Concerns about health and salt use have fueled sale of sea salts, but are they really different?

Healthy Salt? Debating the Benefits of Sea Salts

CONCERNS ABOUT HEALTH AND SALT USE HAVE FUELED SALE OF SEA SALTS, BUT ARE THEY REALLY DIFFERENT?

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

It’s hard to talk about health and salt in the same sentence, but every once in a while something comes along that forces the issue. This time it’s sea salts. The pitch being made by promoters is that sea salt contains all of the other minerals found in sea water, while regular table salt is processed to remove them. They claim those minerals are what make sea salt a healthy salt.

This is the point where I say, “Show me the evidence.”

What Makes Sea Salts Different?

All salt comes from the sea, so technically, it’s all sea salt. Some is evaporated from today’s oceans and salt water lakes, some is mined from deposits left from evaporated sea beds that are thousands of years old. When first collected the salt contains a variety of minerals, such as sulfate, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

Table salt is processed to remove the trace minerals and environmental impurities to create a product that has a consistent composition, size and taste.  Anti-clumping agents are added to many commercial brands so the salt flows freely. Iodine may also be added to provide a needed source of this essential mineral.

The first thing you’ll notice about see sea salt is that is isn’t always snow white. The color comes from the impurities that remain in it, like clay and volcanic ash, and the trace minerals. The next visual difference is the size of the crystals. They’re much larger than table salt, more like kosher salt, so don’t expect them to come out of a standard salt shaker.

If you put a few crystals on the tip of your tongue, you’ll find they don’t dissolve instantly. When they do, the taste may be milder or stronger than table salt, depending on the variety you’re sampling. Professional chefs say sea salts provide a fresher flavor to the foods they are added to, but you may not notice the difference.

Now for the big difference: Price. Sea salts cost anywhere from 2 to 10 times more that common table salt!

 Do Trace Minerals Make Sea Salt a Healthy Salt?

All of the other minerals found in sea salt are necessary for good health, but there are not enough of them in a teaspoon of sea salt to make it a useful source. And there are plenty of other ways to get those minerals, specifically from vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low fat dairy products — all foods we need to eat more of.

The most abundant mineral in sea salt is sodium. In fact, sea salt has the same amount of sodium as table salt, and that’s the problem. Dietary guidelines recommend reducing sodium consumption to lower blood pressure and risk for stroke. Sea salt offers no advantage over table salt when it comes to lowering sodium intake.

To see whether people might use less sea salt than table salt due to the texture and taste differences, researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada designed a study to measure that.  They published their findings in Food Research International and reported subjects did not use any less. Their conclusion was sea salt was not a viable option for reducing sodium in the diet.

What this means for anyone looking for a way to enjoy good health and salt is this: Use less salt no matter how much you pay for it!

Menopause does not automatically lead to weight gain

Is Weight Gain Inevitable After Menopause?

WEIGHT GAIN WITH MENOPAUSE ISN’T A GIVEN AS YOU AGE. THESE SIMPLE STEPS CAN HELP YOU AVOID UNWANTED WEIGHT GAIN OR EVEN SHED POUNDS.

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

The gradual changes in hormones and metabolism that occur in a woman’s body during the menopausal transition can result in weight gain if she is not prepared to deal with them.  Adjustments can be made on both the food and activity side of the ledger to keep those unwanted pounds at bay. These steps can also lower the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes that accompany menopause.

Make a Substitution: Because your metabolic rate slows down with age, you can begin gaining weight without eating more calories. To offset this, look for something you eat or drink every day and find a substitution that has 50-100 fewer calories. You can get that by switching from cream to low-fat milk in your coffee or eating a 4 ounce chicken cutlet at dinner instead of 6 ounces.

Add an Activity:  As all the running around you once did with the kids begins to wind down, you need a new activity to keep you moving.  This is a perfect time to sign up for dance lessons, volunteer to usher at a theater, or do some digging in a community garden.

Take a Stand: Every new appliance and technological gadget you’ve got in your home and job increase the time you spend sitting, and that expands the area you sit on. Take a stand and find reasons to get up off your butt. You can stand when letting your freshly painted nails dry, waiting for your hair color to set, talking or texting on your smart phone, flipping through a magazine in a doctor’s office, waiting for a prescription to be filled.

