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.

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. 

5 Healthy Recipe Substitutions

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice taste or texture. Enjoying your favorite foods while also making some healthy swaps is possible! Cutting down on calories, saturated fat, and sugar, are just a few ways to tweak your diet. The best part is that most people (e.g. picky kids or spouse) may not even notice the difference.

1) Fruit or vegetable puree for vegetable oil

Swapping fruit or vegetable puree (e.g. unsweetened applesauce, pumpkin puree, mashed bananas, or mashed avocado) for vegetable oil in baked goods is one of the easiest ways to cut calories and saturated fat. This substitution works well with both homemade goods, such as zucchini bread, and box goods, such as whole grain blueberry muffins. The texture remains light and fluffy and the flavor remains sweet!

2) Unsweetened applesauce for sugar

This is a great one for people with type II diabetes or anyone who is looking to reduce the amount of sugar in a baked goods recipe. The applesauce adds just enough sweetness without adding all the extra calories that sugar contains. Just be sure to reduce the amount of liquid by 1/4 cup for every cup of applesauce you substitute. This will help the recipe to maintain the proper consistency. The substitution works greats for oatmeal raisin cookies

3) Rolled oats for breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs usually pack a hefty amount of sodium and added fat. Replacing breadcrumbs with oatmeal not only reduces the sodium and fat, but the oatmeal is a good source of fiber, iron, manganese, B vitamins, selenium, and tryptophan. Make sure to use rolled oats if you want to maintain the crunchy texture of breadcrumbs. Quick oats are more processed and, therefore, cook more quickly……which may lead to a soggy dish. This substitute works great for recipes like meatloaf and casseroles.

4) Mashed avocado for mayo

This recipe swap is a beloved one for many people who have already discovered how delicious it is! If you do a side by side nutritional comparison of avocado vs. mayo, avocado is clearly the champ! Additionally, avocado complements almost any dish!

 

 

5) Pureed frozen fruit for ice cream

Whether you’re looking to reduce calories or sugar, or add in more nutrients…frozen fruit ice cream has the same creamy texture as ice cream, without all the “extras”. Simply puree your favorite fruit (e.g. bananas, strawberries, blueberries, or mango). Add your favorite milk (cow, coconut, almond, cashew, soy, etc.) for an even creamier texture. Adding a little pure vanilla extract will make for an even richer, more full flavor. But, rest assured, your frozen fruit “ice cream” will taste delightful even without anything added to it.  

 

News Roundup: FDA Redefines "Healthy" Label

 

The Food and Drug Administration will re-evaluate its definition of "healthy", which could eventually change how foods are marketed. This comes in light of strong and consistent evidence which supports the recommendation that healthy (unsaturated) fats can and should be a part of a healthy diet. As the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans outlines, unsaturated fats are associated with reduced total and LDL cholesterol as well as reduced heart attacks and cardiovascular disease-related deaths.

Last April, the FDA sent a letter to the makers of KIND bars asking them to remove the “healthy” label on four of their bars. According to current FDA guidelines, to use the “healthy” label, a food must have no more than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving and contain no more than 15 percent of its calories from saturated fat, which the FDA says is not true for these four bars.  Now, a year later, the FDA has reversed its stance and says KIND bars can use the “healthy” label and the FDA is reexamining its definition of “healthy”.

This week’s news roundup brings to you a collection of articles and blog posts related to the FDA redefining “healthy” in light of the KIND bar decision.

FDA reverses stance, affirms KIND can use “healthy” on labels. KIND. “The FDA has confirmed that it intends to reevaluate the regulatory definition of “healthy,” an action that was prompted in part by KIND. The current standard was created with the best intentions 20 years ago, when the benefits of consuming “good fats” (like those found in nuts) were not fully understood. Under the regulation, foods like fat-free chocolate pudding and children’s sugary cereal can bear a healthy nutrient claim, but foods like nuts and avocados can’t.”

