Tagged as: healthy diet

Your Biggest Questions about Sugar, Answered.

Your Biggest Questions about Sugar, Answered

 

Question 1: What does sugar do to our bodies?

 

Sugars are carbohydrates, and they provide quick energy for our bodies (which is why many of us reach for a sugary treat during that mid-afternoon slump at work). However, unlike starches, fiber, and cellulose, which are complex carbohydrates, sugar is a simple carbohydrate. The more complex the molecule, the slower it digests. Since sugar is a simple carb, it digests quickly, while starches and fiber are complex carbs and digest more slowly. This is why eating fiber and healthy starches (think potatoes or brown rice) will help you feel full longer, yet you are often hungry again an hour after eating a bowl of cereal or a pastry.

 

Question 2: So what about the connection between sugar and our health?

 

While sugar itself may not be the primary culprit in weight gain, the problem comes from how much of it we consume. Sweet, sugary foods are usually processed and highly palatable (ie. delicious), and since they are digested so quickly, they overstimulate the reward/pleasure centers in our brain, leading us to overeat them (this is why it is so difficult to only eat one cookie out of the box). Therefore, we are likely to ingest more calories throughout the day through overconsumption of sugary foods. Sugar feeds sugar cravings, so if you start the day with a rush of sugar, you’re more likely to reach for a sugary snack at lunch, and a sugary dessert after dinner.

 

Studies have linked intake of refined sugar with insulin resistance, which can increase the risk of diabetes. A recent study found that for every 150 calorie increase in daily sugar intake (or 37 grams of sugar – roughly the amount in one 12oz can of soda, the risk of diabetes increased by about 1.1%. Eating too much sugar can also increase accumulation of fat in the liver, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

 

Question 3: How much sugar should we be eating in a day?

 

Each of us is different, and each person’s response to sugar will be a little different. Some of us may be able to tolerate higher amounts of sugar in our diet. However, the bottom line is that sugar doesn’t nourish our bodies, it adds little to no nutritional value to our diets, and provides us with no vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, water, or fiber. It doesn’t make our bodies stronger, healthier, or more functional, or improve us physically. Simply speaking, even though it tastes good, it is empty calories, and wouldn’t you rather get your calories from foods that will also provide health benefits for your body?

 

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sugar to 10% of your daily calories. Do the math – if you’re eating 1800 calories a day, that means 180 calories from sugar, or 45 grams of sugar (180/4, since there are 4 calories per gram of sugar).

 

Question 4: What are the best and worst sources of sugars?

 

Here’s a good way to visualize it in order of preference:

  1. The best sources of sugar are the naturally-occuring sugars that come from minimally processed whole foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy.)
  2. Natural sugars in more concentrated forms in foods such as honey, dried fruits, and fruit juices.
  3. Sugar in semi-processed forms such as maple syrup, coconut sugar, agave nectar.
  4. Sugar in processed foods (granulated sugar, high fructose corn syrup).

 

Read your food labels! Sugar is prominent in processed foods, and one of the easiest ways to minimize your sugar intake is to limit your consumption of processed foods. Salad dressings, frozen dinners, and most sauces are full of sugar. Beware of hidden sugars in processed “health foods” such as yogurt, granola, protein bars, and juices. When shopping, try to purchase as many foods as possible without food labels at all (such as whole fruits and veggies, raw nuts, beans, and legumes, and meats and seafood). Transitioning away from processed foods to a diet rich in whole foods without labels is a great way to reduce your sugar intake while increasing your nutrient intake.

 

Question 5: What are the different names for sugar?

 

There are a ton! Here’s a sampling to watch for on food labels (this isn’t even all of them!)

  • Glucose (simple sugar that is absorbed by our body – carbs are broken down into glucose for energy)
  • Fructose (found in fruit)
  • Sucrose, aka table sugar (which is glucose + fructose)
  • Galactose
  • Lactose (galactose + glucose, found in dairy)
  • Maltose
  • Saccharose
  • Dextrose
  • Dextrin
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltol

Here’s some other ingredients that are essentially just more names for sugar:

  • High fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener
  • Granulated sugar, confectioners sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Coconut sugar
  • Agave nectar
  • Caramel
  • Molasses
  • Fruit juice
  • Raw sugar, palm sugar, date sugar
  • Cane juice, cane sugar
  • Syrup
  • Barley malt, malt syrup

 

Challenge yourself to eat less sugar! Read the food labels around your kitchen, and look for the ingredients from the above list. What items in your house have hidden sugars? Next time you go grocery shopping, which items can you swap out for brands without added sugars?

If you would like Nutrition Coaching with one of our Precision Nutrition Certified Coaches register for a Complimentary Health and Wellness Consult below:

Top 10 Super-foods for Optimal Health and Weight Loss

Written by our Precision Nutrition Certified Coach Emily Mailloux

 

As a coach, I’m frequently being asked by clients which foods to eat to burn fat, lose weight, and have more energy, so I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 superfoods that I recommend to all my clients and are staples in my regular diet. These 10 superfoods are not only fantastic for managing weight and promoting fat loss, they also provide a wide range of other health benefits including eye and skin health, cancer prevention, strong bones and teeth, and a healthy and robust immune system. Check out my list below of the top 10 superfoods you should be regularly consuming as part of your healthy diet!

