Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fight Sugar, Know the Facts

Everyone is fighting sugar this summer, and it's about time!
More campaigns are targeting both parents and children to decrease their intake of sugar, especially those added sugars from sweetened beverages, cokes, candies, chocolate, ice tea, cookies, biscuits, jelly beans, cereals, pastries, doughnuts, croissants, cakes, flavored yogurts, milk shakes, ice creams, cereals, coffee drinks, canned foods, and we both know the list goes on!  Sugar is even found in condiments such as ketchup and salad dressings!

Two of the beautiful, smart campaigns again excess sugar intake are:

Cereal FACTS - Debunking all types of sweetened and unhealthy cereal and cereal products, especially those advertised for children. You can find top and bottom 10 lists of cereals by brands. Their information target both consumers and researchers with reports stating what is most advertised to children and which brands contain the most sugar content so let's hope they're not being lobbied by any side! You can heck their website here.

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Soda Free Summer  - Urges people to 'Rethink their drink' by fighting added sugars whether in carbonated beverages or other sweetened juices and drinks! Most people don't realize that they tend to gulp their calories in. In fact, half on the American population over the age of 2 consume sugary drinks everyday! Soda Free Summer explains how much calories and sugar various contain nowadays, how much exercise you need to burn them off, the unhealthy toxic effects of excess sugar intake as well as beneficial school tools. You can check their website, their twitter and their facebook page.

So why do we really care about added sugars?
  • Sugar increases tooth decay
  • Promotes weight gain
  • Acidifies your blood, such that your body will need to extract some minerals from your bones to buffer that acidity!
  • Increases triglycerides and therefore, increasing the risk of heart diseases and inflammation [Source]
  • Decreases your immune system by acting as a substrate for bacteria in your body
  • Increases the risk of skin aging, a much less famous crime
  • Increases the risk of cognitive impairment 
  • Some sugars like HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) have been linked to increased risk of abdominal fat, increased insulin resistance and diabetes type 2, increased metabolic syndrome, fatty liver and increased LDL cholesterol.
  • More research is finding association with increased risk of cancer and more cancer! well. For instance, pancreatic cancer's risk increase by 2 times with increased sugar intake!
  • People who consume large amounts of added sugars tend to eat less nutritious food, resulting in poor nutrition as well as vitamin/mineral deficiencies.
  • Last but not least, very recent research links high sugar (mainly high fructose corn syrup - HFCS) intake to stupidity! High HFCS intake may highly affect the mind's long term ability to learn and remember! 

But why do they even add sugar to food?
Sugar tend to preserve foods, increase fermentation, give pastries and baked goods texture, add a unique flavor to foods [especially that we tend to prefer sweet tastes innately], and yea, because it's addictive so you'll definitely come back for more!

So the whole point out of this article is for you to Cut Down on your Sugar Intake.

1- Know the different names of sugar!Sugar can be simply called sugar/brown sugar, or its gazillion alternative tricky names from dextran, fructose, glucose, lactose, galactose, molasses, invert sugar, sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, beet sugar, barley malt, maltose, maltodextrin, honey, agave nectar, cane, cane juice crystals, caramel, maple syrup, sorghum syrup, turbinado, treacle, muscovado, panocha - some of which I can't even recognize!
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2- Check what ONE serving is! What manufacturers tend to do is mention how much calories, nutrients, sugars, vitamins, etc. there are per serving. But what consumers tend to think is that a whole package is one serving - and it's almost always NOT.
So let's take a look at the photo on the right. First, check what one serving is, in green. 1 serving is referred to as 'Serving Size'. This serving has 26 g grams of sugar, as shown in pink. Now the actual package has 2.5 servings, not just one, so do the math!

3- Know the linguistics
  • Sugar-free: there must be less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving.
  • No added sugars/ Without added sugar is used if no sugar was added during processing
  • Reduced/less sugar is used when there is at least 25% less than a similar reference food so it doesn't mean it is low in sugar!
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4- Know the ingredients' order
So when you check your label, which I'm hoping you will from now on, know that ingredients are listed in descending order of weight. On the right, you can find a coke's label where you can see that the 2nd ingredient is HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)!

