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Category Archives: Health

How to Get Your Kids on Board With Healthy Eating

As adults, we know all too well just how much age can affect our bodies. It happens slowly and without notice, until one day, you realize that you need help getting out of a chair! If only you could go back in time and tell your younger self about the importance of eating healthily and staying active.

While there isn’t much you can do about the childhood version of yourself, or your aching bones and pains, it isn’t too late for your kids.

If you are looking to get your children interested in eating healthily and making better food choices when you aren’t with them, this article can help.

Take Your Time

Here’s the usual scenario.

  • A parent decides that their child needs to eat better.
  • One night, all of the delicious foods are removed and replaced with vegetables.
  • The child screams, yells, cries and throws things around (including the food).
  • Everybody gets stressed out.
  • At the end, the vegetables haven’t been eaten.

Seem familiar? We thought so.

Here is a better way to do it.

  • One night, include a vegetable on the plate as an additional item. Don’t say anything about it, even if it gets eaten or not. Just ignore it. Do this for a week.
  • The next week, replace one fried food item with a grilled alternative. Again, say nothing about it.
  • As the week progresses, continue to replace fried items.
  • During the third week, serve two or three meals made entirely from healthy ingredients. Again, say nothing.

Why say nothing each time? A good question.

As soon as your child knows that you are trying to change their eating habits, you will face resistance. However, if you simply ignore the fact that it is there, then it isn’t a big deal, and will often be eaten simply because everybody else is and nobody is making a big deal about it.

Appropriate Incentives

You should never bribe your child to do anything or perform any task because it will not help them later in life. However, establishing appropriate incentive can be a great way to keep them working towards a goal.

For example, if they eat all of the vegetables on their plate, they don’t have to wash the dishes that night. For a week’s worth of healthy eating, consider a small gift from the Groupon Coupons page for Soft Surroundings like a pair of slippers or some salt stones. Whatever it is that you use an incentive, be sure that it’s appropriate.

Use Flavors of Your Own

Just because fast food chains use flavors to keep their customers coming back doesn’t mean that you can’t employ the same tactics. Each time that you serve a new healthy food, be sure to also serve extra sauces and gravy with it, to help mask the new flavor. Then, as the food becomes a staple of their plate, start to provide less and less topping options, until eventually, all that is being used is some salt and a bit of pepper.

Getting your kids on board with healthy eating isn’t an impossible task, it’s just a difficult one. However, with the tips in this article, you can expect to see your kids eating healthy in no time!

Healthy Meals

The four classes of simple sugars that are considered harmful to health are fructose, malts, sucrose and honey. Let’s look at four sugar alternatives that are better for you than sugar and lower on the glycemic index scale. They offer more in the way of nutrition and will give you the sweet taste you are looking for. These alternatives are listed in order of healthiest first.

1. Stevia – this is the best alternative to sugar. It is 200-300 times sweeter than refined table sugar, however, stevia is not sugar. Stevia is an herb. It has a glycemic index of less than one and will not feed candida or cause other health problems that are associated with refined sugar consumption.

2. Agave Nectar – derived from the Blue Agave plant, and has a glycemic index of between 15 and 30. It is extracted and purified from the sap of the agave plant and then broken down with natural enzymes.

3. Raw Honey – used in moderation, honey is a healthy alternative to refined sugar. It is considered a superfood because of the vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and phytonutrient content it possess in its raw, unprocessed state. It has a glycemic index of about 30 and is used as a remedy for many health ailments by alternative health care providers. Use caution though when choosing honey. It is not all created equal. Once it is processed and refined, it loses all of its beneficial properties.

4. Maple Syrup – While the choices listed above are better ones, maple syrup is still a more nutritious choice than refined white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. It has a glycemic index of 54 and should be used in moderation. It is derived from the sap of the maple tree making it a processed food.

Reduce Sugar in Diet

1. Pay special attention to breakfast. If you start the day with a sugar rush and a sugar crash, you may have just started a cycle that will perpetuate itself all day. My favorite breakfast: a slice of whole wheat bread with a tablespoon of nut butter (almond or cashew butter.) Or try some homemade granola with yogurt (both without added sweeteners, of course.)