Do-It-Yourself: It’s tempting to use your extra income to outsource household chores, but that just denies you the chance to be more active.  Washing the windows, mowing the lawn, vacuuming the floors, polishing the car, painting the bathroom, and weeding the garden are all great ways to stay in shape!

Change the China: The amount of food we eat and beverages we drink is directly related to the size of the plates, bowls and glasses we use. By switching to smaller ones we can scale down our portions without even noticing the change. Measure the diameter of your plates and the volume of your bowls, glasses, and mugs and look for a 25% reduction in the size of the replacements.

Spread Out the Protein: Muscle mass diminishes as we age, and the less muscle we have the slower our metabolism becomes, which makes it easier to gain weight. The best ways to preserve muscles are to use them in resistance exercises and feed them plenty of protein. Including at least 20 grams of protein at each meal will do a better job than consuming most of your protein in just one meal.

Weigh Yourself Weekly: You may have never reached your personal goal weight, but by this point in your life you should know what your best weight is. Give yourself a reasonable fluctuation range of 3 pounds around that number, then step on the scale on a weekly basis and be ready to take action if you go beyond that.

All foods and drugs need to be eaten in the right amount to be beneficial

It’s the Dose that Matters

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

There are many things in life that are safe, fun or even good for us when we follow the rules. Observing the speed limit while driving is certainly one of these rules.  How about enjoying an occasional ice cream cone or reading the dosage information on a bottle of cough syrup before giving it to a child?  Learning where the line is that separates “enough” from “too much” is what makes a happy, healthy life possible.

As someone who has been providing food and nutrition advice for over 40 years, I know everything we eat involves a sensible balance of the risks versus the benefits since no food or beverage can be deemed completely safe. We must always consider how much is consumed, how often it is consumed and what else is in the usual diet.

That is why dietary guidance is based on recommended servings per day of the foods in each food group and suggested portion sizes are provided for each food. There is no category for “eat all you want” of this. Even water has daily intake guidelines! The same is true for dietary supplements, like vitamins and minerals, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications we use. These products are approved and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Taking them in the recommended dose at the recommended frequency is based on the best scientific evidence available to get the desired benefit. Taking more or less may not be as beneficial and may even be harmful.

What is the Acceptable Daily Intake?

No- and low-calorie sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, are classified as food additives, and they are also approved and regulated by the FDA.  An Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) has been established for each one, and it represents the amount of that additive a person can safely consume every day over a lifetime without risk. It is measured in milligrams (mg) of substance per kilogram (kg) body weight (BW) per day, but that does not mean when this level is reached it could be harmful. The calculations used to determine ADIs are very conservative estimates that include a hundred-fold safety margin, which means when the additive was tested in the lab, even an amount 100 times the ADI produced no observable toxic effects.

For example, the ADI for aspartame is 50mg/kg BW. A 150 pound person weighs 68 kg, so when their weight in kg is multiplied by the ADI of 50mg/kg, you get 3400mg/day as the ADI for that person. The amount of aspartame in a single “blue” packet is about 34mg, which means a 150 pound person would need to consume 100 packets to reach their ADI.  And there are about 16mg of aspartame per ounce in a diet beverage, so a 150 pound person would need to drink 213 ounces, or 26 ½ cups of a diet soda, to reach their ADI.

It’s hard to imagine anyone consuming that many sweetener packets or diet soft drinks in one day let alone every day over a lifetime! But if you’re wondering how much aspartame or any other FDA approved no- and low-calorie sweetener Americans could consume, there is a value for that, too.

What is the Estimated Daily Intake? 

The Estimated Daily Intake (EDI) is determined by calculating how much of a single sweetener a person might consume if they used it as an exclusive replacement for sugar and other nonnutritive sweeteners based on typical food consumption patterns in the United States. It is also expressed in mg/kg BW, so can easily be compared to the ADI.

For aspartame the EDI is 0.2 – 4.1mg/kg BW, which is well below the ADI for aspartame of 50mg/kg BW. This means if someone replaced all sugar and other nonnutritive sweeteners with aspartame every day, they would be consuming less than 8 per cent of the ADI for aspartame. This is due, in part to the fact aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar, therefore only very minute amounts are needed to replace its sweetening power in foods and drinks.

Like all additives, no- and low-calorie sweeteners remain under continuous evaluation while in the food supply and are reassessed to keep up with changing conditions of use and new scientific methodologies that can measure their impact on our health. Since the EDI for no- and low-calorie sweeteners is very low compared to the ADI for each, as shown in the chart below, I think it’s fair to say we have more to worry about when it comes to limiting the amount of added sugars we consume than any of these safe and effective calorie sweeteners.

