Sugar Vs. Added Sugar

You may have been wondering, what is the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar?  Naturally occurring sugar is sugar found in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and milk. Added sugar is sugar that is added to processed foods and drinks, such as breads, sauces, and sodas.

Nutrition

Nutritionally speaking, there is a vast and important difference between foods that have naturally occurring sugar and foods that have added sugar. Foods that contain naturally occurring sugar are often a good source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. These foods cause a slow and steady rise in blood sugar, which is ideal for sustaining energy levels. This is because the fiber helps slow digestion and extends the release of energy.

Comparatively, foods high in added sugar often lack fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and are laden with excess calories and saturated (unhealthy) fat. Eating foods high in added sugar and fat and low in fiber will lead to an energy burst followed closely by an energy crash. This is because with high levels of added sugar, blood sugar levels sky rocket. Without fiber (or protein) to help slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream, digestion progresses quickly and a “sugar crash” is imminent.

Sources of Added Sugar

The major sources of added sugars in American diets are regular soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, and fruit drinks (e.g. fruit punch, juices with added sugar); dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk); and other grains (cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles). It can be difficult to know how much sugar is added versus naturally occurring. One rule of thumb is that if the food/drink doesn’t have a nutrition label (e.g. whole fruit), then it doesn’t have any added sugar. You will find foods like these in the produce section of the grocery store. Plain milk, plain Greek yogurt, cheese, and meat are examples of foods that may have a nutrition label, but do not contain added sugar.

Thankfully, the new nutrition label guidelines will make it easier to differentiate between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. Most food manufactures will have until 2018 to comply with the new regulations. In the meantime, stick to whole foods if you want to avoid added sugar.

Moderation

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that provides energy to fuel the body…. Why does it have such a bad reputation if it is an energy source for the body? The problem with sugar in today’s world is that most people are consuming way too much of it. The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day. This far exceeds the 2015-2020 dietary Guidelines for Americans which recommends no more than 10% of daily calories come from added sugar. Notice the guidelines are for added sugar rather than naturally occurring sugar.

If you are interested in sweet alternatives to high added sugar foods, check out this Army H.E.A.L.T.H. blog.

Maintaining Gratitude

 

As we move from Thanksgiving into the Christmas season, it’s easy to lose our focus on gratitude. The practice of being thankful that we held so tightly during Thanksgiving often gives way to the stresses of Christmas and the new year. We tend to move through life without taking the time to stop and be mindful of where we are placing our attention and energy. We need to focus on showing appreciation towards others and within ourselves by observing the good in the world. When we give our energy to gratitude verses things of worry or that we want, we are able to see the greatness in what we already have. When the season of thankfulness extends beyond Thanksgiving, so does our positive energy and attitude.

Everyone has something to be thankful for. Instead of focusing negative energy on comparing our life to someone else’s, we can be grateful for what have versus what we do not have. It’s so easy to get caught up in superficial things. We are constantly wishing we had more materialistic things and convincing ourselves that someone else’s life is so much better than ours.  

We need to focus our energy on gratitude for the things we do have- health, happiness, family, friends, an old (yet reliable) car, a pretty sunset, a nice cup of coffee…it can be anything! The shift of perspective from concentrating on what is lacking to showing gratitude for what we have lifts the burdens we have created for ourselves and allows us to enter a renewed state of mind. 

While pioneering through this world of constant movement, we may not realize that the onslaught of negativity occurs not only from our environment, but also from ourselves.  A constant focus on the things that challenge us (obstacles, or negativity in general) is survival-mode, just doing enough to solve each issue and get through the day.  A gratitude-based focus towards others and ourselves is another key to moving past surviving into successfully thriving.

Gratitude

Gratitude makes a world of difference in our overall perspective.  When we give our energy to gratitude, it grows our perspective in that direction.  Giving energy to the good things takes up the space in our heads and our hearts so that we have less energy to give towards the challenges in our lives.  It may be hard to show gratitude at first, but like with all things- it gets better with practice.

