sugar

Food & Health: Updates from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Food & Health: Updates from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

 

Nutrition misinformation and food confusion surrounds today’s health-conscious athletes. To arm myself with knowledge to better educate my clients, I (along with 10,000 other registered dietitians) attended the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics annual convention (FNCE) to learn the latest food and nutrition updates. Here is some information that might help you on your health journey.

  • Stress fractures are a common sports injury. Among 42 Division-1 cross-country runners, 35% of the male and 41% of the female runners reported having had a stress fracture. Inadequate nutrition could have contributed to the problem. Their diets tended to be low in calories, calcium and/or vitamin D. If you are going to push your body to the limits, at least fuel it optimally!
  • If intestinal distress sidetracks you during exercise, try reducing your intake of apples, onion, garlic and broccoli —particularly for 2 to 3 days before a competitive event. These are just a few commonly eaten foods that are high in fermentable (gas-producing) carbohydrates; they might contribute to undesired pit stops. You could also meet with a sports dietitian to help you systematically discover triggering foods. The referral network at www.SCANdpg.org can help you find your local sports food expert.
  • Exercise increases harmful free radicals within muscles that can lead to oxidative damage and inflammation. Should athletes supplement with anti-oxidants to counter this? No. The better bet is to let the body adapt to these higher levels (and eat abundant anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables). Adaptation creates a change for the better in an athlete’s physiology.
  • Alcohol contributes to hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) by suppressing the release of glucose from the liver into the blood stream. If an athlete hasn’t eaten much food (as can easily happen after an event), alcohol in an empty stomach can easily lead to hypoglycemia (a lack of glucose for the brain) and a drunken stupor. The same happens when a person with diabetes has low blood glucose; he or she can get mistaken for being drunk (when the brain just needs food).
  • In contrast to recreational marijuana, which is used with the intent to impair normal functioning, medical marijuana (MM) is used to relieve pain, reduce nausea and vomiting, and to overcome loss of appetite (as with cancer). If you have parents or friends who are new to using MM, caution them about using edibles. When MM is eaten, its pain relieving benefits are delayed for 30 to 120 minutes, as opposed to smoked MM, which offers immediate benefits. The problem with the delayed response with edibles is that a patient can easily overdose while waiting to feel an effect…
  • Meal timing affects circadian rhythms —as well as weight management. A study (Garaulet, 2013) with 420 subjects who ate an early lunch or a later lunch reports the early lunch eaters lost more weight, despite consuming the same number of calories and getting the same amount of sleep. Your best bet is to eat more food earlier in the day. As you have undoubtedly heard before: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.
  • We compromise our well-being every time we have a mis-match between the environment and our internal biological clock. (Think jet lag, shift work, sleep apnea, and watching late-night TV.) Every cell has a biological clock; all these cellular clocks need to be synchronized. If not, bodies become unhealthy. For example, shift workers experience more high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes than people who work 9:00 to 5:00. For athletes, jet lag means poorer performance. Sleep is restorative and helps synchronize cell’s biorhythms. If you have trouble sleeping well: Avoid caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime and limit it to 2 mugs (400 mg. caffeine) a day. Turn off your computer screen/TV an hour before bed.
  • Consumers are self-defining “healthy food.” It needs to be organic, natural, non-GMO, free of dyes/additives/ colors, and have a “clean” label with no strange words. Will this trendy definition lead to unintended health consequences as food producers try to meet consumers’ demands? Likely yes. If you make your food decisions based on trends rather than science, you might want to take a step back and look at the whole picture. For example, enriched foods offer added nutrients that can make a label look “dirty” but the extra ingredients are good for your health. Added iron reduces your risk of becoming anemic; folic acid reduces the risk of birth defects; iodine reduces the risk of goiter. Preservatives that have been generally regarded as safe help bread stay fresh for longer, reduce the growth of mold on cheese, and reduce the amount of food you waste. These ingredients can be beneficial for you and for the environment.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages are the biggest source of dietary sugar in the US diet. Hence, research on sugar and health has focused on soft drinks. The question remains unanswered: Is sugar added to nourishing foods a health hazard? That is, is sugar added to spaghetti sauce (to make it less acidic) bad for you? What about the sugar added to bread (to help make the dough rise) — Is that a cause for concern? Doubtful. Yet, too many consumers freak out when a product lists sugar on the food label. Please note: sugar is just one of many nutrients listed on the label. Please look at the whole nutrient package. For example, chocolate milk has sugar (that refuels muscles) but it also offers protein (to repair muscles), sodium (to replace sweat loss), calcium & vitamin D to enhance bone health.