2. Satisfy your sweet tooth with naturally sweet foods. Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

3. Stock up on whole grains. Look for whole grain breads, brown rice and wild rice instead of white. Add ground flaxseed to your diet as well. Use these whole grains – along with a bit of lean protein – to help sustain your moods and energy levels all day. Instead of reaching for a hunk of milk chocolate around 3, have a cup of green or herbal tea and a snack of carrots dipped in hummus or cashew butter on a slice of whole grain toast.

4. Use protein to moderate energy levels. Having a small portion of protein in your snacks and meals can go a long way in keeping your energy levels high.

5. Be a sugar detective at the store, and read all the labels. Look at total sugar grams as well as some of those hidden sugars in the ingredients lists of your favorite foods. Look for anything that ends in the suffix “-ose,” as well as ingredients with the words “syrup” and “cane juice.”

Find the “Sugars” on a food’s Nutrition Label. Take the amount of sugar (measured in grams) and divide by 4 to get the number of teaspoons. (Twelve grams of sugar, for example, is the same as 3 teaspoons).

According to the US Department of Agriculture, we should be limiting our sugar intake to between 6 and 12 teaspoons each day, depending on how many calories you take in. (People who eat 1600 calories should limit themselves to about 6 teaspoons of sugar. People who eat 2200 calories a day can eat 12 teaspoons.)

This may sound like a lot until you realize that there are 10 teaspoons of sugar in a a single 12 ounce soft drink.

6. Be careful not to replace the sugar in your diet with artificial ones, such as Aspartame or Splenda. The jury is still out on possible health effects of these sugar substitutes. The most healthful choice is to allow your body to lose the taste for sugar. (Of course, you’ll want to save sodas and fruit juices for special occasions.)

7. Indulge, the sugar-free way. If you love specialty coffee drinks, try coffee with a splash of half and half. If you love milk chocolate, treat yourself to a square of organic dark chocolate when a craving comes on. Once you start to notice the benefits of a reduced-sugar lifestyle, it’ll be easier to say no to sugar when the cravings strike.

If you fall off the sugar wagon, you can moderate any spikes in blood sugar with a little lean protein – or burn it off with a quick run or brisk walk.

Tricks to Detox Sugar

The sudden rush of sugar into your blood stream can give you an quick energy boost but over time your body becomes depleted of nutrients, your metabolism becomes inefficient, you suffer from lack of energy and poor weight regulation.

Your blood fats increase as your liver converts excess sugar to triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Eventually this leads to a number of health problems such as diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, mood swings, yeast overgrowth, osteoporosis, premature aging, poor immunity, degenerative diseases and increased risk of cancer.

A sugar detox is well worth it if you want to lose weight, curb sweet cravings, control diabetes, improve your energy levels, and lower your risk of many health problems. But be prepared for some withdrawal symptoms such as headache, fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability and sleep problems if your diet is high in added and hidden sugar.

Avoid adding sugar to your food and drinks and avoid obviously sweet foods. Exclude sugar hidden in many processed foods such as ketchup, many sauces, pickles, soups, dips, peanut butter, salad dressings, frankfurters, bread by reading labels. Many fruit drinks and sodas are laden with sugar.

It may be hard at first to avoid sugar if you rely a lot on convenience foods but you can replace sugar foods with fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, salad, unsweetened yogurt, almonds, almond butter, a handful of seeds, hummus. Avoid using artificial sweeteners or buying food or drinks containing them as they are not safe either. Try Stevia, a natural sweetener, instead.

Buy plain unsweetened yogurt instead of sweetened and add your own fruit. Try oatmeal for breakfast and add some raisins or other fruit to sweeten instead of having a sweetened cereal. Look out for sugar free muesli. Make your own dressing with virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. Replace candy bars with more healthy fruit sweetened bars. Eat fruit instead of dessert.

Reduce sugar cravings and stabilize blood sugar with a diet of whole grains, vegetables, beans and lentils or lean, free range poultry, meat and eggs. Refined carbohydrates like white flour, white rice and refined cereals have the same effect as sugar.