How to:  Practice

Three easy ways to practice gratitude:

  1. Make time to be grateful on the inside.  At some point every day, take a few minutes to give thanks for the things/people/etc. that you are grateful for. It only takes a few minutes to list 3-5 things that you are grateful for daily. You can take it a step further by starting a gratitude journal and writing out the things you are thankful for.
  2. Make time to be grateful on the outside.  A simple “thank you” or maybe even a phone call to someone showing appreciation will not only help you, but it will also perpetuate gratitude through others.  A little effort goes a long way and will make a huge difference in your relationships.
  3. Be thankful for the challenging things.  When we try to find benefit/opportunities for growth in even the hardest parts of our lives, we are able to see that there is good everywhere if we just look hard enough.  We have the opportunity to turn obstacles into challenges in which we can build our strengths and do things that we never thought we could!  Showing gratitude for these opportunities and embracing them improves our perspective while we grow.

 

It’s so easy to be negative towards ourselves, but when we practice gratitude we learn that the positive exponentially outweighs the challenges that come our way.

Can Dehydration Happen in Cold Weather?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dehydration can happen just as easily in colder weather as it can during the summer months. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can become dehydrated in the cold from sweating, breathing, the drying power of the winter wind, and increased urine production. Yet, fewer people recognize the signs of dehydration in the winter, so it may be even more of a risk during winter months.

Why is Hydration So Important?

Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles.  Fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from your bladder, and prevent constipation. Hydration in the cold weather is essential to providing fuel and energy to body parts to help facilitate heat production. Although most doctors do not recommend a one size fits all for water consumption, most people are fine with drinking to thirst (around 30-60 oz. per day). Water-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are also a good source of water. Proper hydration is especially important in cold weather as dehydration negatively affects the body's resistance to cold weather, increasing the chance for cold weather injuries. 

Signs of Dehydration

Recognizing the signs of dehydration is critical in order to correct the lack of water in the body. Mild to moderate dehydration is often characterized by dry mouth, sleepiness, thirst, decreased urine output, dry skin, headache, weakness, constipation, and dizziness or lightheadedness. Symptoms of severe dehydration include: extreme thirst, extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants, very dry mouth and skin, little to no urine output, dark urine, sunken eyes, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, stomach cramps or vomiting, no tears when crying, and fever.

What to do if You Are Dehydrated

If you suspect that you are severely dehydrated, it is important to go to the emergency room immediately. If you are mildly to moderately dehydrated, start the rehydration process with water or coconut water. Warm liquids can be consumed more readily in a cold environment than cold beverages. If snow is present, don’t eat it, as this will use up body heat and it might be contaminated.  Don’t drink too much too quickly, as this can overwhelm your stomach and your kidneys. Eat foods that are rich in electrolytes, such as kiwis, bananas, nut butters, and yogurt.

If electrolyte-rich foods aren’t available, aim for a sports drink to help restore lost minerals. Try to avoid drinks that act as diuretics, such as coffee and alcohol. These types of drinks will increase urine production and slow the re-hydration process.

Prevention is Best! How to Prevent Dehydration

You can prevent dehydration from becoming severe by monitoring symptoms closely and hydrating at the first signs of dehydration. For those who are sick, hydrating at the first sign of diarrhea, vomiting, or fever is crucial. For those who are exercising (especially outside), drinking plenty of water before, during, and after exercise, should help prevent dehydration. People who exercise outside in humid weather are at higher risk for dehydration, e.g. endurance athletes and those in the military.

Extra weight from supplies and gear can accelerate dehydration. Wearing the right clothing can help reduce water loss through sweat. Light weight, loose clothing aides in heat loss and sweat evaporation. Layers are also a good idea in the winter months.  This allows you to adjust your clothing to match the temperature and your activity level on an as-needed basis.

Prevention is key when it comes to dehydration. By fueling up with the right foods and drinks, and wearing the right clothing, you can dramatically reduce your risk for dehydration.

 

 

Which Peanut Butter is Best?

Peanut butter is a versatile snack that is packed with protein and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. These same unsaturated fats also help you to feel full (satiety). Peanut butter is also a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin B-6. Unfortunately, identifying the healthiest peanut butter at the grocery store is becoming more and more challenging.  As new peanut butters and peanut butter-like products are coming onto the market, deciding between regular vs “natural” peanut butter or reduced fat vs. powdered peanut butter can leave your head spinning.