Dietary guidelines say 10% of total calories can come from added sugar. That’s 200 to 300 calories a day for athletes. Do you really need to freak out about a little sugar that makes that spaghetti sauce taste better? I think you can find bigger things to worry about.

Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD has a private practice in the Boston-area (Newton; 617-795-1875), where she counsels both fitness exercisers and competitive athletes, teaching them how to eat to win. Her popular Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and food guides for marathoners, cyclists and soccer are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. For online workshops, see www.NutritionSportsExerciseCEUs.com.

Questions about chocolate milk

Questions about chocolate milk

Dear Nancy,

I have a lot of questions about chocolate milk as a recovery drink. Thank you for your answers.

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Confused by anti-sugar information?

Confused by anti-sugar information?

Nancy, I’m currently watching an anti-sugar documentary … Yikes! Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are in almost everything: bread, crackers, cereal, processed foods. I have this urge to go to my kitchen and throw away every processed food there! 

I’m floored at the information I’m getting from this and how horrible sugar is for you. I had to get your take on this…. Continue Reading

What I learned on my trip to the cranberry bog…

What I learned on my trip to the cranberry bog…

The friendly folks at Ocean Spray recently invited me (and a group of registered dietitians who were in Boston for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo) to take a tour of a cranberry bog. Mind you, I have lived in the Boston-area for many years now, but have never trekked to the bogs. I learned a lot about cranberries — and how they offer health benefits that are unique to this tart little red berry.

. • Cranberries can help prevent recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)— a problem commonly encountered by women. Components in cranberries (proanthocyanidins) make the bacteria less able to “stick” to the surface of the infected tissues. This can significantly decrease bacterial adhesion and reduce the frequency of recurrent UTIs.

• Fewer UTIs means we use fewer antibiotics to treat the infections. Reducing use of antibiotics is very important because antibiotics kill not only the “bad guys” that cause infections but also the ”good guys” that live in our gut (our microbiota) and contribute to optimal health.

• Reducing the intake of antibiotics also reduces the risk of creating antibiotic resistance and the fear of “super bugs” that antibiotics do not kill. Cranberry compounds might reduce the “stickiness” of these drug-resistant “super-bugs.” Fingers crossed that forthcoming research will uncover a positive answer.

But aren’t cranberry juices loaded with sugar? Most cran-juices do have added sugar; it’s needed to counter the tart flavor and make the juice more palatable. Keep in mind that dietary guidelines suggest that 10% of your calories can come from added sugars. Consuming that sugar in the form of cranberry juice and craisins is a far more nutrient –rich way than to spend your sugar-budget on sweetened iced tea and jelly beans.

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy that once-a-year dollop of cranberry sauce with the turkey dinner. Rather enjoy cranberry products frequently as a smart investment in your good health. Ocean Spray offers many cranberry products. How about some craisins (dried cranberries) in your spinach salad?

Fruit Juice for Athletes: Yes or No?

Fruit Juice for Athletes: Yes or No?

Many athletes and sports-active people shy away from fruit juice, believing it has “too much sugar.” Can 100% fruit juice fit into a sports diet? For certain!

True, almost all of the calories in juice come from sugar, but that sugar

1) fuels the muscles and replaces depleted glycogen stores.

2) is accompanied by a multitude of health-protective vitamins (such as C), minerals (such as potassium) and bioactive compounds. Continue Reading

Much Ado About…Peanut Butter and Jelly?

Much Ado About…Peanut Butter and Jelly?

Professional athletes have been making headlines a lot recently, and for something other than their slam dunks.

Athletes have been changing their eating habits in an effort to improve performance. A few weeks ago, Tom Brady’s diet went viral. Last week we heard about the ban on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (and the battles that ensued!) for the Golden State Warriors. Spoiler alert: the Warriors won, and their beloved PB&Js are back. Continue Reading

Artificial Sweeteners, Diet Soda & You: Yes or No?

Artificial Sweeteners, Diet Soda & You: Yes or No?

Is diet soda really bad for me? … Do artificial sweeteners cause cancer? … Which is healthier: to put sugar or Sweet ‘n Low in my iced tea?