If you have been used to eating a diet high sugar foods you should reduce the sugars gradually. High carbohydrate foods can have the same lifting effect as alcohol and cocaine for some people. In fact alcohol is a chemical cousin to sugar. It upsets blood sugar too so avoid it when doing a sugar detox.

If you have a serious craving for sugar you can take some nutritional supplements to restore the nutrients that you are lacking. The B vitamins, Vitamin C, chromium, and zinc can help with sugar withdrawal symptoms. Try the amino acid L-Glutamine 500mg 30 minutes before meals 3 times a day. Increase dose to 1000mg three times a day if you still get cravings after 1 week. Combine with Chromium 200 mcg three times a day with meals.

Coffee is Bad For Health

Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant drug that acts on the central nervous system that can result in mood and behavior change. For people who could not tolerate a certain amount of coffee, drinking it could cause anxiety and fast cardiac rhythm. Coffee-addicts on the other hand, could find it hard to stop drinking because of the false energy alarm caused by the rapid heartbeat. For example, after several hours of having his drink shot, an addict might think that his plummeted energy can be increased by drinking it again and the cycle repeats a few times a day.

The combination of coffee with milk, cream or sugar can increase the cholesterol level if taken in excessive amount, which is the case for coffee-addicts. The variation of the drink like cappuccino, cafe latte and latte macchiato contains excessive milk and sugar that can increase the chance of diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure. Whereas unfiltered coffee contains cafestol and kahweol that could lead to high cholesterol level.

Types of Sugar We Consume

1. Glucose. This simple sugar, along with fructose is considered a monosaccharide, which are the simplest and most basic form of sugar. This is considered the least sweet, and its main sources are grapes and corn. It would be found on the ingredients label as dextrose.

2. Fructose. Known as the fruit sugar, it is derived from fruits and vegetables, but also honey. This is the sweetest of all sugars. It is often used to extend the shelf life of baked goods.

3. Sucrose. This is a disaccharide, meaning it is a combination of glucose and fructose molecule bonded together. It comes from plant sources such as sugar beets and sugar cane, and is what we now refer to as table sugar.

All of these forms of sugar provide about four calories per gram. But there is now evidence that they react in the body quite differently. This has not been conclusively confirmed, but if fructose is metabolized differently than glucose, for instance, then our bodies may react in different ways to those sugars. More research has to be done on the subject, but we now see strong indicators that there is a link between artificial sweeteners and cancer. Most health practitioners now strongly advise against these sugar substitutes.

Though we have more to learn about sugar’s direct link to cancer and other diseases, there is no doubt as to its indirect link. Too much sugar, largely because of the way it elevates insulin levels causes weight increase. This results in a direct link to cancer, heart disease and many other health maladies.

Must know about Best And Worst Sugars

Worst Sugars

Having discussed the damaging effects of glucose and fructose, the following three types of sugars are the absolute worst for your health. They provide empty calories with very little nutritional value.

(Please note that artificial sweeteners are not mentioned here because these chemicals are almost like poison. If this were a perfect world, they would have already been made illegal and banned!)

1. Agave Nectar

Agave is currently the king of healthy sweeteners because of its low glycemic index and effect on blood sugar. It has been heavily promoted by its manufacturers and is used in almost all the “healthy” food products.

But knowing the detrimental effects of excess fructose on our health, how can agave be healthy when it contains up to 92% fructose?

Agave is a highly processed sweetener derived from the plant that makes tequila. No matter whether the agave is raw, organic, or blue, it is definitely the worst sweetener available on the market.

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup

For many decades, food manufacturers have been using this sweetener because it is cheaper than sugar. It contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose. It is widely used in soft drinks, snack foods, and many processed foods. Tons of research have confirmed that high fructose corn syrup wreaks havoc on your health.

3. Sugars

The term sugar refers to sucrose or table sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beet. They include different forms of white granulated sugar, brown sugar, and raw turbinado sugar. Sugar is made of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Consuming too much will have the same detrimental health effects.

