Monday, January 31, 2011

The Coconut Craze

The coconuts are coming: coconut milk, coconut water, coconut oil.  It's good for you,  it's bad for you.  Love it, hate it.  What's the real story behind the nutrition in coconuts? Hazel wants to know...

Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm which grows in climates closer to the equator.  Once cracked open, the flesh is grated into the shredded coconut that so many of us love in sweet, delicious treats.  Coconut milk is made by adding hot water, then pressing the liquid out of the grated flesh from mature coconuts. Coconut water is the fluid from a green, young fruit.

Coconut water is being touted as a wonderful fluid and electrolyte replacement for athletes.  With 46 calories each cup, it's low in fat and is a good source of magnesium, potassium and vitamin C.  Great! However, it can contain over 250 mg if sodium per cup, which is considerably higher than found in sports drinks such as Gatorade, which has 10 mg.  Experts warn that drinking beverages with that much sodium may not be in the best interest of most people.  Drinking addition glasses of plain water is a perfect way for most people to rehydrate.  When workouts last longer than an hour and/or are in hotter or more humid environments, adding a little salt on food in addition to the water is a good idea.  Sports drinks also offer an easy way to replace both water electrolytes lost in those longer, tougher workouts.  Coconut water can also be used, though it is much more expensive and does not contain magical properties that many are hoping for. Drinking one cup of coconut water and use plain water to finish rehydrating would be fine.

Coconut milk comes in at whopping 550 calories per cup, with 57 grams of fat and 51 of those saturated.  Low fat versions are also available, some with only 50 calories.  Coconut milk is much lower in protein that milk from cows, goats or soy milk.  Though naturally low in calcium, you can find some coconut milk enriched with calcium.

Coconut oil and palm oil are solid at room temperature and are high in saturated fats.  For this reason, dietitians and health professionals have long recommended minimizing their use.  There is now a wave of advocates for the use of coconut oil, saying it should be used to promote health.  What's the deal?

The type of fats found in coconut oil are comprised medium chain fatty acids (MCFA.)  These differ from the long chain variety (LCFA) found in animal products.  Some evidence has come up in research to indicate that consuming coconut oil may increase HDL's (happy/good low density lipoprotein.)  And higher HDL's is a good thing (you can also increase HDL's with exercise.) While much more research is necessary to present an answer, it is still clear that since coconut and palm are saturated fat, levels of total cholesterol and LDL's (lousy!) do rise, as does the risk for heart disease. 

Some people claim coconut oil increases metabolic rate.  A small study was done in Italy and Switzerland in the 1990's.  They found that when 30g of MCFA's were consumed instead of LCFA's at a single meal,  metabolic rate rose 5% right when tested after the meal. In 1999, a study with 12 women was done comparing the use of MCFA in coconut or butter with the LCFA in beef.  After 14 days, the MCFA women seemed to burn 0.14 calories per minute.  It was not clear if this would effect weight loss.  In 2003, a study found that people eating MCFA-fortified meals burned slightly more calories, but this did not result in any weight loss.  At this point, the MCFA coconut oil may provide a slightly higher metabolic rate, though this connection has not been proven.  Much more research is needed to find out if MCFA provide long term metabolic rates or weight loss.

Studies that have been done so far have not proven that coconut oil is good for your heart---it's just like any other type of saturated fat.  In fact, a study done in 2004 found a 11% rise in total cholesterol and an increase in LDL with a consumption of MCFA.  Every study has linked higher saturated fat use with an increase in heart disease.

Dr. Mark Wahlqvist, director of the Asian Pacific Health and Nutrition Centre, has been researching the nutrition of the West Sumatra people for 25 years--an area ripe with coconut oil use.  His studies conclude that it is not the type of fat that was consumed, but how the amount of meat, eggs, sugar, and cholesterol eaten that mattered.  The traditional Sumatra diet, rich in fruits, veggies, rice and soy in addition to the ample use of coconut milk and oils, resulted in fewer risks of heart disease. When people converted to the more Western diet with a higher intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates meat, eggs, and lower in soy, rice, fruits, veggies, and cereals, the risks of heart disease rose significantly.  In fact, his study suggested the use of coconut oil was a neutral factor.  Interestingly, Singapore, with it's higher consumption of coconut and palm oils, has a 3 times higher rate of death than Hong Kong, who use little.

