Are you addicted to sugar?

Glass of CokeDo you find yourself trying to avoid sugary foods for most of the day but then end up bingeing on a king size candy bar or a 32 oz soda? Maybe you go a couple of days without eating sugar, but then you “treat” yourself to a big dessert or some donuts?  Perhaps you’ve managed to cut back on sugar for a while, but you’ve noticed that you’re drinking more beer or wine instead.

If any of these scenarios ring a bell, you might have symptoms of what could be legitimately termed a sugar “addiction” or “dependency.”

Also, if you went without sugar for a while and started to feel depressed, anxious, moody or sleepy, and were able to relieve these symptoms by eating sugary foods, this could indicate a serotonin disruption caused by bouts of excess sugar intake.

While the use of the term “addiction” in regards to food is somewhat controversial, recent studies with rats found that the bingeing behavior associated with drugs looks neurologically similar to that seen with bingeing on sugar.  Like recreational drugs, excess sugar intake can cause an increase in the release of dopamine, triggering the brain’s pleasure center.  The repeated flooding of dopamine results in a desensitization of dopamine receptors, creating a need for more sugar or some other dopamine activating stimulant.

Based on the correlation between increased refined sugar consumption and higher rates of obesity (and in light of studies on sugar addiction using rats), many researchers are starting to believe that obesity may be connected to food/sugar addiction.  Fructose in particular might be an especially significant cause of weight gain and “sugar dependence” as it’s extremely sweet and doesn’t provide the feeling of satiety that glucose and sucrose do.

If you think you might have an addiction to sugar (recognizing it is the first step!), the best thing to do is to start reducing your sugar consumption.  When you get a craving, eat a highly nutritious meal rich in protein, healthy fats, and some glucose instead.  Eating good food, getting sunshine, and exercising can all help balance the body’ dopamine and serotonin levels and promote an overall sense of wellness.

References: Sugar and Fat Have Noticeable Differences in Addictive-like Behavior, Evidence For Sugar Addiction

Originally posted 2013-05-24 23:21:47.

These bacteria can cause stomach acid imbalance. Are you feeding them?

fructose, hydrogen, h. pyloriIrritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms, peptic ulcers, excess gas, bloating — there can be a number of reasons for these indigestion problems, but there’s one culprit that’s often connected to all of them: a bacteria named Helicobacter pylori.  More than 20% of adult Americans are thought to have an H. pylori infection. These spiral-shaped bacteria embed themselves in the mucous lining of the stomach and can wreak all kinds of havoc on the digestive system.  H. pylori damage the stomach’s protective lining and interfere with stomach acid production.  These two disruptions can cause peptic ulcers (H. pylori are now known to be the primary cause of ulcers), gas, bloating, heart burn, make digestion more difficult, and may eventually lead to gastric cancer.

H. pylori is contagious, and many people may be infected without even knowing it.  If you have any ongoing symptoms of the above mentioned digestions problems, you should probably consult with a doctor (although they’ll likely give you antibiotics that kill the good bacteria along with the bad), but there are also actions you can take that are good for your overall health and may prevent H. pylori from being able to colonize your stomach!

One of H. pylori’s primary foods is hydrogen gas.  Intestinal gases like hydrogen are produced by bacteria in the large intestine.  These bacteria feed on food that’s still not completely digested when it reaches the large intestine.  Since an ample amount of stomach acid is essential for complete digestion, and H. pylori disrupt stomach acid production, an H. pylori infection can result in a vicious cycle of indigested food, leading to more hydrogen production, leading to more H. pylori (since the have more hydrogen for food). The excess use of antacids can also interfere with the stomach acid balance and exacerbate digestive problems.

