Heartburn - Can I Help it with Foods and Lifestyle?

The odds are that you or someone you know experiences heartburn. Around half of North American adults experience it at least once per month. Somewhere between 10-20% have it at least once per week!Heartburn, also known as reflux, occurs when the strong acid in your stomach creeps up into your esophagus.

 

It can feel like a burning sensation; hence the name "heartburn." Other common symptoms include bloating, burping, difficulty swallowing, or a sore throat. Often there is a bitter or sour taste as well.Don't get me wrong, stomach acid is good! Stomach acid is essential for good health and optimal digestion.

 

We need the acid in our stomach to protect us against harmful microbes (i.e. bacteria) that lurk in our food and drinks. Stomach acid also helps us break down our food, and digest nutrients. But we need that acid to stay in the stomach, and not get up to our esophagus!

 

Stomach acid doesn't usually burn the stomach itself; this is because the stomach is protected by a layer of mucus.

 

But your esophagus doesn't have that same protection. It has a valve that is supposed to prevent things from going the wrong way (i.e. keep food, drink, and acid down; not allow it back up). And when your esophagus is exposed to stomach acid too often, it can cause the infamous burning, inflammation, and other potential issues.

 

I'm going to share a bunch of tips that may help you overcome your heartburn symptoms naturally.Of course, if symptoms last for a long time, or get worse, it's probably a good idea to see your doctor.

 

Tip #1 – Foods to eat (and avoid)

You may notice that when you eat or drink certain things, you get heartburn soon afterward. These triggers may be different for everyone; but often include onions, garlic, chocolate, citrus, tomato, mint, spicy foods, greasy foods, coffee, carbonated drinks, or alcohol. If any of these affect you, reduce them or even try cutting them out to see if it makes a difference.

 

Heartburn might also result from a sneaky food intolerance. Try eliminating grains, dairy, and processed foods for a few weeks and see if that helps. Now, you may be wondering: “If I eliminate these foods/drinks, then what can I put in their place?”

 

Try increasing fiber intake. Yes, this means more whole, unprocessed foods, especially veggies! In fact, potatoes may be a great addition to meals if you suffer from heartburn. Try getting at least five servings of veggies every day.

 

Tip #2 – How and when to eat Eat slowly. Use meal times to release stress. Chew your food very well. Don’t eat meals that are too big. And don’t eat too close to bedtime. You want to avoid lying down with a full stomach. We’re talking finishing eating 2-3 hours before lying down, so schedule your dinner or snack with this in mind.

Tip #3 – Lifestyle techniques

Sometimes strenuous exercise can make heartburn symptoms worse. If this happens to you, then focus on low-intensity exercises like walking and cycling.

 

If symptoms come on as you’re lying down to sleep, try adding a pillow or two so your head is a bit higher than your stomach.

 

Another interesting tip is to try sleeping on your left side. Lying on your left side works because the valve that prevents the acid from "leaking" into your esophagus is located on the right side of the stomach. So, when you're lying on your left, the acid is away from that valve.

 

 

Conclusion

Heartburn is a very common condition where stomach acid creeps up into the esophagus (where it’s not supposed to be).

 

If you suffer from symptoms of heartburn, there are many things you can do. There are foods and drinks to avoid and veggies to increase. You can eat slower, chew more thoroughly, and don't lie down within 2-3 hours of eating. Also, try low-intensity exercise and sleeping on your left side.

 

Try these simple, natural strategies. They can help prevent or relieve heartburn symptoms for you.

 

Recipe (Not Too Greasy or Spicy): Baked Potatoes

1 small bag of mini potatoes

4 tbsp olive oil 1 tsp salt 1 tsp black pepper

 

Instructions

Scrub potatoes and boil them until they're soft. How long will depend on their size, so check them by feeling how easily they're penetrated with a fork or knife.

Drain the water and toss the potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Place in a roasting dish at 425F for about 15 minutes.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Don’t have mini potatoes? Use large potatoes or sweet potatoes and chop them to the size of mini potatoes.

 

References:

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/get-rid-acid-reflux/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/heartburn-reflux-gerd

https://authoritynutrition.com/heartburn-acid-reflux-remedies/

Melatonin: The Sleep Hormone

Few things are as beautiful as the rays of the morning sun. The first light of morning is energizing and motivating—unless you’ve been awake half the night. In this case, the morning light just means that you didn’t get enough sleep. Again.

