According to the new guidelines just released by the American Heart Association (AHA) this month, nearly half of all Americans are now living with high blood pressure. So that means that people that were considered “borderline” at 130/80 – would now be diagnosed with high blood pressure (Hypertension). According to cardiologist Dr. Sinatra – healthy blood pressure levels should be under 120/80.
The thing is, high blood pressure often will have no obvious symptoms. So the majority of people with high blood pressure – are unaware that they have it. But high blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” – because the first symptom can be deadly. The best way to determine if your blood pressure is in a good place is to have your blood pressure measured. High blood pressure tends to run in families – so if you have close relatives that have had hypertension, you will especially want to monitor your blood pressure regularly – you might want to consider getting a home monitor.
High blood pressure can double your risk of a heart attack and is a risk factor for stroke, dementia, kidney failure, & blindness. Learn more about risk factors of hypertension from the Mayo Clinic.
Please note: If you are taking any prescription medications, or under the care of a doctor for any reason – talk to your doctor about these suggestions before implementing them in case there are contraindications or interactions. Your doctor may also wish to monitor you in case changes need to be made to your prescriptions. These tips are general in nature and may not be appropriate for everyone. Whenever making changes to your diet and lifestyle – it is recommended to do it gradually to allow your body to adjust.
Cinnamon is a very powerful tool when it comes to blood pressure and blood sugar – lowering both. Cinnamon has other benefits – including fighting bad bacteria in the gut, and revving up the metabolism. According to a 2006 study conducted by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, just 1/2 of a teaspoon a day of cinnamon could be enough to help reduce blood pressure. You can add cinnamon to oatmeal, smoothies, add it to nut butter, sprinkle it on fruit, and add it to nuts before roasting, you can also add it to coffee.
Did you know that the USDA recommends adults consume 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day? Yes, NINE!! Sadly, on the Standard American Diet (SAD), most people are not getting even half that – with many people barely getting 1 serving a day. Plant-based foods are rich in important nutrients and electrolytes that help to balance our blood pressure. Potassium is particularly important for healthy blood pressure levels – so reach for avocados, bananas, squash, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and prunes.
Best known for their anti-inflammatory effects, omega 3 fatty acids also have blood thinning effects too, which can help to reduce blood pressure. Try to incorporate chia seeds, flax seeds, and fatty fish like wild salmon. And consider sardines too – not only are they rich in omega 3s, they also are low in mercury, and are high in heart-healthy Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)! I love making these Flax Raisin muffins – they are grain free, gluten free, low in sugar and high in omega 3 fatty acids- and they are delicious! Also consider adding some flax or chia to your overnight oats, or making chia pudding.
For a very long time – experts have pointed the finger at salt as the primary culprit for high blood pressure. But now experts are saying another white substance may be more to blame – SUGAR. Blood sugar and blood pressure – are closely linked. Post meal glucose spikes increases blood pressure and the risk for heart attack. So consider skipping dessert, or opting for a square of dark chocolate instead. But make sure to go for dark – the cacao content should be at least 60%. A Harvard study found that dark chocolate lowered blood pressure as well as the risk of heart attack and diabetes. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, which helps to relax the blood vessels, and it also helps to improve blood flow to extremities.
A recent study showed that when participants used 2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily, it lowered blood pressure, with 35% of the participants benefitting so much that they were able to stop their medications! It has also been linked to better brain health too. Avocado oil is also a healthy oil associated with lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. The other benefit of avocado oil is that it has a high smoke point, so that is the one I recommend for cooking above 300 degrees.
The studies are clear about the link between heavy alcohol use and blood pressure – alcohol raises blood pressure. But what constitutes “heavy drinking” might surprise some – just 3 drinks for women is considered “heavy alcohol consumption.” Cutting back on the alcohol may not just lower your blood pressure – a new study found that heavy drinking can also raise the risk of several different cancers – the strongest link being with cancers of the head, neck and throat. So sticking with no more than 1 drink a day for women, and 2 for men will lower your blood pressure and your cancer risk.
Getting some exercise each day – like taking a walk can help to lower blood pressure. According to the Mayo clinic, “Regular physical activity — at least 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).” If you are concerned with your blood pressure levels or heart health – stick to gentle exercise and talk to your doctor before beginning any strenuous exercise program to be sure your heart is in good enough shape for it.
High levels of stress can send your blood pressure soaring. So trying to keep stress levels under control is important for managing healthy blood pressure. If you get an elevated reading in your doctor’s office – make sure to check it again – sometimes people can be stressed out at the doctors office – causing their blood pressure to be higher. Consider acupuncture, meditation, and/or yoga for lowering stress levels.
Getting a poor night’s sleep can do more than make you groggy – it can raise your blood pressure. A 2006 study published in the journal Hypertension found that people who slept 5 hours or less per night were 32% more likely to develop hypertension than those who slept 7–8 hours per night. Some tips for getting a good night’s sleep – avoid caffeine after 1:00pm, turn off electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime, take a warm bath to help calm the nervous system before bedtime, and take a magnesium supplement before bedtime can also help some settle down to a good night’s sleep.
Gradually making the above nutritional and lifestyle changes might be enough to lower slightly elevated blood pressure. Some people might also find that taking certain supplements could help to get blood pressure into a healthy range. Again – talk to your prescribing doctor before adding any supplements if you are currently taking medication or speak to your healthcare provider if you are being treated for any condition.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
If you know me – you know I am a fan of dark chocolate. I am kind of a chocolate snob actually – it has to be DARK, and high quality.
