Do you have a sweet tooth? It may be time to get a grip on it for the sake of your health: Too much sugar a day can weaken your immune system, increase your risk of cancer, and upset your insulin levels. Doctors warn that too much sugar can cause blood sugar to skyrocket, leading to insulin resistance, weight gain, and a host of other conditions you want to avoid, especially if you are worried about getting COVID. Research has shown that symptoms of COVID are worse in people with high blood sugar, diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, all of which are linked to sugar intake.
But the question is not just how to eat less sugar, but how to choose your sugar wisely, as not all sugars in your body react the same way. The sugar in a banana (14 grams) is not the same as the sugar in a donut (11 grams) or chocolate chip cookie (9 grams). Knowing how much sugar to eat and how to choose natural sugars in plant-based foods over added sugars in plant-processed foods is the secret to a successful healthy, sustainable diet. Eliminating extra sugar from your diet and focusing on high-fiber carbohydrates can help crush your cravings and satisfy your sweet tooth without all of the unhealthy risk factors that too much sugar can bring.
Is Added Sugar Bad For You?
People put all sugary foods in the same jar. However, there is a difference between natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables and added sugar or simple cane sugar. “While all of the sugar is broken down and used in your body in essentially the same way, the natural sugar you find in whole foods is packed with other healthy nutrients while added sugar is not,” says Leigh-Anne Wooten, MS, RDN / LDN, a nutritionist in Charlotte, NC and a nutritionist at Vitamix.
A diabetes doctor explains that your bloodstream can only absorb the equivalent of one teaspoon of sugar at a time, and on top of that, your body releases insulin to signal the body to move it into cells or store as fat, according to Dr. Mark Cucuzella, professor of family medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine.
The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in whole foods help your body’s ability to function properly and maintain long-term health, says Wooten. In addition, the fiber helps to slow down the digestion and absorption of sugar, ensures a more even supply of energy to the body and prevents blood sugar spikes.
However, added sugar is added to food to improve the taste or to extend the shelf life. It’s usually found in processed foods that are minimal in nutritional value and high in harmful substances like saturated fat and salt. If your sweet tooth makes you crave these sugary foods, your health could suffer. “Research continues to show that chronic consumption of these foods can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers,” says Wooten. A new draft of a scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority links added sugars to obesity, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, high bad cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Too much sugar can also cause weight problems, says Kim Rose, RDN, the nutritionist for weight loss app Lose It! and certified diabetes care and education specialist. A teaspoon of sugar contains 15 calories, which might not sound like much, until you consider that soft drinks are the primary source of added sugar in the American diet, and a can of soda can contain 11 teaspoons.
How Much Sugar a Day is Too Much?
In 2020, new dietary guidelines will recommend Americans limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of total calories (on average, most currently eat more than 13 percent). If you eat 2,000 calories a day, that’s 200 calories, or 50 grams of sugar per day. The shocker? Americans consume an average of 77 grams of sugar per day, or about three to four times the recommended amount, according to the American Heart Association
The World Health Organization has recommended that your daily intake of “free sugar” be less than 10 percent of your total caloric intake, adding, “A further reduction to below 5 percent, or about 25 grams per day, would provide additional health benefits.”
“Ideally, less is better,” says Wooten. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than nine teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of sugar per day and women six teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day.
And while you might be tempted to turn to artificial sweeteners, avoid making them your choice. Although the FDA has classified them as safe, their effects on gut health are unclear, says Wooten. Worse? “Some studies show that artificial sweeteners can prepare you for those with a sweet tooth and lead to food cravings,” she says. “As an occasional treat, they’re fine, but when the cravings arise, opt for naturally sweet, plant-based whole foods instead.”
How to eat less added sugar every day
Fortunately, an occasional plant-based sweet treat won’t cause permanent health problems from time to time. “No food is ‘bad’, and you can treat yourself to something every now and then without feeling ashamed or guilty,” says Wooten.