ADI.2

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

Seek expert advice about food and nutrition

Why We Still Need Experts in the Information Age

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food and Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

I was at a meeting with my tax accountant last April and she had a can of diet soda on her desk when I arrived. “You must think I’m terrible for drinking this stuff” she said, but added, “the caffeine gives me the boost I need when putting in late hours during tax season and the sugar-free option helps me avoid unwanted calories.”

While I’m usually the one asking her for professional advice when we’re together, this was clearly a situation where she needed my expertise, so I asked her why she thought I would disapprove of her beverage choice. Her answer surprised us both.

She said she had seen so many alarming reports about sugar and artificial sweeteners that she simply believed all sweet tasting drinks must be bad for her. Then when I asked her where she had read these reports, she admitted she didn’t have a clue. “They’re all over the Internet” she sheepishly said.  She went on to say that must sound pretty foolish coming from a person who deals in the cold hard facts of accounting, but when it came to nutrition facts, it was all a blur to her.

I told her I could relate to her feelings since I am equally baffled by financial matters, but fortunately, I could rely on her expertise to set me straight. Now I was going to return the favor.

I explained that sweet drinks – whether made with sugar, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners –could be a regular part of her diet as long as all of her nutritional needs were being met and she did not exceed her energy requirements. The problem isn’t the sweet drinks, I told her; it’s not getting the second half of that equation right.

To make the point hit home I explained diet and exercise were like an accounting ledger. The nutrients column needs daily deposits and the activity column needs regular expenditures. “Good nutrition is all about checks and balances,” I said, not any single food or ingredient. If you budget properly you can “afford” to eat anything, just like a good financial budget allows you to buy what you want. She nodded in agreement.

When our visit was over she thanked me for the gentle nudge to be more critical of where she gets her food and nutrition information, and said if she has a question, she’ll consult an expert. “You have my number” I told her, “and don’t be afraid to use it for expert advice.”

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Cut sugars in your diet by replacing them with artificial sweeteners

Using Artificial Sweeteners Instead of Sugar: What’s the Scoop?

This blog was originally written for SplendaLiving.com. You can read that post here.

Do you know anyone who loves to walk through an electronics store just to see the hottest new gadgets on the shelves? How about those guys who like to browse hardware stores for the latest thingamajig they can’t live without? For me, it’s a trip to the grocery store. I love to see the changing array of fresh produce on display, the endcaps with new and improved versions of time-honored brands, and the latest flavor sensations to hit the yogurt, ice cream, and salad dressing aisles!

The common thread here is that the world is constantly changing and we like to keep up with what’s happening. That’s especially true in the world of food. So if you’ve noticed some increased buzz around the topic of low-calorie artificial sweeteners and a move away from added sugars in the foods and drinks you buy, I’ve got the scoop for you.

In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the latest edition of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One of the key recommendations is to reduce our intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of our total calories, or no more than 12 teaspoons a day if consuming a 2000 calorie diet. The Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations from the American Heart Association also call for a reduction in added sugars intake to help lower your risk for developing heart disease. As a result of these recommendations, the food and beverage industry has been working to reformulate many products to lower the added sugar content.

This means we may see new claims on the front of some food packages, changes in ingredient lists and in the nutrition facts panel. One way we can keep the sweet taste in foods and drinks at home while using less sugar is to replace some of that sugar with low-calorie artificial sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. In fact, the more we cook and bake at home, the more options we have to reduce the added sugars in our diets. Let me show you how.

Menu Makeovers Save the Day

Let’s say your menu tonight includes a garden salad with French dressing, grilled chicken with barbecue sauce and a side of baked beans, a glass of lemonade and some homemade peach crisp for dessert. Did you know you could get more than 25 teaspoons of added sugars in that meal, even with modest portions? That’s more than double the amount of added sugars most of us should have in a single day!

One way to cut back on the added sugars in this meal is to replace the commercial products containing added sugars with your own salad dressing, barbecue sauce, and lemonade made with SPLENDA® Sweeteners. Another option is to use SPLENDA® Sweeteners to sweeten the lemonade and peach crisp. A third choice is to do all the above. If you’d like to give it a try there are plenty of SPLENDA® recipes to help you do all that and more.

