Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Healthy Living - Sugar the not-so-sweet

Most of us have first-hand experience that lots of sugar, carbs and, junk food  make us feel very irritated.  Earlier this month, Dr. Robert Lustig told CBS News’ “60 minutes” that sugar is addictive, toxic, and it’s killing us by increasing our risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, hypertension and cancer. The pediatric endocrinologist has even gone as far as to say that sugar should be regulated like cigarettes and alcohol.

History shows that in 6000 B.C. usage of sugarcane in papau New guinea is recorded. And in 1000 B.C. India started making sugar crystals called GUR with sugarcane, by crushing the cane and boiling the juice.  When Alexander the Great invaded India In 325 B.C. came across this miracle reed  (sugar cane) from which sugar was made without honeybees.  Beet sugar was made from beet roots only by the 19th century.

There are two kinds of sugar: naturally occurring and added sugars.  Mother Nature provides us with many naturally-occurring sugars in our foods. For example, yogurt, milk, and fruit – all healthy foods- contain sugar. Lactose is the sugar in milk and yogurt; fructose is the sugar in fruit.

Added sugars are sweeteners that are added to food and beverages during the manufacturing process. Common sweeteners added to foods include fructose and high fructose corn syrup. Desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, energy and sports drinks, are the top sources of added sugar in most American diets.

For example, a 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 25-35 grams of high fructose corn syrup but provides our bodies with no other nutrients. In comparison, one cup of blueberries contains about seven grams of natural fructose and also packs a powerful punch of fiber, antioxidants and important vitamins and minerals.

The American Heart Association recommends that most women have no more than 100 calories per day from added sugar, which equals about 6 teaspoons (25 grams). For men, no more than 150 calories from added sugars or about 9 teaspoons (38 grams). That’s much less than you may think: 1 small candy bar, ½ cup of ice cream or frozen yogurt is equal to about 100-150 calories.

-    Read the label for sugar. Look out for these names in the label when you go food shopping this week –Sugar, Brown sugar, High fructose corn syrup, Corn sugar, Syrup, Corn syrup, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Raw sugar, Turbinado sugar, Honey. If most of these are in the top, avoid or replace them with natural foods like fruits and vegetables.
-     Avoid pastry, even home-made pastry for dessert. Have fruit instead.
-   Reach for plain yogurt instead of flavored yogurt which is sweetened with lots of added sugar and unwanted calories.
-    Drink sparkling water with few drops of lemon or lime in it, low or fat free milk, 100 % fruit juice or unsweetened tea, instead of Soda. 
-  Add more ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg to sweeten your food instead of processed sugar. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood sugars, Sprinkle a couple teaspoons of cinnamon powder on your yogurt, or take it in capsule form.
-    Regular exercise helps us lose weight and also helps lower our blood sugar within minutes.
-    A cup of plain decaf coffee (you can add some cream, but no sugar!) seems to lower blood sugar levels.
-     Special vitamin tablets with chromium helps lower the blood sugar.
-    One cup of green tea, regular black tea and white tea too helps lower the bood sugar levels.
-    Reduce stress or find ways of dealing with stress, by practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and nature walks. 
-    Sleep is a very good stress reliever too.

Normally, when your blood sugar level starts to drop, your liver steps in. It goes to work changing stored carbohydrate into glucose. Then it sends the glucose out into the blood, which helps you avoid or slow down a low blood sugar reaction.
Remember, below 70 and you risk going into insulin shock; above 200, and you are doing significant damage to your organs over time. So aim for a healthy blood sugar range, between 70 and 150.
Choosing Good Carbohydrates Over Bad Carbohydrates
There's no need to avoid all (or even a lot) of carbohydrates. In fact, carbohydrates should supply about half of your daily calories. One gram of carbohydrate, whether it is sugar or starch, contains four calories. One slice of bread has about 12 grams of carbohydrates. One typical chocolate bar may have about 50 grams of carbohydrates. A medium potato has about 35 grams of carbohydrates.

Although all carbohydrates have four calories per gram, some sources of carbohydrates are better for your diet. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains are healthier carbohydrate sources than candy, sodas and pastries. These carbohydrates have large amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. Fiber is especially important because it keeps you feeling full longer.

Foods like candy, sodas, ice creams and pastries termed as the junk foods are referred as foods having empty calories and are poor sources of nutrients.  They have lots of calories and have little or no nutritional value.  Moreover they usually are low in fiber.

Be aware of what you eat and limit sugar for a sweet life.


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