Sugar can definitely harm you, just like tobacco and alcohol so it must be regulated! Why isn't it regulated, you ask? Well, because the industry is making huge profits from their 'suga-baby' and taxing it would lead to less profit! In fact, in a report by the USDA (pdf file), taxing sweetened beverages could end up in decreasing total caloric intake and an estimate of 2 kilograms of adult and child weight per year, aiding in decreasing the worldwide epidemic obesity.

And no, don't go saying that sugar will give you the energy you need! Excess sugar intake will definitely increase your blood sugar steeply, only to cause a quick drastic decrease causing hypoglycemia - characterized by fatigue, nervousness, sweating, hunger and trembling! So pledge to start decreasing your intake gradually - you will benefit greatly!

Monday, June 25, 2012

More Exercise Benefits!

Exercise has been long known to help in weight loss by increasing your metabolic syndrome, aiding your cells to burn more! Exercise also decreases fat mass while increasing muscle mass, all which help you to burn even at rest. There are countless ways exercise can benefit your psyche, heart and body!

> It can maintain stronger bones
> Boost your mood, self esteem as well as overall satisfaction with life
> Help you sleep better
> Enhance your memory
> Improve clear thinking
> Reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress
> Control blood pressure
> Slow progress of Alzheimer's
> Aid in boosting the good kinda cholesterol
> Promote glucose uptake into cells thus aiding diabetes
> In the treatment and prevention of depression
> To aid in anxiety disorder
> Boost your immune system against future cancers
> Affects fat storage on the genetic level
> Oddly enough, it helps in preventing losing your sense of smell
> Decrease constipation by promoting intestinal peristalsis

> All while promoting better breathing techniques and pumping blood to all your tissues!
> Oh and affecting your genetic composition  

More exercise benefits were recently discovered this year! Exercise may increase the secretion of a new 'exercise hormone', Irisin!

Irisin can help in transforming white fat cells into brown ones. So what? The point is that brown fat cells are typically found in small amounts in adults while they're common in babies and children. The role of brown fat tissues is to promote energy burning while fat cells promote fat storage! So when you exercise, your body secretes Irisin hormone, transforms white fat into metabolically active brown fat, consequently, increasing fat burning for longer!

On another note, just a little bit of exercise may push your liver to produce hormones that boost HDL (the good kind of cholesterol) production, hence, benefiting your cardiovascular system!

So have an active lifestyle, ditch the laziness, TVs, computers & video games and commit to an exercise you love at least 3 times a week for a whole hour!

Photo source: Exercise

Monday, June 11, 2012

Excess Fruit Intake - Is it Okay?

Summer time in Lebanon is known for all the fruits in the world, coming to season all together in the same time! I have literally seen all these fruits offered wherever I went just this past week! From loquats, blackberries, green plums, apricots, cherries, strawberries, cantaloupes, watermelons, peaches, plums and [I'm sure] soon to pomegranates and grapes, I have seen them all!

But is there such a thing as too much fruit intake?
Fruits are considered healthy snacks, and yes, they definitely are. They are high in fibers, high in water and nutrient rich - compared to any other kind of snack you might take [not veggies, though]. Nevertheless, excess intake of fruit is not recommended
For adults, an average of 2 servings per day of fruits [fruit recommendations & what 1 serving of fruit actually is] is only what you need!

But why?
Fruits contain fructose and truth is, our bodies cannot tolerate excess amounts of fructose - 25 grams is our limit. When we eat sugar, our bodies' response is to secrete the hormone insulin, which enables the absorption of this sugar into your cells. Consequently, this sends the brain that you've had enough, and now it's now to stop eating > thus reducing your appetite!
This cue that you are full is bypassed with foods rich in fructose. Fructose does not trigger this insulin response so your brain doesn't get the message to stop!

Of course, foods with high corn fructose syrup (HCFS) [fizzy drinks, sodas, candies, cereals, syrups, desserts] are way worse than fructose from fresh fruits. But this does not mean that if fruits are considered healthy, then they're free food!

If you are eating fruits (unconsciously in excess/more than what you burn), this might increase your appetite such that you will ask for more food! Focus on balancing your entire diet and watch out because fruits are everywhere and we tend to overeat them!, So even fruits that are considered healthy should be taken in moderation, best in their fresh form!