As soon as those first rays hit your eyes, your stress begins to mount. You’re exhausted. How are you going to make it all day long on so little sleep? You feel emotional just anticipating the struggle to concentrate and stay alert—especially during the afternoon hours when the drowsiness really kicks in.

Does this describe you? If so, you are not alone. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 60% of Americans have sleep problems. That means more than half of us struggle to sleep. The reasons for sleep difficulties are many—from stress to caffeine to individual differences in body rhythms.

But whatever the cause, the bottom line is that if you suffer from insomnia or other even minor sleep issues, you need help. And one of the safest ways to get that help may be to take melatonin.

Help from a Hormone

You have probably heard of melatonin. It is a hormone produced by your brain in your pineal gland. Some of your melatonin is also produced in your gut. Mainly, melatonin helps to control your sleep and wake cycles. Normally, melatonin levels will begin to increase in the mid to late evening, stay high during the night, and then begin to decrease early in the morning. This helps you to sleep during the night and be ready to wake up in the morning.

When there are higher amounts of melatonin in your body, you feel sleepy. When the levels are lower, you feel more alert and awake. Your regular sleep and wake cycle is your own internal clock, and this clock is directly tied to how much or how little melatonin your body makes.

There are other things that affect the melatonin in our bodies. For example, as we age, our bodies produce less melatonin. Daylight plays a key role, too. When the days are shorter during the winter, the time of day that our bodies produce melatonin changes. Rather than producing melatonin during the mid to late evening hours, we may get a surge of it earlier in the day as the daylight begins fading earlier.

When the amount of melatonin or the production schedule of melatonin changes in your body, you may find yourself struggling with sleep patterns.

Without enough melatonin, you will have trouble sleeping. But even if you make enough melatonin, your internal clock may be off if the melatonin is being released at the wrong time of day. Nobody wants to get sleepy at 5:00 PM from a melatonin release! Not only is this inconvenient, but also, when the natural decrease happens several hours later (to help you wake up), you’ll be alert and ready for the day by 3:00 AM!

Fortunately, if your melatonin levels are low or simply off schedule, you can help yourself by taking a melatonin supplement. These are available without a prescription at drugstores and at health food stores. Just be sure to buy a reputable brand to ensure you get a quality product.

Doses range from 0.1 to 20 mg, depending on the reason you are taking it. Your doctor can help you choose the right dose, as well as help you determine the best time in the evening to take it. Timing is important, since the melatonin, once ingested, will run its course in your body—taking you from drowsiness to wakefulness on schedule. It’s a handy way to reset your internal clock and get the sleep you need.

 

The Stress Mess: How It Messes With Your Health

We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.

Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It's the chronic stress that's a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let's dive into the "stress mess."

Mess #1 - Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.

Stress increased the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood "thickness," as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.

Mess #2 - Immunity Did you notice that you get sick more often when you're stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that's because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.

Mess #3 - "Leaky Gut." Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as "intestinal permeability." These "leaks" can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Picture this: Have you ever played "red rover?" It's where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right through. Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!

Mess #4 - Sleep Disruption Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you don't get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health. Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren't doing you any favors.

Stress-busting tips Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step. Can you:

Put less pressure on yourself? Ask for help? Say "no"? Delegate to someone else? Finally, make that decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you: Deep breathing Meditation Walk in nature Unplug (read a book, take a bath) Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.) Connect with loved ones

 

Conclusion Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize.

Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.

There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.

You can ditch that stress mess!

 

Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled 1 peach, diced

Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired. Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.

References: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress https://www.thepaleomom.com/stress-undermines-health/ http://www.precisionnutrition.com/good-stress-bad-stress https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

Paleo Diet 101

You may have heard of the "paleo" diet. It was the world's most popular diet in 2013.

But what is it? Is it a fad? Is it right for you?

Scientist and "Paleo Mom" Sarah Ballentyne, Ph.D. defines it as:

The Paleo diet is a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition while avoiding most processed and refined foods and empty calories.

The name “paleo” is from the “paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture.

 

What you can (and can’t) eat on the paleo diet

Great question! Of course, being a "diet," paleo has food guidelines. The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods; while reducing the number of gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting, and inflammatory foods.

But this doesn't mean there are only a couple of foods to choose from! There is a pretty wide variety of food to choose from in the paleo diet.

You can include fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and spices.

The paleo diet excludes processed and refined foods (e.g. sugar, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, etc.), grains (e.g. wheat, oats, rice, etc.), dairy, and most legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.).

The paleo diet can be thought of as more of a "template," rather than a strict set of rules.

