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Sugar in the hot seat

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

When is sweet taste sour? When it’s in foods where it doesn’t belong. And, when it leads to an unhealthy heart. How? By depositing sugar as fat into an area of our body called the viscera – around our stomach and intestines.

In the 1980s, we went fat-free. Yet obesity continued to rise. As did heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer.

Scientists are puzzled. Wuz up?

Turns out, sugar.

A 2009 study proved that two groups fed beverages sweetened with either fructose or glucose gained the same amount of weight (about 3 pounds), but the new fat ended up in different places. The fructose group gained visceral fat, which is linked to much higher risk of heart disease and diabetes than the fat that sits just beneath your skin.

Since then, more studies have consistently shown the same effect. And the amount of sugar used in the studies typically is equivalent to a fructose-sweetened 12-ounce can of soda, as in High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

Those of us drinking the most fructose have the most visceral fat, higher blood pressure and higher blood sugar levels, in addition to elevated triglycerides (fat in your blood), LDL (bad cholesterol) and low HDL (good cholesterol). Not only that, liver and muscle fat doubled in one study where folks downed a liter a day. This is indeed precarious in our body’s system because a fatty liver leads to insulin resistance (inability of your muscle cells to drink up much need blood sugar for energy) and is the first stepping-stone to diabetes or heart disease.

The danger of HFCS is that when levels in the body are high, the liver goes into overt action, quickly converting it to fat and plunking it right down in our gut. This isn’t the kind of fat our body likes to burn for energy, though, so it lingers and creates more danger. This whole process is like an algebraic equation:

 HFCS + Your Body = Visceral Fat & Fatty Live = Inflammation = Cardiovascular Disease

The average American downs 22 to 28 teaspoons of added sugars per day (some consume more). (more…)

Sugar in your bread?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Bread is a rarity in our house these days. Not that we don’t like it, just the opposite, we love it. Especially the just-baked loaves that you slice yourself, double points if it’s still warm in the wrapper. It’s just that we’ve increased veggies, fruit and whole grains like kamut, wheat berries and farro so much, we don’t have as much room for it.

Cravings for a slowly cooked protein-rich Gardein veggie burger arose. I had to buy bread, right? At the grocery store, time was spent looking at about 10 packages of whole wheat hamburger buns. Guess what? None of them were 100% or stone ground whole wheat (the only definitive terms to connote same) and most were enriched flour. One label largely shouted “100% whole wheat.” The ingredient sections clearly whispered ‘enriched.’  That’s simply not right! It’s called a lie. Deception. And consumers are falling for it.

Another appalling ingredient on every bun’s ingredient list that floored me was HFCS – high fructose corn syrup. Only one bun, Oroweat, used sugar but still.

Why? Why put sugar or HFCS in a bun? There’s enough carbohydrate and flavor in whole wheat. I fall back to Mr. Rogers – “Can you say ubiquitous? I knew you could.” It’s cheap, sweet, we clamor for intense taste and low fat and the manufacturers give it to us via hidden sugar. Hidden sugar is wreaking havoc on our heart health.

To follow – a blog on just HOW sugar is killing our heart.


Cereal killer

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

A question my nutrition clients ask all the time is, “How do I pick a healthy cereal?”  Glad you asked – again.

Amidst all the choices, flavor generally rules in our books.  That’s got to be why Cocoa Puffs has been around over 50 years!  And Sugar Smacks, Cap’n Crunch, Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms – oops, I’m dating myself.

How to choose a healthy cereal is based on the rule of 3:  sugar, fiber and sodium.  A general rule is to make selections of cereals with 10 g sugar or less, 5 g or more of fiber and less than 300 mg sodium – per serving.

So I got to checking and Cocoa Puffs ain’t so bad after all. It rocks in the sugar and sodium departments (10 g sugar, 150 mg sodium).  It bites in fiber with only 2 grams.  Here’s a trick I use – sprinkle 1/4 cup of Uncle Sam’s cereal (3/4 cup yields 10 g fiber, less than 1 g sugar and 135 mg sodium) in with the Cocoa Puffs and you brought the entire bowl up to 5 g fiber at the expense of just 63 calories!  Voila!

There you have it. The secret is out. Be never more afraid of the cereal killer – you’re got the goods.