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Nutrition

How Sweet is Sugar? The Hidden Dangers

This article might seem a little clichéd due to the holidays coming up as many authors like to write about the dangers of all of the fun holidays treats.  I know I have a very intelligent and practical audience who understand the common dangers that sugar can have on our health so in this article I wanted to focus on some of the lesser known health risks associated with sugar so you can keep them to moderate levels during the year and be able to splurge a little more during special holiday occasions.

Sugar: Getting up to Speed

One of the biggest problems with the attempt to keep sugar consumption to moderate levels is that sugar can be found almost everywhere.  Even if you think you are avoiding the obvious locations like candy and soda there are many other products that have sugar as an ingredient that you might not be aware of.  Ketchup, energy bars, specialty coffee, dried fruit and even common lunch meats all have added sugar.

It’s not enough to avoid the obvious, we have to check the labels and see if the other unassuming products that we consume have unnecessary sugar in them to enhance the taste and texture.  With all of the consumption of sugar from different sources it won’t take long for our total daily sugar consumption to reach astronomical levels.

Lesser Known Health Risks

  • There are some common diseases associated with over-consumption of sugar including: obesity and type II diabetes but there are several other lesser know health risks associated with excessive sugar consumption; enough of which should make anyone want to keep consumption to an absolute minimum.
  • Sugar disrupts the mineral balance in the body by disrupting the pH levels in the blood.  Several different minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, copper and chromium are used to correct this imbalance, however when they are used for this function they are not utilized for their intended use like proper bone and muscle building and function.
  • Too much sugar increases the rate of aging of the skin causing the decrease in skin elasticity.  Skin requires healthy collagen to maintain its shape and structure.  Too much sugar in the blood decreases the use of the minerals necessary to build and maintain healthy collagen in the body.
  • Testosterone can decrease in the blood up to 25% with the consumption of sugar because of the high insulin levels associated with excessive amounts of sugar in the blood.
  • One of the most alarming correlations is found in a recent US study where cancer cells use sugar (fructose) to fuel their division and proliferation.  With cancer being one of the most prominent diseases facing mankind and with the average American consuming about 100-120lbs. of sugar per year who knows if cutting down on sugar consumption would also decrease the risk of cancer.

Conclusion

It’s a shame that we can’t simply just trust the food that we consume to be beneficial to our health and well being.  We must take it upon ourselves to truly understand that what we eat can have either significant benefits or repercussions towards our health.  We must also dig deeper beyond the basics good and bad foods and truly know what is in the other sources we are consuming.  A healthy and balanced diet comes down to the decisions we make and the dedication we instill.

References:

Cancer Cells Slurp up Fructose

Effects of Sugar on Skin and Aging

Shocking: Sugar Content of Common Food Products

Sugar: A Sweet Invitation to Disease

Sugar Kills

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Monday, November 28th, 2011 Nutrition No Comments

Five Fat Sources for Optimal Health

I find it interesting that where healthy diets are concerned there has been a huge push away from trans fats and more of a trend towards natural and organic food.  While this is a step in the right direction, I also find it interesting that there is still a stigma that fat in your diet is bad for you.  In reality, many fats found in food are naturally occurring and even vital for optimal health.  Still people want non-fat milk, Fat Free butter substitutes, and even minimal amounts of body fat percentage on their bodies.

The use of the word fat should not be an umbrella term collecting and labeling all of the various sources as the same.  Like everything in life there is the good, the bad and the ugly.  In this article my goal is to give you simple reasons why you should consume fat in your healthy diet and I will list five fat sources that you should consider adding into your diet for optimal health.

Why are people still avoiding fat?  Fat, also known as lipids, are everywhere in our bodies.  The cells that make up our body are structurally constructed with phospholipid layers for protection.  Our nerves are covered by myelin sheets (made from lipids) for insulation.  Even our brains are made up of about 60% lipids.

Cell Membrane with phosholipid bilayer and Axon with Myelin Sheath

If fats make up a good portion of our cell structure then certainly not all fats are bad and we need fats to build these structurally sound cells.  Besides cell building and nerve insulation, fats also attribute to:

  • Absorption of fat soluble vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids
  • Improved blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels
  • Improved brain, heart, liver and lung function
  • Reduced inflammation, cancer and heart disease risk
  • Production and regulation of hormones in the body

 

I know what you may be thinking, “Isn’t this the exact opposite of what I have been told?”  The answer really depends on the fat sources you consume.  Go for those unnatural, manufactured fat choices like trans-fats, and hydrogenated oils and you will watch your health slowly deteriorate.

In my attempt to avoid a boring scientifically saturated article on the different types of fats explaining which fats are good and which fats are bad; I want to make this simple for everyone.  Like I mentioned in my first installment of Should you Supplement; Think natural and you can’t go wrong.  Below are five natural fat sources that you can add to your diet that will allow you to receive the many health benefits that the right fats have to offer.  I have purposely left fish oil off the list because I covered its benefits in great detail in my second Should you Supplement article.

