5 New Nutrition Tips: Based on 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report

Source:  Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, May 2015, based on a report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which can be viewed at www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report

Okay, so eggs, coffee and plants are good. Sugar is bad, and a “healthy” diet is more important than any single food.  There’s nothing really new here.  Try to remember that when it comes to mainstream nutritional advice, our government lags rather than leads, and it will never advance information that’s edgy.

GoodNutrition1. Cholesterol in foods is not the main culprit in unhealthy blood cholesterol.  This is because the cholesterol in food (like in eggs and shrimp) is different than the LDL (the lousy cholesterol) that accumulates in your blood.  It only took 60 years of bad science to get this right! One news headline said “Scientists get egg on their faces.”  Haha.  The former advice to limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day was 55 years old.  This has been replaced by new advice, which is to focus on saturated fat.  The recommendation is to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, such as liquid vegetable oils.   (Editor’s note:  polyunsaturated fats have their own subset of health problems, but this is another story.)  Bottom line: “Cholesterol in food is just not a major factor.”

2.  Drinking coffee is safe and may even be good for you.  Experts are now reporting that coffee intake is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  “We saw that coffee has a lot of possible health benefits,” says Tufts’ Miriam Nelson, PhD.  “Specifically, when you’re drinking more than a couple of cups a day.”

3.  Cut down on added sugars.  “The data on the adverse health effects of added sugars has been accumulating.”  Note that the term sugar is used here generically to really mean caloric sweeteners.   For the first time, the committee recommended limiting added sugars to 10% of daily calories, which is still way too high and unhealthy, but at least it’s a start.  Sugared soft drinks are an obvious place to start cutting back.  Next is candy and sugared baked products.

4.  Eating more plants is good for you, and it’s good for the sustainability of the planet.  “A diet that emphasizes more plant foods and less meat is “more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact.”

5. A healthy dietary pattern is more important than specific foods.  “We need to help people put together a healthy dietary pattern…It shouldn’t be thought of as a punitive diet.  A healthy dietary pattern can ad should taste good.”  A healthy dietary pattern includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low or non-fat dairy, legumes and nuts, lower red and processed meats, low sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, and moderate alcohol.

April 30, 2015 in Nutrition, Scientific News by

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Sugar in Drinks

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Lookie, lookie at the differences in sugar in common drinks.  Keep in mind that just one can of soda per day equates to consuming 50 pounds of sugar per year.  Thank you, George Sickel, for sending this picture to me.

April 29, 2015 in Sugar/Caloric Sweeteners by

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Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.)

PiggingOutA food binge is an eating event that involves extreme pigging out on food, where the person engaged in the binge feels like he or she can’t stop eating.  In fact, the “official” definition of a binge is characterized by these two conditions.  More specifically, bingeing always involves consuming an unusually large amount of food over a specific period of time (like 1 or 2 hours).  The quantity of food would generally be viewed as much larger than what most people would eat during a similar time period.  Also, bingeing always involves a feeling of being out-of-control during the eating episode.   Many eaters feel like they can’t stop eating even though they experience physical fullness.

Another way to define binge eating is by meeting at least three of the following four criteria:
– Eating much more rapidly than normal
– Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
– Eating until an uncomfortable full feeling is achieved
– Feeling disgusted with self afterwards

Even though most people have occasional experiences with pigging out, most people are not diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder, also known as B.E.D.  The difference between an occasional pig-out and B.E.D. is frequency.  Binge eaters typically have an extreme eating episode at least once a week for three or more consecutive months.  It’s estimated that 2%-3.5% of the adult population is affected, which is about 8.5 million people.  Frankly this estimate seems low.  Most (but not all) people with B.E.D. are women who develop the eating behaviors as teenagers, college students, or young adults.

B.E.D. was just newly anointed as a mental health disease in 2013.  The cause of B.E.D. is unknown, but several working theories attempt to explain it.  They include extreme societal pressure to be thin, rigid dieting practices (B.E.D. often emerges after a strict diet), traumatic events, poor body image, childhood obesity, sexual abuse, depression and anxiety.  No conclusions can be drawn yet, and more research is needed.

People who think they have B.E.D. can seek a variety of treatments including nutrition, Overeaters Anonymous, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and of course, pharmaceuticals.  It’s not surprising that pharmaceutical companies are the big promoters of B.E.D. as a disease.

