Monday, March 24, 2014

Avoid the Sugar Daddy's; They Will Literally Break Your Heart: "Added Sugars" Explained

You may have heard that food labels are changing for the first time in 20 years. We are currently in the midst of their 90-day comment period where the FDA is open to receiving feedback about the proposed changes. Along with changing the size of traditional “serving size” to a more realistic measure, the FDA is proposing adding the line “added sugars” underneath where “sugars” already exists. Added sugars are be any sugars that do not occur naturally in the product such as added cane syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, etc. 

Refined sugars, whether it comes from a piece of candy or sugar in your coffee are what experts are finding to be the cause of most major diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and more. Quick spikes in blood sugar damage cells, cause inflammation, and lead to damage. Added sugars are always the type that break down quickly in the body and are no good for you. The same is true for refined grains (i.e: any food product that begins with "enriched wheat flour"). Avoid them whenever possible.

I am in favor of adding a line for “added sugars” to the food label. Many of my clients who track on food tracker apps such as My Fitness Pal are often frustrated that their intake of sugar is high, and start cutting out fruit and other healthy foods to keep their sugars low. I then have to explain that I am never worried about total sugar intake, but rather where this sugar is coming from. Fruits, vegetables, and dairy all have sugar in them. Whole grains eventually break down to glucose in the body, but at a much slower rate than a soft pretzel or piece of candy. So, I have my clients look at the food label to determine if there are any “added sugars” to their food products. Added sugars are often found in places you would expect, such as ice cream, but even in whole grain breads and sauces you might not expect, such as vinaigrette-based salad dressings.

My only fear with this new labeling is that people will now begin to only look at the “added sugars” line, instead of looking at the total sugars and evaluating the nutritional quality of their food. For instance, 100% Fruit Juice will have 0 g added sugar. So, people may begin to think this is a healthy choice. While fruit juice is healthier than soda, it is always preferable to eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice. The same goes for dried fruit; choose grapes over raisins is the best bet to get the most satiety, antioxidants, and nutrients out of the fruit. So, just because something has 0 g “added sugar”, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. For example, a tablespoon of butter will have 0 g added sugar, does that make it healthy?
When it comes to added sugars, yes, you can have some, since food should be enjoyable,. You can add a dash of honey to your oat bran if it makes it that more desirable for you. You can eat one small square of dark chocolate after lunch if that’s what you crave. I just want people to be aware of how much sugar they are actually consuming, and the new food label proposal will heighten that awareness. The next step will be to add a line for artificial sugars, since I foresee the use of those by manufacturers increasing as a result of trying to keep their “added sugar” amount low.

In conclusion, I agree with the proposal for a line on the food label to include “added sugars.” However, I believe people need to just use common sense and look at the ingredient list to determine if a food or beverage is a healthy choice. Perhaps future food labels should give a nutritional rating to the food product, such as NuVal or the ANDI rating systems do so that the average American can discern which is the better choice between two food products. Until then, more nutrition information is always better, and the more educated people are, the healthier they will tend to be.

Friday, March 14, 2014

How to Get Things "Moving"

This blog post is not in regards to exercise... it is about constipation. This is one topic many people feel uncomfortable talking about, but it is incredibly important to discuss in terms of health, weight, and how good you feel physically.  As a dietitian, I discuss bowel movements (BMs) almost on a daily basis, so it is something that you should feel comfortable discussing with me.

I work with plenty of people who suffer from constipation. Usually, there is a good reason for it, and it can easily be resolved. There are a select few people who have serious gastrointestinal problems and no doctor can figure out why they suffer from it.

Constipation is typically defined as having less than three BMs per week. Ideally, if you are eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you should most likely be going once per day, or at minimum, once every two days. It is okay to go twice per day, but any more than that could be a sign of a GI problem or a diet too high in fiber, which can cause malabsorption.

Having regular BMs keeps things moving through you to help prevent things like diverticulitis, but also limits the feeling of bloating that many with constipation suffer from.

Things that are important to include to keep you regular are as follows:

1. Eating enough! If you aren't eating a lot of food...there won't be a lot to pass through you.

2. A high fiber diet (at least 30 g/day). Fiber should be naturally occurring in foods, not fiber supplements. Always choose food before you choose a supplement. High fiber foods include whole grains (whole wheat flour, quinoa, oats, barley, wild rice, etc.), fruits, vegetables, and beans and nuts/seeds.

3. Drinking enough! If you don't drink enough water, a high-fiber diet can cause food to get stuck inside you. You need plenty of fluids, at least 64 fl oz of water every day.

4. Regular exercise- this gets the blood flowing which is important for peristalsis, or the contraction & relaxation of the intestines.

5. Probiotics. Probiotics are the bacteria in your intestines that help break down fiber and non-digestible food components. These come from cultured dairy (yogurt, kefir, buttermilk), fermented foods (kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut), and the dirt and germs from licking your hand or eating non-sanitized foods ;-)

If you are doing all of the five points mentioned above on a regular basis, you should be feeling good and pretty regular. However, if none of these works you can always try the "Kelly Cure to Constipation":

STEP #1: Eat at least 1 fresh-roasted beet
STEP #2: Drink 1-2 cups black coffee
STEP #3: Go for at least a 20 minute run

Make sure you complete steps 1-3 within an hour time period and you should experience the go afterwards (or maybe get the urge to go midway into your run...). I also always recommend consuming oat bran for breakfast for it's limitless health benefits, and the feedback in terms of BM's is quite positive for regular oat bran consumers. I can tell you that most runners do not have a problem with constipation, so if you suffer, you should probably pick this up as a new hobby.

NOTE: If you do the Kelly cure, please be advised that your bowel movement may be pink or reddish in color. Do not fret, this is normal. Beets can turn urine and even bowel movements a reddish hue.

Hopefully this helps to "clear" things up and get you moving! Good luck!