Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween The Scary Truth About Sugar

Is sugar the root of all evil? 80% of food in U.S. grocery stores contain added sugar. This “hidden sugar” found in processed foods adds up quickly and increases the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly food raises blood sugar.

Higher glycemic foods increase body fat and central obesity more than lower glycemic foods. A recent study from the University of California San Francisco found increased sugar in a food supply was linked to higher rates of type 2 diabetes, independent of obesity.

Researches in Japan found sugar to be the greatest predictor of weight gain in men. Every 5g of sugar a man consumed daily resulted in 1/2 lb weight gain that year.

The World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugar to 25g (2 tbs) for women and 37g (3 tbs) for men daily. That is equivalent to 13 candy corn or 3 fun sized snickers bars or less than 1 can of soda.

Sugar intake can add up quickly when you consider other sources that might be less obvious, such as 1 tbs of ketchup has 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 cup tomato sauce has 2 tsp sugar, and 1 single serve vanilla Greek yogurt has over 3 tsp sugar.

A healthy lifestyle allows some treats from time to time, after all total deprivation can lead to binge eating later on. Learning to eat treats in moderation is an important skill to acquire, so this Halloween enjoy treats in moderation, staying at 2-3 tbs of sugar per day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Truth of the Alkaline Ash Diet

Alternative medicine has promoted the Alkaline Ash Diet making claims it can help you lose weight, treat cancer, avoid heart disease, and ease arthritis. Many question the true science behind the Alkaline Ash Diet and its safety.

Founded in the belief that certain foods can affect the acidity of blood and urine, the Alkaline Ash Diet focuses on eating foods to promote an alkaline pH in the body to avoid health problems associated with an acidic Western diet. (Alkaline is another word for basic.)

A substance is acidic or alkaline based on its pH: 0-6.9 is acidic, 7 is neutral, and 7.1-14 is alkaline. Our blood is a little alkaline at 7.4 and our stomach acid is very acidic at 3.5.

When we break down food in our body, an ash byproduct is left behind which can be acidic or alkaline. The composition of the ash determines whether it is allowed in the Alkaline Ash Diet. The original pH might be very different from the by-product ash, for example lemons are very acidic, but once digested they produce an alkaline ash and are allowed in the Alkaline Diet. Examples of acceptable alkaline ash foods include most fruit, vegetables, soy, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Acid forming foods such as alcohol, caffeine, dairy, meat, eggs, grains, and processed foods are not allowed.

Looking at evidence-based research, eating different foods can change the pH of urine but does not change blood pH. Blood pH is tightly regulated by the lungs and kidneys, a change in blood pH is associated with critical illness.

There is no scientific evidence the Alkaline Ash Diet prevents or treats cancer. However, eating a good amount of fruit, vegetables, and minimally processed foods can reduce risk. A plant-based diet is also beneficial for cardiovascular health. Cutting out certain food groups might aid in weight loss but ensuring essential micronutrient intake is important. Eggs, dairy, and whole grains provide a great source of protein, B vitamins, and fiber which are essential for fighting disease.

The Alkaline Ash Diet lacks scientific evidence supporting its claims, but eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and minimally processed foods are healthy benefits to embrace.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pumpkin Season Has Arrived

When prepared in a healthy way, pumpkin is a great source of many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. With 50 calories and 3g of fiber per cup, pumpkin keeps you full in a weight conscious way. It is also a great source of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana. 

The bright orange color comes from carotenoid pigments which have been shown to decrease risk of chronic disease, cancer, and eye disease.

Beta-carotene, one type of carotenoid, is used by the body to make vitamin A. This is needed for immune function, healthy vision, and keeping skin looking youthful. Zeaxanthin is another carotenoid found in pumpkin which can prevent macular degeneration.

Pumpkin seeds are just as nutritious and offer a great source of magnesium, which is essential for energy production and DNA synthesis. They are  also packed with zinc which is vital for taste and sense of smell, building healthy red blood cells, and supporting healthy bones.

The seeds also contain vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant which reduces inflammation. They also contain phytosterols which can help lower cholesterol. 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds has around 150 calories, you can easily toss the seeds in olive oil and roast them at 400°F for 20 minutes. They add a nice crunch to salads, oatmeal, or mixed into healthy muffins.

Baking pumpkin instead of boiling helps retain more nutrients. If this is too much work canned pumpkin puree that is unsweetened is an easy option as well. Eat roasted pumpkin as a tasty side dish or add pumpkin puree to soup, smoothies, oatmeal, or hummus.