It’s highly suspicious, for example, that www.bingeatingdisorder.com, an informational site, is hosted and promoted by Shire Pharmaceuticals.  This is the company that manufactures and sells Vyvanse, the first drug specifically designed to treat B.E.D.  Yahoo news just reported that the launch of this drug helped Shire to “post a better-than-expected 20 percent rise in the first-quarter…”  Other pharmaceutical choices include Topamax,  and SSRI medications.   Meridia used to be prescribed for B.E.D. but was recently taken off the market by Abbot Labs.

DietHandbk_2015_front-smallB.E.D. is a dysfunction having to do with the frequency of eating, volume of food being eaten, and where the signals for appetite control are either out of whack or ignored.  It can be fixed by eating in a way that corrects these signals and that doesn’t “feel” like a restrictive diet.  The Sugar-Free Miracle Diet has worked for many out-of-control eaters and offers an eating solution not found in other diet books.

Most importantly, caloric sweeteners and powdery flours are eliminated from the diet.  These are two universal types of trigger foods for out-of-control eaters.  It’s much easier to eat sanely without them.  A second feature is the re-introduction of dietary fat.  Fat is an important and essential helper because it makes food taste good, fills you up, and doesn’t contribute to craziness with food.  And lastly, four pounds of food must be eaten every day.  High food volume doesn’t feel like sacrifice, doesn’t look like sacrifice, and dramatically decreases the possibility of overconsumption.

Click here to buy The Sugar-free Miracle Diet Handbook on Amazon Kindle.

April 29, 2015 in Food Addiction by

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The Secrets of Sugar (A documentary by Science Channel National Geographic)

April 28, 2015 in Scientific News, Sugar/Caloric Sweeteners by

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The Sugar Film: a documentary by Damon Gameau

SugarHere’s the link to “The Sugar Film,” a new documentary about sugar starring and directed by Australian Damon Gameau. https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=46&v=6uaWekLrilY The movie chronicles the 60-day experiment that Gameau conducted on himself.  Gameau only consumed foods presented as ‘healthy’ for 60 days, but he still took in 40 teaspoons of sugar per day.

The WHO (World Health Organization) only recommends 4-6 teaspoons per day.  40 teaspoons is a huge amount, but is more typical of the average consumption.   It’s estimated that 75%-90% of all processed foods contain some type of caloric sweetener.

April 28, 2015 in Health, Sugar/Caloric Sweeteners by

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This is what sugar does to your brain (from Huffington Post)

CandyManCarolyn Gregoire
The Huffington Post

We know that too much sugar is bad for our waistlines and our heart health, but now there’s mounting evidence that high levels of sugar consumption can also have a negative effect on brain health — from cognitive function to psychological wellbeing.

While sugar is nothing to be too concerned about in small quantities, most of us are simply eating too much of it. The sweet stuff — which also goes by names like glucose, fructose, honey and corn syrup — is found in 74 percent of packaged foods in our supermarkets. And while the Word Health Organization recommends that only 5 percent of daily caloric intake come from sugar, the typical American diet is comprised of 13 percent calories from sugar.

“Many Americans eat about five times the amount of sugar they should consume,” Natasa Janicic-Kahric, an associate professor of medicine at Georgetown University Hospital, told The Washington Post.

It’s easy to see how we can get hooked on sugar. However, we should be aware of the risks that a high-sugar diet poses for brain function and mental well-being.

Here’s what you need to know about how overconsumption of sugar could wreak havoc on your brain.

It creates a vicious cycle of intense cravings.

When a person consumes sugar, just like any food, it activates the tongue’s taste receptors. Then, signals are sent to the brain, lighting up reward pathways and causing a surge of feel-good hormones, like dopamine, to be released. Sugar “hijacks the brain’s reward pathway,” neuroscientist Jordan Gaines Lewis explained. And while stimulating the brain’s reward system with a piece of chocolate now and then is pleasurable and probably harmless, when the reward system is activated too much and too frequently, we start to run into problems.

“Over-activating this reward system kickstarts a series of unfortunate events — loss of control, craving, and increased tolerance to sugar,” neuroscientist Nicole Avena explained in a TED-Ed video.