So, is it true: coconut oil will help you lose weight, prevent wrinkles, cure illness and prevent heart disease?  We wish... Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it is!

Until much more research is done, what should you do? If you need a solid fat, using a small amount of coconut oil instead of another highly saturated solid or trans fat would be fine. No miracles have been found in coconut oil. But, there is no question that the use of more unsaturated fats lowers cholesterol, LDL's,  and some even increase HDL.  So, reach for salmon, grab a few nuts, olives or use a few avocado slices for your salad tonight!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who Am I?

Who Am I?                                                            

I am your constant companion.

I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.  Half of the tasks you do, you might just as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.

I am easily managed.  You must merely be firm with me.  Show me just exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons, I will do it automatically.

I am the servant of all great men, and alas, of all failures as well.  Those who are great, I have made great.  Those who are failures, I have made failures.

I am not a machine, but I work with all the precision of a machine, plus the intelligence of a man.  You may run me for profit or run me for ruin.  It makes no difference to me.

Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will put the work at your feet.  Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.  Who am I?

I Am Habit
     -author unknown-

This poem says so much.  It reminds us how important it is to practice a healthy lifestyle---over and over again. Unfortunately, if you are a frequent chip muncher, cookie chomper, or a couch potato, this less healthy lifestyle becomes a habit.  On the other hand, the more often we reach for good, healthy foods and get our bodies moving, these healthy behaviors also become habits. Choosing a healthy way of life is about repeating positive behaviors over and over again.  

If you end up slipping a bit and wallowing in a pit of M&M's, let it go.  Acknowledge that it happened and put an end to it.  In the very next minute you can, take a positive step toward health:  drink a glass of water, go for a walk, practice deep breathing exercises.  Consciously repeat these positive, healthy actions until they come more natural to you.  The more often you do something, the stronger that behavior becomes.  The more often you repeat that behavior, it develops into a habit. You are what you repeat!

Practice taking action with positive steps toward healthy behaviors that will build habits to create a healthy, happy you!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Your Favorite Healthy Internet Resources

I have lots of people who ask me what websites or blogs I recommend that provide good health and nutrition info and that have great recipes to try. I need your help on this one. If you have some that you follow, be sure to share it with us!

Trying new recipes is a great way to keep the fun in your pursuit of health.  Nothing is as boring as eating the same old foods each and every day.  New healthy recipes can bring back the enjoyment of eating healthy foods. The internet provides a never ending supply of recipes, some even good for you!  Try:
  • Gina's Skinny Tastes Kristen, the original MM fan, gave me this site and it is a great one! Be sure to check it out.  For all of you who are following the Weight Watchers, she has the new Points Plus listed on each item in addition to the nutritional info.
  • Healthy Living with Ellie. Great site with great recipes. I love her cookbooks--- Ellie really knows how to cook!
  • Eating Well Magazine.  Hazel, a MM Groupie,  loves every recipe she's tried on this site.
  • Prevention Magazine.  This is another source for healthy recipes that Hazel likes. (Be aware that I am not endorsing these magazines, nor am I recommending them as a good resource for health & nutrition information. The recipes look great, though!)
Good health & nutrition information sites are often mixed up with lists of other, not-so-good, web sites. Always be leery if a site is trying to sell you pills to make you healthier, and look for sites written by people educated in their fields.  A site written by a R.D., M.S., PhD or a M.D. is definitely good sign. 
  • Doctor Carrie's Better Living.  Dr. Carrie is one of our MM Followers and is a health blogger herself.  I love her blog and highly recommend it for great information:                                             
Now, here's were I need your help!  What other good websites have you found to support you in your quest for nutrition, fitness and health?  

To Your Health!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Did It!

It was cold this morning at 8:25.  Really cold.  Nine degrees to be exact. It was so toasty warm and comfy under my blankets, but, I got up and went out anyway.  My friend would be waiting for me, and I didn't want to let her down. And, of course, there was the entire group---if they could get there, I certainly was not going to wimp out.

