.

3. Seeking prompt medical care when you’re ill or injured.  Listen to your body and take care of any little problems before they become big problems. Get screened for diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

4. Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn.  Professionals agree that one of the most significant factors contributing to aging is chronic inflammation of the skin.

5. Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking has very damaging effects and dramatically increases your risk of getting cancer and heart disease.

6. Manage stress. Stress is a part of everyday life. Develop ways to help you cope and adjust to situations in your life that may cause you stress. The situation isn’t the problem, its how you react to it.

7. Look for ways to improve overall well-being and enthusiasm for life.  Be curious and creative which will encourage you to learn new things. You can also use humor and laughter to help you age well and live long.

8. Keep strong relationships. Maintaining close ties to your family and friends are crucial to healthy aging.

9. Don’t let fears and worries dominate your life.  A worried mind is not at peace and robs you of zest and energy which you need to maintain youthfulness.

10. Keep cells youthful with antioxidants.  Antioxidants are found in a full-range of fruits and vegetables, as well as in some meat, like fish. Although, our bodies produce its own antioxidants, the level of product declines over time because of environmental factors and through the aging process. You can also take anti oxidant supplements or even anti oxidant teas.

Do all you can to be healthy and in doing so you will age slower. If you have any questions about products that claim to slow or reverse aging ask your doctor. He or she can help you sort through the information and get the facts.

10 Tips to Help Kids Eat Healthy

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Creating a Healthy Home can be easier than you think.

Creating a nutritionally healthy home is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure the health of your child. To start, make smart food choices, and help your child develop a positive relationship with healthy food. Your children will learn their food smarts from your example.

Here are the top 10 tips for getting children to eat healthy food:

1Do not restrict food. Restricting food increases the risk your child may develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia later in life. It can also have a negative effect on growth and development.   Also by restricting food you will actually increase the risk of overeating later in the day which will cause weight gain.

2Keep healthy food at hand. Children will eat what’s readily available. Keep fruit in a bowl on the counter, not buried in the crisper section of your fridge. Remember, your child can only choose foods that you stock in the house, by limiting junk food you will, by default, teach your child how to choose healthier foods.

3Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad.” Instead, tie foods to the things your child cares about, such as sports, academics and hobbies. Let your child know that lean protein such as turkey and calcium in dairy products give strength to their sports and academic performance, the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables add luster to skin and hair and the carbs in whole grains will give them energy to play.

4Praise healthy choices. Give your children a proud smile and tell them how smart they are when they choose healthy foods. Kids thrive on positive reinforcement!

5.  Don’t nag about unhealthy choices. If your child chooses unhealthy foods infrequently, ignore it. However, if your child always wants fatty, fried food, redirect the choice. You might try roasting potato sticks in the oven (tossed in just a bit of oil) instead of buying french fries. Or, if your child wants candy, you might make fresh strawberries dipped in a little chocolate sauce. Too busy? Then keep naturally sweet dried fruit at home for quick snacks.  With consistent effort taste buds change and soon your child will be craving healthy foods.

6.  Never use food as a reward. This could create weight problems in later life. Instead, reward your children with something physical and fun — perhaps a trip to the park or a quick game of catch.

7.  Sit down to family dinners at night.  If this isn’t a tradition in your home, it should be. Research shows that children who eat dinners at the table with their parents have better nutrition and are less likely to get in serious trouble as teenagers. Start with one night a week, and then work up to three or four, to gradually build the habit.

8.  Prepare plates in the kitchen. There you can put healthy portions of each item on everyone’s dinner plate. Your children will learn to recognize correct portion sizes.  Too often people go for seconds and even thirds just because the food is right there.  You might notice that you need less food to feel full!

9. Give the kids some control.  Ask your children to take three bites of all the foods on their plate and give it a grade, such as A, B, C, D, or F.  When healthy foods – especially certain vegetables — get high marks, serve them more often. Offer the items your children don’t like less frequently. This lets your children participate in decision making. After all, dining is a family affair!

10.  Consult your pediatrician.  Always talk with your child’s doctor before putting your child on a diet, trying to help your child gain weight, or making any significant changes in the type of foods your child eats. Never diagnose your child as too heavy, or too thin, by yourself.  If weight change is recommended seek the help of a professional Dietitian.

Gluten-Free, Guilt-Free Oatmeal Muffins

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Now there’s absolutely no excuse for skipping breakfast!   These muffins are like a portable bowl of oatmeal. The fruit is even included.  AND… they are kid-tested and approved!

This is a great base recipe.  Make it your own, play with it, use your creativity.  I often add walnuts, flax seeds, cranberries (dried or fresh), chocolate chips, any kind of fruit, whatever is in season.  This is good clean eating.  Enjoy!

Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Yield: 12 large
Bake: in 400ºF oven for 20 minutes

1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup yogurt, plain low-fat
1/2 cup milk, low-fat
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar  (or any natural sweetener of choice)
1/3 cup oil, sunflower or vegetable oil
2 bananas, large, ripe, mashed
1 egg, large, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup oat flour  (just grind 2 cups oats in blender)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Instructions
In a bowl mix together rolled oats, yogurt, milk, and vanilla. Let soak for 10 minutes.
Mix oat flour, salt, spices, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl.
Add brown sugar, mashed banana, egg and oil to rolled oats mixture. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients to the rolled oats mixture. Mix well. Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups 2/3 full.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes.

Be Merry And Stay On Track! Sensible Nutrition for the Holidays

It is possible to enjoy the holidays and eat healthy too!
It is possible to enjoy the holidays and eat healthy too!

It’s the most delicious time of the year!  But why does it have to be the most damaging time of the year, when it comes to nutrition.  Well, with a little sensible advice and an ounce of prevention, you can make it through the holidays without sabotaging your progress.

  1. Be Realisitic.  Instead of trying to lose weight during the holidays, set a goal of weight maintenance.  This is more realistic and frees you from the “all or nothing” thinking that sabotages healthy eating.
  2. Substitutions.  When making holiday recipes, look for ways to make your creations healthier.  Swapping low-sodium broth for regular broth, low-fat cream cheese for full-fat, Greek yogurt for sour cream, or whole-wheat flour for white are just a few options.
  3. Planning.  The “most wonderful time of the year” also seems to be the most stressful, in terms of time management.  However, a little planning can go a long way, and healthy eating does require a little pre-planning.  Try not to arrive at a party hungry.  Eat a light but filling snack (such as nuts, fruit, yogurt, string cheese) before arriving.  Do not skip meals, try to stick to your normal meal plan.
  4. Moderation.  Eating healthy does not mean completely avoiding every dish that looks delicious.  If you want to have a piece of pie, by all means, put it on your plate!  Exercise some portion control and select a small portion to try first; then reassess if you want to go back for seconds.  Often our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and small samples of each item from the buffet usually add up to a full plate.
  5. Support.  Chances are, you are not the only one who struggles with food during the holidays. Find a friend or family member who can share accountability with you.
  6. Balance.  Keep your goals in mind, but don’t let them take over your social calendar. Remember that good nutrition is not about extreme dieting, sacrificing your favorite foods, or excluding yourself from the party to avoid temptation.  Bottom line – enjoy yourself!

The journey to healthy living is a gradual one, made by implementing small but consistent changes in behavior. Pick one or two reasonable goals and do your best to reach them daily. Most of all, enjoy this season of celebration. The whole point of being healthy is to live well.

Happy holidays!