Tag Archives: diabetes

6 Truths about Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

sugar cubes truth about sugarMy husband’s family has a history of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. His parents have set a goal to cut down on the amount of sugar they eat. I have decided to make that a goal for my family as well.

Sugar has a bad rap, but to some degree it has been earned. It can contribute to obesity, as well as heart disease and diabetes.

The average American eats and drinks 22 teaspoons – or almost half a cup – of added sugar each day. The American Heart Association recommends that women eat only 6 teaspoons per day and 9 teaspoons for men.

Here are 6 truths and about the sugar and artificial sweeteners we eat every day:

You’re born with a sweet tooth
Believe it or not, humans are hardwired at birth to prefer sweet. That’s because sugars are a type of carbohydrate, and when we eat carbs, we stimulate the release of the feel-good brain chemical called serotonin. Sugar just makes us feel better. But, our sweet tooth adds up: the average American consumes about 142 pounds of sugar every year.

Sugar doesn’t cause diabetes
While sugar on its own does not cause diabetes, too much sugar can. Type 2 diabetes occurs when you gain weight and eat a high-calorie diet – your body can’t clear the extra glucose from your blood. If glucose isn’t quickly processed by your body, it can destroy tissue and lead to additional health problems.

High-fructose corn syrup is like sugar
High-fructose corn syrup is processed from corn and is very close to sugar. Both are made up of fructose and glucose and contain about the same amount of calories. Why do we see high-fructose corn syrup as an ingredient in so many processed foods? Corn syrup is cheaper to produce than sugar. It’s also easy to use in packaged foods and drinks.

Does corn syrup make you fat? Not necessarily on its own. Obesity is about eating too many calories, but many of those calories may be hidden in foods as high-fructose corn syrup.

Sugar likes to hide
That brings us to our next truth. Sugar likes to hide in foods. Even low-fat and “diet” foods can have extra sugar to improve their taste. Sugar also adds bulk, texture and thickness to take the place of fat.

To spot hidden sugars, you can check the nutrition label for “carbs as sugars.” You should also check the ingredients list for items ending in “ose,” such as glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, and maltose. These are all forms of sugar.

Blood sugar spikes are bad
In addition to preventing obesity and diabetes, another reason to cut down on sugar is to avoid blood sugar spikes. Even if your weight is on target, you can be shortening your life by causing spikes in your blood sugar level. Repeated spikes in blood sugar put stress on the organs that control metabolism for your body. Over time, it takes a toll.

Artificial sweeteners may not be better
So, I can just eat artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, right? Wrong. You can still gain weight even if you are using artificial sweeteners. There’s also no proof that the substitutes reduce the risk of diabetes. Most nutritionists say that you will be healthier if you eat a few squares of chocolate rather than loading up on artificial sweeteners all day.

What are some ways to cut down on sugar?

By making a few adjustments to your diet, you can cut out some of your unnecessary sugar consumption:

Eat whole grains – Swap white bread, pasta and rice for whole grain versions.
Cut down on fruit juice – Drink one glass of fruit juice a day, or you can even dilute it with water.
Reduce the sugar in recipes – Cut out some of the sugar in recipes or use spices to add flavor and taste.
Watch out for sugar-free labels – These foods often contain artificial sweeteners. While they taste sweet, they don’t satisfy the sweet tooth. Your brain gets confused and can lead to over-eating.
Also beware of low-fat and diet labels – These foods tend to be high in sugar to add flavor.
Reduce sugar in hot drinks – Cut the sugar from coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate and tea. Use cinnamon to flavor hot drinks or gradually adjust to no sugar.
Snack on fruit or nuts – Instead of grabbing a sweet treat, eat more healthy snacks like fresh fruit, nuts and even yogurt.
Replace some carbs with lean protein – Add more fish, chicken and turkey to your diet. These protein-rich foods slow digestion so that you have less cravings between meals.

Before you throw out your sugar bowl and every sweet snack, remember that cutting down on your sugar intake is a process. If you try to eliminate all sugar from your diet at once, you will be very unhappy and dissatisfied. Cut down on your sugar intake slowly over time. As you start to feel healthier and more balanced, you should find that you don’t miss the extra sugar!

Advertisements

9 health benefits of drinking coffee

Cup of coffee health benefitsI am not a morning person. My family knows it’s best not to talk to me until I’ve been up for at least an hour, possibly two hours.

Otherwise, you might get your head bitten off. Don’t expect me to make any decisions. And, if you tell me anything important in that first hour that I’m awake, it’s very likely that I won’t remember it at all.

I love my morning cup of coffee. I only have one cup – but it’s a gigantic 16-ounce cup of coffee. I love the smell. I love the warmth. And I love the taste. I have probably started every day with a cup of coffee for over 20 years. I honestly don’t think I could do without it.

You hear all sorts of bad things about coffee. For instance, it will stunt your growth. My dad used to tell me when I was a kid and wanted to drink his coffee that it would “put hair on my knees.” There have even been claims that it can cause heart disease and cancer.

More recent research has shown that coffee has many health benefits when you drink it in moderate amounts. Here are 9 health benefits of drinking coffee:

Live longer
A few recent studies have shown that drinking coffee can actually help you live longer. During one study, men who drank 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day were 10% less likely to have died during the study. Women who drank the same amount were 13% less likely to have died.

Fight cancer
The likelihood of getting some kinds of cancer – including prostate, oral and liver cancer or breast cancer recurrence – may be lessened by drinking coffee. While scientists aren’t sure how coffee helps lessen the chances of these types of cancer, it’s worth it to keep drinking coffee.

Prevent Parkinson’s
Coffee may lower the chances of developing Parkinson’s disease as well as lessen the symptoms of the disease. Drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day can reduce the risks of developing the disease by as much as 25%.