Off I went to join our women-over-50 walk/run session.  Six other women were gathered in my pace group when I got there, loosening up as they waited for our coach to lead us outside with time piece and whistle in hand. We started walking. The wind was blowing a bit, so it felt colder than it really was. I was glad I had my neck gaiter on to warm up the air before it hit my lungs. It wasn't a good day to forget my inhaler; asthma and exercising in the cold don't mix very well. But my body wasn't cold; I had dressed in the right number of layers. Trying to keep pace with the group, I chatted with a gal I just met, sharing stories of how we joined the group. Even though the wind was blowing enough to make my cheeks sting a little, I was enjoying myself. I mean, how many other people were out there on a cold winter Saturday trying to improve themselves?

We finished our 3 miles of alternating running 3 minutes and walking 2.  I walked into the clubhouse feeling winded, sweaty, but really, really good.  Seriously.  I feel so good when I'm done.  Some of the feeling is probably the physical effect from getting all that oxygen flowing throughout my body and getting those muscles moving.  The endorphins zipping in my brain put me in a really good mood. And I just feel proud of myself for doing it.  Maybe a little virtuous.

I've been a walker for years.  At some periods of time, I had a walking buddy.  That was always fun as we would talk about everything on our minds while we got our exercise in. I haven't had a steady walking partner for quite awhile, but I remained faithful to my walks---at least most of the time. I know I've cut them back a bit since the dog doesn't want to walk as far anymore. And I know I wasn't challenging myself. By joining this group, I found a whole bunch of buddies that are cheering me on to push myself a bit harder than just a leisurely walk, and it's a good thing.

Whether you have one friend or a whole group, having support as you work toward a goal really helps. We have another 5K in a few months.  I'd like to go faster than the one we did in December. Nothing spectacular and nowhere near the top, but I'm going to do it better.

I like having the exercise scheduled on my day planner. It makes it a priority, something to look forward to. I used to jot it down after I exercised, but in this way, I don't come up with seemingly more important things to do.

Knowing friends will be there gives me motivation to get there. I don't want to let them down. Once I'm there, those friends supply a great social time that I was missing while walking on my own.

It was really cold out there today. When I got home and looked on the computer, I found out that the windchill was probably at 0 or below when we first started.  But, you know what?  I did it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Great Grains of Health

Whole grains are simply the entire kernel that comes from plant grains such as wheat, oats, rye, and quinoa. For most of all of time, people have eaten only the whole grain.  Until the end of the 19th century. That's when the milling technique was developed to strip away the bran and germ and produce refined flours (post 1/17/11.)

An estimated 80% of Americans eat less than 1 serving of whole grains each day. Is this a problem? Research has been looking at the possible health benefits in eating whole grains vs. processed grain.

Whole grains are packed with fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and most likely many things that have yet to be identified that are important for health. Processed grains produce refined flours that have lost almost all of the fiber found in the bran, 90% of the vitamin E (germ), and over half of the B vitamins (also found in the germ.) The resulting refined flour is a source of starchy carbohydrate, and that's all.

Eating Whole Grains:
  • Reduces risk of constipation and diverticulosis. The bran is insoluble fiber that helps push waste through the digestive tract easier and quicker.  This reduces pressure inside the intestines and results in less constipation. Australia recently tested an ad campaign to encourage the consumption of whole grain bread: "Bread, it's a great way to go!"  In 4 months, the populations that were targeted had a 58% increase in whole grain bread sales and a 49% decrease in the sale of laxatives. Fantastic results! Data from the Iowa Women's Health study indicates that women eating more whole grains lowered the risk of developing diverticulosis, and another study found that men eating over 32 grams of fiber daily were much less likely to have diverticular disease than those eating less that 13. 
  • Lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. Many studies have concluded that eating 2-3 servings of whole grains each day reduces the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD,) heart attack, and stroke. Eating more whole grains appears to reduce some risks factors for CVD: total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides and insulin.  Studies conclude that people who eat at least 2-3 servings each day are much more likely not to have CVD. One study notes that people who ate fewer than 2 servings of whole grain each week were more likely to experience CVD. 
  • Do whole grains reduce the risk of cancer?  In animals, researchers have found increasing intake of wheat bran decreases colon cancer. So far, human studies have come in with mixed results.  One study found that eating the whole grains--not just refined flour with added fiber--seemed to give a moderate protection against colorectal cancer. More long term studies need to be done.
It's clear that whole grains are a nutritional powerhouse. By eating at least 3 servings each day, you'll have better odds of avoiding many of these diseases.  