If you want to substitute a SPLENDA® Sweetener for full sugar in your own favorite recipes just follow this helpful Measurement Conversion Chart to get the right amount whether using the granulated product, packets or Sugar Blends. You might also want to read my blog, Sugar Substitutes for Baking: SPLENDA® Sugar Blends and Baking with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products: Some Helpful Tips and Guidelines from Sue Taylor to get best results.

Every time you dip into a sugar bowl or honey jar is an opportunity to make a substitution that can lower your daily intake of added sugars – and more opportunities to use SPLENDA® Sweetener Products for a sweet alternative.

 I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

To learn more recipe tips for cooking and baking with SPLENDA® Sweeteners, visit the Cooking & Baking section of this blog.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Recipes for vegetarian and diabetic diets have much in common

Recipes for Vegetarians with Diabetes

This blog was originally written for SplendaLiving.com. You can read that post here.

Maybe you’ve been a vegetarian for as long as you can remember, and then developed type 2 diabetes as an adult. Or maybe you received a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes as a child and decided during your teen years to become a vegetarian. Either way, if this describes you or someone you know, you may be wondering if it is possible to combine a vegetarian diet with one to manage diabetes.

The simple answer is yes, vegetarian meal plans and diabetes diets are compatible and both can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

The goal for any diet is to meet your personal nutritional requirements, but there are endless ways to do that based on what is available, affordable and acceptable to you. Vegetarians who only eat pizza and French fries are not making the best choices possible to meet their needs. People with diabetes who never eat fruit or whole grains aren’t either.

 Vegetarian Meal Plans and Diabetes

The first step to combining a vegetarian diet with a diabetes diet is to make a list of the foods from each food group that you like and will eat and that you can easily purchase and prepare. The biggest difference for a vegetarian (compared to someone who is not a vegetarian) will be in the Protein Foods Group. A vegetarian’s list will include plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas, lentils, soy-based meat substitutes, nuts, nut butters and seeds instead of beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and fish. Eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt may be additional sources of protein for vegetarians who choose to include those foods.

Choices from each of the other food groups – Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Dairy and Oils – are the same for vegetarians, “meat eaters” and people with diabetes. The focus for all of them should be getting the best quality and variety of foods in the diet as possible and eating them in the right frequency and serving size. That may mean having two canned peach halves packed in natural juices when fresh peaches are not in season, mixing a cup of spiralized zucchini squash with a cup of spaghetti to reduce the carbohydrate content of a meal, or adding a bag of frozen edamame (soybeans) to a can of vegetable soup to boost the protein in each serving.

If you’re wondering how much honey, molasses and other added sugars a vegetarian diet for diabetes can contain, the answer is the same as for any other healthy person – less than 12 teaspoons a day for a 2000 calorie diet. That recommendation is based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans which state added sugars should be less than 10% of total calories whether you eat meat or not!

Reducing added sugars in the diet is important for everyone since many of the foods and drinks added sugars are found in can displace other foods that provide essential nutrients. The calories from those sugars can also contribute to weight gain. This is just as true for people who don’t have diabetes as those who do. Using low-calorie sweeteners, such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener Products, can help reduce added sugars in the diet without giving up the sweet taste that makes so many foods and beverages more enjoyable.

To show you some options possible when combining a diabetic diet with a vegetarian diet, I have put together some meal plan ideas below using “Diabetes Friendly” recipes found in the SPLENDA® Brand recipe files. Of course, it is not necessary to only use recipes specifically designed for diabetes, or, for that matter, only those developed for vegetarians. Just about any recipe can be tweaked to make it work for both purposes. Please note if you have diabetes, it is important to check with your healthcare provider to determine your personal meal plan and adjust these recipes, meal combinations and portion sizes accordingly.

*For the purposes here the vegetarian dishes here may include dairy, eggs and fish.

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Snacks

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Dozens of different sugar substitutes are used to sweeten our food

A Sweetener by Any Other Name is Just as Sweet

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

The ingredients we use to sweeten our foods and beverages come from a wide variety of sources and have many different features and names.  In some cases, the only thing they have in common is that they all taste sweet! Some are ingredients found on our pantry shelves while others are already in the food and drinks we consume. Some have names we cannot easily pronounce while others are words we use in our everyday speech. And the list goes on.