Best Sugars

The following sweeteners are listed in order of their safety, health benefits, and suitability for use by diabetics.

1. Stevia

Stevia (correct pronunciation is STE vee ah, not STEE vee uh) is a fascinating plant native to the rain forests of Paraguay in South America. For over 1,600 years and perhaps as long as 2,000 years, the natives used its leaves as a tonic to relieve stomach upset and a sweetener in brewing herbal teas.

Stevia is not a sugar, but an herb. Steviol glycosides are the compounds responsible for the sweet taste of the stevia leaves, and rebauioside A (Reb A) has the least bitterness of all the steviol glycosides. To extract Reb A, stevia plants are dried and subjected to a water extraction process.

Stevia was first adopted widely in Japan as a natural sugar substitute in 1970. After having banned artificial sweeteners in the 1960s, Japan began seriously researching the safety and anti-diabetic properties of stevia. Since then, Japanese food companies have been using stevia in numerous food products.

In the U.S., stevia was slow to gain popularity because the FDA did not permit stevia to be sold as a food additive (sweetener). Moreover, stevia faced severe opposition from both the artificial sweetener and sugar industries. It was not until the end of 2008 when stevia became available as both a food additive and a dietary supplement sold in health food stores.

Stevia is an extraordinary sweetener with a long history of use by humans. There are over 1,500 published studies that show stevia is not only safe but can also promote better health and well-being. Here are the highlights:

  • There is no evidence of gastrointestinal upset or toxicity causing cancer or birth defects.
  • It supports the pancreas, helps improve insulin sensitivity and reverse diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  • It provides zero calories and zero carbohydrates.
  • It does not promote tooth decay and gum disease.
  • It helps reduce blood pressure.
  • It enhances mental acuity and cognitive functions.

Stevia is many times sweeter than sugar. It is heat-stable and can be used in cooking and baking. The stevia products on the market varies in terms of taste and sweetness. They usually come in the form of a white powder or a liquid concentrate.

There are many brands available on the market and many contain ingredients other than stevia. Make sure you choose one that does not contain dextrose or maltodextrin. Dextrose is a glucose and maltodextrin is a glucose polymer. Both are highly processed food additives that serve nothing to your health.

Several brands contain sugar alcohols. It is generally safe to use in small amounts as long as your body can tolerate them. That’s why it is preferable to choose a sweetener that does not list sugar alcohols as the first ingredient. (For more about sugar alcohols, please read Best Sugars #4).

Recommended brands

Stevita contains Reb A (stevia extract) and erythritol/xylitol (sugar alcohols).

Sweet Leaf contains inulin (natural soluble fiber) and stevia.

Not Recommended

Pure Via contains dextrose/maltodextrin, Reb A (stevia extract), cellulose powder, and natural flavors.

Stevia In the Raw contains dextrose and stevia.

Truvia contains erythritol (sugar alcohol), rebiana (stevia extract), and natural flavors.

2. Yacon Syrup

Yacon syrup is derived from the yacon plant, a tuber grown in the Andes by the Inca and their descendants. Yacon is related to the sunflowers, and the Peruvian locals use it cut up in salads or in sweets. The roots are rich in iron, potassium, and the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E.

Unlike other tubers that store carbohydrates as starch (glucose), yacon stores carbohydrates as fructooligosaccharides (FOS). FOS is a soluble fiber and a prebiotic which serves as food for the good intestinal bacteria, so it aids digestion and helps stimulate the colon. Since humans have no enzyme to digest FOS, it cannot be absorbed by the body and the carbohydrate is excreted whole through the system.

Studies show that a diet rich in FOS may help with weight management and lowering of blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. It increases absorption of calcium, magnesium, and the B vitamin complexes.

Yacon syrup is dark brown in color, very thick, sticky, and tastes like molasses. It can be used as a direct substitute for brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, or honey in cooking and baking. Yacon syrup has approximately 30 calories per tablespoon, which is half the amount of honey. Studies show that it has no adverse effect on blood sugar and can be safely used by diabetics. The only drawback is that it is not cheap; therefore, unless the price comes down, it is unlikely to be widely used.