There are several naturals ways, however, to improve digestion in order stop feeding the bacteria that produce the hydrogen that feeds H. pylori.  One of the least known is reduced fructose consumption! Thanks to sodas, juices, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and white sugar, fructose consumption has skyrocket; yet, studies have found that humans can digest only about 25 grams of fructose in one sitting (one cup of apple juice contains about 24 grams of fructose).  Also, for fructose to be absorbed in the small intestines, an equal amount of glucose must be present.  The result is that a lot of fructose is sent undigested to the large intestine, where it feeds the bacteria that produce hydrogen.  Breath tests after high fructose meals almost always measure elevated hydrogen levels.  In addition to cutting back on refined sugars and fructose, another way to improve digestion is by taking the time to adequately chew every bite of food. Thoroughly chewed food is more easily broken down by stomach acid and subsequently absorbed in the small intestine (resulting in less hydrogen, CO2, and methane gas production).

H. pylori is a nasty little bug, but we don’t have to provide the conditions where it can thrive.   Compared to the contents of refined foods, fruits and vegetables and other whole foods are low in fructose and (with the right preparation) easily digested.  If you’re experiencing indigestion problem, don’t assume it’s genetics or something you just have to live with, your body may be sending you a signal that you need to change something in your diet.  Also, keep in mind, change doesn’t always happen over night, it will take consistently eating whole foods (and chewing them thoroughly) to see results.

References: H. pylori and Cancer, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Hydrogen as Energy Source for H. pylori, Short-Chain Carbohydrates and Short-Chain Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Whole Health Source, University of Iowa

Originally posted 2013-05-07 02:57:27.

Yogurt: Enemy or Best Friend

The yogurt sitting in your refrigerator seems like a modest health choice but may not be as wise as you think.  True, yogurt is a great source of protein, probiotics, and potassium, but it can also be an unwanted source of sugar.  Have you looked at the nutrition facts on your favorite yogurt lately?

All yogurt, even plain, will contain sugar because of the lactose in milk.  However, a six-ounce serving of a typical flavored yogurt can easily contain 17 grams of added sugar!  Compare that to the 17 grams of sugar found in a Pop-Tart, and a supposedly healthy breakfast heads into a downward spiral real quickly. Wondering about the recent Greek yogurt trend? If you’ve been picking out Greek yogurt instead of regular, you should still be cautious of those tempting honey- or fruit-flavored Greek yogurt options.  Flavored Greek yogurt still has about 12 more grams of sugar than plain Greek yogurt.

The best choice is to stick with plain and add your own mix-ins at home.  Stir in some fresh or frozen berries, some homemade granola, or even add a teaspoon of honey (containing 4.5 grams of one of the healthiest forms of sugar) or organic jam–the few grams of sugar from honey or jam will be much better than the 17 grams found in the flavored yogurt!  It may take a little while to adjust to the tartness of plain yogurt, but it’s worth the effort and you may find you soon develop a taste for it.

To read our article on yogurt’s health benefits, click here.

Originally posted 2013-03-15 22:32:00.

Whole Oranges vs. Orange Juice

Have you ever wondered if drinking orange juice is as healthy as eating the whole orange? Perhaps you haven’t, but many people seem to think that drinking a serving of fruit juice is equivalent to eating a serving of whole fruit. This misunderstanding is reinforced by claims the USDA allows fruit juice companies to make on their products, such as “One serving is equal to one serving of fruit.” I’m not quite sure how the USDA arrived at supporting such a statement (probably because of the lobbying pressure from large food companies), but to say what is in some cases little more than liquid sugar is equal to a serving of whole fruit is preposterous. Don’t get me wrong, some juices are better than others, such as the less refined ones that are unfiltered or with pulp, and fruit juice is usually healthier than soda, but even juice with a little bit of fiber left in it doesn’t compare nutritionally to a serving of whole fruit.

Whole oranges and orange juice provide the perfect opportunity to compare the differences between the two. Check out the picture above of the three glasses of processed oranges. The glass on the left contains the juices of three hand squeezed oranges while the two glasses on the right contain the pulp and juice of three whole oranges that I liquified in a blender (minus the peel). Three whole oranges produced almost twice the volume of material as the juice alone. That extra material is the pulp and pith which contain a number of important nutrients that work together to make the whole orange a highly nutritious food.