I am also a huge fan of coconut oil. Coconut oil is my favorite oil – it is high in medium chain fatty acids – which are boosting to the metabolism, and a good source of energy. Coconut oil does not require bile salts for digestion – so it is a good fat for people with gallbladder issues. Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and antiviral, so it helps to prevent bacterial overgrowth while helping to lubricate the digestive tract. This makes it a useful remedy for constipation. There is even some evidence that coconut oil could potentially reduce the risk of developing dementia/Alzheimers (or reduce the symptom and progression of those with an early diagnosis). This is a very delicious way to get someone to eat their coconut oil.
I like to make my own chocolates using coconut oil – usually I use raw cacao, but this recipe is way easier – because instead of making it all from scratch, I just use chocolate chips and coconut oil.
This makes 1 batch/tray of mini chocolate squares – I used the square one of these silicon ice cube tray molds (this is nice as it comes with a cover). If using a larger mold like this heart shaped one, then double the recipe and cover with plastic wrap.
It’s delicious and sweet, it makes us happy, and gives us a little burst of energy.
We celebrate with it, and it is there for us whenever we need it.
At first glimpse, it seems like everything we could want in a relationship.
Sugar hides behind the “harmless empty calories” myth. Hey, I used to believe it too.
Well, one part is true – sugar is definitely empty calories. But the part that is the lie is that sugar is “harmless.”
Now don’t get me wrong – a little natural sweetness for someone with a healthy metabolism is okay– a square or two of (70% or higher) dark chocolate, a deliciously rich and creamy cacao avocado pudding…
But the problem with sugar is most of us have a hard time getting just a little bit….
Sugar is hiding in over 75% of all packaged foods, so it is sneaking into our diets – so much so, that we often have no idea how much sugar we are getting every day.
Sugar is highly addictive – the more we eat, the more we want.
The energy sugar delivers is short-lived – it is followed by a crash – so we reach for more of the sweet stuff to get another boost. I call that cycle ‘the sugar rollercoaster” – and the longer we are on that ride, the worst it is for our health.
Woefully, the real truth is that excess sugar has a dark side, a very serious dark side. Not only is excess sugar the #1 reason for a sluggish metabolism and stubborn weight gain, it is making billions of people sick….including our children.
Chronically elevated blood sugar raises the risk of almost every major disease. Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons you might want to consider a “break up”….
Especially weight gain in the midsection. When we say we want to “lose weight” what we really mean is that we want to lose fat. But when we are eating too much sugar – our metabolism is in what I call “sugar-burning mode” which means it is running on sugars – and storing the extra as fat (adipose tissue). So when the metabolism is in sugar burning mode – it is not burning fat, it is storing it. This is referred to as “insulin resistance” and leads to stubborn weight gain – and a host of other issues.
Sweet foods and drinks stimulate our sweet tooth – so the more sweets we eat (even artificial sweetened foods and drinks), the more we want. So eating lots of sugar and simple carbs just makes us hungrier. Studies show that when meals are consumed with sugary drinks, more calories are consumed. Poor blood sugar regulation can lead to big swings – causing dangerous highs and lows – the drops in blood sugar can make you feel angry when you are hungry – sometimes called “hangry.”
Studies show that sugar lowers the white blood cell count and therefore our immune system. So eating sugar and simple carbs all the time means our immune system is running low all the time.
Like any other addictive drug, the sugar rollercoaster has a powerful effect on our mood and brain chemistry. When our blood sugar is high, it gives us energy and makes us feel happy. But when it drops, it can make us feel tired, sad and low. So we reach for more of what gave us that boost – that puts us on a rollercoaster ride that causes our mood to be very unstable. Over time, these sugar highs and lows can lead to more serious mood disorders. Sugar also causes an imbalance in healthy gut bacteria, which is tied to anxiety and other issues. Depressed Immune System: A 1973 study out of Loma Linda University found that consuming a glucose solution lowered the effectiveness of white blood cells to fight infection.
Sugar and simple carbs does not supply lasting energy – it spikes our blood sugar, which is then followed by a crash. When we crash, we are going to be looking for another energy boost hungry. So what do we reach for to get energy again – more sugar or simple carbs because it gives us a quick boost! I call that cycle “The Sugar Rollercoaster, and just like an actual roller coaster – the longer we are on that ride, the more likely we are to get sick.
The hallmark of most chronic diseases – is chronic and systemic inflammation. A diet high in sugars raises our inflammation, and this can raise our risk of many diseases.
Sugars feeds yeast and fungus. So diets high in sugar can sometimes lead to chronic overgrowth of yeast, bacteria or fungus (often this will happen after a course of antibiotics that wipes out the good bacteria.) Other issues in the gut – including bacterial overgrowth, dysbiosis, leaky gut can also be linked to excess sugar intake.
One of the most obvious things we are taught from a very young age about sugar – is that too much of it is not good for our teeth. The dentist warns our kids about it around Halloween time. But Halloween is not the only time of year that we eat too much sugar. The average person gets at least 3 times the added sugars every single day!
When we spike our blood sugar over and over, our body eventually becomes less effective at lowering it. This can develop into Insulin Resistance, which is a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes (and possibly Type 3, see Alzheimer’s disease below). Insulin resistance makes our body less able to process sugars – which can lead to fatigue, hunger, and weight gain. But the tricky thing is that insulin resistance often has no obvious symptoms. Which is why many people have no idea that they have it. Insulin resistance can lead to pre-diabetes, and if not addressed – eventually diabetes. Poorly managed diabetes can lead to serious health issues like nerve pain & damage, kidney failure, loss of limbs, and blindness. Do you remember that Type 2 Diabetes used to be called Adult-onset until a few year ago? They had to rename it – because kids were getting it. Sugar is harming the health of the majority of our youth – and setting them up for a lifetime of health issues.
