Subtracting Sugars

Are you being sweet to your heart?

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Findings from a major study published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine indicate that chronic overconsumption of added sugar greatly increases your risk for heart disease-related death. With heart disease as the leading cause of death in the US, the American Heart Association recommends that men and women limit their daily intake of added sugar to nine and six teaspoons, respectively. Most Americans consume 2-3 times that amount everyday!

In order to effectively limit added sugar, you need to know what to look for. First, there are two types of sugar in your diet, naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in fruit, as fructose, and in milk, as lactose. In contrast, added sugars include any and all sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. Most of us know that added sugar is in sodas and sweets, but have you taken a closer look at your cereal box, flavored yogurt, or pasta sauce? Many of these products and more are loaded with added sugar.

When reading the nutrition facts panel of a food or beverage you have to look past the line of “sugars” as it combines both naturally occurring and added sugars. Instead read the ingredient list to identify added sugars commonly named sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup. However, a team of health scientists from the University of San Francisco, have identified more than 60 names for sugar added to foods and beverages. Despite having different names, all added sugars are a source of extra calories with one teaspoon providing 16 calories.

Here are a few simple ways to start subtracting added sugars (and calories) from your diet:

  • Cut the amount of sugar you add to your morning coffee or tea by half.
  • Sweeten plain yogurt or oatmeal with fresh or frozen fruit.
  • Swap soda for water or sugar-free/low-calorie drinks.
  • Choose a cereal that contains less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Replace sugar in baking with unsweetened applesauce or dried fruit, such as raisins or dates.
  • Try stevia, a natural sugar substitute.
  • Compare food labels and choose items with less sugar.
  • Avoid foods that list an added sugar as the first or second ingredient.

For more tips, check out the American Heart Association’s article Tip’s for Cutting Down on Sugar. And for more information about the unsweetened truth behind added sugars visit Sugar Science.

Remember: Be sweet to your heart and subtract added sugars from you diet – you don’t need them you are already sweet enough!

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Katie Jones for her contributions to this post.

 

Diet For a Healthier Planet

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With Earth Day upon us, have you considered the carbon footprint your dietary choices leave?

A carbon footprint is the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event, or product. As individuals, the foods we choose to purchase and eat can have an impact on our planet. And different foods have different impacts.

The article, Mediterranean diet: Not just healthier but also better for the environment?, discusses a recent study in which researchers compared the carbon footprint of daily menus served in Spain to those served in English-speaking countries like the UK and US. The study’s findings indicate that the Spanish menu leaves significantly less of a carbon footprint than that of the menus in the UK and US. Why? Based on the Mediterranean diet, the Spanish menu, places a greater emphasize on fruits and vegetables – foods with a smaller carbon footprint, and less emphasize on beef – a food with a larger carbon footprint. Lead researcher, Rosario Vidal says, “Therefore, it is not only healthier, but our diet is also more ecological.”

By making small changes to way to you purchase and consume food, you can make your diet more ecological too. Here are a few simple tips to reduce your food’s carbon footprint:

  • Eat less meat. Add Meatless Mondays to your routine. Try meat as a side dish instead of as the main course.
  • Choose fish and poultry. Ruminant animals, such as cattle, goats, sheep, bison release the most greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Eat more plants. Pick lower-impact plants proteins, such as grains, legumes, nuts, and tofu.
  • Don’t waste food. Buy the correct portions and eat what you buy.
  • Purchase seasonal and regional food when possible. Opt for frozen fish, as fresh fish is often air-freighted.
  • Avoid processed and packaged foods. Cook from scratch and make your own. Choose the least processed alternative, such as brown rice versus white rice.
  • Choose organic food products when possible.

Curious about your carbon footprint? The Nature Conservancy’s calculator measures how many tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases your choices, including food and diet, create each year. For a guide of twenty common foods and their green house gas emissions, check out Eat Smart, created by the Environmental Working Group.

And Don’t forget – your food choices can affect your waistline and our plant. Happy Earth Day!

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen

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What better way to usher in the new season than to refresh your kitchen?! This Spring, be sure to add your family’s refrigerator to the cleaning list. Here’s why:

Most of us know that a few simple, easy steps – wash, seperate, cook, and refrigerate – go along way in keeping our families safe and free from food borne illnesses. But, did you know that mold, bacteria, and spills in the refrigerator can put you and your family at risk? Maintaining a clean refrigerator is just as important as cooking food to the proper temperature or keeping your ready-to-eat foods separate from raw meats.

Here are a few simple refrigerator cleaning tips:

  • Clean refrigerator spills immediately, especially those from raw meat juices. Hint: Defrost meats in a covered container on the bottom shelf to reduce spills.
  • Wash the inside of your refrigerator with a clean sponge and warm soapy water, rinse with clean water, and dry with a clean cloth. Don’t skip the shelves and drawers!
  • Regularly clean the refrigerator and freezer handles – they are touched the most.
  • Place an opened box of baking soda in the back of the refrigerator to combat odors. Hint: Swap the box every 3 months.
  • Dust the front grill to allow free airflow to the condenser for best cooling and efficiency.
  • Unplug the refrigerator and clean the condenser coils with a brush or vacuum.

Sorting through foods each week is also an important step in maintaining a clean refrigerator and preventing food borne illnesses. Check the expiration dates, and dispose of expired, rotten, or spoiled food. When in doubt, throw it out!

While it’s important to regularly clean your refrigerator, many of us put off washing the inside, dusting the front grill, and cleaning the condenser coils. This Spring make cleaning your refrigerator a priority!

For more information check out the How Clean Is Your Refrigerator? article, where you can also find helpful links to the refrigerator safety inspection and refrigerator organization video. Happy Spring Cleaning!

Special thanks to dietetic intern Katie Jones for her contribution to this post.