 

 

 

 

Avocados

I am very fortunate to live in California where this super fruit (yes it is technically a fruit) is abundant and extremely tasty.  Avocados are loaded with the healthy oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, which helps lower LDL cholesterol (bad) and raise HDL cholesterol (good) and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Like avocados, extra virgin olive oil is mostly composed (70%) of oleic acid so the positive cholesterol benefits and reduced risk of heart disease are still part of the benefits.  Extra virgin olive oil has also shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer.  Like many things in life, you must get good quality olive oil, so yes, buying the “extra virgin” variety is important.  The title simply means that the oil has been minimally processed so many of the healthy vitamins and fatty acids remain intact.

Walnuts

Most nuts in their natural state are full of good fats and provide many health benefits; however, one may stand above all of the others, the walnut.  Walnuts contain the highest amount of Omega 3 fatty acids over all of the other nuts.  I discussed the necessity of having a diet high in omega 3s in my fish oil article and their healthy benefits are numerous. They play a role in lowering triglyceride levels in the blood, maintain high levels of HDL cholesterol, reduce plaque formations and the list goes on and on.  We talked earlier about the brain being composed of 60% fat and walnuts have been shown to help with the brain’s growth, reproduction of cells, and its proper function.  When you get walnuts, make sure you get them in their purest state, raw.  Avoid “roasted, flavored, and glazed” varieties because they have been processed and all of their previous health benefits are null and void.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil had gotten a bad rap over the years which is why it is overlooked as healthy food resource.  The early studies  from the 1980s show the negative effects of coconut oil consumption used a manipulated form of the oil (hydrogenated); we know when things are changed from their natural state they are no longer good.  Organic extra virgin coconut oil has so many health benefits you should go out to the store now to pick some up.  Coconut oil has been shown to reduce inflammation and fight many diseases because of a special fatty acid medium chain triglyceride known as lauric acid.  Lauric acid has antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral qualities which prevent and combat a ton of pathogens and diseases.

Butter

Oh no, I said the “B” word.  I cringe when I hear people say things like “I ate the bread with no butter” or “At least I didn’t use butter” or my personal favorite “I used this fat-free butter substitute spread for my potatoes.”  Again, butter is good for you when you get it from the right source, and when you do get the right source it should be used as part of a healthy diet.  Real butter comes from cows that eat their real diet of grass.  This grass feeding gives the nice, rich yellow color that indicates a dense nutrient concentration.  This butter contains omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) which are both absent in grain fed cow butter.  CLA has numerous health benefits which include: anti cancer properties and even aids in fat loss, especially around the abdomen.  If these benefits aren’t enough to get everyone to add a little bit of high quality butter into their diets I’m not sure what else will convince you.

Hopefully this eased some of your fears of fats and now you are more knowledgeable when choosing between the right and wrong kinds to consume.  If you consume the right kinds of fat within your healthy diet your health and well-being will shine like never before.

Sources:

  • Bowden, Jonny, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Fair Winds Publishing, 2007.
  • Enig, Mary, Know Your Fats, Bethesda Press, 2000.

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Sunday, July 25th, 2010 Nutrition No Comments

Ask Me Anything: Muscle Cannabalism?

Hey Doug, I was wondering what “Muscle Cannibalism” is and what I should do to avoid it.  Thanks.

If you want to avoid “muscle cannibalism” then avoid trekking in the Sierras with a group of people, get lost, sleep in a cave and then run out of food while waiting to be rescued.  I think what you are referring to is Muscle “Catabolism” which is simply that breakdown of muscle tissue.

I’m going to keep this simple; you cannot avoid muscle catabolism because you need a little bit of it for muscle anabolism (the growing of muscle).  Every time you train you will have some muscle catabolism going on and then upon proper recovery with nutrition and rest an anabolic state will occur and hopefully that process balances or slightly exceeds the catabolic process so you can maintain and/or increase your muscle mass.

Get to know your muscles and how to take care of them

The two athletic populations that are most concerned about the negative effects of catabolism are bodybuilders and endurance athletes. The primary goal of bodybuilding is to put on as much muscle mass as possible so that is why they eat a ton, take supplements and sleep as much as they can to keep catabolism to a minimum.  Endurance athletes push their bodies to the limit in terms of exercise volume.  They go for hours running, climbing, and riding.  The amount of energy needed to maintain these tasks is huge so naturally when they run out of nutrients they consume, the proteins in the muscles are used and muscle breakdown occurs.  This is why you see riders looking emaciated at the end of the Tour de France than when they started.  Yes, they lost body fat too but there is some good muscle breakdown going on.

So if you are not a bodybuilder or an endurance athlete and you eat correctly, stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep, you should not have to worry about anything unless you go hiking in the Sierras in the winter, like I mentioned.

One of these after a good training session helps avoid muscle catabolism

Thanks for the question

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Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 Articles No Comments
 

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