sugar

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).

Continue Reading

Is sugar bad for athletes?

Most athletes can metabolize sugar without problems. That’s because exercise enhances the transport of sugar from your blood into your muscles with far less insulin than needed by the body of an unfit person. The unfit body contributes to the rise in blood sugar that triggers the need for excess insulin and leads to the “crash.”

The most common reason for “sugar crashes” (hypoglycemia) among athletes relates to running out of fuel. The shakiness and sweats are because the athlete did not eat enough carbs to maintain normal blood glucose levels and the brain is now demanding sugar. One marathoner thought the 100-calorie gel he took at mile 16 caused him to “crash.”  More likely, he needed 200 to 300 calories to meet his energy needs, not just 100 calories.

Regarding health, some sugars are better for you than others because they offer more nutrients. For example, the sugar in sport drinks provides “empty calories” with no nutritional value (unless they are fortified to give a healthier appearance). The sugar in orange juice is accompanied with vitamin C, folate, potassium, and many other vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that contribute to good health.

While juice offers slightly less nutritional value than you’d get by eating the whole fruit, most anti-juice hype is targeted at overfat people. Liquid calories from juice, soda and sports drinks do not contribute to satiety (fullness). Hence, drinking sugary beverages with meals adds extra calories that can contribute to undesired weight gain. Yet, for active people who want to gain weight, juice can help a skinny athlete easily boost calorie intake while simultaneously adding carbs for fuel that enhances muscle-building workouts.

Even though refined sugar adds “junk calories” to a sports diet, you need not eat a sugar-free diet to have a good diet. A fit and healthy person’s menu can accommodate 10% of calories from refined sugar (World Health Organization’s guidelines). Yet, if you frequently consume sports drinks, gels, and sports candies—as well as other sweets—you can easily consume more than 250 to 350 calories (10% of calories) from refined sugar. Please don’t displace too many fruits, veggies and whole grains with empty calories from sugar…

For more information:

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook

 

Sugar and Athletes: Good, Bad or Evil?

Sugar has been the center of a lot of negative press , and for good reason. Diets high in added sugar are associated with increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Added sugar is also known to lead to a “sugar high,” followed by the “crash,” the result of a quick increase in blood sugar from eating a high dose of sugar followed by a quick drop soon thereafter

What does this mean for you, an athlete? As a trained person, your response to sugar is different than the average untrained individual. Your body can handle sugar better than the bodies of the unfit general public. Therefore, if you enjoy a glass of orange juice, a flavored yogurt, or an occasional cookie, the sugar is unlikely to send your body into a huge sugar high and crash.

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