It's important to use whole grains, not just refined grains with added fiber. These days, you can find all sorts of breads, cereals and crackers, that are made from refined white flour with fiber added to make the nutritional data look better.  Don't be fooled. Look at the list of ingredients to make sure "whole" is part of the first ingredient listed.  Remember, refined grains no longer contain the whole super hero package that supplies all those wonderful naturally occurring antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. 

This week, make a list of all the whole grains you truly enjoy.  Shop from this list each week making sure to have plenty on hand to eat.  And then, try to a new whole grain occasionally---have some fun with it. Try a new bread, try quinoa or  instant brown rice. If you your family aren't fans of whole grain pasta, try the pasta the 50-50 first. It takes time to develop a love for the rich, nutty flavors that come with whole grains. Not everything you eat has to be whole grain. Be patient but be persistent in your quest to get at least 3 servings of whole grains in each and every day!

Fire Up!! You Can Do This!

What are some of your favorite whole grains and how do you use them?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Choosing A Healthy Loaf of Bread

Trying to find a good, healthy bread amid all the loaves in the bread aisle can be an overwhelming experience.  If you take the time to check out the individual bread wrappers, it can leave you even more confused.  Labels declare that one is made with whole wheat, or 7 grains, multi grain, white, whole grain, wheat or whole wheat bread.  Some even promise they are 100% natural (does that mean the others aren't?) Others are enriched with vitamins, calcium and even iron.  How do you choose a good healthy bread?

A little background info is in order.  Flours are made from kernels of starchy grains such as wheat, rye or oats.  The outside of the kernel is called the bran which is where most of the fiber in the grain is found.  Inside the bran covering is the starchy matter called the endosperm that is almost all carbohydrate.  At the base of each grain kernel is the germ, the mother-lode of nutrients.  Wheat germ, for example, is rich in protein, potassium, vitamin B1, B2, B3, iron, magnesium, folic acid, calcium, and zinc.  Wheat germ is also very rich source of vitamin E---a wonderful antioxidant.

The ABC's of Flour:
  • Wheat flour. Kernels of wheat are put through a process that takes off most of the bran and germ, leaving behind the starchy white endosperm.  Most white flour we use is 60% extracted, which means 60% of the bran and germ are removed. Very little fiber and nutrients remain.
  • White flour is wheat flour, according to our labeling laws. Since white four is made from wheat, you may see some white or brown breads labeled as wheat bread---they are both made from wheat! Bread made from white flour could be a healthier looking brown, just colored from molasses or coloring agents.
  • Whole wheat flour is made by grinding the entire wheat kernel into flour, leaving all the fiber of the bran and nutrients of the germ.  This is sometimes called graham flour or entire wheat flour.
  • Enriched wheat flour is wheat flour that has had some of the vitamins and minerals that were taken out during processing added back:  riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, and sometimes calcium, iron and vitamin D.
  • Enriched flour is made like enriched wheat flour, though may be any type of grain or grain mixture since the type of grain is not stated.
  • Stone ground wheat flour tells us how the grain was ground. It does not tell us that the bread is made from the whole grain. On the other hand, if stone ground whole wheat is listed, it is a whole grain.
  • Cracked wheat is simply the whole grain that is broken, or cracked, into smaller pieces.  This is a whole grain. 
Our job is to locate whole grain breads which provide us with all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and antioxidants that are originally present.
  • Don't trust the big attention grabbing words on the wrapper.  They can mislead you into thinking the bread is better for you than it really is.
  • Look at the ingredients listed on the food label, which are listed from greatest concentration by weight to the least.  One bread in my cupboard lists: whole wheat flour, water, sugar, wheat gluten, yeast, raisin juice concentrate, wheat bran, salt, molasses, soybean oil... and nonfat milk.  There is more whole wheat flour by weight in this bread than anything else.  Nonfat milk is present in the least amount.
  • Choose a bread that has a whole grain listed as its first ingredient: whole wheat, whole wheat flour, whole oats, etc, with no white flour added.
Your goal should be to consuming at least 3 servings of whole grains each day.  One slice of whole grain bread, 1/2 cup of brown rice, or 1/2 cup of whole grain pasta is a serving.

Stay tuned!  We'll take a look at what whole grains do for our health in the next post.

