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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

I have had to eat a “healthy” diet for most of my adult life. As a young girl, I ate as much junk food as my peers and my body rebelled. By 20, I could not eat any white or processed sugar because I was hypoglycemic. I developed migrane headaches from chocolate (a former childhood love) and fermented foods like sharp cheeses and wines. White bread made me sick, so I had to switch to whole grain bread even before it was marketed as whole grain bread. Through the years my body let me know, anything overly processed, overly sugared, overly salted, or overly fat was going to give me stabbing pain in my head, my abdomen, or just plain make me sick and exhausted. I am the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to food. But in many ways I am a lucky person. I haven’t been able to eat the typical American diet and I don’t have a lot of the typical American diseases. (such as obesity, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes)

I don’t tell you this to get accolades or say I am so great. No, my healthy diet was mainly by default in the beginning. I liked the junk food. I just couldn’t handle it. Later, as I read more and learned more, I ate healthy by design. Having grown up on Rice Krispy Treats, all things Nestle, Rice a Roni, Carnation Instant Breakfast, Skippy Peanut Butter, McDonald’s and Wonder Bread, I know what it’s like to try to wean off the processed foods and try to eat vegetables, fresh fruit, healthy grains, like brown rice, and be satisfied. In my case, I had a crash course in changing my diet. Still, it took a while to adjust to new tastes and learn how to be satisfied with less added sugar. But I can tell you IT CAN BE DONE! and your health and well being is worth it.

But How do you Know What’s Junk Food and What’s Healthy Food?
According to Margie King of the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner, the NuVal nutritional scoring system may be the ticket to simpler healthy eating. The NuVal system will analyze more than 50,000 food items found in a typical grocery store and assign a value of 1 to 100 to each item. The higher the score, the more nutritious is the food.

The system is the brainchild of Dr. David Katz, an Associate Professor at the Yale University School of Public Health, and the Director and founder of Yale’s Prevention Research Center. Dr. Katz is an expert in nutrition and preventative medicine, the author of several books including The Flavor Point Diet, a syndicated health columnist for The New York Times and a medical contributor for ABC News.
Read more from Margie King of the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner here

Dr. Katz says our taste buds are malleable and we are teaching them to crave salt and sugar. Eating added sugar in non-dessert items in everything from pasta sauce to breakfast cereal causes our taste buds to crave sugar much more than we normally would. In the video, he talks about how there is as much sodium in many breakfast cereals than your diet should be. It’s well worth the 4 minutes to watch Dr. Katz talk about how our diets are modified by the food supply and how we can retrain our taste buds to enjoy healthier less salty and less sugary foods.

Link to Dr. Katz’s video “Rehab Your Taste Buds: Getting Hooked on Wholesome Foods”

As American’s look to health care reform, there is a growing buzz about food system reform as well. Some say health care reform won’t work without reforming our nutritional system. The Nu Val system is one attempt to give us tools to reform our diets so we don’t NEED as much health care intervention. It’s Prevention versus Disease Treatment. And that sounds pretty sweet! Read Why Health Care Reform Requires Nutrition Reform by Margie King in the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

By now, most people have heard the news that consuming High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) may have adverse effects on your health. The documentary, King Of Corn, is a humerus and educational review of corn production and describes how much of the corn produced in the U.S. is refined into HFCS. The Corn Refiners Association lobby countered bad press about HFCS with the Sweet Surprise campaign, a series of ads saying “HFCS is not bad for you..in moderation.”

Not to be alarmist, but how bad is HFCS for us, really?

Let’s look at the recent research:

High-Fructose Diet Raises Blood Pressure in Middle-Aged Men
A diet high in foods with large amounts of fructose sugar such as sweetened soft drinks increased blood pressure in men, according to a study presented today (September 23, 2009) that also found that a drug for gout blocked the effect.

Men in the study who ate a high-fructose diet had their blood pressure rise about 5 percent after two weeks, while those who also were given a gout treatment increased less than 1 percent, study author Richard Johnson said. Eating great amounts of fructose without the treatment also raised the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors associated with the development of heart disease and diabetes.

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, will be presented today (September 23, 2009) at the American Heart Association’s annual conference on high blood pressure in Chicago.

Fructose is one of several sugars in food and makes up about half of all the sugar molecules in table sugar and in high-fructose corn syrup, according to background information from the American Heart Association. The syrup often is used as a sweetener in packaged food products. Fructose is the only common sugar known to increase uric acid levels, the heart association said. Study info here

Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury
MONDAY, Jan. 26, 2009 (HealthDay News) — Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.