However, if you are concerned that your sweet tooth is getting out of hand, there are a few signs to watch out for. For starters, extra pounds or an insatiable craving for candy could be a cause for concern, says Rose. Your sweet tooth can also be problematic if you have a lot of tooth decay, consume free candy anytime, anywhere, and have an emotional or mental bond with food. “Overcoming a sugar obsession isn’t just physiological,” says Rose. “Sometimes it’s psychological too.” If so, you may need the help of a doctor to address the underlying psychological attachments to sugar.
So how do you deal with sugar cravings?
Start with these strategies by cutting sugar out of your diet:
- Satisfy cravings with fruits: When that sweet tooth starts talking, grab a piece of fruit. Not only does the fruit have sweetness with its naturally added sugars, but it also contains fiber to help control blood sugar spikes that could fuel those cravings, says Rose.
- Track your food: Numerous apps, including Lose It !, tell you how much sugar is in a particular food. By keeping this in mind, you can identify pitfalls in your diet – like sugary drinks and foods that you never knew might contain – and choose healthier foods, says Rose. The bonus? Almost 80 percent of people said that tracking their food encouraged them to include more plant-based foods in their diet, according to a Lose It! Opinion poll.
- Know the other names of sugar: Since there are over 60 names for added sugar, you need to familiarize yourself with these. Check out this list from Sugar Science, but in general, any word that ends in “ose” or words that use “syrup” or “sugar” should be a warning sign.
- Read food labels on processed foods: It’s a breeze that cakes, cookies, and ice cream, even if they’re vegan, contain sugar. Still, you might be shocked to learn that foods like ketchup, pasta sauce, salad dressing, barbecue sauce, snacks, cereal, spaghetti sauce, breakfast bars, bread, and plant-based milk contain added sugar. “A lot of vegan foods, especially the more processed ones, are a real hit in terms of added sugar (along with saturated fat and salt),” says Wooten. Added sugar will now show up in the Nutritional Information section, so be sure to look it up. Products with less than five percent of the daily added sugar (DV) value are considered low, while 20 percent DV or more of added sugar is high.
- Eat more whole foods: Whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes have no added sugar, and while they contain naturally occurring sugars, this is the healthy variety. Make these the star of your diet and you will automatically eat less added sugar.
- Swap whole foods for sugar when baking: While reducing the added sugar when baking can be difficult, you can do that by experimenting with equal amounts of unsweetened applesauce or ripe bananas, Wooten says. Dates, often finely chopped or ground into a paste, are also a good substitute. A general rule of thumb: “Add half the weight of the dates compared to the amount of sugar in the recipe, then adjust,” she says. And do you know that agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, and coconut sugar, although often marketed as natural sweeteners, are considered added sugars.
- Feed it: This may sound like an odd strategy, but by satisfying that sweet tooth with a little sweetness and healthy fats, fiber, and protein, you’ll satisfy those cravings while also providing your body with healthy nutrients, says Wooten. Here are a few recipe suggestions: avocado chocolate mousse or a vegan chocolate date shake.
Bottom Line: Your health depends on reducing the added sugar in your diet.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, choose whole plant foods with fiber to help keep blood sugar low and under control. Snack on fruits and use whole foods like maple syrup for baking.
For more great content like this and ways to incorporate a healthy, plant-based diet into your life, check out The Beet’s health and nutrition articles.
MOV Parent: Time for the lunch bell | News, Sports, Jobs
The summer months are coming to an end and school is getting closer and closer. When you go back to school it can be difficult to start or continue a healthy lifestyle. It’s easy to choose unhealthy lunch and snack ideas. However, I want to share with you the importance of packing a healthy lunch and preparing a healthy snack when your kids go back to school.
1. Eating a healthy diet can improve your health today and for years to come. Think about how your food choices will be made up throughout the day or week to help you create a healthy eating routine.
2. It is important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, as well as dairy and fortified soy alternatives. Choose options for meals, drinks, and snacks with limited added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
Some of the negative effects that unhealthy school lunches have on children are mental and physical problems. Eating the wrong diet can lead to obesity or other weight problems. A child with poor diet is more likely to develop diabetes, kidney stones, and heart disease. Without proper nutrition, a child’s academic performance will decline. Sleep behavior is also affected when children do not eat enough nutritious foods. These children may also exhibit more aggressive behavior and lower attention spans.