To start, the high fiber content of a whole orange helps the body properly process the high fructose content of the juice. The fiber actually blocks some of the sugar from being absorbed, which makes the orange more nutritious for the amount of calories it contains. The fiber also makes a whole orange much more filling than the juice (it’s far easier to consume several glasses of high sugar orange juice than several whole oranges). If you eat a whole orange you’ll also be more satisfied and less hungry for calorie-dense, nutritionally-deficient food later on.

In addition to the benefits of the extra fiber in the pulp, a whole orange contains numerous health promoting micro-nutrients that aren’t found in the juice alone. One of the most researched is a flavanoid called hesperidin, which is concentrated in the pulp and inside of the peel. Hesperidin shows promise as an anti-inflammatory, in lowering blood pressure, and in promoting healthy cholesterol. One animal study also found that a diet rich in orange pulp increased bone density!

I’m not saying that we should never drink orange juice again; studies have shown that fresh-squeezed orange juice has significant anti-oxidant properties. It’s just important to know that the juice isn’t as healthy or satisfying as the whole fruit. Juices and other drinks can be a hidden source of surplus calories for those trying to live healthfully. A diet that emphasizes whole fruits over juices contains fewer sugary calories and more health promoting nutrients!

Originally posted 2013-01-12 02:35:00.

Glycemic Index vs. Food Quality

In the last several decades, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the number of people struggling with obesity and diabetes (both connected to what’s been called metabolic syndrome). Doctors and nutritionists who follow the dictates of mainstream medicine (largely influenced by pharmaceutical and industrial food companies) place most of the blame for this unhealthy trend on insulin. According to the logic, insulin resistance (and therefore an increased amount of insulin in the blood) is correlated to diabetes and weight gain; therefore, we should all do what we can to prevent our bodies from producing too much insulin. The glycemic index was developed to help us meet this goal. The glycemic index is essentially a database that rates foods based on the amount of insulin response they cause. Glucose is the most powerful catalyst of insulin production, so the peak of the scale is based on the insulin response caused by pure glucose (hence the word “glycemic”). Foods that cause especially high insulin spikes are high on the glycemic index and are labeled as bad for health. This includes foods like refined sugar and white bread, but it also includes potatoes, whole grains, milk, rice, and many fruits.

glycemicgraphHere’s the deal, insulin is released more or less every time we eat; it’s a vital hormone that signals our cells to use food for energy. We can’t live without it! While there’s definitely a correlation between insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, the research is less than clear on the actual causes of weight gain and diabetes. There are a great variety of opinions within the medical community on exactly what causes insulin resistance, and evidence to support the theory that insulin causes weight gain is actually lacking or contradictory. Some researchers are of the opinion that diabetes and weight gain (and the cardiovascular diseases that go along with it) are purely the result of excess energy consumption. Others, such as Dr. Lustig, believe that refined fructose and high fructose corn syrup are primarily to blame. Moreover, there are a number of studies that indicate that foods that are high on the glycemic index have an important part in a healthy diet and can actually support weight loss!

It turns out that Insulin response might not contribute to weight gain as much as the type or quality of food. A number of observational and long term studies have found that people (such as Kitvians, Japanese, and members of various African and indigenous tribes) who consume high quality foods that are high on the glycemic index, such as yams, potatoes, honey, and whole grains, have very low rates of diabetes, obesity, or cardiovascular disease. Moreover, high-glycemic whole foods like potatoes, corn, whole wheat, and rice have had an important role in healthy human diets for thousands of years.

While Americans have a particulary high rate of obesity and diabetes and also consume a large proportion of foods that are high on the glycemic index, it seems that the poor quality of foods we consume is more to blame than the amount or type of carbohydrates that these foods contain. Most Americans eat a high volume of refined sugar (sucrose and high fructose corn syrup), white wheat, and grains that are fried in refined, poly unsaturated oils, instead of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other unrefined foods. So, instead of trying to follow the poorly supported logic of the glycemic index by cutting out healthy foods like yams, whole grains, fruit, or raw honey (creation-based foods), start by cutting out the high-calorie/low nutrient industrial foods that are intimatey linked to disease (especially refined sugar, grains, and oils).