In the first study, published in current issue of Environmental Health, researchers found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS.

And in the second study, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit watchdog group, found that nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods contained mercury. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.

The use of mercury-contaminated caustic soda in the production of HFCS is common. The contamination occurs when mercury cells are used to produce caustic soda.

“The bad news is that nobody knows whether or not their soda or snack food contains HFCS made from ingredients like caustic soda contaminated with mercury. The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those ingredients,” Wallinga said in his prepared statement. Washington Post Article on Mercury on HFCS products here

HFCS and Obesity
And finally, researchers from Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, and the Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina, analyzed food consumption patterns by using US Department of Agriculture food consumption tables from 1967 to 2000. The consumption of HFCS increased > 1000% between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food or food group.

HFCS now represents more than 40% of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages and is the sole caloric sweetener in soft drinks in the United States. The increased use of HFCS in the United States mirrors the rapid increase in obesity. The digestion, absorption, and metabolism of fructose differ from those of glucose. In addition, unlike glucose, fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production. Because insulin and leptin act as key afferent signals in the regulation of food intake and body weight, this suggests that dietary fructose may contribute to increased energy intake and weight gain. Furthermore, calorically sweetened beverages may enhance caloric overconsumption. Thus, the increase in consumption of HFCS has a temporal relation to the epidemic of obesity, and the overconsumption of HFCS in calorically sweetened beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Link to article in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

More research needs to be and is being done. And, King of Corn afficionados aside, HFCS isn’t the only sugar that should be consumed in moderation.

Sugar Consumption Guidelines
According to the American Heart Association, no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance come from added sugars. For most American women, this is no more than 100 calories per day and no more than 150 per day for men (or about 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day for men).

How much added sugars do most Americans consume?
A report from the 2001–04 NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) database showed that Americans get about 22.2 teaspoons of sugar a day or about 355 calories. This number has increased steadily over the past three decades. Teens and men consume the most added sugars.

A major contributor of added sugars to American diets are soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

What foods and beverages are the main sources of added sugars in Americans’ diets?
Regular soft drinks; sugars and candy; cakes, cookies, pies; fruit drinks (fruitades and fruit punch); dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt, and sweetened milk); and other grains (cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles).

Regular soft drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugars in Americans’ diets. A 12-ounce can of regular soda contains an estimated 130 calories (or 8 teaspoons) of added sugars. People who consume lots of sugar-sweetened beverages eat too many sugar calories which can add up quickly and tend to gain weight. Carefully monitor the number of calories you get from sodas and other sources of added sugars.

More on the AHA’s standpoint on sugar consumption

Obesity, mercury poisoning and high blood pressure is serious stuff. But, let’s not get too stressed out about it. Pour a glass of nice cold water, kick back and watch the King of Corn filmmakers, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis spoof about the Corn Refiners Association “HFCS is OK in moderation” ads.

Spoof: HFCS is like cigarettes..it’s OK in moderation

Spoof: DDT is OK, in moderation

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

The American Heart Association is now encouraging that Americans end their love affair with sugar. The AHA guidelines recommend that women eat no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day and men eat no more than ten teaspoons of added sugar a day. That’s a 70 percent reduction in sugar consumption for the average American.

According to an article from by by LAUREN COX and COURTNEY HUTCHISON from the ABC News Medical Unit, “Experts Debate the Value of the American Heart Association’s Call to Cut Our Sugar Intake.”

“We know that soft drinks are the number one source of added sugars in the American diet. We really want Americans to start thinking about this,” said Dr. Rachel K. Johnson, lead author of the study.

“The high intake of added sugar has been implicated in a number of negative health outcomes, but primarily this targets obesity,” said Johnson. “Sugars have been implicated in high blood pressure and inflammation which are risk factors for heart disease.”

“Strictly from a health standpoint, sugar is a ‘triple threat’ – it provides extra calories, no nutrients, and it may displace other foods and nutrients in the diet that are more beneficial,” said Dr. Donald D. Hensrud, an associate professor of Preventive Medicine and Nutrition at the Mayo Clinic.

Johnson, the lead author of the study, hopes her recommendations translate into some good advice, even if the public isn’t counting grams of sugar every day.
“We’re not saying eliminate added sugar, we’re saying use them with discretion,” said Johnson.

“Try to use the added sugars with foods that will enhance the diet, for instance a sugared whole grain breakfast cereal or a sugar sweetened dairy product … they’re improving the flavor of the food in a healthy diet as opposed to [spending it on] things that don’t carry any other nutritional value, like soda or candy bars,” she said.

For the complete ABC News article click here

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