All about Sugar and Dental Decline

We all know that sugar consumption is linked to dental decay. But what isn’t so obvious is how much our sugar consumption has increased in the last 50 years; over this period sugar consumption has tripled worldwide, mainly as a result of it being added to soft drink and cheap processed foods. However, the issue is not merely about “hidden” sugar but people living in a way that means they are eating carbohydrate rich meals, sugar laden snacks, biscuits, sweets and chocolates, drinking soft drink full of sugar and caffeine or having excess fruit and fruit juices and smoothies which are nothing more than concentrated sugar under the guise of a healthy choice. Our waistlines are expanding while at the same time, the incidence of heart disease, diabetes and dental decay continues to soar.

While excess sugar is thought to be a key cause of the obesity epidemic, obesity itself is not the root cause of disease, but it’s presence is a marker for metabolic damage and changes that lead to heart disease and diabetes. Metabolic damage, oxidative stress and systemic chronic illness also impact on oral health. Sugar is so harmful to health that there are calls for it to be controlled and taxed in the same way as tobacco and alcohol. Research indicates that sugar indirectly contributes to 35 million deaths a year worldwide as there appears to be links to the massive rise in diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes since we began eating more sugar. The health effects of excess sugar consumption are similar to those of alcohol.

For the first time in human history, non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, pose a greater health burden worldwide than infectious disease. While alcohol, tobacco and diet are all targeted as risk factors for these diseases by policymakers, Doctors are apparently calling for attention to be turned towards the dangers of excess sugar consumption. Sugar provides “empty calories”, and a growing body of evidence suggests that fructose (one component of table sugar) can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and a host of other chronic diseases.

While sugar was only available as fruit and honey at certain times of the year to our ancestors, it is now present in nearly all processed foods. In some parts of the world people are consuming more than 500 calories worth of sugar per day. There is growing evidence that excess sugar has an effect on human health beyond simply adding calories and can cause many of the same problems as alcohol, including high blood pressure, high blood fats, insulin resistance and diabetes. The economic and human costs of these diseases place excess consumption of sugar in the same category as smoking and drinking, and like tobacco and alcohol, sugar acts on the brain to encourage dependence. Specifically, it interferes with the workings of a hormone called ghrelin (which signals hunger to the brain) and it also affects the action of other important compounds.

Oral health is determined by various factors including diet, stress and the use of alcohol or tobacco. In ‘The World Oral Health Report’ published by WHO, it is stated “The rapidly changing (oral) disease patterns throughout the world are closely linked to changing lifestyles which include diets rich in sugars, widespread use of tobacco and increased consumption of alcohol”.

If we are to tackle not only the decline in oral health but the overall health of the population then it makes sense that we address our level of sugar consumption, but at the same time we must surely stop and observe the way in which we are living. Something has gone drastically wrong when despite our remarkable medical advances and vast knowledge of the body, nutrition and illness and disease the statistics show that we are fighting a losing battle as the prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and cancer continue to rise.

Is it possible that it is too confronting to stop and ask ourselves why are we eating so much sugar? Would it reveal things about us and the way we are that could be challenging and mean that we have to take responsibility for our daily choices? Like the fact that we eat sugar because we are exhausted, stressed or seeking comfort. Or we are seeking a moment of pleasure, a quick buzz, and a high via a sugar rush that gets our nervous system revved up and out of balance. Or we are desperate to numb the way we feel inside and avoid dealing with life. Or we do not feel alive enough just as we are without altering our brain and body chemistry with foods.

Balance Your Blood Sugar

Increase Risk of Heart Attack

According to studies, glucose levels that rose above 4.6% in the hemoglobin HA1c test showed a direct correlation to an increase in heart attacks. As your levels rise above this, so does your risks of heart attack. This number corresponds to a fasting blood sugar level of only 86, or a one-hour test after meals of 140mg/dl. These numbers are typically said to be OK by your doctor; however, studies indicate damage is occurring at blood sugar levels much lower than previously believed.