In fact, research has shown that the brains of obese children actually light up differently when they taste sugar, reflecting an elevated “food reward” response. This suggests that their brain circuitry may predispose these children to a lifetime of intense sugar cravings.

It impairs memory and learning skills.

A 2012 study on rats, conducted by researchers at UCLA, found that a diet high in fructose (that’s just another word for sugar) hinders learning and memory by literally slowing down the brain. The researchers found that rats who over-consumed fructose had damaged synaptic activity in the brain, meaning that communication among brain cells was impaired.

Heavy sugar intake caused the rats to develop a resistance to insulin — a hormone that controls blood sugar levels and also regulates the function of brain cells. Insulin strengthens the synaptic connections between brain cells, helping them to communicate better and thereby form stronger memories. So when insulin levels in the brain are lowered as the result of excess sugar consumption, cognition can be impaired.

“Insulin is important in the body for controlling blood sugar, but it may play a different role in the brain,” Dr. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Our study shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body. This is something new.”

It may cause or contribute to depression and anxiety.

If you’ve ever experienced a sugar crash, then you know that sudden peaks and drops in blood sugar levels can cause you to experience symptoms like irritability, mood swings, brain fog and fatigue. That’s because eating a sugar-laden donut or drinking a soda causes blood sugar levels to spike upon consumption and then plummet. When your blood sugar inevitably dips back down (hence the “crash”), you may find yourself feeling anxious, moody or depressed.

Sugar-rich and carb-laden foods can also mess with the neurotransmitters that help keep our moods stable. Consuming sugar stimulates the release of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. Constantly over-activating these serotonin pathways can deplete our limited supplies of the neurotransmitter, which can contribute to symptoms of depression, according to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, functional medicine expert and author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working?.

Chronically high blood sugar levels have also been linked to inflammation in the brain. And as some research has suggested, neuroinflammation may be one possible cause of depression.

Teenagers may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of sugar on mood. A recent study on adolescent mice, conducted by researchers at Emory University School of Medicine, found a diet high in sugar to contribute to depression and anxiety-like behavior.

Research has also found that people who eat a standard American diet that’s high in processed foods — which typically contain high amounts of saturated fat, sugar and salt — are at an increased risk for developing depression, compared to those who eat a whole foods diet that’s lower in sugar.

It’s a risk factor for age-related cognitive decline and dementia.

A growing body of research suggests that a sugar-heavy diet could increase risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. A 2013 study found that insulin resistance and blood glucose levels — which are hallmarks of diabetes — are linked with a greater risk for developing neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s. The research “offers more evidence that the brain is a target organ for damage by high blood sugar,” endocrinologist Dr. Medha Munshi told the New York Times.

Some researchers, in fact, have even referred to Alzheimer’s as “Type 3 Diabetes” — which suggests that diet may have some role in an individual’s risk for developing the disease.

April 7, 2015 in Health, Scientific News by

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Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts

Servings: 4 (4-ounce portions)
2 large boneless chicken breasts
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Italian spice

Lightly pound the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness, about ½ thick. Brush lightly with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Italian spices. Grill on a medium hot grill 7-8 minutes per side, turning once. Can be cooked on an inside, stove top grill or on a outdoor barbeque.

March 27, 2015 in Everything Else by

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Dietary Cholesterol Isn’t Bad Anymore!

CholesterolThe U.S. government Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is now saying dietary cholesterol (the kind you eat) “is no longer a nutrient of concern.” Jeez, it only took about 60 years to undo the bad science and give out the correct advice.  Dietary cholesterol DOES NOT CAUSE HEART DISEASE.  The primary cause of heart disease is inflammation, which is directly linked to excess insulin production, which is directly linked to excess consumption of caloric sweeteners and powdery flours.

It’s the sugar, stupid! It’s always been the sugar.

February 13, 2015 in General, Health, Nutrition, Scientific News by

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Sugar-free Mom book review: One thumb up and one thumb down

SugarfreemomThe biggest problem with this book is author Brenda Bennett’s mis-representation and use of the word “natural” for many processed ingredients that are included in her recipes. An apple, for example, is an unaltered and natural food. Coconut sugar is not. Erythritol is not. Xanthan gum is not. Brown rice syrup is not. Even powdered stevia is not natural. Natural foods can be seen and eaten as they actually exist in nature, whereas the substances used and recommended by Bennett have either been treated, reduced or created by humans. It follows that Bennett’s introductory comments about sugars, other caloric sweeteners, sugar alcohols and flours are incomplete and create confusion. It’s better to skim through her food addiction story and the rest of her commentary, and go straight to the cookbook.