According to this article on Dr. Chris Kresser’s website – “metabolic syndrome could more simply be called “excess carbohydrate disease”. In fact, some researchers have gone as far as defining metabolic syndrome as “those physiologic markers that respond to reduction in dietary carbohydrate.” The American Heart Association published a statement in Circulation, that excess sugar consumption increases our risk of heart attack and stroke. Having impaired blood glucose tolerance was found to increase the risk of stroke by 50%. Even a fasting glucose over 85 mg/dl (considered a “lab normal” level) was associated with an increased risk of cardiac mortality. The worst offender for heart health? Sodas. Studies have found that men who drink 1 soda a day increase heart disease risk factors by 20%. And before you pick up a diet soda – realize that drinking diet sodas are linked to a 44% increased risk of heart disease.
Ninety years ago Nobel Laureate Dr. Otto Warburg discovered that sugar fuels cancer cells. Since then various studies have demonstrated a potent link between sugar and cancer, including that malignant cells die when starved of glucose. Sugar molecules are present in high numbers near cancer cells, in fact – that is one way to test for cancer – you take a radioactive glucose solution, and using a a PET scan – they can see that areas that are cancerous take up more of the solution than non-cancerous areas. But a 2013 University of Copenhagen study found that sugar was not just present in cancer cells – but that it aided the growth of malignant cells. Researchers out of the University of Wurzburg in Germany, concluded that “significantly reducing the intake of dietary carbs could suppress or at least delay the emergence of cancer, and the proliferation of existing tumor cells could be slowed down.” According to the study, “many cancer patients exhibit an altered glucose metabolism characterized by insulin resistance and may profit from an increased protein and fat intake.” There is currently promising research underway at the Salk Institute in La Jolla led by Dr. Reuben Shaw, PhD. to study the link between diabetes, sugar metabolism, and cancer.
A recent study found that drinking sodas caused elevated levels of protein in our urine, which can be an indicator of kidney problems. According to a researcher with the study: “There is no safe amount of soda. If you look at the recommended amounts of sugar we can safely consume every day, one can of soda exceeds the maximum level.” This is one example that shoots a big hole in the age-old adage “everything in moderation.”
Research is revealing that diets high in sugar (particularly fructose), strains the liver, and is contributing to the development of non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) . The American Liver Foundation estimates that one quarter of Americans have NAFLD, but since there is often no symptoms, these estimates could be too low. Fructose, one form of sugar – is processed differently than glucose. It does not require insulin to get into the cells. It bypasses the pancreas (which releases the insulin) and instead goes directly to the liver to be processed. So because fructose does not spike our bloodsugar like other sugars do, it was originally thought to be a healthier option – because it is lower glycemic. And when taken in small amounts by healthy people – there could be some truth to this. However – because our liver only has a limited capacity to handle fructose and sugar – and we are eating loads of fructose (often as high fructose corn syrup), we are overwhelming our livers – causing them to get fatty. Dr. Hyman refers to fatty livers being like “fois gras.” Perhaps the most disturbing part of this is that an estimated one in 10 kids has NAFLD, and 40% of obese kids having it.
Scientific studies reveal that elevated blood sugar and oxidative stress are contributing factors in the development of osteoporosis (Clarke 2010, Confavreux 2009, Lieben 2009; Zhou 2011). Advanced glycation end products (AGE’s), the by-products of high blood sugar were shown to impair bone mineralization. AGE’s also activate a receptor called RAGE, which diverts calcium from the bone, into vascular smooth muscle cells, which can lead to hardening of the arteries/ heart disease. (Study by: Tanikawa 2009; Franke 2007; Hein 2006; Zhou 2011).
A study conducted at the University of British Columbia found that a diet high in sugars, especially fructose, could interrupt our sex hormones, leading to fertility issues, PCOS, and endometriosis. One reason sugar can interrupt hormone imbalance is in part the strain that is put on the liver to metabolize the fructose. The liver is very important for detoxing hormones. Another way that excess sugar affects hormones is through aromatization – which is the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Diets high in sugar and simple carbs can increase aromatization – leading to estrogen dominance conditions in men and women.
We all know that too much sun damage can make our skin look older, and smoking is a definite no no if we don’t want to look wrinkled and have lackluster skin. But one lesson I really wish I had gotten when I was in my teens or 20s to help keep your skin looking baby soft? Skip the sugar. Sugar creates something called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs), which damages the collagen and elastin in our skin, and causes our skin to sag and look more wrinkled. When there is sugar in our bloodsteam, they attach to proteins to form molecules that are called Advanced glycation end products (appropriately the acronym is AGEs). The more sugar you eat, the more of these AGEs develop. AGEs are known to damage the collagen and elastin proteins in the skin, which is what gives the skin it’s elasticity, and volume, and helps to prevent wrinkles. Sugar affects our skin in 3 ways: When AGEs come into contact with collagen it changes the normally elastic and fluffy collagen and makes it brittle and dry, and that is what leads to sagging and wrinkling of the skin. There are 3 types of collagen – I, II, and III. The strongest and most resilient type is III. Sugar changes type III collagen into type I, which is more instable. Sugar interferes with the delivery of antioxidants in the body, so it can leave the skin more vulnerable to damage from the sun. “As AGEs accumulate, they damage adjacent proteins in a domino-like fashion,” explains Fredric Brandt, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Miami and New York City and author of 10 Minutes 10 Years. The good news? Although some of the wrinkles are here to stay, a little bit of the damage caused by sugar can be reversed when you give sugar the ole’ heave-ho! I have experienced this myself personally. When I gave up sugar a few years ago, I remember noticing some pretty remarkable improvements in the quality of my skin. Not enough that anyone thought I went out and got plastic surgery or anything. But enough that I noticed improvement.