Originally posted 2012-12-08 03:49:00.

Healthiest holiday dessert award: PUMPKIN PIE!

I don’t know about you, but pumpkin pie is one of my favorite holiday desserts. It goes well with coffee, has great texture, and has just the right amount of sugar and spice. While traditional pies usually call for 1 cup of refined sugar and a white flour crust, we’ve come up with a recipe that uses creation-based ingredients and contains only about 17 grams of sugar per slice instead of the traditional 35 grams! Our recipe uses honey, stevia, and a whole wheat crust. If you’re gluten intolerant, don’t worry–we also have a recipe for a crust made of almonds.

While other types of creation-based pies (apple, cherry, berry, etc) can be healthy too, pumpkin is a particularly superstar ingredient. Pumpkin is a great source vitamins A, E, C, and Riboflavin. It’s also high in potassium, copper, and manganese. I’m also a little biased because it’s my favorite pie. So without further ado, here’s the recipe for a healthy pumpkin pie:

Whole Wheat Pie Crust:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, chilled
1 tsp salt
3/4 unstalted butter, chilled
5 to 8 tbsp ice water

Sift flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl and chill. Chop cold butter into small pieces and add to the chilled, dry ingredients until it resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle cold water over the mixture, one tablespoon at a time and knead only until dough forms. Shape dough into a ball and cut in half. Shape both halves into small discs and wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

Important: Keep everything as cold as possible and knead only as necessary.

Almond (gluten-free) Pie Crust:
1 cup of finely ground almonds or almond powder
3 tbsp of butter or coconut oil to grease pie dish
1 egg
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

Mix ingredients together by hand and press evenly into greased pie dish. Bake in pre-heated oven (325 degrees) for a few minutes while mixing pie filling.

Pumpkin Pie filling:
1 sugar pie pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 cup of honey

1/2 tsp of stevia or to taste
2 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of flour
10 oz of half and half

1) Cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds. Place open sides down in a baking dish with a 1/4 inch of water at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until flesh is tender. Scrape cooked pumpkin flesh from skin into mixing bowl and mash into puree.

2) Add remaining ingredients to pumpkin puree and mix well after adding each ingredient.

3) Pour mixture into unbaked pastry shell and place aluminum foil or crust shield around edge of crust to prevent it from burning.

4) Bake at 450 degrees F for the first 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove foil or crust protector around 20 minutes before the pie is done in order to achieve a golden brown crust. Let pie cool and set. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

Originally posted 2012-11-22 06:53:00.

Why sugar is toxic:

We all know it’s unhealthy to eat too much sugar, but now we’re starting to understand how unhealthy some sugars really are. Researchers are discovering that not all sugars are created equal. Too much glucose and other sugars can be bad, but too much sucrose or fructose can be plain TOXIC. Below you’ll discover the reasons many researchers are convinced that excess sugar consumption promotes disease and obesity. Keep in mind that these are simplified explanations, and the exact workings of these concepts are under constant scientific debate.

Empty calories
It’s easy to consume hundreds of excess calories in the form of fruit juice, soda, candy and other junk foods without feeling full. In the U.S., calorie consumption per capita has increased over the last 50 years and is directly correlated with an increased consumption of sugar. Fast-food and other refined foods are loaded with calories but lack essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are easy and tasty to consume, but they don’t provide the feeling of being satisfied associated with eating whole foods. As a result, people in the United States and other Westernized countries are eating more than enough calories but are still deficient in many important vitamins and minerals. Eating a whole-food (creation-based) diet promotes feelings of satiety, as well as an adequate supply of vital nutrients.

