It’s the time to reflect on the choices we made last year to hopefully become better people this year. I can’t say that I am a dietary saint, but I had a diet that emphasized eating all foods in moderation and a lifestyle with good physical activity. I love food so much, it is just human nature to find it difficult to resist the scrumptious desserts and beverages that rack up all those unwanted empty calories in our diet.
By empty calories, I really mean those food and beverages that are processed with solid fats and added sugars. These foods include cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries, doughnuts, sodas, juices, energy and sport drinks, candy and also ice cream.
‘Preventative medicine is always the best type of medicine.’ – Anon. SO TRUE!!!
My family has a history of Diabetes and Heart Disease and avoiding such empty calories in my food may contribute to my well being just as much as it will to yours even if you do not have a similar background.
You may think giving up foods with added sugars is an easy thing to do, but you are forgetting that many food items contain some sort of sugar in them. Some foods have ‘disguised sugar’ in their nutrition labels with some terms that you may not suspect to be a sugar but actually is.
The list can go on for a while, but some of the common ones are:
“corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar,
lactose, maltose, malt syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar syrup, cane crystals, cane sugar, crystalline fructose, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup solids, and malt syrup. “
“A sugar is a sugar”, that’s what the Corn Refiner’s Association said in their high fructose corn syrup advertisement. A recent 2014 study published in the scientific journal: Current Opinion in Lipidology reveals that in some circumstances, fructose may increase cholesterol, tryglyceride levels and uric acid in the body after eating, but “it does not appear to be any worse than glucose in its effects on other aspects of the lipid profile, insulin, or markers of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”
My concern is NOT which one is worse than the other, but it is the fact that we cannot escape added sugars in our daily diet. It is everywhere and not only in sweets but anywhere from sauces to soups, marinades to sausages, dried fruits and dressings!
As mentioned in the American Heart Association, the rule for women is to not exceed 6 teaspoons (100 calories) of sugar and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men in one day. There are 4grams of sugar in 1 teaspoon. Also the labels for added sugar is not quite clear in our food system, which make it difficult to judge what is ok and what is too much. The sugar labelling on food items are as follows:
- Sugar-Free – less than 0.5 g of sugar per serving
- Reduced Sugar or Less Sugar – at least 25 percent less sugars per serving compared to a standard serving size of the traditional variety
- No Added Sugars or Without Added Sugars – no sugars or sugar-containing ingredient such as juice or dry fruit is added during processing
- Low Sugar – not defined or allowed as a claim on food labels
We crave sugar because most of the foods we eat have added sugars and our tastebuds have been conditioned to taste more and more sugar throughout the years. The idea is to condition yourself to like less sweet foods and eventually we will lose the craving. This means, no sugar/honey in your coffee or tea, no sweetened smoothies, no fruit juices, no soda or sport drinks, even if it is a ‘diet’ drink or made with ‘artificial sweeteners’ like aspartame and sorbitol, — which are not the best for you either. For alcohol, it is best to stay away from sweet cocktails and opt for club soda instead of coke/sprite/tonic water and ask for more lemon/lime juice or even a slice of cucumber to freshen up the taste. This also includes coconut water!
2. NO dessert after a meal and if it’s in front of you and your friend insists on sharing, have ONLY 1 slow bite-sized piece and make sure you try to taste every ingredient inside and savor every moment of it!
This means no peeking at the dessert menu!
3. Chew your food thoroughly before swallowing it and avoid scarfing everything down at once. The previous rule led perfectly to this one where you should always taste your food by eating slower. You will become full quicker since there is now time for the signals of the stomach to let your brain process that you are eating and it is filling up. “Mindful Eating” from the Harvard Medical School preaches the practice of eating slowly to help you notice satisfaction before you have eaten too much.
Think of every dish as a treat and take as long as you need to taste what kind of ingredients went into making it or how it was produced. Review every ingredient like flour, sugar or salt to the kind of fruit and whether it was fresh or dried fruit and possibly if any cream or egg was it in with spices and herbs. For fruits or vegetables, think of how it was produced in the orchard or farm. We hardly take our time to investigate what goes into making a dish or a food before swallowing it after a couple of chews. I urge you to become more familiar with the ingredients and trust me, a whole new world of flavors will emerge when you eat slower.
4. In the market, read each food label of the items you are purchasing, if there’s anything in the ingredients that have a similar name to those ‘hidden sugars’ from the list above, I’d put it down. Also, if the food contains more than 15grams of carbohydrates per a serving, I’d also reconsider.
Careful with those granola bars, condiments and vitamin waters!
5. Stay away from fancy sweet dressings and sweet sauces, they usually have more sugar in them than if you only used vinegar/lemon juice and olive oil with some salt and pepper.
I know you love your sweet and sour pork at your favorite Chinese restaurant or a nice fruity vinaigrette on your salad, but it is all full of sugar. Try blending in a fresh fruit or a roasted root vegetables like beets/carrots, roasted pumpkin or caramelized onions to your sauces and dressings to increase fiber and enhance flavors.
What is a sugar? A sugar is a simple carbohydrate and they are present in breads, potatoes, crackers and even in vegetables and fruits that provide the first source of energy for your body in everyday functions. It can raise your blood glucose levels and normalized with the help of insulin. In the past decade or so, carbohydrates have gotten such a bad reputation for the cause of obesity, low energy levels and diabetes. I believe it is a problem with the nutrition education among the general public as to who and what to listen to when it comes to nutritional advice.
We as humans are programmed to thrive on carbohydrates and it is one of the most important food groups next to protein and fats. All of those nutrients are essential to our bodies, especially with normal brain function, we need carbohydrates! It is a balanced diet that I am concerned about and the amount of carbohydrates we eat daily should stay within a range to help keep blood glucose levels within control. If the amount of carbohydrates vary too greatly on a daily basis, our insulin levels do so as well, therefore making our body work extra hard to normalize our blood glucose causing many effects such as insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measurement associated with the time it takes for the carbohydrates in the food to turn into glucose via your blood stream where glucose is 100 and other foods come before. The lower the GI the slower it breaks down during digestion, therefore helping glucose regulation.
In the end of the day, the most important message here is to stay away from unnecessary sweets and focus on a diet where you can eat most food groups in moderation and incorporate ample amounts of physical activity into your lifestyle to balance your overall wellbeing. I hereby wish you a happy, healthy and harmonious 2015!!!