Many athletes ask me many questions about diet soda and artificial sweeteners. They feel guilty about eating sugar, but they love sweet foods. If that sounds familiar, you can stop the guilt! We are born with an innate preference for sweet foods (including all-natural breast milk). All living species —apart from cats— are attracted to sweets. (Yes, my dog loves blueberries!) Hungry athletes, in particular, tend to enjoy sweet stuff a lot! While little is wrong with 100 to 200 calories of sugar a day, some athletes enjoy way too many sugar-laden foods, including soda. Continue Reading

How much junk food (if any) is OK to eat?

While some people try to avoid any form of a sweet treat, salty snack or other form of so called “junk food”, others wonder how much they can eat without creating nutrition and health problems. For my clients, I suggest they enjoy a healthful sports diet that targets 85 to 90-percent of calories from quality foods and, if desired, 10 to 15-percent from “whatever.” Some days “whatever” might be carrots and other days it might be (guilt-free) carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. If you have trouble with eating too much junk food, the problem is not sugar and sweets but rather, you have likely gotten too hungry. You can resolve afternoon junk-food cravings by eating heartily at breakfast and lunch.

Given that you can ingest the recommended intake of all the vitamins, minerals, and protein you need within 1,500 calories from a variety of wholesome foods, a hungry athlete who consumes 2,000 to 4,000 calories a day has the opportunity to consume LOTS of nutrients. For example, 8 ounces of orange juice offers 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C. A thirsty runner who chugs the whole quart can consume 4 times the RDA in that one snack. OJ is better than an all-natural vitamin pill! Hence, a few hundred calories of “junk food” has little negative impact in the context of the whole diet.

Should athletes try to avoid refined sugar?

Refined white sugar is a nutritional zero, void of any vitamins, minerals or protein. Yet, the calories in sugar come from carbohydrates. Muscles welcome these carbs to fuel depleted glycogen stores. Muscles don’t know the difference between carbs from juice, candy, and sports drinks vs. apple, sweet potato, and banana. The difference shows up in health, immune response, and ability to fight off colds and flu. Continue Reading

What to do with all that Halloween Candy…

As I am writing this blog, ghosts and goblins are getting dressed for Halloween–and many parents are getting concerned about how to handle all of their kids’ candy-haul. Do they—

–let their child have just five pieces and then toss the rest?

–send the excess candy to soldiers in Afghanistan (as if it is good for their teeth and waistlines)?

–let their kids eat as much as they want, with fear the kids will eat and eat and only eat candy for the next week and this will ruin their health and make them fat? (Note: Kids certainly are not obese because of Halloween!)

If you want my suggestions on how to manage Halloween (and other holiday) treats, keep reading….

Sugar is a hotly debated topic. Yet, a few days of Halloween candy will not ruin your children’s health. You can use the Halloween candy stockpile as an opportunity to observe how your kids can self-regulate.

Before my kids embarked on the rigors of trick or treating, I’d feed them a good dinner. And then, I’d let them eat as much candy as they wanted. After all, Halloween is a holiday (of sorts) and indulging in treats is part of normal eating. After two days of Skittles and M&Ms, they got “sugared out.” Their candy sat untouched. They’d had enough. No big deal.

in comparison, if you plan on restricting your kids’ candy, notice how this can easily backfire into a major conflict.

–Will your kids end up having to sneak candy if they want to enjoy some of their Halloween haul?

–Do you really want to be the food police?

–And, please, don’t even try to define the “healthiest” Halloween candy. That’s absurd.

Just let you kids enjoy the holiday, and observe how your fears are unlikely to become facts.

 

Once, your kids have gotten tired of their Halloween candy, what can you do with their leftover stash? Maybe you could….

• enjoy the candy corn or red licorice instead of gels during extended exercise if you are a runner or endurance athlete?

* use it when making gingerbread houses at Christmas time?

• put some in the freezer (out of sight, out of mind) so you can have little treats all year long?

 

For more information on how to manage sugary sweets, please read the chapter on snack attacks in Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

What about high fructose corn syrup…???

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a double molecule comprised of 45% glucose, 55% fructose—the same as honey and similar to white sugar (50% glucose, 50% fructose).

Although HFCS is deemed evil and fattening, it is less evil and less fattening than portrayed by the media (1). Ninety percent of 567 media reports on HFCS since 2004 replaced science with opinion and were biased to the erroneous (2).

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