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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Outsmart Holiday Weight Gain

T’is the season for weight gain!  Along with all the delicious food around at this time of the year, comes the added pressure to over eat.  The holidays also place extra demands on our time, and more often than not, eating out of convenience ends up being the choice for many.  So let’s face it, nobody expects to lose weight during the holidays, it’s impossible and will only add extra stress.  But we can be proactive by doing some damage control before the damage actually happens, this entails planning and awareness.  According to the experts, the key to avoid any holiday weight gain is portion control.  It’s ok to indulge in the foods you enjoy as long as you are aware of how much you are eating and are staying within your daily calorie allowance.  This way you can enjoy the festive treats without the associated guilt.

Be your own Scrooge when it comes to calories.  Try these practical tips on outsmarting your cravings and avoid over indulging this holiday season:

  1. Workout Before the Event Try to sneak in a workout before the event.  Burning off some extra calories will help create ‘room’ for the calories you may end up consuming at the buffet table.  But more importantly, after a workout session, you may not want to sabotage your efforts by overeating.  A  heightened awareness in your physical well-being comes from endorphins (‘feel good’ hormones) that are released during exercise.  These hormones leave you feeling energized, optimistic, and confident.  You are in a far better position to make sensible food choices when you feel good about yourself.
  2. Eat Before Arriving Never arrive on an empty stomach, it’s simply a recipe for disaster.  Instead, have a healthy snack beforehand, or if that’s not possible, a glass of water will also do the trick.  The idea is to curb your appetite.
  3. Do a Walk-By Before grabbing a plate take a moment to simply walk by the buffet table and check out the offerings.  This is a form of planning, it allows you to scan the situation and narrow down your choices before deciding.  Instead of trying a little of everything (which can add up to a whole lot of calories!), you will, more likely, only choose the foods that interest you the most.
  4. Step Away From the Food People naturally seem to congregate around food because food is festive.  But the party shouldn’t just be about the food.  Make it a point not to focus on the food and explore your surroundings.  You’ll find that when food is not the focal point, you’ll naturally find other distractions.  Enjoy the company of friends.  Conversation and laughter are a great distraction from mindless eating.
  5. Bring Your Own Healthy Snack Offer to bring something.  Not only is it gracious, but it’s a way for  you to have a healthy backup plan just in case you don’t see anything else worth trying.
  6. Wear Something Body Hugging This one is for the gals.  Wear a body hugging outfit and you’ll automatically be more conscious of how much you are eating.  This works every time!
  7. Use a Smaller Plate Instead of the regular dinner size plate, opt for the smaller appetizer size plate.  Do not pile up your food, keep your selections to a single layer.

Kill the Cravings and Slash the Calories

Before giving in to the urge to eat when you might not be hungry, ask yourself:

Am I hungry or am I thirsty?

Asking yourself this question is another level of defense to help you prevent unnecessary and mindless eating.  If you don’t drink enough water, or you miss the cues to thirst, you could be eating for the wrong reason.  It’s quite common to misinterpret the body signalling dehydration for hunger.  During these times we can easily substitute an urge to eat with a tall, refreshing glass of water and feel satisfied.

Getting to your desired weight doesn’t happen overnight.  But when you make small, sustainable changes one after another – like drinking more water, for example, great things happen.  You see, water not only helps you feel full,  but is necessary for many aspects of health and weight management.

I want you to use the key question to differentiate thirst from hunger. Be comfortable saying,  “You know what? I’ll have a glass of water instead and see how I feel afterwards.”

How does it feel knowing you can turn to water for refreshment instead of being dependent on overeating?

Practice this behavior whenever you feel an urge to eat and you’ll be surprised to discover how many calories you are able to save!

Avoid Long Weekend Weight Creep

After weeks or months of marking X’s on the calendar, the long weekend is finally here. If you’ve been diligently sticking to your fitness and nutrition plan, then there is no reason why you can’t let loose a little. The key here is to let loose ‘a little’ and not go overboard. You don’t want to sabotage all the progress made so far. Spending time with family and friends almost always involves food and lots of it. It’s easy to eat mindlessly when you’re in good company and there’s a smorgasbord of goodies all laid out. The calorie count can rack up real fast! Let’s not forget all the liquid calories we consume in sugary alcoholic beverages.

Here are some tips on how you can keep the long weekend festivities from destroying your efforts in the gym:

#1   Squeeze in a quick workout to allow for the extra calories and to keep the metabolism revved.

#2   Be mindful of portion sizes

#3   Choose healthier foods rather than calorie-dense foods. It’s ok to have a cheat day but even that should be within limits.

#4   Drink responsibly and wisely. Alcohol packs a double whammy, not only is alcohol high in calories but it also impairs your body’s ability to burn fat as efficiently. So, choose low-calorie alcoholic drinks and try to avoid sugary mixers.  Cheers!

#5  Have fun!

Happy long weekend everyone!

Weekly fitTip: Keep Veggies Cut-up and Ready to go

Keep a selection of cut-up veggies in a see-through container in the refrigerator.  This requires a little prep work, but it takes the guess-work out of snacking.  As soon as you open the fridge door, the first thing you’ll see are the “easy to grab” veggies.