Peanut Butter vs. Peanut Butter Spread (aka reduced-fat peanut butter)

Many peanut butters on the shelf at the supermarket are full of added sugar and other ingredients, such as soybean oil. According to the National Peanut Board, in order for peanut butter to be labeled as peanut butter, it has to contain at least 90% peanuts. The only other allowable ingredients are salt, sweeteners, and hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Products that include anything else, like palm oil, flavors, or other ingredients, must be labeled as peanut butter spreads. They may still contain at least 90 percent peanuts and have a similar nutritional profile, but they are outside the standard definition of “peanut butter.” These are typically what your reduced-fat peanut butters are called.

“Natural” Peanut Butter

There is no standard, FDA regulated, definition for “natural” peanut butter. A loose definition of a peanut butter labeled “natural” has only peanuts and salt listed in the ingredients. It does not usually contain added sugar or hydrogenated oils. Without the added oils, these types of peanut butters are not well homogenized which leads to the oils separating out from the mixture and rising to the top of the jar. This can be remedied by simply stirring. As always, double check the label before assuming that a “natural” peanut butter fits these criteria.

Powdered Peanut Butter

As powdered peanut butter grows in popularity, it’s important to know what makes powdered peanut butter different from standard peanut butter. Powdered peanut butters are made by extracting most of the fat and dehydrating what’s left of the peanut, which forms a powder. The resulting product has 85% less fat calories. To make up for the flavoring that is lost with the fat, often sugar and salt are added.

While this can be a great product for those looking for peanut butter taste, without all the fat and calories, you would probably be better off just having a tablespoon of regular peanut butter. The unsaturated fats found in regular PB are far more filling than the powdered form. Additionally, replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats in your diet is more likely to lead to weight loss than a diet higher in sugar. 

What to look for

Thankfully, you don’t have to grind up your own peanuts in order to get a healthy, no additives, creamy peanut butter. Many supermarkets as well as health food stores offer nut butters that are simple, delicious, and without all the unnecessary additives. Look for peanut butter (or any nut butter) that only contains peanuts and salt. This ensures you are getting all the protein and healthy fats, without the added sugar or hydrogenated oils. Additionally, many stores allow you to make your own nut butter. Essentially, you can crush your own peanuts. 

Adjusting Sleep (and other health behaviors) to Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November, 6th, 2016 at 2:00 AM. Although many people may find it easier to ‘fall back’ and “gain” an hour than ‘spring forward’ and “lose” an hour, it can still be difficult to adjust to the changing days this time of year. By tweaking your sleep, nutrition, and exercise habits, you can transition much easier to the daylight hours. Below are some tips that you may find helpful.

Stick to a schedule.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle will adjust much more quickly if you stick to a regular routine. This is something we often emphasize to children, but slack off on as adults. Yet, it is equally as important for adults as it is for children. No matter the age, our bodies respond to sleep “training”.

Avoid naps.

It can be tempting to squeeze in a nap during those first few days of adjusting. Don’t do it. Simply put, it’s not worth it! By taking a nap, you are prolonging the amount of time it will take you to fall asleep at night, thus, causing yourself to be sleepy in the morning and causing the cycle of sleepiness and naps to repeat.

Exercise, especially in the morning.

Working out helps regulate the hormone, serotonin. Serotonin impacts mood, behavior, appetite, and sleep, to name a few. People who exercise tend to fall asleep more quickly and sleep for a longer period of time. Try to get outside in the morning. Light, especially sunlight, impacts your natural Circadian Rhythm. Exposure to more light in the morning and less light at night will help your body to better adjust to the time change.

Put your phone (and other devices) down.

Exposure to blue light from phones, laptops, TVs, etc., also impacts your Circadian Rhythm. While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of the sleep hormone, melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully. It is best to avoid “screen time” of any kind at least one hour prior to bedtime. Try to do something relaxing instead. Such as reading a book (not on a device) or taking a bath.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours prior to bedtime. If you consume caffeine any closer to bedtime, it can interfere with the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. Alcohol has a different effect on sleep time. It may actually help you to fall asleep more quickly, but there’s a catch. Those who drink alcohol experience a disruption in their Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. This reduces the amount of deep, restorative sleep they get.