Insulin resistance can lead to lower levels of insulin in the brain, which over time could lead to memory problems, dementia, and Alzhimer’s or Type 3 Diabetes. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the New York Times best-seller, Grain Brain – “sugar, carbs, and wheat are the brain’s silent killers.” A recent study out of UCLA, indicates that added sugars affect memory and brain function – with researchers coming to the rather bold conclusion that “sugar makes you dumber.” Fortunately, the study also revealed a magic bullet that can make your brain work smarter, even reversing some of the negative effects of sugar…omega 3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish, fish oils, nuts, and some seeds like hemp and chia). High sugar diets seem to be linked to poor learning, memory, and recall. But there is mounting evidence that it is also linked to more serious brain conditions – like Alzheimers. According to a study published in August 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine, “even subtle elevations of fasting blood sugar translates to dramatically increased risk for dementia.” Many researchers are calling Alzheimer’s disease “Type 3 Diabetes,” because they are finding plaques in the brain that look very much like the diabetic plaques. Learn more in this article from Psychology Today.
Poor blood sugar regulation can cause your blood sugar to dip in the middle of the night, causing you to wake up. Some people will also feel shaky – and will need to go get something to eat to stabilize their blood sugar in the middle of the night. Some people with more advanced blood sugar dysegulation might find that they need to get up and go to the bathroom several times at night. This could be a signal that the kidneys are working overtime due to elevated blood sugar levels.
According to thyroid expert Dr. Izabella Wentz, poor blood sugar regulation can cause thyroid antibodies to spike, and can also weaken the adrenals (which work in conjunction with the thyroid). She says that researchers from Polland have found that up to 50% of Hashimotos sufferers have impaired carbohydrate metabolism. According to Dr. Chris Kresser, “studies have shown that the repeated insulin surges common in insulin resistance increase the destruction of the thyroid gland in people with autoimmune thyroid disease. As the thyroid gland is destroyed, thyroid hormone production falls.“
Do you get tingling feelings, numbness, pain, or burning feelings in your extremeties? This could be a sign of chronically elevated blood sugar levels. According to pain management specialist Robert Bolash, MD. ““High blood sugar is toxic to your nerves. When a nerve is damaged, you may feel tingling, pins and needles, burning or sharp, stabbing pain.” According to the Cleveland Clinic, the bad news about daibetic neuropathy is that once you have it, it is very hard to reverse. So prevention is key – and the way that is done is by keeping blood sugar levels below diabetic levels. Neuropathy not only can lead to debilitating pain, but it also can cause dangerous infections. If you are experiencing nerve pain, tingling, numbness, or burning – along with having your blood sugar levels evaluated, make sure to rule out a B12 deficiency as well – as that can cause neuropathy, and could lead to permanent nerve damage if untreated.
Because of the increased risk of heart disease from excess sugars, the American Heart Association has come up with recommended limits for added sugar for women & men:
Keep in mind – one 12 oz. soda has on average 10 teaspoons of sugar.
The type of sugar we eat also matters. Fruit sugar is naturally occurring sugar and comes paired with fiber, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins – we can’t say that for a soda or a Slurpee. So sugar from whole fruit is better than processed added sugars (which are empty calories). But we can even overdo natural sugars like maple syrup, honey, dried fruit, and such. And when there is insulin resistance, it is good to limit all sugars for a short time to reset the insulin response.
One of the best things you can do for your health is to take back control from sugar!
If you are getting too much sugar – you are not alone. Most people are getting at least 3 times too much sugar in their daily diets – that doesn’t even take into account all the flour and simple carbs.
The biggest issues that most of us have – is that sugar is highly addictive (as addictive as a drug), and we are eating it often without even realizing it – because it is hiding in most packaged and processed foods.
Chapter One in my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan provides numerous tips for “Breaking up with Sugar” – including some surprising foods that spike the blood sugar, as well as nutritional tips and supplements that help to balance blood sugar, some good alternatives, and more.
You will get actionable tips to break old habits and form new ones, a support network, recipes (yes, they are delicious – I am a foodie – I don’t do bland), and the best of all….your tastebuds can even change!! Mine did!!
I used to LOVE my sugar and simple carbs – I was a bonafide sugar junkie for years. But since breaking up with sugar about 6 years ago – the idea of eating a super sweet caramel sundae no longer appeals to me at all!! Ick! I’d rather have a square of 70% or higher dark chocolate instead now (yes, you can have some sweetness in your life – even if you break up with sugar!!).
Just remember that nutrition and lifestyle changes can be very powerful tools to help you change your health and reduce your risk of future diseases.
Thank you to Coronado SAFE for inviting me to speak at your 3rd Annual Parenting Conference!
Recently someone whose child has been dealing with a bunch of health issues asked me “Why does kids’ health have to be so complicated nowadays?” He has a point:
The statistics are so grim that experts worry that in a few decades there may not be enough healthy individuals to take care of the sick individuals. In fact, this may be the first generation of kids which may not outlive their parents.
Take a walk down the aisle of your average grocery store, and you will see hundreds and thousands of brightly colored and flavor-blasted sodas, chips, cookies, cereals, bars, yogurts, candies, energy and sports drinks, mac n cheese cups, frozen pizzas and dinners, refrigerator doughs, ice creams, and a wide variety of foods specifically designed and marketed towards….our kids.
Seventy four percent of these foods contain added sugars. And far too many of these foods contain artificial colors, flavorings, flavor enhancers, preservatives, monosodium glutamate, trans fats, GMOs, and other ingredients that we don’t recognize or know what they are there for.
The question remains – is this even food? Or is it a science experiment? And do we want our kids to be lab rats in a giant experiment?
I know all too well how tempting all this junk food can be for a kid.