It’s a diet that seems to be easy to maintain, and with little to no negative side effects. There is no measuring or counting of calories or carbs. And there are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods to choose from.

Many proponents of the paleo diet even encourage experimentation by adding in a few of the (healthy whole) foods on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy, white rice, or potatoes may be added to less restrictive forms of the paleo diet.

 

How does the Paleo diet affect health?

Several clinical studies have been done to find out whether there are health benefits of eating this way.

Some of the research has shown that the paleo diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. That alone may be reason enough to give it a try.

Not to mention its effect on several modern-day chronic diseases. For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance, and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.

It’s also thought to be “gut-friendly” because it includes a lot of high-fiber foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds), fermented foods (which contain gut-friendly probiotics), as well as being full of nutritious natural foods.

 

Who should consider a paleo diet?

Some people recommend the paleo diet for those with food intolerances or autoimmune diseases. Those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes may also be good candidates to give the paleo diet a try.

If you react to gluten or lactose, this diet removes them both by eliminating all grains and dairy.

Even if you don't choose to go paleo, the elimination of added sugars, processed and refined foods can (should?) be a goal to move toward.

Conclusion

The paleo diet is based on what hunters and gatherers were believed to have eaten thousands of years ago. It is a whole-food based, nutrient-dense diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, and fermented foods.

Science has shown that it can help some people to lose weight, reduce risks of heart disease, improve glucose tolerance, and reduce inflammation.

At the very least, eliminating added sugars, processed, and refined foods are a great goal, even if you decide not to “go paleo.”

As always, keep in mind that there are several diet options that will work for most people and it is up to you to choose to practice the one that serves you best.

 

Recipe (Paleo): Banana Muffins

3 large eggs 5 mashed bananas ½ cup almond butter ¼ cup coconut oil 1 tsp vanilla ½ cup coconut flour 1 tbsp cinnamon 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp baking soda pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners. In a food processor or stand mixer, blend eggs, bananas, almond butter, coconut oil, and vanilla.

In a large bowl mix coconut flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add blended wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined.Spoon batter into muffin tins, ¾ full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can top muffins with walnuts before baking.

 

References: https://authoritynutrition.com/paleo-diet-meal-plan-and-menu/ https://www.thepaleomom.com/start-here/paleo-diet/ https://authoritynutrition.com/5-studies-on-the-paleo-diet/

Reduce Inflammation With These Key Foods

Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines.

It’s a fact.

Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it's chronic (i.e. lasts a long time).

Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and diabetes, just to name a few.

But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it's measured, and where it comes from; why don't I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it?

Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favorite of yours?

Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).

Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as "anthocyanins" and "resveratrol" are found in these small and delicious fruits.

In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant "sulforaphane." This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin. Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colors. Peppers that are any other color are not fully ripe and won't have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week's recipe (see below).

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, chia seeds)

Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: "trans" fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: "omega-3s), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.

The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.

EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer's.

Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It's thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.

Anti-inflammatory Food #5 - Turmeric Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?

Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.

This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.

I've added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.

Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely "flavonols"). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They've even been shown to prevent "neuro-inflammation" (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.

Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!

 

Conclusion There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colorful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.

You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of "anti-inflammation."

Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa

¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed) 1.5 cups of vegetable broth 1 medium onion, diced 1 bell pepper, chopped 1 dash salt ½ tbsp turmeric 1 dash black pepper 2 cups broccoli, chopped

In a saucepan place 2 cups of veggie broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the veggie broth is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.

Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.

Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.

References: https://authoritynutrition.com/13-anti-inflammatory-foods/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717884/ https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea/ https://authoritynutrition.com/matcha-green-tea/ http://neurotrition.ca/blog/brain-food-essentials-cacao http://leesaklich.com/foods-vs-supps/foods-vs-supplements-the-turmeric-edition/

How Do I Keep My Blood Sugar Stable?

 

Oh, the words "blood sugar."

 

Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections?

 

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles.

 

The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot.

 

This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches ("carbs"), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy.

 

Why keep my blood sugar stable?

Your body wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you're not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable. It should be low enough that your body isn't scrambling to remove excess from the blood.

 

When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as "hypoglycemia."

 

When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycemia.  Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia) can lead to "insulin resistance."

 

Insulin resistance is when your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high.

 

Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycemia can eventually lead to diabetes.

 

So let’s look at how you can optimize your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable.

 

Food for stable blood sugar

The simplest thing to do to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars and starches you eat.  To do this, you can start by dumping sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert.