This is where Bennett shines. The book is smartly organized, beautifully photographed and has 194 yummy-looking recipes. Many are familiar comfort food recipes that a whole family can enjoy. Some are completely sugar-free and some have the processed substances listed above. She’s very keen on erythritol and stevia as the preferred sweetening agent. Other fave ingredients include potatoes, gluten-free flour, legumes and all things coconut (the new darling ingredient of Paleo people). If Bennett had titled her book as a low-sugar option for families, I would have felt less mislead. Purists who are looking for recipes without any caloric sweeteners, powdery flours and/or foods that have a naturally high sugar content should pass on this book.

February 13, 2015 in Product Recommendations, Thumbs Down, Thumbs Up by

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For Valentine’s Day: Sugar-free Peanut Butter and Chocolate Truffles

Recipe created by Mellissa Sevigny

This is an easy sugar-free, egg-free, gluten free and low-carb peanut butter truffle recipe that requires no cooking or chilling time!
Serves: 18 truffles

For the truffles

  • 1 cup natural (sugar free) chunky peanut butter, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup zero carb vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ granulated sugar substitute (such as Splenda)

For the coating

  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 squares 85% (or more) cocoa dark chocolate

Whip together all of the ingredients until fully combined iwith a mixer, food processor, or magic bullet. Roll into 18 one inch truffles. Chill for 5 minutes (optional) before rolling in cocoa powder, or drizzling with melted dark chocolate. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Approx. nutrition info per serving:
1 “naked” truffle: 121 calories, 9g fat, 2g net carbs, 5g protein
1 cocoa dusted truffle: 124 calories, 9g fat, 2g net carbs, 5g protein
1 choco drizzled truffle: 128 calories, 9g fat, 2.25g net carbs, 5g protein

February 13, 2015 in Recipes by

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“Fake” Fiber Added By Food Manufacturers

330px-Modified_food_starchCheck out my latest article about “fake” dietary fiber that’s been added by food manufacturers to super-charge fiber counts.  It’s published at www.ezinearticles.com.  Click on the link below:



October 29, 2014 in Nutrition by

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Sugary Sodas Shorten Life by 4.6 Years!

SodasHere’s yet another nail in the sugar coffin.  In addition to making you fat, sick and tired, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that sugary soda drinks speed up the aging process.  Aging shrinks telomeres, the caps on the end of your chromosomes.  The shorter the telomere, the harder it is for a cell to regenerate, and the quicker it ages. Sugary soda consumption can shorten your telomeres and promote aging, possibly the same impact as smoking.

Researchers at UC San Francisco studied the stored DNA of 5,300 healthy Americans who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey over a 14 year period.   The participants were all between 20-65 years old and had no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease  The big discovery is that the people who drank more soda had shorter telomeres.  Just 20 ounces of soda per day was linked to 4.6 years of aging.  “The extremely high dose of sugar that we can put into our body within seconds by drinking sugared beverages is uniquely toxic to metabolism,” says Elissa Epel, senior author of the study and psychiatry professor.

There was no link to aging with diet sodas or with fruit juices.

Mothers, save your children and get all sugary drinks out of the house!

This post was sourced from an October 20, 2014 article in The Washington Post entitled “A lifetime of sugary sodas may be 4.6 years shorter” by Lindsey Bever.

October 21, 2014 in Scientific News, Sugar/Caloric Sweeteners by

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The Gluten Sensitivity – Sugar Connection

BellyAcheGluten is a protein in wheat, and the people who report a sensitivity to it have a wide range abdominal discomforts including bloating, gas, diarrhea, and tummy pain as well as headaches, tiredness, cloudy mind, and numbness in arms, fingers and/or legs.  According to Jane Brody, esteemed health reporter for The New York Times, “recent studies have strongly suggested that many, and possibly most, people who react badly to gluten may have a more challenging problem:  sensitivity to a long list of foods containing certain carbohydrates.” 