Are Kind bars 'healthy'? FDA settles battle over snack label. Today. "Consumers want to make informed food choices and it is the FDA's responsibility to help them by ensuring labels provide accurate and reliable nutrition information. In light of evolving nutrition research, forthcoming Nutrition Facts Labeling final rules, and a citizen petition, we believe now is an opportune time to reevaluate regulations concerning nutrient content claims, generally, including the term 'healthy',"

The FDA Is Going To Change The Definition Of ‘Healthy’ Food. Think Progress. “As more and more and more Americans are trying to make eating decisions based on sound nutrition, marketers are proclaiming their foods as “antioxidant,” “whole-grain,” “heart-healthy,” “gluten-free,” and “natural” — nutrition buzzwords that are largely meaningless in terms of nutritional value, or, in the case of “healthy,” are 20 years out of date.”

FDA to re-evaluate definition of 'healthy'. Yahoo! “The move to rethink "healthy" comes as dietary trends have shifted, with more people expressing concern about sugar and questioning low-fat or low-calorie diets. But any change in the term's regulatory definition could take years. The FDA's final rule on gluten-free labeling, for instance, took more than six years to complete.”

 

 

You are what you eat, BUT...

 

You are What You Eat

But… did you know that what you eat can also affect how you sleep? The relationship between sleep and diet is a complex one. The foods that we eat can either positively or negatively influence our sleep. Conversely, the amount of sleep we get can also influence what foods we tend to eat during the day.

For example, research shows that those who consume caffeine up to 6 hours prior to bedtime report taking longer to fall asleep and less sleep time overall. Those who drink alcohol prior to bedtime may fall asleep faster, but are likely to experience less deep sleep. On the other hand, foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan, are more likely to make you feel sleepy. This is because tryptophan is a building block that is required to synthesize the sleep hormone, serotonin. It is important to note that you may not experience a dramatic sense of sleepiness after eating foods that contain tryptophan. The effect of tryptophan on sleepiness is different for everyone. You will most likely experience a noticeable affect if you were not getting enough tryptophan in your diet previously.

This relationship between sleep and diet also extends in the other direction as well. Reduced sleep has been linked with reduced levels of the hormone leptin which is an appetite suppressant; and increased levels of the hormone ghrelin which is an appetite stimulant.  With these two key hunger hormones out of balance, it is more difficult to regulate dietary intake and this is when we often see overall increased caloric consumption as well as increased consumption of carbohydrates, specifically.

You are How Much You Eat

A study published in the journal, Appetite showed a correlation between how much people ate and how well they slept. The results indicated that those who ate the most were sleeping the least. The study also found a correlation between the types of food consumed and sleep. For example, those sleeping for the shortest amount of time (<5 hours per night) consumed less tap water, total carbohydrates, and a compound found in red and orange foods, compared with the other kinds of sleepers. Additionally, the study also found that those who consumed a less varied diet were likely to either sleep less or more than is recommended. 

What can I do?

It’s all about balance. Try to consume less of the foods that will keep you awake and more of the foods that may help you sleep. Remember, everyone does not respond to food and drinks in the same way. It may take some time to pinpoint which food/drinks are influencing your sleep. Keeping a food diary and sleep log will help you to track everything and look for patterns.

Foods to avoid

 

  • Caffeine 6 hours prior to bedtime
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (>2 drinks for men, >1 drink for women).
  • Fatty fried or spicy foods. They can cause heartburn, which will keep you awake.
  • Nicotine. It has been linked to insomnia.

Foods to eat

As mentioned above, tryptophan can make some people feel sleepy. Turkey is a well-known food that contains tryptophan. Other foods, such as chicken, fish, eggs, and nuts also contain tryptophan. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, so if you want to increase the impact, try consuming a small turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread or peanut butter on whole grain crackers before bed. Keep it to a snack size, as eating a normal or large sized meal before bed can actually keep you awake, due to increased digestion. Try to eat your snack at least an hour prior to bedtime.