Can you guess who that girl is in this photo?
Yep – that was me. I think I was around 12 years old then. Some of my favorite foods were hot dogs and ice cream.
If you had told that girl that she would one day write a book, speak in front of large audiences, and go on TV regularly – all to share her knowledge about nutrition and health – she would have laughed herself silly. You see, when I was that age, I didn’t realize that what I ate affected everything – from my energy, to my moods, brain function, digestion, immune system, and my weight. All I cared about was how food tasted. And I frequently reached for things like hot dogs, candy, sodas, cookies, cakes, and chips.
Sure, they might taste good – but in the long term all that junk food can cause tremendous mental and physical pain.
But I am one of the lucky ones – because the majority of overweight children grow up to become overweight/obese adults.
The thing is – it doesn’t have to be this way.
NO ONE HAS TO BE A STATISTIC.
I am living proof.
So what can we do to stop this trajectory? The answer is surprisingly simple:
Eat Real Food.
Although it may be simple, it might not be so easy.
Because if you are eating packaged and processed foods, you are getting a lot more sugar, chemicals and GMOs in your diet than you realize.
Here are 5 Tips to Help you Improve Your Family’s Diet:
1. Cut way back on added sugar – read Are Our Kids Eating Toxic Amounts of Sugar? for more info.
2. Avoid anything with partially hydrogenated oils (this means there are trans fats).
3. Get the artificial colors out. If it has a color and a number after it, it is an artificial color. Artificial colors have been found to affect attention and behavior in some kids. In fact, in the United Kingdom – if a food has an artificial color, it has to have a label on it that says:
‘may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’
So instead of putting on that label, most manufacturers will use natural colorings instead. For example, if you buy Kraft mac n cheese in the UK, it is made with natural colorings, while the blue box in the US contains artificial colors. There are many other examples of this kind of double standard.
4. Avoid chemicals in foods like mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), flavor enhancers, and preservatives. If you can’t pronounce it, or don’t know what it is – it probably is a chemical.
5. Eat more plant-based foods – especially vegetables. Studies show that eating more plant-based foods can lower your risk of disease and prolong your life. Shoot for between 7 and 9 servings of plant based foods every day. Or try to fill up half your plate at least twice daily.
Want to learn more about nutrition and health?
Below are some additional resources:
If you are like most households in this country – you have been knee-deep in candy – for days (maybe weeks) now. I even walked by a bowl of Halloween candy at the gym today (say whaaat?)!! It seems to be everywhere!
And it is a slippery slope….you think, hey “just one itty bitty little candy bar” can’t hurt, right? …and it certainly wouldn’t…if we actually stopped at one. But soon we are reaching in the candy bowl over and over, and the wrappers are piling up (I know, because I have been there, done that myself in the past).
Have you tried to give up sugar before, only to get sucked back in?
Studies show that sugar is as addictive as a drug, and in addition to all that candy, most packaged and processed foods contain lots of hidden sugar! So it is no surprise that the majority of Americans are just getting too much of it and find it next to impossible to stop!
Yes, You Can Do This!
A few years ago right around this time – I had just had it with sugar. I was tired of needing to eat every couple of hours or I would get hangry (hungry-angry). I was tired of feeling sluggish every afternoon, and tired of wondering who that old lady was looking back at me in the mirror. I was tired of always needing something sweet after dinner. I guess I was just tired of being…tired. The best part? I was simply not prepared for how AMAZING breaking up with sugar would actually be!
I used to think sugar was just empty calories – but it is much more sinister than that. High sugar diets not only wreak havoc on our metabolism, moods, energy, and immunity; but over time – they can increase our risk of many diseases (including cancer, heart disease, and one of the fastest growing diseases in this country – non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). And if that is not enough, they create AGEs (advanced glycation end products) – which leads to wrinkles and sagging skin (I know, I wish I knew about that one when I was in my 20s!).
So last year around this time, I decided to create my one week eCourse – Break Up with Sugar.
It teaches you WHY you should ditch the sugar and HOW to do it (and not go too crazy)!!
And right now, for a limited time – I am offering 50% off the price (ends Nov. 10th)!!
What you Get:
I also share a lot of my personal history with sugar, and even my break up letter that I wrote to sugar (yes, humor is key)!
How about you? Are you OVER the sugar? Ready to take back the control?
Breaking up with sugar could very well be the best thing you do for your metabolism, mood, immunity, sleep, energy, and overall health.
Breaking up with sugar is the first of 10 keys in my upcoming book The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari, March 2015). I pushed really hard to have it be the first key (even though my editor thought it was a bit much to hit people with the sugar bomb right off the bat), because I know that it is simply not possible to optimize your metabolism and health when your blood sugar is out of control.
Maybe you are not even hooked on candy…. there are many ways we can be spiking our blood sugar. Maybe it is the wine, sodas, fruit juice, lattes, and even low sugar foods like pretzels – which was “my sugar” for years (read: Are Pretzels Worse Than a Candy Bar?).
Are you over it? But not sure how to break free from the sugar?
Sign up for my 1 Week Break up with Sugar e Course -now on sale for 50% off (for one week only)!
Want an idea for the kid’s candy too? See if they would like to trade their candy for a toy – it is not too late for the Switch Witch to pay them a visit!!
Halloween is over, so while is your sweet child acting like a little monster…?
In the weeks that follow Halloween parents might notice that their child:
Don’t worry – it could be the Halloween candy!
Between all the sugar and artificial colors, it is no wonder our kids’ aren’t their usual selves. All that candy has them on the Sugar Rollercoaster!
What is the Sugar Rollercoaster?