When I was in school I packed my own lunch. Most of the time I just tossed everything I could find into a bag and called it lunch. I would wrap anything from cookies to leftover pizza. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I understood why I should choose healthier options. I decided to work on a healthier lifestyle and now cucumber and melon are my favorite food when I wrap lunch.
Becoming more aware of what to give your child for lunch, what your child is packing for lunch, and what groceries you bring around the house can help them feel better, be better, and be healthier.
As a parent, you can help your child choose healthier options by:
1. Regular family meals
2. Serving a wide variety of healthy foods and snacks
3. Be a role model by eating healthily yourself
4. Avoid fighting over food
5. Include children in the process
Figuring out the best lunch options for your child can be difficult. You could try some of these options:
* Turkey + cheddar roll-up, fresh berries, yogurt and trail mix
* Cheese quesadilla, guacamole, salsa, tortilla chips and strawberries
* Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, graham crackers, cheese spread and a peach cup
* Turkey slices, cheese cubes, pita wedges, hummus, baby carrots and celery
To make lunch more attractive to your child, try different foods. Some ideas include:
* Make potato salad or pasta salad multi-colored. Use fun noodles or add hard boiled eggs, beans, peas or small cubes of meat for extra protein.
* Cut raw vegetables like carrots, celery, green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and cucumbers. Send them with a small container of low-fat dip.
* Add a piece of fruit for dessert, washed and ready to eat, or a packet of fruit salad.
* Try reduced-fat cheese cubes or cheese spreads with whole grain crackers.
* Few children can resist yogurt, a good source of protein and calcium that is now available in many different flavors and shapes.
* Choose healthy snacks. Pack pretzels, popcorn, rice cakes, whole grain crackers, dried flakes, or trail mix.
After a long day at school, your children will be hungry. Having healthy snacks for your children after school is important. You can have a snack ready and waiting for them or allow them to choose from the healthy options you have around the house.
The American Heart Association has a list of healthy snack options divided into categories based on cravings. Some of these snacks are:
* Apples and pears
* Bell pepper slices
* Nuts and seeds
* Carrots and celery sticks
Make sure you find the right ones that suit your family’s needs.
While I was in grades 3-12, I got involved in post-school sports. It was important to have a healthy snack before training and games. The snacks I always chose were apples and peanut butter or bananas and peanut butter.
I also enjoyed applesauce. My parents bought the sugar-free version and I added cinnamon. These were simple and healthy snacks that I could grab on my own.
“There is nothing unhealthy about educating young people about nutrition.” – Pierre Dukan
Megan Zwick is a program assistant in Family and Consumer Sciences at Ohio State University Extension, Washington County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Stadler, M. (2018, August). Back to School Kids Lunch Ideas. (2018, August 14).
* Hopkins, A. (2019 August 15). 15 Healthy After School Snacks Your Kids Will Actually Eat
* What is MyPlate?
* Dukan, P. (n.d.). Healthy eating quote. 34 Best Quotes About Healthy Eating For You And Your Children.
* Schuna, C. (no year). The Effects of Children Eating Unhealthy School Lunches. LIVESTRONG.COM.
* Ben-Joseph, EP (Ed.). (2018, June). Healthy nutrition (for parents) – nemours kidshealth. Children’s health.
* School lunches. Harvard Health. (2015, July 16).
* Healthy snacking. www.herz.org. (nd).
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7 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
When your stomach is fine, you never think about it – but when you don’t, it’s hard to think about anything else. The group of microorganisms that live in and make up your gastrointestinal tract play a role in almost every aspect of your health, from preventing chronic disease to maintaining your immune system. So it’s no wonder that you feel lousy when things get out of hand.
But what exactly is your gut feeling? And is it possible to improve your gut health? Here is everything you need to know.
What is the intestine?
The human intestine is much more complex than even experts once realized – it comprises a multitude of internal organs that are involved in the digestive process to absorb nutrients from food and excrete waste, explains Rushabh Modi, MD, a certified physician in both internal medicine and Gastroenterology and Hepatology and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “Typically, this refers to the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon, with the pancreas and liver being crucial as supporting organs that help make digestive enzymes,” he says.