Most notably, a study was conducted in 2011 by Dr. Peter Gibson, a gastroenterologist at Monash University in Victoria, Australia.  He did his research on 34 people with irritable bowel syndrome and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  (These are people who have gluten sensitivity but not celiac disease.)  The participants were put on a two week diet that was low in certain sugars (carbohydrates) which are collectively referred to as “Fodmaps.”  All participants improved while on the diet.  The big surprise was that only 8% of them reacted specifically to gluten when it was re-introduced.  This led to the conclusion that it might be the sugary fodmaps, not the gluten, that’s causing the problem for most people.

Fodmap is an acronym form Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols — which are all sugars that draw water into the intestine.   The theory is that these sugars are poorly digested or absorbed and result in bacteria in the colon.  Here’s a snapshot of fodmaps:

FRUCTOSE:  These are the sugars found in fruits, honey, agave, peas, sweet peppers and all drinks made with  high fructose corn syrup.

LACTOSE:  These are the sugars found in dairy products including ice cream, cheeses and sour cream.

GALACTANS:  Complex sugars found in legumes, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

POLYSOLS:  These are the sugar alcohols that are typically used in sugar-free candies and include maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and isomalt.  Sugar alcohols are also present in stone fruits like avocado, cherries, peaches, plums and apricots.

FRUCTANS:  Soluble fiber found in wheat and rye as well as bananas, garlic, onions, leeks, artichokes and asparagus.

There’s a complete list of foods in the fodmap category at www.stanfordhealthcare.org

Note that gluten sensitivity isn’t the same as celiac disease, an uncommon autoimmune condition that can destroy the small intestine.  It’s also not the same as a wheat allergy, another uncommon problem, that has symptoms such as swelling, itching, skin rash, tingling or burning in the mouth, and nasal congestion.


October 17, 2014 in Scientific News, Wheat/Gluten by

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Sugar-free Halloween Treats

HalloweenHere are 10 practical, affordable ideas for sugar-free treats to give to the costumed tricksters who come to your door later this month:

Food Choices
1. Boxes of raisins
2. Small packages of popcorn
3. Small packages of pretzels
4. Sugar-free gum
5. Individually-wrapped packages of string cheese
Small packages of seeds or nuts are too risky because many kids having allergies

Non-food Choices
6. Temporary tattoos
7. Stickers
8. Toys
9. Glow-in-the-dark items
10. Glitter

And, of course, there’s always money!

October 6, 2014 in General by

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Jessica Simpson Eats Sugar-Free!

JessicaSimpsonYet another celebrity goes sugar-free and shrinks by 70 pounds!  Jessica Simpson is a singer, songwriter, actress, mother, wife, 2012-2013 Weight Watchers spokesperson, and fashion mogul.  She’s also a petite 5’3″ woman who’s publicly struggled with her weight much of her adult life, especially after her first pregnancy.  There are many of us who can relate to her story.

Simpson gives Weight Watchers credit for weight loss after her first pregnancy and for teaching her how to eat more sensibly.  After her stint as WW spokesperson, Simpson switched to a sugar-free/low carb eating strategy.  Her daily diet was mostly comprised of veggies, smoothies and protein.  Fave recipes include egg white omelets, chicken satays, whipped chick peas, soba noodles, and shrimp skewers.  Click here for a link that features an example of Simpson’s eating plan. Then, in preparation for her wedding to Eric Johnson, Simpson switched to a strict vegan diet to lose the remaining 10 pounds.

Simpson also amped up her exercise program with daily yoga workouts, and a goal of achieving 8,000-10,000 daily steps (4-5 miles mile walks).  Now she has a personal trainer who guides her through 45-minute workouts 4 times a week.

Of course, it helps for Simpson to have a personal chef, a personal trainer and support of every kind, but everyone on every budget can switch to a mostly fresh veggie and protein and get decent results.

September 30, 2014 in General, Obesity/Weight Loss by

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About Karen Bentley

Karen Bentley Karen Bentley is the founder of The Sugar-Free Institute and an expert on sugar-free eating. She’s also an author, educator, coach and speaker. Her most recent book, The Power to Stop, is an Amazon Kindle bestseller.

Be A Sugar Detective

Video: Be a Sugar-Free Food Detective by Karen Bentley

Karen Bentley teaches you how to read the ingredients list on packaged foods to figure out how much sugar has been added by the food manufacturer. Find more information at http://sugarfreeinstitute.com.

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