When we eat sugar, it goes surging into our bloodstream, giving us a burst of energy. But that energy is short-lived, and followed by a crash. So naturally, we tend to reach for more of what gave us the burst of energy, and the cycle happens all over again. I call this the “sugar rollercoaster,” and it is easy to get stuck on it! The blood sugar crash causes moodiness, increased hunger, low energy, and can even lead to shakiness.
Sugar and Immunity
Sugar also lowers our production of white blood cells, which reduces our immunity, not what we need this time of year when colds and flu season is coming into its’ peak.
More Addictive Than Cocaine?
A recent study found that sugar was more addictive than cocaine, so it is not surprising that once you get started, it is hard to stop.
What about the Artificial Colors?
In addition to the sugar, one packet of Skittles contains 9 (yes NINE) different artificial colors. Many parents might not realize the impact that all those colors can have on their kids. Artificial colors has been shown to negatively affect behavior and attention in certain susceptible kids. Europe has recognized this, and all products with artificial colors must contain warning labels. So most brands use natural colorings in Europe, while they use the brighter and cheaper artificial colors in the U.S. Watch this Halloween Candy Controvery segment on the Today Show to learn more.
So how much sugar does Halloween really add to the average kids’ diet?
Did you know that the average kid collects about 100 pieces of candy on Halloween night? Well, they are just fun-sized candies – so it is no big deal right? Well, a fun sized packet of Skittles contains 11.4 grams of sugar, which amounts to just under 3 teaspoons of sugar. Two packets of fun sized Skittles, and your child has already met their recommended added sugar intake for the whole day!! That leaves no room for the added sugar that is coming in their yogurt tubes, cereals, sports drinks, snack bars, fruit juice, flavored milks, or the barbeque sauce they dip their nuggets into (a surprising number of BBQ sauces’ first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup)!
It Really Adds Up
Let’s assume that on average, each fun sized candy has about 2.5 teaspoons of sugar, and if a kid brings home 100 pieces, that will add up to 250 teaspoons of sugar or 3,700 calories of pure sugar! The average teenage boy already eats over 500 calories a day of sugar on average (not considering Halloween candy in the mix). So just 5 fun sized candies each day will add an extra 12.5 teaspoons of sugar (that is 1/4 cup!), which is an extra 187 calories of nutrient-void candy. If they are eating 5 pieces a day, it will take them 20 days to eat the 100 pieces – so that is an extra 3,700 calories of sugar in less than 3 weeks!!
What’s a Parent to Do?
American kids already are getting way too much sugar in their daily diets. But trick or treating really takes them over the edge. So what is a parent to do about all that candy laying around?
Do you panic if there is nothing sweet in the house? Start with just a bite, and then end up polishing off a pint?
If your cravings have been controlling your life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…it might just be time to declare your independence from sugar!
Sweets raise our blood sugar, which offers a quick energy boost. They also deliver serotonin to the brain, which makes us happy. So it is not surprising that the average American tends to overdo it, consuming over 150 pounds of added sugars each year. But the energy boost and happy feeling from sugar is short-lived, followed by a crash. So that is when we need another boost…and so the cycle of dependence begins.
We all know that sugar is certainly is not good for our waistline. But is it just “empty calories?”
Sugar is lurking in not just soda, candy or cakes; it is also in alcoholic beverages, sweetened teas and coffees. Because refined flours quickly convert to sugar, they create a similar reaction too. When we eat these things, our blood sugar rises. This signals the pancreas to release insulin – which is needed to deliver glucose from the blood into the cells, and therefore lowers blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels drop, this signals the body that it is hungry, so we tend to reach for that quick fix again, read more about How Carbs Can Trigger Food Cravings in the New York Times.
When the blood sugar gets low, so does our energy and mood, some people might even get shaky and lightheaded. Naturally, we will want to reach for something that will boost our energy and make us “happy” and energized again, this puts us on a “sugar rollercoaster.”
When insulin is released, it signals to the body to store those calories as fat – so sugar promotes the storage of fat in the body. Eating a lot of sugar and carbs over time makes the body resistant to insulin, so more of it has to be released to get the job done. And when there is more insulin, there will be more signals to store the glucose as fat. Increased fat stores (especially around the midsection) is a major contributing factor to developing heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases.
Sugar creates something called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs), which damages the collagen and elastin in our skin, literally sagging our skin and making it look more wrinkled. Ditch the sweets and the skin can recover some of it’s youthful glow again.
When we eat something sweet, the pancreas releases insulin to reduce the elevated blood sugar and deliver it to the cells. Insulin inhibits the release of human growth hormone, which depresses the immune system, making us less equipped to fight off infections and viruses. Sugar also raises our risk of many diseases:
This AHA statement (http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/4/523.full ) summarizes many studies that have examined sugar’s link to various diseases.
Convinced that sugar is not just empty calories? Are you ready to declare your independence?
Realize that you can effectively “reset” your sweet tooth. Skip the sweets for a week, and your taste buds become more sensitive to sweets – so those candies are too sweet, and the apple is just right. So give yourself a vacation from sweets and declare your independence from sugar!!!
There are some very common misconceptions about what foods and substances really are healthy for our hearts. Here are five heart health myths…busted!
1. Myth: fat free diets are heart healthy:
In the past couple of decades, if you were diagnosed with heart disease, your doctor probably put you on a “heart healthy” low fat diet. But new evidence is revealing this could possibly be the worst possible diet for our hearts! Research from respected institutions like Harvard show that low fat diets may actually raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes (read more here).