You can do the same thing for when you’re on the go.  Keep a small container or Ziploc bag of cut-up veggies in your purse, briefcase, or desk for a healthy snack anytime.  Veggies are full or vitamins, nutrients, and fiber and contain minimal calories, so there’s no harm in over-indulging, it’s all good!

By replacing a few of your usual snacks with veggies, you can shave off hundreds of calories a day!  Combine this with a consistent workout routine, and you’re on your way to seeing some real results!  Give it a try, you’ll be amazed at how easy eating healthier can be with just a little preparation.

Weekly fitTip: Eat More to Lose Weight

In order to lose weight faster and  more efficiently, you need to eat more.  That doesn’t make any sense, right?  It sounds too good to be true and it contradicts the whole concept of dieting, however, it’s a hard and proven fact.  But wait, before you start planning a binge, here’s the catch, you need to eat more of the good stuff.  Now, there’s no need to roll your eyes, it’s actually very simple!

Think about it like this, for a fire to keep burning it needs to be stoked every so often on a regular basis. much like our metabolism, which is our internal fat burning furnace.  Stoking your metabolism requires eating a small meal or snack approximately every 3 hours (like throwing a log on the fire).  Over the course of a day this will add up to 5 or 6 small meals (for example: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner, evening snack).  The size of the meals will depend on your total daily calorie allowance.

A general recommendation is that snacks should be between 100 and 200 calories each.  You’re probably wondering what types of snacks could possibly be 100 to 200 calories and still be satisfying?  It certainly rules out any sort of processed or junk food options, which are loaded with empty calories and next to zero nutrition.  Processed snacks are a waste of calories since they will not satisfy you for long. They generally cause a drop in blood sugar levels causing you to feel hungry again, which can then lead to unhealthy food cravings.  The key to avoiding this viscous cycle is to find foods that are naturally low in calories and nutrient dense (high nutritional value).

Here’s a list of 10 nutrient dense snacks that will not only keep you full longer, but will also satisfy the taste buds.  A good idea is to keep these items stocked in your fridge and pantry so you have them on hand for the next snack attack.  Many of these snacks are great for on-the-go or for at your desk at work, so keep a stash handy wherever you can.  This will take the guess work out of eating healthy and keep you on the right track.

Top 10 Nutrient Rich Snacks:

  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pine nuts)
  • Dried Fruit (raisins, dates, prunes, cranberries, cherries – unsweetened)
  • Veggies (baby carrots, celery sticks, sugar snap peas, etc)
  • String Cheese
  • Fresh fruit & Berries
  • Popcorn (air popped, unsalted, no butter or margarine)
  • Cottage cheese & fresh/frozen berries and honey
  • Whole grain cracker with Hummus, Peanut butter
  • Smoothie
  • Dark Chocolate

Portion control is very important even with healthy snacks. Measure out and pack proper portions in advance so they are ready when you need them, this requires a little planning and preparation, but is well worth the effort.  By having these healthy snacks readily on hand, you can avoid any dietary pitfalls and feel good that you are stoking your body’s fat burning potential.  Combine these healthy eating habits with a structured exercise regime and watch your body transform!

Low Fat Leek and Potato Soup

Low-fat Leek and Potato Soup

The best leek and potato soup I’ve ever had was at this little French boulangerie in downtown Vancouver; come to think of it, everything they served was fantastic and so authentic.  The soup, however, was a culinary masterpiece, in my opinion.  I couldn’t get enough of the velvety smooth texture and the uncomplicated yet delicate flavor.  It tasted fancy and gourmet, and for that reason, I assumed it would be a complicated recipe.  Much to my surprise when I started researching recipes.

Fresh leeks and potatoesLeek and potato soup is generally a calorie rich soup made with heavy creams giving it that  gourmet flavor.  I’ve reinterpreted the recipe to come up with this super ‘skinny’ version that has all the flavor but a fraction of the calories!   There are so many new and interesting variations of this soup; some by combining other vegetables; some with garlic and white wine, and even spicy variations.  However, I still prefer the traditional recipe that dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries, it’s simple with only a few key ingredients:  leeks, potatoes, broth, and cream (for which I’ve substituted low-fat buttermilk).  The combination of these simple ingredients is like heaven on earth!  Served with crusty whole grain bread and it’s a meal in itself.

Ingredients

1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 T unsalted butter
4 Leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced
1 Bay Leaf
3 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups Chicken Broth
½ t white pepper
½ t Kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1 cup Low-fat Buttermilk

Directions

Wash leeks in a colander under cold water and let drain for a few minutes.

In a medium stock pot over medium heat, melt butter in olive oil.  Add leeks, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon of salt, allow to sweat for 5 minutes.  Decrease heat to med-low and cook for another 15 minutes, until leeks are tender.  Stir occasionally, making sure the leeks do not brown.

Add potatoes and chicken stock, turn the heat up to med-high and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, partially cover and let potatoes cook until very soft (almost falling apart), approximately 20 minutes.

Turn off  heat, remove bay leaf from soup, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  Add the buttermilk and white pepper.  Season with additional kosher salt as per taste.  Serve immediately as is, or topped with a dollop of sour cream and croutons.  Enjoy!

Makes 10 cups

Per Serving:  96.3 cal, 2.8 g fat, 14 g carbs, 2.7 g protein