Protect against diabetes
Consuming 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day may lower your chances of developing type II diabetes by 25%. Each additional cup of coffee lowered the risk even further.

Reduce dementia and Alzheimer’s
Coffee not only gives us a short-term caffeine boost to sharpen our minds, it can also give us a similar affect for the long-term. Coffee drinkers have up to a 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Lower risk of heart disease and stroke
Coffee has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. In one study, those who drank 1 to 3 cups of coffee a day were 20% less likely to be hospitalized for heart-related concerns.

Take in antioxidants
Coffee is rich in antioxidants. When present in your bloodstream, antioxidants can build up your immune system and help you fight off sickness. Coffee also serves as a source for several vitamins and minerals, such as riboflavin, niacin, potassium and manganese.

Protect your skin
Drinking coffee may also help protect you against developing basal cell carcinoma – the most common type of skin cancer. It may be the caffeine found in coffee that helps reduce the risk of this cancer.

Combat depression
Drinking coffee may help fight depression. If you drink 4 or more cups of coffee a day, you are 10% less likely to be depressed than those who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that the antioxidants found in coffee may provide mood-lifting benefits.

So, relax and enjoy a few cups of coffee. But, keep in mind that moderation is still the key. Too much of a good thing can still be harmful.

Do you start your day off with a good cup of coffee? What is your favorite thing about drinking coffee?

14 secrets to living longer

living longerMy husband and I have very different views on aging. He wants to live as long as possible – on the condition that he is in good health. He has made it clear to me that if he were on life support and there was no chance of regaining quality of life, he wants me to pull the plug.

I, on the other hand, want to live forever. Since that’s not possible, I at least want to live to 100. I have told him he is – under no circumstances – to pull the plug. I could be one of those miraculous survivors who beat the odds.

I know this is a rather morbid subject, but if you are like me and want to live your longest life, you want to know what you can do to make it to 100. After reviewing studies, research and even tips from centenarians, here are some secrets to longevity:

Be conscientious
Having a conscientious personality and attributes like attention to detail and persistence may help you live longer. Studies have shown that conscientious people do more things to protect their health  – such as exercise, eat healthy and avoid bad habits – and make choices that lead to stronger relationships and better careers.

Make friends
Be grateful for your friends. As we mentioned in our blog, 7 Reasons We Need Friends, your friends may help you live longer. But, be picky. You want to have friends with good habits, such as exercising and healthy eating. Otherwise, a friend’s bad habits, like smoking or overeating, can rub off on you.

Take naps
This may be one of my favorite secrets on the list. I now have permission to take naps! There’s scientific evidence that napping may help increase longevity. A recent study suggests that by taking naps you are 37% less likely to die from heart disease. So, go take a siesta!

Get married
There is some debate about whether being married will help you live longer, but having a partner in life may have its benefits. With marriage, you have a friend and your own support system. In addition, being married may mean you are more financially stable, which can make you feel more secure and give you more opportunities to do things you enjoy.

Eat a Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish. Studies have shown that this type of diet can help reduce obesity, lower blood sugar, decrease blood pressure, and help lower your chances of heart disease and diabetes.

Lose weight
Belly fat seems to be particularly bad for your health and longevity. So, work on slimming down and deflating the spare tire. The health benefits can include protecting against diabetes, heart disease and other life-shortening conditions. One way to lose weight is to eat less. Stop eating when you’re 80% full. Eat less meat and eat twice as many fruits and vegetables. We know we need to eat better, so add living longer to the reasons you should adopt a healthy diet.

Keep moving
According to studies, regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer and depression. Exercise may even help you stay mentally sharp as you age. You should aim for 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week. You can break that down to 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Even if you can only get in 10 minutes at a time, it all adds up to increase your lifespan. Here are some tips to Get Motivated to Exercise in 2013.

Drink in moderation
Yes, heart disease is less common in people who have a drink or two a day than those who don’t drink at all. However, you need to remember that alcohol is also empty calories that add to that belly bulge. The American Heart Association recommends that if you drink alcohol, the limit should be one drink a day for women and one or two for men. If you don’t drink currently, you shouldn’t start.

Quit smoking
We all know that smoking is bad for your health. Not only is there a greater risk of cancer, you’re also taking years off of your life. So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to quit smoking.

Have faith
Having faith seems to help you live longer. By having strong spiritual beliefs, you are able to better deal with stress and difficult times. It may also offer protection against heart, respiratory and digestive problems. In addition, the strong social network that you create when you worship with others may contribute to overall health.

Manage stress
We always hear that stress is bad for you, but moderate stress can be a good thing. It means you are probably busy, active and involved. Rather than being sedentary and ambivalent, you are persistent and dedicated to getting things done. However, too much stress can be harmful if it causes anxiety, insomnia or digestive issues. Are you too stressed? Read our blog Do You Have Chronic Stress? 6 Major Signs.

Sleep more
As you may have read in our blog, 10 Reasons Get More Sleep, getting plenty of rest can help you fight disease, lose weight, look better and build your brain. Getting enough good quality sleep can even lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and mood disorders. Sleep will also help you recover from illness faster.

Offer forgiveness
Just let it go. Offering forgiveness has surprising physical health benefits. Forgiveness can help you reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and help you to breathe more easily. These benefits tend to increase as you get older.

Have a sense of purpose
There is something to doing what you love. We all have days when we need a reason to get out of bed. Having a sense of purpose leads to a higher quality of life. You may love your work and look forward to it every day. You may have hobbies and activities that have meaning for you. You may find that volunteering makes you feel fulfilled. For more benefits of volunteering, see our blog, 5 Surprising Benefits of Giving Back. Basically, doing what you love may contribute to a longer life.

So, now you know what you need to do to live your longest life! Do you know someone who is 100 or older? What are their secrets to longevity?