How your gut keeps your body healthy
In addition to absorbing and transporting nutrients to all tissues in the body, the intestine is critical to maintaining fluid and salt levels and eliminating waste, explains Dr. Modes. “Many vital nutrients and vitamins such as B12 and iron have special transporters that only exist in the intestine,” he adds. Iron, for example, needs stomach acid to be absorbed effectively – and B12 also needs certain receptors in the stomach and middle intestines to be absorbed. “These nutrients are difficult to obtain in any other way and they are essential for normal physiological function,” adds Dr. Modes added.
The gut is also one of the body’s most important disease control systems. “The acid in the stomach kills the bacteria and viruses that can inadvertently be ingested through food, and the digestive tract is an important way of introducing antigens to boost immune function and protection in the body,” says Christine Lee, MD . Gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “The digestive tract also digests the foods ingested and extracts the essential nutrients that the body can absorb for vital use.”
New research has even uncovered a link between poor gut health and several neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, autism, and depression. One such study from the Université de Genève found that people with Alzheimer’s have different types of bacteria in their gut than those who do not have the disease.
8 signs your gut is suffering
If your gut is unhealthy, you are likely to have one or more of the following symptoms, even if it’s mild or rare:
- Acid reflux
- Changes in stool
- Inexplicable weight loss
“Since food digestion and waste production are the two most important functions of the intestine, if there are problems in these areas, the intestine can often be the cause of the problem,” explains Dr. Modes. Acid reflux and heartburn have also been linked to the gut, although you may feel the pain further from the core of the problem. Flatulence is also becoming more common, so Dr. Modi notes that patients view them as almost a normal reaction to eating certain foods.
If you experience unexplained weight loss despite eating regular meals, it may indicate that your body is unable to digest or absorb the nutrients in the foods you eat and that there is a problem in your digestive system, according to Dr. Lee.
How to improve your gut health
The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to support your gut health. Here are some of the strategies doctors recommend.
Eat a wide variety of healthy foods
A diet made up of several different food types can result in a more diverse microbiome made up of more types, according to a report published in the journal Molecular Metabolism. This, explains Dr. Lee, strengthens our microbiome and increases its resilience.
The best foods for gut health are fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, especially those with the highest fiber content that help your digestive tract function properly. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day and men 38 grams per day.
And cut down on unhealthy foods. “The more fat, fat, and salt you eat, the worse your gut health gets,” said Scott David Lippe, MD, chief of gastroenterology at Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus, NJ and assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Medical School. This is especially important to keep in mind at dinner, as restaurants tend to consume salt, fat, and fat because they taste good.
Try to leave out dairy products
If you experience gas, gas, or loose bowel movements after drinking milk or eating cheese, you may be lactose intolerant. “This affects many adults, especially those who have no Northern European ancestry,” says Dr. Lip. “A quick and easy test is to drink a glass of regular milk – if you feel unwell, you are lactose intolerant.” If you are not ready to give up dairy products, you can also try taking lactose tablets before consuming dairy foods take.
Consider a probiotic
These tiny little microorganisms aid your metabolism and help rebalance your microbiota, says Douglas A. Drossman, MD, gastroenterologist and Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Psychiatry, UNC Division of Gastroenterology at the UNC School of Medicine. He recommends taking them when you have symptoms of an unhealthy bowel; however, there can be no other benefit. In fact, there isn’t a lot of research to prove the benefits of probiotics for the gut.
For example, a review published in Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology found that probiotics positively affect the gut microbiota of people with certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes, but do little to improve the gut microbiota of healthy people. “If you are taking antibiotics or have diarrhea, taking probiotics can be very helpful,” adds Dr. Lip. However, he recommends trying to get your fair share of probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi first.