Glycation
Glycation is the bonding of glucose or other sugars to proteins in the body (keep in mind that protein is the primary building block of life). Glycated bonds are generally destructive to the body, causing oxidation and damage to cells. The amount of glycated hemoglobin and other important proteins in the body increases with the level of sugar consumed. While too much glucose (the sugar found in whole foods like bread, pasta, and potatoes) can promote glycation, fructose and sucrose (the primary sugars used for sweetening), can cause 10 times the amount of glycation. Glycation is indicated in the hardening of the arteries, Alzheimer’s disease, cellular damage, and cancer.

Insulin resistance
Too much glucose in the blood stream eventually causes insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that signals cells to uptake sugar for energy use or storage. When the blood stream is constantly flooded with insulin, the body’s cells grow resistant to insulin and normal uptake of sugar is interrupted. Fat cells, however, continue to remain sensitive to insulin (even when skeletal and muscle cells grow resistant), storing glucose for later energy use – resulting in weight gain around the mid section. A constant rise in the body’s at-rest blood sugar level is known as hyperglycemia/diabetes. Hyperglycemia requires close management. If not properly controlled, high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system.

Leptin resistance
Leptin is a hormone released by the body’s fat cells and is responsible for maintaining body-weight and metabolic equilibrium. When the body has enough stored-energy, leptin signals the brain to feel full and satisfied after meals. A person with leptin resistance, however, continues to feel hungry even after eating. Leptin resistance is associated with over consumption of fructose and sucrose. These sugars are processed by the liver and transformed into triglycerides (fats) and released into the blood stream. It is thought that high triglyceride levels are responsible for blocking the brain from properly receiving leptin signals. Obese people have high levels of circulating leptin, but the leptin can’t perform its function.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
The liver processes fructose and sucrose similarly to the way it processes alcohol. As a result, these sugars can have the same effect on the liver as alcohol, causing fat-build up and damage of the liver.

Uric acid production
When the liver processes fructose/sucrose (but not glucose and other sugars), one byproduct is excessive production of Uric Acid. Excessive Uric Acid interferes with Nitrogen Oxide production. Nitrogen Oxide is responsible for regulating the body’ blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. Thus, fructose/sucrose consumption from sweets, juice and soda can lead to hypertension, usually evidenced by a rise in systolic blood pressure.

Increased triglyceride level
A high blood triglyceride level is a well-confirmed precursor to or indication of cardiovascular disease. High triglyceride levels used to be attributed to fat consumption. Today many scientists are starting to believe that high triglyceride levels are linked to refined sugar consumption and insulin resistance. Fructose doesn’t signal insulin production, thus when corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners are consumed, they are transferred to the blood stream as triglycerides but without the insulin signals to absorb them. Healthy fats, consumed as part of a healthy diet, don’t remain in the blood but are used by the body for energy.

Effects on LDL cholesterol
Low-density-lipoproteins play an important role in the body. They are responsible for transporting lipids (fats) within the water-based blood stream. Too much LDL, however, is thought to cause atherosclerosis. Since increased fat consumption causes higher cholesterol levels (including LDL), people are warned not to consume fats. The misnomer, however, is the idea that all LDLs are the same. This simply isn’t true. There are two primary types of LDL: one is light, large, and fluffy; the other is small and dense. It is the small and dense LDLs that are responsible for penetrating beneath the endothelial cells of the blood vessels, leading to arterial plaque build-up. By contrast, light and fluffly LDLs float along in the blood stream, serving their function, without damaging the blood vessels. While the mechanisms aren’t exactly understood, high production of dense LDL is associated with high consumption of refined sugars. Low-sugar diets, high in healthy fats (not trans fats or over consumption of Omega 6s) cause the body to produce a light and fluffy, harmless form of LDL.

The above information points to the importance of reducing or eliminating consumption of refined sugar, excess fructose in the form of fruit juice or other sugary drinks, or added sugar. It should be noted that the fructose in whole fruits and vegetables is buffered by the whole-food content of fiber. Fiber inhibits fructose absorption. Glucose and healthy fats from whole foods are the body’s best energy sources. An emphasis on whole food consumption promotes healthy nutrition, good energy levels, healthy metabolism, and cardiovascular health.

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Originally posted 2011-09-19 01:07:00.