 

Eating more fiber is helpful too. Fiber helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the "spike" in your blood sugar level.  Fiber is found in plant-based foods (as long as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removed fiber).  Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fiber intake.

 

FUN FACT: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below)

 

Lifestyle for stable blood sugar

Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don't ignore insulin's call to get excess sugar out of the blood.  Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood. But you already knew that exercise is healthy, didn't you?

 

Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the "fight or flight" stress response, what fuel do your brain and muscles need to "fight" or "flee"? Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels.  So, try to reduce the stress you're under and manage it more effectively. Simple tips are meditation, deep breathing, or gentle movement.

 

Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don't get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Make sleep more of a priority - it will do your blood sugar (and the rest of your physical and mental health) good.

 

Conclusion

Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant).  Long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble.

 

There are many nutrition and lifestyle approaches you can take to help keep your blood sugar stable. Minimizing excessive carbs, and eating more fiber, exercising, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health).

 

Recipe (blood sugar balancing): Cinnamon Apples

2 apples, chopped

1 tbsp coconut oil ½ tsp ground cinnamon ⅛ tsp sea salt ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed.

Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.

Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.

Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well.

Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness!

Serve and enjoy!

Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fiber, which is even better for stabilizing your blood sugar.

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-blood-sugar

 

The Truth Behind Artificial Sweeteners

The Truth Behind Artificial Sweeteners

You probably know the negative health effects of eating too much sugar, especially "added sugars" like in soda pop, candy, baked goods, and many commercially-available cereals, just to name a few.  Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the grocery store.

 

Yes, ingesting refined sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin, and increases your risk for a whole host of issues.

 

A while ago, one of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great, was artificial sweeteners.

 

The idea behind them is that you can still get the sweetness, without the calories; like when you have a “diet pop” versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.

 

But, it doesn’t always work out the way we think it will...

 

Types of artificial sweeteners

Sugar substitutes fall into several categories, but what they all have in common is that they have a sweet taste and fewer calories than plain sugar.

 

Today we'll specifically discuss "artificial sweeteners," which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet.

 

They're also known as "non-nutritive sweeteners," and include things like:

  • Saccharin (Sweet & Low),
  • Acesulfame potassium,
  • Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet), and
  • Sucralose (Splenda).

 

Health effects of artificial sweeteners

Negative health effects from artificial sweeteners are cited all over the place, and while many studies show effects, others don't. Cancer? Maybe yes, maybe no. Heart disease? Maybe yes, maybe no. Not to mention that much of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to people.

 

I did want to point out one ironic thing, to do with artificial sweeteners and weight.

 

One study found that people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who didn't.

 

Another study has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.

 

While these results don't apply equally to everyone, they do somehow seem ironic, don't they?

 

How do artificial sweeteners affect our bodies?

Now that’s a million-dollar question!

 

There are so many ideas out there to try to explain it, but the reality is we don’t know for sure; plus, it might play out differently in different people.

 

  • Is it because people feel that they can eat cake because they’ve switched to diet soda?

 

  • Perhaps it’s because the sweeteners change the taste preferences so that fruit starts to taste worse, and veggies taste terrible?

 

  • Maybe artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for more (real) sweets?

 

  • It can be that the sweet taste of these sweeteners signals to our body to release insulin to lower our blood sugar; but, because we didn’t actually ingest sugar, our blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where we get sugar cravings.

 

  • Some even say (and at least one animal study suggests) that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies toward it.

 

  • Maybe there is even a more complex response that involves our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.

 

Conclusion

Understand that added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace them all with artificial sweeteners.

 

I highly recommend reducing your sugar intake, so you naturally re-train your palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn't overly sweet.  This way you're reducing your intake of added sugar, as well as not needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.

 

Try having ½ teaspoon less of sugar in your hot morning drink. Try reducing a ¼ cup of the sugar called for in some recipes. Try diluting juice with water.

 

Your body will thank you!

 

Recipe (naturally sweetened): Sweet Enough Matcha Latte

1 teaspoon matcha powder

1.5 cup almond milk, unsweetened

1-2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey (optional)

  1. Heat almond milk and maple syrup/honey (if using) in a small pot.
  2. Add matcha powder to cup.
  3. When almond milk is hot, add about a ¼ cup to matcha and stir to combine.
  4. Add rest of the milk to cup.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can steep a chai tea bag in the milk if you prefer chai tea over matcha.

 

References: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030 https://authoritynutrition.com/artificial-sweeteners-blood-sugar-insulin/ http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-splenda-is-it-safe https://chriskresser.com/the-unbiased-truth-about-artificial-sweeteners/