Salmon

Salmon is a rich source of protein, vitamin D and vitamin B, and omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are important because they help with cognitive function, keeping your mind sharp, improve memory, and may even help to combat depression. They also lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, and can prevent vision loss.

Tip: Always opt for wild caught salmon over farm-raised for higher nutrient density and better quality.

Blueberries (and other berries)

Blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, which help with brain function and motor coordination. They also reduce inflammation, which is a leading cause of heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Berries can also reduce high blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

Tip: The darker the color of the berry, the higher it is in antioxidants.

Cruciferous veggies/leafy greens

Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens are loaded with vitamins and minerals that can prevent heart disease and cancer. They are also an excellent source of fiber, which regulates your digestive system and helps you feel full longer, which is great for weight management. Cruciferous veggies, which include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and bok choy, have been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. They also stimulate the immune system, killing bacteria and viruses.

Tip: Don’t like eating your greens? Try tossing some spinach or kale leaves into a smoothie with fruit and Greek yogurt for a nutrient-packed refreshing drink.

Avocados

Avocados provide a whole bevy of health benefits. They are a great source of healthy fats, and can aid in blood and tissue regeneration, eye and skin health, and stabilize blood sugar, which can prevent diabetes. They provide a great source of fiber and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Tip: Avocados are great for breakfast! Try spreading mashed avocado on a piece of whole grain toast, or add sliced avocado to an omelette.

Nuts and seeds

This category of superfoods includes almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. Like salmon, walnuts provide heart-healthy omega-3’s, which protect your body from heart disease and improve brain function. Almonds have been shown to lower cholesterol, and their protein, fiber, and monounsaturated fats can aid with weight loss and management, since they provide the feeling of fullness and can prevent overeating. Chia seeds are the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, and are high in protein, minerals, and antioxidants. Chia seeds are also an excellent source of fiber, and can absorb liquid and swell to more than 5 times their size, so eating these seeds can help you feel fuller for longer. In addition to providing fiber, omega-3’s, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and zinc, flaxseeds are also a highly usable form of protein for the body, and have been used for centuries for medicinal and health reasons.

Tip: Try sprinkling a small handful of almonds or walnuts or a tablespoon of chia or flaxseeds to a salad or bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese for a crunchy treat to help you feel full and satisfied.

Eggs

Eggs provide the highest quality protein you can find from food sources. They contain all 9 of the essential amino acids, and are full of valuable nutrients. And don’t forget the yolks! Egg yolks have been found to prevent buildup of fat and cholesterol in the liver, and protect heart and brain function. The yolks also contain lutein, which protects the eyes and reduces the risk of macular degeneration, which can cause blindness. Eggs have also been found to aid in maintaining a healthy metabolism and memory function.

Tip: Eggs can be prepared in lots of different ways. Try incorporating other superfoods such as avocado, spinach, or broccoli into an omelette, or hard boil a few to pack for lunch on the go.

Greek yogurt/Kefir

Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein- an average 5oz. serving contains 12g. It is also full of probiotics, the good kind of bacteria that boost your immune system and improve digestion. Lower in lactose than other dairy sources, Greek yogurt is easier to digest and is ideal for those who are naturally sensitive to dairy, and may even reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance. Kefir, a fermented milk product (like a drinkable yogurt) contains highly beneficial microbacteria, yeasts, and probiotics, as well as essential vitamins and minerals that help your body heal and repair itself. Because kefir is a fermented product, the proteins in it are already partially digested and are therefore more readily absorbed by the body. Additionally, kefir can protect the body against gastrointestinal diseases, regulates the immune system, and provides a good source of calcium for strong bones and teeth.

Tip: For an economical approach, buy a large tub of plain Greek yogurt and dress it up yourself with berries, nuts, chia seeds, or other fruits, or add it to a smoothie with leafy greens and fruit.

Beans

Beans provide a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B, calcium, potassium, and folate, which help with skin health, cell growth, and brain function. Eating beans also raises levels of the hormone leptin, which curbs appetite and prevents overeating. Beans can also lower blood pressure and the risk of stroke, and are an excellent source of fiber.

Tip: Opt for fresh or dried beans (soak in water overnight before preparing), as canned varieties tend to be much higher in sodium.

Green tea

Green tea contains EGCG, a powerful antioxidant known for its cancer preventing properties. Studies have also shown that drinking green tea regularly may lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of heart disease and stroke. Green tea also contains low doses of caffeine, which can provide a natural source of energy throughout the day that is less irritating to the stomach than coffee. Bonus: drinking green tea throughout the day also contributes to your daily hydration needs.

Tip: Try replacing all sodas and sugary drinks with a cup of green tea, and drink a cup first thing in the morning to kickstart your metabolism and start the day feeling energized.

Dark chocolate

I’m sure you’re all as excited as I am to see chocolate on this list. When eaten in moderation, dark chocolate can reduce unhealthy cholesterol in your body and prevent plaque from building up in your arteries. It also contains many powerful antioxidants, which can prevent cell damage and diseases such as cancer. Dark chocolate has been found to boost mood, improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and lower blood pressure.

Tip: Since only real cacao contains these antioxidant benefits, opt for dairy-free dark chocolate that is at least 60% cacao, and limit yourself to a 1oz. serving, 2-3 times per week. The darker the chocolate, the lower the calories, fat, and sugar content too.

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