Include more prebiotics in your diet
“Prebiotics are not bacteria, they are foods that good bacteria like to eat,” explains Dr. Milstein. “We have to feed the good bacteria and starve the bad bacteria.” He recommends eating foods rich in bacteria such as walnuts, berries, bananas, flax seeds, legumes, artichokes, onions, garlic, chicory, dandelion greens, asparagus, leeks and whole grain products. “The diet is personalized, but putting some fruits and vegetables and fiber on our plate with every meal helps keep gut and brain health,” adds Dr. Milstein added.
Monitor your vitamin D levels
Recent research in Nature Communications has examined the relationship between gut bacteria and vitamin D levels and found that deficiency in the nutrient plays a key role in increasing the risk of certain diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer, plays. Any form of disruption of the GI barrier, according to Dr. Drossman commonly referred to as “leaky gut,” which can increase a person’s risk of developing infectious, inflammatory, and functional GI diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. “Most people with leaky gut have very low levels of vitamin D and very low levels of the two most important omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA,” he says. He recommends that most people consume at least 5,000 IU (125 µg) of vitamin D3 daily and consume sufficient fish oil (or the vegan equivalent) of 1,000 mg DHA per day. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
Manage your stress level
Stress not only puts a strain on your mental health, but also on your physical well-being. Chronic high stress can, according to Dr. Drossman directly affect your gut health. While removing stressors from your life isn’t always possible, stress management strategies like diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, or yoga can help, says Dr. Drossman. “It’s also a smart idea to see a psychologist to see if brain and gut therapies (cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, mindfulness) can be used,” he adds.
Get a good night’s sleep every night
When you don’t get enough sleep, your whole body is affected, including your intestines. In fact, new research shows how closely your gut microbiome and the quality of your sleep really are. A study by Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida found that poor sleep, for reasons as yet unknown, can negatively affect your gut microbiome, which can then manifest itself in a variety of other health problems, including autoimmune diseases and mental illnesses. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
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YOUR HEALTH: When heart health is a matter of race
PITTSBURGH – Up to 1 in 500 American adults have cardiomyopathy.
Their hearts have enlarged, thickened, or stiffened, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body.
Now, new research examines racial differences in the outcomes of these heart patients.
“If we don’t give patients good medicines and the like over time, they will develop into what is known as clinical heart failure, where they develop symptoms of shortness of breath and leg swelling,” said Dr. Shazli Khan. Internal Medicine Physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
People with cardiomyopathy may not have any symptoms at all, or their symptoms may be very mild to begin with.
Dr. Khan examines racial differences in cardiomyopathy outcomes.
She and her colleagues looked at data from 18,000 patients over a period of six years.
“What we actually found was that black patients in our cohort had a much higher prevalence of many chronic diseases,” said Dr. Khan.
“So more chronic kidney disease, higher blood pressure, higher diabetes rates.”
If black patients are on optimized heart failure therapy and continue to have symptoms, they can get additional benefit from taking hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrate, known under the brand name BiDil.
Previous research suggested that black patients had a much higher prevalence of chronic illnesses, including chronic kidney disease, higher blood pressure, and higher rates of diabetes.
“In fact, they died more than the white cardiomyopathy patients,” said Dr. Khan.
Researchers found that black patients diagnosed with cardiomyopathy were 15% more likely to die than white patients.
Dr. Khan says the study results suggest that providers should emphasize earlier interventions.
“That they come in to fill their medication, make appointments, give them resources, and educate them about the long-term effects of certain medical conditions.”
Patients are advised to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins like chicken or fish.
Also, focus on maintaining a healthy weight by balancing caloric intake with physical activity to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Doctors will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your personal and family medical history.
You will also be asked when your symptoms are occurring, such as whether exercise is causing your symptoms.
If your doctor thinks you have cardiomyopathy, several tests may be done to help confirm the diagnosis, including an X-ray test to see if your heart is enlarged.
Several blood tests may be done, including those to check your kidney, thyroid, and liver function, and to measure your iron levels, and a treadmill test to see your heart rhythm, blood pressure, and breathing while you run on a treadmill.
Your doctor may recommend this test to evaluate symptoms, determine your physical fitness, and see if exercise is causing an abnormal heart rhythm.
If this story affects your life or has caused you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at email@example.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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