Low fat foods make us hungry! Getting enough of the right kind of dietary fat is critical for controlling our hunger hormones – so if you are not getting enough healthy fats in your diet – you are likely going to be hungry all of the time, which can lead to overeating and weight gain, which as we all know, is bad for our hearts. Healthy fats also help to keep our bloodsugar in balance, which is important because blood sugar spikes over a period of time can lead to a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance makes it more difficult to lose weight, and can lead to pre-diabetes, diabetes, and an increased risk of heart disease. Also, post-meal glucose spikes are very dangerous for our hearts (read more). In addition to the 26 million Americans with diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that more than a third of the general population is now pre-diabetic. Knowing your blood sugar levels is very important, as high blood sugar is quickly becoming one of the leading preventable causes of sudden death in the United States.
A multi-billion dollar industry was born from the erroneous concept that fats are bad for us, and for over a decade, consumers dutifully have bought low and reduced fat foods at the grocery store thinking that they were doing a good thing for their health. But many low fat foods are significantly worse for us than the regular ones. Take Reduced Fat Peanut butter for example. The company website claims that it only contains 60% peanuts – like that is a good thing. But if I am buying peanut butter – I want there to be peanuts in there, we have to ask ourselves, what comprises the other 40% in the jar? if you read the label, you will find out what makes up the other 40% is not good for our hearts or any part of our bodies – corn syrup solids, sugar, soy protein, and hydrogenated vegetable oils. So instead of the healthier fats from the actual real peanuts, we are getting “fake fats,” added sugars, genetically modified soy, and GMO corn syrup solids. So I can say without a doubt – that all “reduced fat” foods are not healthier for you. I recommend buying a natural peanut butter, or even better – upgrade to a product like NuttZo – which is a blend of 7 different nuts and seeds, and is a good source of heart protective omega 3 fatty acids. NuttZo contains no added sugar or anything else we don’t need in nut butters.
What do we want to avoid like the plague? Sugar. A study found that drinking just 1 sweetened beverage a day was associated with a 20% increase in heart disease in men (read more).
2. Myth: Saturated fat is bad for your heart.
So what kind of fat is good for us, and which kind is bad? For years we have been taught that saturated fats are bad, and polyunsaturated fats are good for us. Again, this is completely wrong!! I tell all of my clients to get rid of the margarine, corn oils, soy oil, and vegetable oils. So many of us have been dutifully buying margarine in the stores – because we thought it was healthier for us than butter. This is completely false. The benefits that saturated fats offer, are they are more stable, so they are less likely to become damaged, or oxidized – and it is the oxidized or damaged fats/cholesterol that is dangerous, causing the free radicals that leads to disease.
Some saturated fats are actually recommended and have been shown to greatly benefit the heart – like coconut oil. Coconut oil is comprised of medium chain fatty acids, which are more quickly and easily converted into energy – so they are less likely to be stored as fat. Coconut oils are also rich in lauric acid, which has been shown to lower cholesterol, lower our risk of cancer, and benefit the heart. In fact, research shows that these are better for your heart than margarine and polyunsaturated oils. Read: Saturated Fats Are Good for You to learn more about how saturated fats can be better for our heart health. Another saturated fat that is also a good choice is organic or grass fed butter. I always recommend choosing organic or free range for ALL animal proteins – as they are higher in omega 3s (reduces inflammation – important for our hearts and overall health), will not contain antibiotics (80% of the U.S. antibiotics are fed to livestock), and reduce inflammation.
The other issue with margarine, is that it contains a hefty serving of trans fats – largely a man-made fat – the worst kind of fat. Trans fats are formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oils, making the oil more solid and less likely to spoil. This process is called hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation and allows stick margarine to be firm at room temperature. Trans fats have been shown to increase LDL cholesterol, and they tend to lower the HDL cholesterol. Trans fats also may make our blood platelets stickier, which is a definite bad situation for our heart health. Just one tablespoon of stick margarine can pack a whopping 3 grams of trans fat. So pitch out the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and buy some good ‘ole real butter again (but make sure to choose organic or grass fed).
3. Myth: Eggs raise your cholesterol and so we should avoid them. Many people believe that eggs, and foods with cholesterol raises blood cholesterol and heart disease risk. But half of all heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol (read article). Don’t worry about dietary cholesterol – eat your eggs! According to research out of Harvard, eggs – even though they contain cholesterol do not raise blood cholesterol for 60% of the population. For the other 30% for whom eggs did raise blood cholesterol, it raised both the LDL and HDL (it did not change the ratio – most important) and at the same time it reduced the oxidation of the LDL cholesterol – oxidation is the reason why LDL is bad for us. But buy organic eggs – they are higher in omega 3 fatty acids and so they are better for our health & our hearts.
In fact, there is a considerable amount of research to show that high cholesterol is NOT an accurate predictor of heart health. Read the book The Great Cholesterol Myth, Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease, written by Dr. Steven Sinatra (a heart surgeon with over 25 years of experience), and Dr. Johnny Bowden, the “Rogue Nutritionist.” The Great Cholesterol Myth says the real culprits of heart disease are:
Lastly, we need to understand that cholesterol is a very important hormone. It is the mother of all hormones – and without sufficient cholesterol, our body can’t effectively manufacture all the other hormones, which can lead to low testosterone levels in men, among other things. It also has been linked to increased rates of Alzhemiers and dementia – because our brain needs cholesterol for proper brain cell function.
4. Myth: Foods Labeled “Trans-Fat Free” are heart healthy:
There is one thing that pretty much everyone agrees on – that trans fats are the worst kind of fats we can eat for our hearts and our overall health. So we want to avoid eating any foods that contain even trace amounts of trans fats. But – just because the label says “trans fat free,” does not mean that it contains ZERO trans fats!! As long as a food has less than .5 trans fats per serving, it can say trans fats free, but it still can contain trans fats. And because trans fats prolong the shelf life of packaged foods, they are found in lots of packaged and processed good – like cookies and cakes. These are the kind of foods that we tend to eat multiple servings of – so even if they only contain trace amounts of trans fats, those can add up very quickly. Plus, any food that has a label on it – is probably processed. So the less foods you eat with labels and marketing claims, the better for your heart health. But we are all busy, so we will occasionally want to eat something from a package, so it is important to learn how to find Trans Fats on labels (hint – most margarines, certain vegetable oils and many packaged/ processed foods contain them). Just know, the less packaged and processed our diets are – the better for our overall health.