There are so many terms used to describe the sweeteners available to us that it’s easy to become misled into believing some are better than others. We have all these terms because the ones used by the scientists who study sweeteners are different from those used by the food safety agencies that approve and regulate their use. And the terms used by health professionals who counsel people about the role of sweeteners in the diet differ from the ones used by the companies that sell them to us.

Given the heightened awareness of “added sugars” in our diets with the release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the expected appearance of “added sugars” on the revised Nutrition Facts label due later this year, it seems like a good time to review just what we mean when talking about the sweeteners we consume.

Calories Not Nutrients

The main way all sweeteners can be classified is by whether or not they contain calories. The scientific terms used to describe this distinction are “nutritive” sweeteners, which contain calories, and “non-nutritive” sweeteners, which do not.

Terms for Non-nutritive Sweeteners

This list includes the terms permitted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approved food additives and ingredients, as well as those that are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). This list also includes other terms that have crept into common usage but are not clearly defined by any official source.

  • Alternate or Alternative sweetener – any sweetener used to replace sugar, like aspartame; may include nutritive sweeteners, such as honey and corn syrup
  • Artificial sweetener – derived from plant-based sources or manmade, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, cyclamate, neotame, saccharin, sucralose
  • High-intensity sweetener – hundreds of time sweeter than sugar and therefore used in very small amounts, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, monk fruit extract (luo han guo), neotame, saccharin, stevia (rebaudioside A), sucralose
  • Intense sweetener – same as high-intensity sweetener
  • Low-calorie sweetener –used in such small amounts the caloric value is minimal, such as allulose and aspartame; can be used to describe a no-calorie sweetener combined with a bulking agent that has calories
  • Natural sweetener –any sweetener derived from plant-based sources; non-nutritive options include  stevia (Rebaudioside A), monk fruit extract (luo han guo), and the polyol erythritol
  • No-calorie sweetener –is not metabolized by the body and passes through it unchanged, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, monk fruit extract (luo han guo) , neotame, saccharin, stevia (Rebaudioside A), sucralose
  • Noncaloric sweetener – same a no-calorie sweetener
  • Polyol –carbohydrates that are not sugars, but have the taste and texture of sugar with less than half the calories, such as D-Tagatose, erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH) isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, trehalose, xylitol
  • Reduced-calorie sweetener –contain less than 4 calories per gram, like polyols, or products that are a combination of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners
  • Sugar alcohol – same as polyol
  • Sugar replacer – same as alternate sweeteners, artificial sweetener and sugar substitute
  • Sugar substitute – same as alternate sweetener, artificial sweetener and sugar replacer; commonly refers to non-nutritive sweeteners in table-top packets
  • Synthetic sweetener –not derived from plant-based sources, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, cyclamate, neotame, saccharin
  • Zero calorie sweetener – same as no-calorie sweetener

Terms for Nutritive Sweeteners or “Added Sugars”

The terms in bold type are recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as ingredient names. The others also sweeten our foods and beverages and appear on food labels, but are not recognized by the FDA as ingredient names for “added sugars.”

  • Agave nectar
  • Anhydrous dextrose
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane juice
  • Cane sugar
  • Carob syrup
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystal dextrose
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Evaporated corn sweetener
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Fruit nectar
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Liquid fructose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Nectars (e.g. peach nectar, pear nectar)
  • Pancake syrup
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice sugar or syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Sugar cane juice
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Table sugar
  • Turbinado
  • White granulated sugar

You may want to print out this list and keep it in a handy place so you won’t be confused the next time you’re reading a food label.

 

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

 

Dieary patterns are more important to health than fad diets

The Hottest New Diet Isn’t a Diet at All

Meet the dietary pattern, a style of eating with a proven record of success.

This post was originally written as a guest blog for Health.USNews.com

Diets are out; dietary patterns are in – at least, that’s what the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans seems to say.

That’s big news for those of us who like to incorporate the report’s nutrition advice into our personal eating habits when it comes out every five years. This time, the government suggests we abandon diets that glorify or shun single foods and nutrients (think butter, eggs, fat and fiber – past years’ targets) and shift our attention to overall eating patterns, or the sum total of what, how often and how much we eat, as well as what we eat it with.

Why the move away from “good food/bad food” diets? For one, nutrition science is continually evolving and we are learning from our mistakes. Back in the 1980s, for instance, the guidelines told us to cut back on “bad fats” to lower our risk of heart disease – the No. 1 cause of death for Americans. But people who followed that recommendation filled the void on their plates with simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, bagels and fat-free cookies. In time, we learned those foods weren’t any better for our hearts (or waistlines) than the high-fat fare they replaced.