To Your Health!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Banish the Blahs with the Rule of Ten

January.  The holidays are over. Back to work. Back to routines. Gray skies. Snow. Cold and more cold. Like the sofa. Don't want to exercise.  Don't want to eat healthy. Summer is so far away...

If you're struggling with a case of the mid-winter blahs, and you're sliding away from your New Year's Resolution to be healthier...its time to take action!

Banishing the Mid-WInter Blahs:
Immediate Action is Required!
  • Laugh!.  Read the funnies, call a friend and tell them a funny story about something silly you did, grab your favorite comedy book, watch an episode of a comedy show, or turn on the Cobert Report or John Stewart. Laughing gives you a serotonin boost in your brain, increases oxygen and helps you into a more positive state.
  • Adjust your attitude. Decide you are going to be positive today, then fake it 'til you make it.
  • Get enough sleep.  Most adults need 7-8 hours of good sleep each night to feel and perform their best physically and mentally. Fatigue and the blahs often go hand in hand.
  • Go with the Rule of 10:
    • I know you don't want to, but do it anyway:  Exercise for 10 minutes...just 10 minutes. After that, if you still want to be a couch potato, go ahead, but most often you will find yourself ready to do more.  The first step can be the hardest.
    • Desperate for that big cookie?  Wait for 10 minutes.  While you are waiting, drink a glass of water (10 ounces ?) and try to do something else: walk, do the crossword puzzle, call a friend.  After 10 minutes,  decide if you still want the cookie.  If you do, put it on a plate, sit down and enjoy the cookie with a glass of milk or tea.  Try to eat it in at least 10 bites and make it last for 10 minutes.  Really taste it. What are 10 things you about that cookie that you like?  Enjoy it. If you don't want to eat after 10 minutes, big smile!
    • Eat 10 servings of healthy foods today:  add up servings of veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, or non-fat dairy.  It's amazing how much better you feel when you eat healthy foods.
    • Do you feel like you really screwed up by eating too much of the "wrong" foods?  Let it go!  It's not what just happened that matters,  but what happens in the next 10 minutes that matters most! Perseverance, not perfection!
    • Focus on what you need to do in the next 10 days, 10 hours, or even 10 minutes to be healthy. Be proud of your accomplishments so far. Don't focus on how far you have to go yet to get to your goal, or how long its taking to get there.
  • Banish Boring---Variety is the Spice of Life!
    • Buy a new fruit or veggie every time you go to the grocery store or grab something you haven't had for a long time. 
    • Try a new recipe every week. Look at your healthier cookbooks, search the internet, grab a Cooking Light magazine, or buy a new cookbook (I love So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week and The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life.)
    • Change up your exercise routine. Try a new exercise or add something new. This helps increase overall fitness levels by challenging different muscle groups and can even increase metabolic rate. Walk a new route or try varying speeds.
    • Join a fitness group or make your own.  Many times people are more successful keeping up with an exercise program when they have a buddy or a group to work out with. I joined my second session of the Women over 50 Walk to Run group:  it's fun!
    • Get a new "toy"to increase fun!  Grab a sports hoop, brightly colored stretchy bands, get a new food diary, glow in the dark laces for your sneaks, pedometer, new exercise video (trade with someone or grab one at the library.) 
Your mantra this week: 
 JUST DO IT!  (thanks, Nike!)

...You are truly Worth what is takes to be healthy!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Do Sweeteners Help You Lose Weight or Gain It?


When artificial sweeteners first hit the market, diabetics were thrilled with the possibility that they could have a cup of sweetened coffee, sodas, and even sweet desserts. People who were trying to lose weight jumped on board with the thought of having a "sugary" treat without all the calories that came with it.  Dentists were happy with idea that the cavities brought on by real sugar could be reduced.  It looked like a win-win-win situation. But is it?

You can now find artificially sweetened sodas everywhere: cocoa mixes, yogurts, and cookies.  Packets of "fake sugar" are offered everywhere we buy coffee.  You would think that we'd have a lower incidence of obesity with the sucralose and aspartame we consume, but in fact, just the opposite has occurred:  the obesity rate has surged. Most assuredly, this is not all the fault of artificial sweeteners, but could play a role?