5. Myth: Heart Disease only affects the middle aged.
Diseases that we once considered to only hit in middle age, are starting to show up in kids. Once called “adult-onset” diabetes, it is now referred to as Type 2 diabetes – because it is appearing long before adulthood now. New research shows that heart damage is beginning very early in life. And because of poor lifestyle and diet choices – the disease can accelerate quickly. Teenagers are increasingly showing evidence of heart disease and even having heart attacks. Developing good lifestyle choices should begin as early as possible – waiting until middle age to think about our heart health might end up to be too late. One of the key foods to encourage kids to limit is sugar – especially sugary drinks like sodas. Drinking just 1 sugar sweetened soda per day was shown to raise a man’s risk of heart attack by over 30%. Eating too many sweets or even carbs/grains causes spikes in bloodsugar – leading to a condition called insulin resistance – read this study. Another food group to not overconsume is simple carbs – foods like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Wonder Bread and other simple carbs are very quickly converted to the body into sugars, and they offer no nutritional value, and create inflammation in the body – a key marker for heart disease and many other diseases.
The best predictor for future heart disease in children is their waist circumference, read this article for more info. Having belly fat is an indication that there could be fat forming around the organs, and this fat is far more dangerous for the heart than any other type of fat. This New York Times article tells us how we can prevent heart disease in our children.
Independence Day means fireworks, parades, and of course – BBQs. Usually you will see a lot of artificially colored red, white and blue items on July 4th, but we do our best to avoid food dyes. This year for your Independence Day celebration, why not think beyond red, white and blue and go for a full rainbow? Here are 7 ways to boost the fun & (natural) colors on your table:
Homemade Ranchy Dill Dip:
Directions: In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients. Add salt & pepper to taste. Put in refrigerator to chill until ready to serve.
Have a happy and safe 4th of July Celebration!
Remember Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign from the 80’s dedicated to educating kids about the dangers of doing drugs? One memorable commercial had the egg frying in the pan and the slogan – this is your brain on drugs. The slogan for the commercial with the fried egg today could be “this is your brain on sugar.”
Not Just Empty Calories
We all know that super sweet foods and drinks are not good for us. But mounting evidence is revealing that they are not just harmless empty calories. Several studies have already linked consumption of sugar and high fructose corn syrup to obesity and increased risk of a host of diseases – including diabetes, heart disease, and even certain cancers. But one of the newest
studies out of UCLA, indicates that added sugars might just “make you dumber.” Fortunately, the study also revealed a magic bullet that can make your brain work smarter, even reversing some of the effects of fructose – omega 3s.
In the study, UCLA researchers put rats in a maze and gave them a few days to navigate and remember how to get around. Then they removed the rats from the maze for a 6 week period. During this time, one group of rats were fed an omega-3-rich diet, the other two groups consumed omega 3 deficient diets; one of which also drank a fructose solution in place of water. After the six weeks period on these diets, the researchers put the rats back in the maze to see how well they recalled it and performed.
The average American consumes roughly 142 pounds of added sugar a year (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture). The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugars to 8 teaspoons a day total. Not an easy task considering 1 can of soda contains about 10 teaspoons alone. The average American consumes more than 3 times the recommended amount of added sugar each day. Over half of all 8 years olds drink a soda each day, and one third of teenage boys are drinking 3 cans of sodas per day.
Researchers point to insulin – which affects not only blood sugar, but it also the way in which brain cells function. When we consume too many sweetened beverages and foods, our bodies become less able to process them, leading to a condition called insulin resistance – which can also lead to stubborn weight gain and even diabetes and other diseases overtime.
UCLA researchers were sure to clarify that there is a difference between naturally-occurring sugars, and those that are manufactured and added to foods and drinks. This is an important distinction, because the brain relies on sugar or glucose as it’s primary fuel. Research shows that too much added sugar, can actually deprive your brain of glucose, compromising the brain’s power to concentrate, remember, and learn.“We’re not talking about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants,” explained Gomez-Pinilla. “We’re more concerned about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative.” Whole fruit also contains fiber, which helps to prevent insulin spikes and many American diets are lacking. But once a person has insulin resistance or diabetes, their body can even have trouble processing the naturally occurring sugars in fruits and other foods.
Luckily, taking omega-3s appears to counteract the negative effect of the fructose, even potentially reversing insulin resistance. The omega 3 rich diet had other protective effects beyond our brains. The rats who consumed less omega-3s had higher triglyceride, glucose and insulin levels: which is associated with a condition called Metabolic Syndrome. But the good news – the study found that omega 3s could reverse the insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes).
The best sources of omegas 3 fatty acids are fatty cold-water fish like salmon, fish oil supplements, chia, flax and hemp seeds, tree nuts, and seaweed/algae supplements.
So what is the bottom line if you want your brain to work smarter? Get your omega-3s, and limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks. And researchers say it is never too early to start. “Our findings suggest that consuming DHA regularly protects the brain against fructose’s harmful effects,” said Gomez-Pinilla. “It’s like saving money in the bank. You want to build a reserve for your brain to tap when it requires extra fuel to fight off future diseases.”
Here is a list of eleven other foods that can boost brain functioning too.
© copyright 2018 Sara Vance