So in 2000, we tried again. The guidelines issued that year redeemed fats – as long as they were “good fats.” This recommendation was based on newer research linking populations that regularly ate olive oil, avocados and almonds with a lower incidence of heart disease. We followed suit, dipping our bread in olive oil, adding sliced avocado to our burgers and making almonds our go-to snack. But so far, the only thing that has improved is sales of those foods. Our single-minded pursuit of the perfect food (or fat) to fight heart disease has kept us from seeing everything else that contributes to its lower rates in people with different dietary patterns.

Now, after spending more than two decades rationing just three eggs into our weekly menus, we’re being told cholesterol isn’t as bad for us as we once thought. Does that mean it’s time to order the broiled lobster tail with drawn butter to celebrate?

Not so fast.

What it means is precisely what the latest Dietary Guidelines concluded: When it comes to diet, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Put another way, when you eat foods together, their health benefits are greater than a single food could produce on its own. For example, eating eggs every day can lower your risk of heart disease if you are also eating plenty of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, whole grains, fish and olive oil. On the other hand, eating eggs every day along with regular servings of fatty meats, refined grains and excess sodium from highly-processed foods can increase that risk. That’s because the connection to heart disease isn’t just about the eggs – it’s also about everything else we consume with them.

Another advantage of adopting a healthy dietary pattern is that the benefits are cumulative, like compounded interest. So, people who have been eating a Mediterranean-style pattern all their lives, for instance, get an immediate return on investment by meeting their nutritional needs early in life to support optimal growth and development. Later, they receive a long-term dividend by preventing, or greatly reducing, their risk of suffering from the noncommunicable diseases of adulthood, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, macular degeneration and the ubiquitous heart disease. But this payoff requires making consistent contributions to your healthy eating plan, just like building retirement wealth depends on making consistent contributions to your 401K. Both are more effective the sooner you get started.

Choosing a healthy dietary pattern over a diet also leaves more room for the occasional holiday food exemption. (Sorry, but weekends don’t count as “occasional.”) That approach is different from the can-eat-can’t-eat diet style, in which we’re open to every loophole that might give us a free pass. Have you ever rushed off to work without eating breakfast so you feel entitled to partake in the office pastries? How about arriving home from work too tired to chop vegetables, so you eat pizza (without a salad) for dinner? What about the Sunday you finally get the whole family together for brunch and end up eating eggs benedict and a Belgian waffle to celebrate? You get the picture: Food choices can change with the seasons, but a dietary pattern remains the same.

Convinced yet? If so, the highly regarded Mediterranean and DASH  plans are a great place  to start. Those patterns offer the best of what is known about the food-health connection when put together right, so you won’t have to upgrade to something new in another five years. You also won’t have to worry about getting caught up in the next fad diet that promises to solve all your health and weight issues because history has shown us they don’t work in the long term. Think gluten-free, low-glycemic index, high-protein, low-carb, antioxidant-rich, paleo and probiotic diets, to name a few. It’s time to move on something more sustainable.

You can start transitioning to a healthier pattern by following some of these simple tips. The goal is to make the right choice a habit so it becomes your default option.

  • Eat at least one piece of whole fruit daily.
  • Order “whole wheat” as your bread choice for sandwiches, toast and pizza crust.
  • Choose fish over meat or poultry for an entree at least once a week.
  • Drink one full glass of water with each meal.
  • Add a layer of fresh or grilled vegetables to every sandwich.
  • Use nuts or seeds instead of croutons on salad.
  • Make chili with more beans and less (or no) meat.
  • Have brown rice with all Chinese takeout.
  • Include some vegetables whenever you grill.
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in cooking and baking.
  • Make your meat portions no larger than the palm of your hand.
  • Choose vegetables to top pizza, fill an omelet, stuff a potato or stretch a soup.
  • Keep hummus, salsa and sliced vegetables on hand as your go-to snack.
  • Be more inclusive of fruits and vegetables by including fresh, frozen, canned and dried varieties in your repertoire.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and cultural anthropologist who has spent her 30-plus year career counseling, teaching and writing about food, nutrition and health. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food choices possible in their everyday lives. You can read her blog at www.EverydayRD.com and follow her on Twitter at@EverydayRD.

