Here in the new year, millions of Americans will try to cut back on sugar or drop it altogether. It’s a noble effort because sugar is devoid of nutrients, except for calories, which it has in spades.
Quick fact: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports each of us consumes 31 five-pound bags of sugar a year. That’s 267,840 empty calories from sugar alone. Still, people will be jonesing for something sweet to eat. Enter: monk fruit.
Traditionally, people used zero-calorie sweeteners to satisfy their sugar cravings at no caloric cost. Synthetic sugar substitutes, including aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda) and others, are added at the table but are mostly taken as carbonated diet drinks and low calorie foods. But consumption of those foods has taken a nosedive as of late as health conscious consumers flock to natural sweeteners. Stevia, the zero-calorie herb extract, is gaining appeal, but monk fruit is the real one to watch. (more…)
Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes often get a bad rap, but are they really as bad as they are made out to be? The results of a recent study suggests that maybe they aren’t; good news for all of us with sweet tooths. In the study three sweeteners were used to determine the effects on food intake, satiety, and glucose and insulin levels.
Researchers used sucrose, stevia and aspartame in the study. Stevia, a plant used as a natural sugar substitute, has come into popularity fairly recently in the United States, but has been used for centuries in South and Central America. The US Food and Drug Administration placed stevia on their Generally Recognized as Safe list. Any concern about the safety of stevia consumption comes from the eating and drinking excessive amounts, not from casual use.
It’s still Aspartame. Reminiscent of the recent High Fructose Corn Syrup name change, possibly in an effort to change our opinions, Aspartame will now be referred to as AminoSweet. Don’t fall for a more “natural” name – this stuff is still bad news. Hopes are that by using a more natural sounding name, consumers will feel more at ease with its pervasive use in more than 6,000 products.
Originally introduced more than 25 years ago, this “accidental discovery” has quickly taken over the food industry. Two naturally-occurring amino acids (aspartic acid and phenylalanine) were first combined in an effort to produce an anti-ulcer drug. Pharmacist James Schlatter discovered that the new compound had a very sweet taste. The company was granted a change on its FDA approval application from drug to food additive. Thus, aspartame was born.
By Lise Turner for Care2.com
It has been a sleepless several nights for me, mainly because of troubling events. But it made me start thinking about food, and how it’s intimately connected to our patterns of sleep. If you can’t sleep, and life is calm and happy, maybe it’s something you ate–or didn’t. The foods we eat can dramatically affect how much, and how well, we snooze. Some foods calm and relax, some wake up the nervous system, and some just downright wire you for the night.
What you should eat for deeper sleep depends partly on your patterns. If you toss and turn before drifting off but then doze soundly for the rest of the night, you might benefit from adding slow-burning carbs (beans, sweet potatoes, berries) to your evening meal to prompt the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that promotes calm. If you zonk out quickly but wake up a few hours later, you might be suffering from blood sugar fluctuations. I’ve tried a high-protein snack before bed–a handful of walnuts, a spoonful of almond butter, a small cube of cheese–and these tend to keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the night.
Focus on foods with soothing nutrients, like magnesium, which help relax muscles and calm the body, and B vitamins, key in the production of serotonin and other brain chemicals necessary to sleep. Trytophan, an amino acid that’s needed to make sleep-inducing serotonin, is especially effective when it’s paired with complex, slow-burning carbs.
Tune in on Tuesday, January 4 to the Dr. Oz Show when he gives you the facts and the fiction on artificial sweeteners.
On the episode, Dr. Oz will evaluate the most popular artificial sweeteners, like NutraSweet (aspartame), Splenda (sucralose) and Truvia (stevia). He’ll tell you which ones have been associated with weight gain, diabetes and even cancer. In 2008, researchers at Purdue University found that eating foods containing artificial sweetenerswas directly linked to eating more, consuming more calories and gaining weight. (more…)