Blood sugar is a better indicator of potential heart attack then total cholesterol levels. Only about 50% of people with high cholesterol have a heart attack. This means people with no indication of high cholesterol, have as many heart attacks as people with high cholesterol. Blood sugar on the other hand, shows the risk increases in direct proportion to how high your glucose rises over 4.6% in the HA1c test. This test shows how much glucose attaches to your blood cells over a three-month time frame, which indicates how often you have elevated glucose during that time frame. High blood sugar causes triglycerides to be stored in heart tissue which is why it is such a perfect indicator. Unfortunately, these indicators are what doctors are currently treating as NORMAL levels. This is a direct conflict to all the studies showing the opposite. The education has not yet made it to mainstream health professionals, because most of the education comes from the pharmaceutical industry. Bottom line is you need to balance your blood sugar.

Increase Risk of Developing Diabetes

Did you know that a 55-year old woman whose tests range in the upper levels of normal blood sugar testing, is 13 times more likely to become a diabetic than have breast cancer, and 9 times more likely than having heart disease? And yet, even with these huge risk factors, not enough attention is paid to glucose. And once you have diabetes, much of the damage has already been done – and that is why there is so much heart disease, blindness, neuropathy, and amputations occurring after the diagnosis. You CAN avoid this life-threatening disease now by simply making the wise choice to deal with your blood sugar when it may be only slightly elevated, rather than waiting until you are diagnosed as Pre-Diabetic or Diabetic.

Damage to Your Nerves

Recent studies have concluded that damage to your small nerves occur when blood sugar is elevated above 100 for just two hours. Again, 100 is typically considered normal for glucose by most healthcare professionals. Nonetheless, slight damage occurs every time your glucose elevates to 100 or above. And the higher the levels and the longer they stay elevated, the greater the damage. If you notice some tingling in your fingers or toes, this can be an early sign of nerve damage that may be related to blood sugar. The protective myelin sheath is actually damaged by the sugar, especially in the lower limbs. This damage occurs before you become a diabetic, and with continued high levels, becomes the reason that diabetics must check their feet every day as they lose feeling. It is the infections and problems with the damaged nerves that ultimately lead to amputation. Worldwide, someoneis having an arm or leg amputated every six minutes due to complications from rising blood sugar and the ineffectiveness of insulin to manage it.

Eating For Blood Sugar Control

1) your pancreas has to make insulin repeatedly throughout the day, which means;

2) your blood-insulin level remains high throughout the day, and because of this;

3) over time you develop a resistance to the blood-sugar-lowering affect of insulin, which means your pancreas has to work harder and pump even more of that powerful hormone into your blood to lower your blood sugar… and this is where the problems really begin.

Insulin lowers blood glucose by converting the sugar in your blood into fat, so instead of having high blood sugar, you have high blood fat. To get rid of the fat, the insulin causes your body to stop burning stored body fat for energy and causes you to start burning new fat that started out a few minutes prior as a soft drink, candy or chips, a piece of bread, or anything high in sugar or carbohydrates.

Your body makes substantially more fat from any food or drink high in sugar or carbohydrates than you will ever burn sitting at a desk or puttering around the house.  And all the fat not immediately burned for energy, is shoved into your fat cells, which grow, and expand, and get bigger and bigger, which means you gain weight.

Besides being the ROOT CAUSE of practically ALL weight gain, elevated insulin caused by not eating for blood sugar control, is the DIRECT and PRIMARY cause of most high blood pressure, most high cholesterol, practically all type-two diabetes, and so on.

Perhaps the best health tip and the best weight loss tip ever is simply to learn how to eat for blood sugar control… because when you do this, you naturally burn stored body fat for energy, you do not make and store new fat, and, in all probability, your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and other important health indicators will remain in a normal healthy range, without any special effort on your part.

On one level, being healthy, vital and strong requires only two simple steps;

1) Do things that help your body create health and vitality, like eating for blood sugar control, and;

2) Avoid things that interfere with your body’s ability to function at it’s natural, healthiest best, like eating anything that spikes your blood sugar repeatedly throughout the day, like soft drinks, candy, bread, rice. potatoes, pasta, chips, and so on.