Trust the experts for food safety information about sucralose

Is Sucralose Safe? Clearing Up the Confusion in 3 Steps

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

Have you had your daily dose of the latest controversial nutrition headlines? Some days I feel as though I’ve had more than my share. When that happens, I like to step back and remind myself that even the news has to be consumed in moderation for me to remain healthy and sane!

One of the more surprising items I read recently had to do with a new paper (about an old study), in which mice were given diets containing sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products and other foods. The research group that performed the study is a small institute in Italy with a history of publishing research that has been found to be unreliable in making safety assessments of food ingredients.

I was surprised to see this study published because it had been the subject of criticism when these researchers published an abstract about it over 4 years ago. Critics said the researchers used an unconventional study design that causes problems when evaluating the data and have found numerous other flaws in the way the study was conducted. They also said the researchers’ conclusions were not supported by a wide body of research that shows sucralose is safe, doesn’t cause cancer, and can be enjoyed in healthy meal plans aimed at reducing our intake of added sugar.

Another surprise was the move by a food “watchdog” group advising consumers to avoid sucralose based solely on this publication, despite the clear availability of reliable research which shows that sucralose is safe. This is disappointing, unwarranted, and not useful to consumers who want tools to help reduce added sugar in the diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not change its safety rating of sucralose, and neither did the dozens of other food and health agencies around the world that have approved sucralose as a safe sweetener.

After thinking more about this, I decided to prepare the simple steps below to help you keep things in perspective when you see stories about new research on a food or food ingredient that seem too crazy to be true. They just might not be!

3 Steps to Help You Navigate around Nutrition Research that is Drawing Media Attention

  1. A single new research study about a food ingredient or type of food is typically not going to reverse a safety decision when a wide body of evidence already exists to show that an ingredient or type of food is safe.

The safety approval process for foods and additives involves collecting data from all types of research on that product. The designs of the different studies are ranked to make sure those of the highest caliber are given the greatest weight in decisions about safety for human use. Moreover, safety factors are applied to ensure that intakes are well within safe levels. Ongoing research can provide additional information, but new studies that reach conclusions different from the body of existing evidence must be thoroughly evaluated to understand why they differ from what is already known, and those studies must be repeated by other scientists to validate the findings.

The FDA reviewed more than 100 studies in animals and humans to determine the safety of sucralose. You can read about the many other international food safety and regulatory agencies that came to the same conclusions here.

  1. Consider whether experts have weighed in.

It’s important to remember that the media want to have a story that will draw a big audience. Stories that shock or scare us commonly do that, especially if it’s about a food or ingredient that you and your family commonly enjoy. But when new research breaks, there often has not been enough time for a full expert review. If a food ingredient we have safely used for a long period of time is attacked, we need to reserve judgment until more experts can weigh in with their evaluations. A short sound byte from a single researcher which a reporter was able to track down for the story does not represent scientific consensus. Stories from certain “consumer advocacy” or “watchdog” groups need to be carefully monitored since those organizations may not be staffed with experts in food ingredient safety or risk assessment. On the other hand, they have a vested interest in getting your attention. That’s how they stay in existence.

We turn to licensed experts when we need a physician or electrician and should do the same when we need guidance about food safety. It is not possible to read and understand all of the scientific research about no- and low-calorie sweeteners ourselves, but highly qualified individuals have done just that and provide their expert opinions for us to follow.

The more consensus there is among food safety and health experts, the more confident you can be in their findings. If you are interested in learning more about expert evaluations on sucralose safety – you can find more here.

  1. Do a little digging into how well the study was designed.

While you may not be an expert in assessing food ingredient safety (most people aren’t), sometimes things as simple as the dose that was used in a study can help you get a better picture of whether a new scare-story seems legit. It’s not uncommon that “bad” results come from investigating doses that have no relevance to any of us. While we often don’t stop to think about this, there is no food or ingredient that is safe under all circumstances. There is an old saying that “the dose makes the poison”, which is very true. Safety standards for foods and drugs are based on the amount consumed, the frequency of consumption and the age and size of the person, plus consideration of individual differences and environmental exposures. For drugs we call this the “dose.” In foods, it’s the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) or maximum amount we can safely consume on a daily basis over a lifetime without adverse effects. For sucralose, the amount we typically consume is well below the ADI level and poses no risk at current levels of consumption.