News has now hit that some research is suggesting that artificial sweetener may actually encourage you to gain weight. What?  Researchers at Purdue are theorizing that consuming non-nutritive sweeteners (post 1/9/11) may screw up the body's ability to keep track of how many calories are eaten based on the food's sweetness.  We chug a large Coke.  The body realizes that all those calories are coming in because it is really sweet.  You drink a large Diet Coke.  The calories that were supposed to be provided with that level of sweetness aren't coming in.  It's almost like your body demands to receive those promised calories, so it kicks in a craving for sugary stuff which then leads to over eating or more sedentary activity levels. Keep in mind that this research was done testing saccharin on rats and it is certainly not definitive: many more studies need to be done including examining human subjects.

If you are trying to lose or manage your weight, should you give up artificial sweeteners?  Should you go back to sugar and honey or start buying the expensive agave nectar? Listen to your body. Really pay attention to what happens after you consume sucralose or aspartame.  If a craving really kicks in for all things sweet, you may want to avoid the artificial sweeteners for now. Don't just switch everything back to sugar; keep in mind that all nutritive sweeteners do have calories.  If you swap a diet Dr. Pepper for a regular one every day, you'll be getting an additional 150 calories.  In one year that could add up to an extra 15 pounds of fat if you don't cut down on some other calories.  

Some people find that they don't seem to develop a sugar-craving after artificial sweeteners. In fact, I've heard many people say having a diet drink or sweet keeps them from diving head first into a Snickers bar.  If that's the case, using them in moderation is just fine.  

The key is to be mindful of your use of all sweeteners.  Nutritive sweeteners, including the newly popular agave nectar, all have calories that provide no other nutritional value: empty calories. Non-nutritive sweeteners have no calories, but may increase our craving for sugar. You could try reaching for a piece of fruit for something sweet. The sugar in fruit comes along with many other wonderful vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body really needs.

For your health, go easy on all types of sweeteners! 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sweeten With Sweeteners?

by SuatEman/
Anne's wondering about the use of sweeteners: are they really safe to use or not?  Some people feel that they are just fine to use and can really help if you are diabetic or are trying to lose weight. Then you hear all the scary stuff that people say on the internet, and you start getting worried.  Are sweeteners really causing cancer, brain tumors, behavior problems, and a boat load of other things?  What's this new info about sweeteners making you gain weight?

Most of us love our sugar.  We love it in coffee, tea, sodas, juicy drinks, cookies, cakes, pies, wonder over 40% of American teens now consume half of their daily caloric intake in sugar! The trouble is, all of the sugary drinks add lots of calories with very little nutritional value:  empty calories.  With too many sugar calories comes a rise in dental decay, type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.  If you spend more calories in sugar and less on nutritious foods,  the risk of diseases like osteoporosis also increases.

Enter the world of sweeteners.  Can you have your cake and eat it, too?
Sweeteners are divided into 2 categories:  nutritive and non-nutritive.  Nutritive sweeteners provide calories while those that are non-nutritive are essentially calorie-free.

Nutritive Sweeteners contain calories and raise blood sugar levels. Most will increase the risk of dental decay.
  • Sucrose or table sugar.  
    • One teaspoon contains 15 calories, or 4 calories per gram
  • Fructose. Honey
    • 1.7 times sweeter than sucrose, so you can use less of it to obtain the same sweetness level
  • Sugar Alcohols.  Mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol (look for other "__ol" sugars)
    • 1.5 - 3 calories per gram
    • 25-100% sweeter than sugar
    • Slower to digest which results in a lower glycemic response
    • Not completely absorbed, resulting in abdominal gas and diarrhea in larger quantities 
    • Does not cause dental cavities
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  Made from corn starch and is a glucose/fructose blend.
  • Agave. 1.5 times sweeter than sugar.
    • 2 tsp counts as 1/2 a grain exchange in the diabetic exchanges