Sucralose, the sweetening ingredient found in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products and other foods, is a safe FDA-approved ingredient. TheAcceptable Daily Intake set by FDA is 5 mg/kg body weight. For an adult weighing 150 pounds, this equates to consuming about 30 packets a day, every day, for the entire lifetime.

I hope you find these tips helpful when you’re hit with the next sensationalized news story that paints a distorted picture about food ingredients that were safe and widely used until that story broke. Those stories are frequently way off-track and even harmfully wrong.

With regard to no-calorie sweeteners, these are some of the most studied food ingredients in the world. In particular, sucralose has been found safe by expert health and food safety agencies from around the world – which I’ve also discussed previously here and here.

Importantly, we also know that eating too many calories from added sugars can be contributing to the epidemic of overweight and obesity happening now in many countries around the world, including the U.S. This is reflected in the recent “Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children,” published by the World Health Organization in 2015, which recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases in adults and children, with a particular focus on the prevention and control of unhealthy weight and dental caries. And it’s also reflected in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends a reduction in added sugars intake to less than 10 percent of total calories.

Sucralose and other low-calorie sweeteners can be a useful tool in reducing our intake of added sugars, and numerous clinical trials show that they can help overweight individuals achieve a lower body weight. They can also be an important tool for persons with diabetes when used in place of sugar to help manage carbohydrate intake. Low-calorie sweeteners can help lower intake of unnecessary carbohydrate, leaving room for more nutrient-dense sources like low-fat dairy, whole grains and vegetables.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Low calorie sweeteners are an aid to weight loss, not weight gain

What 22,000 Adults Had to Say About Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Weight Loss

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

Research on regular users of low-calorie sweeteners has found they have better diets than nonusers. If that isn’t incentive to use them, I don’t know what is! Of course, adding a low-calorie sweetener to your coffee isn’t all it takes to become healthy and thin, but studies show it can be part of a healthy lifestyle for many people and helps them reach their goals. And that’s exactly what the latest study by researchers Adam Drewnowski and Colin Rehm at the University of Washington found.

Since other research has reported an association between low-calorie sweeteners and obesity by simply looking at who was using them and their weight classification, Drewnowski and Rehm wanted to answer the question, “What came first, the weight gain or the use of low-calorie sweeteners?”

In their study, they went back 10 years to see peoples’ weight histories and their intent, or motivation, to lose weight during that time. What they found is the use of low-calorie sweeteners was common among people who were experiencing weight fluctuations and who were trying to return to a lower weight. In fact, nearly one-third of adults trying to lose or maintain weight used low-calorie sweetened products.

As anyone who has lost weight knows, it is easy to regain. When that starts to happen, there is a tendency to resume the weight loss strategies that helped in the past, like using low-calorie sweeteners. Even people experiencing weight gain for the first time and those with the early warning signs of diabetes may decide to use low-calorie sweeteners as a first step to reduce their caloric intake or added sugars in their diet. In both these examples, the low-calorie sweetener was selected after the problem of weight gain or prediabetes was identified, not the other way around.

Asking the Right Questions

Here’s how the study was done.

Information was collected from more than 22,000 adults about their use of low-calorie sweeteners in the past 24 hours, their intent to lose or maintain weight over the past 12 months and their 10-year weight history. Height and weight records were used to classify the participants as normal weight, overweight or obese during the period under investigation and a questionnaire was completed to determine if they had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Drawing the Right Conclusions

What the researchers found was the use of low-calorie sweeteners was associated with self-reported intention to lose weight during the previous 12 months, indicating it was a strategy being selected to help with weight loss.   They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners, and  this was true for participants at any weight, not just those who were overweight or obese. This finding provides the strongest evidence yet that low-calorie sweeteners do not cause weight gain, but are chosen to help prevent it.

They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners.

A final conclusion drawn from this research, based on the analysis of the 10-year weight change data, is that obese individuals may have switched to diet beverages made with low-calorie sweeteners after they gained weight.  This supports the possibility that use of low-calorie sweeteners may be a useful “marker” to identify people have experienced weight gain and are trying to reduce it.

What Does This Mean For You?

We now have better evidence than ever that low-calorie sweeteners are deliberately chosen by individuals as a weight management strategy and do not contribute to weight gain. Using low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar is a simple step anyone can take to help reduce their caloric intake as part of a healthy lifestyle.

 

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.