Non-Nutritive Sweeteners have no or very few calories and will not raise blood sugar levels. These are consumed in very small amounts. The FDA approves low calorie sweeteners for use, and sets an "Acceptable Daily Intake" ADI, which represents the most anyone should consume each day for life, in order to assure safety. These levels are set approximately 100 times the smallest amount that may result in health concerns.          
  • Aspartame (Nutra Sweet, Equal)         ADI=50 mg/kg body wt (18-19  cans diet cola*)
    • 160-220 times sweeter than sugar
    • Not heat or shelf stable, not used in cooking
    • FDA approved for moderate use during pregnancy
    • Not for use by anyone with PKU (phenylketonuria)
  • Saccharin (Sweet 'n Low)                  ADI=5 mg/kg (9-12 mini packets*)
    • 200-700 times sweeter than sugar
    • Questionable for use during pregnancy and lactation
  • Sucralose (Splenda)                           ADI=5 mg/kg (6 cans diet cola*)
    • Deemed safe for pregnancy and lactation 
  • Aceslfame-K (Sunett)                        ADI=15 mg/kg (30-32 cans lemon-lime soda*)
    • FDA deems safe in moderation for pregnancy
  • Neotame
    • 7,000-13,000 times sweeter than sugar
  • Cyclamate.  Not approved for use by anyone.
(*Estimated ADI equivalent for a 150 pound person)

The National Cancer Institute states that "there is no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners available commercially in the United States are associated with cancer risk in humans."  Cyclamates first sounded the warning bell for the possible cancer link when studies feeding animals a cyclamate/saccharin combo showed an increase incidence of bladder cancer.  Subsequent studies on humans have not shown a clear link between any FDA approved sweeteners and cancer. (check out:  http://fda/gov   for more information.)

After considering all this information, you need to decide for yourself if you want to consume sweeteners or not.  I chose not use non-nutritive sweeteners while pregnant, nursing, and did allow my children to use these as they were growing up.  I chose to err on the side of caution and they were not overweight or diabetic. I do consume some artificial sweeteners now, though try to minimize how much I use. Be sure to check with your family doc, pediatrician or OB/GYN for recommendations for you in your own health situations, and for your family.

If you choose to consume artificial sweeteners, use sparingly---moderation in everything!

Check back tomorrow when we take a look about artificial sweeteners and weight loss!

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's A New Year: 2011

 It's amazing to me how fast last year really went by.  There is no question in my mind that time really does go faster the older you get...not that I'm old, of course.  One of my sons explained to me that time is relative to age.  To a child of 4, one day is a big part of his life.  At my over 50 age, one day is a smaller percent of my life, so it simply seems to go faster.  Even if that doesn't make complete sense, my perspective certainly sees time speeding up!

It's time to take a look back at 2010 and write down what you accomplished in your quest for better health.   I'll share my list of positives for last year:
  1. Walked or ran at least 5 days each week
  2. Joined a running/walking group for women 
  3. Did my first 5K in 25 years
  4. Kept my body weight in a good place
  5. Took Vitamin D and calcium supplements to improve bone strength
  6. Communicated with my doctors and followed their advice as best I could
  7. Had therapeutic massage for neck and shoulder tension/pain
  8. Stretched often
Now that you have half of your list done, ask yourself what you need to work on this year for even better health? Write it down.  For me, I need to:
  1. Focus more on reducing muscle tightness; keeping my head and neck loose throughout the day
  2. Have a massage regularly every 2 weeks
  3. Stretch twice a day...especially my neck and shoulders
  4. Put myself first on my To Do list.  It's great to do things for others, but when it's at the expense of me, I simply can't keep it up for too long.  First, I will take my walk, and then I can help someone else.  I'll probably do it even better because my needs were met first.
  5. Take at least 10 minutes each day when I just lay down for a few minutes and breathe deeply
  6. Ask for help becoming more organized and staying that way.  I think this would relieve some of my neck and shoulder pain.
  7. Wear my bite splint every night (it's supposed to help prevent grinding of teeth at night)
  8. Work on more strength building exercises, twice a week.  Maybe yoga?
  9. Do something fun for me everyday, something I truly enjoy. Play the piano, write, dance, call a friend, or maybe even buy an inexpensive bunch of flowers to make me feel good when I look a them.
A good focus and a firm list of what needs to be done is a great way to start the year!  We'll be building on this list throughout the year:  there is no need work on them or to fix them all at once. You climb a mountain on step at a time, and so it is with you.  One focus at a time.  Patience, perseverance and determination are all on our side and will get us there successfully.

What are you proud of in your 2010 pursuit of health?
What's on your list of things that need to be focused in on to better improve your health?

Fire Up!  You Can Do It!