Sugar Sugar

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By now, most of us have heard that sugar is bad for you. But why? The evidence I have read to support why is staggering. We have all heard that sugar promotes tooth decay. However, this is only one of the tens of health problems sugar is linked to.

A hundred years ago, people consumed an average of 15 grams of sugar a day.  Today the average person consumes 73 grams of sugar, most of which is in the form of high fructose corn syrup – which is in most processed foods we buy.

Commonly used white sugar is bleached with chlorine bleach – which is an obvious dangerous substance to ingest.

Sugar has no essential nutrients. In fact, people who consume lots of sugar don’t have important nutrients they need, especially vitamins A, C, B12, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, chromium, copper, magnesium and iron. It also interferes in the absorption of minerals.

One of sugar’s main components is fructose, of which there is no physiological need. We can eat it in moderation – in fruit, for example, and our liver can metabolize it properly into glycogen. However, eating too much of it will result in it being stored as fat. This overload on the liver can result in fatty liver disease.

Diseases and Conditions Sugar is Linked to and Why:

High Blood Pressure: Sugar causes elevated uric acid levels which ultimately raise blood pressure (systolic/high number).

High Cholesterol: Sugar raises total cholesterol and triglycerides, increasing the bad cholesterol (LDLs) and decreasing the good cholesterol (HDLs) which can lead to heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

Inflammation: Sugar causes free radicals to form that cause inflammation in the body at the cellular level. This leads to changes in skin tone and appearance. Common effects include deep wrinkles, saggy skin, and dark circles under the eyes.

Immune system deficiency (arthritis, asthma and MS): Our immune functions are reduced after eating high sugar foods which makes the body more susceptible to infections. Sugar consumption lowers the white blood cell count, which in turn weakens your immune system.

Obesity:  By its rapid absorption, sugar promotes excessive food intake.  The body changes sugar into fat at much greater rates than it does starches.

Cancer:  Many studies have shown that people who eat a lot of sugar are at a much higher risk of getting cancer. Having constantly elevated insulin levels (a consequence of sugar consumption) can contribute to cancer. Diets high in sugar will increase free radicals and oxidative stress, basically setting the stage for the disease.  Cancer cells feed on sugar and need it to survive as cancer is uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells.

Additional Problems and Effects:

  • reactive hypoglycemia, Crohn’s Disease, and ulcerative colitis
  • food allergies
  • cataracts and nearsightedness
  • gallstones, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins
  • epileptic seizures
  • emphysema, varicose veins, hormonal imbalance, kidney disease

How much is too much?

We all need some sugar to feed our body cells. However we need to limit our consumption of real sugar to less than 10 grams a day (over and above that which we normally get from fruits & vegetables). As mentioned above, with the development and overload of processed foods, most people’s intake of sugar is far above what is should be.

It can be argued that sugar is only one of the culprits of many of the aforementioned health issues. However this is one that we can do something about. It isn’t about uncontrollable environmental poison, heredity, or lifestyle. We can all afford to eat less sugar. We need to do this and ensure we help our children do this in order to prevent diseases and conditions and lead healthier lives.

 

High Blood Pressure? Try these “super” foods!

Dark Choc and Nuts

Why is it that no matter what ailment you are suffering from or disease you are trying to prevent, many of the items listed below are recommended. When researching how to lower blood pressure, the “usual suspects” were recommended.

Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of blood vessels. A person’s blood pressure is usually expressed in terms of the systolic pressure over diastolic pressure and is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm HG). Normal resting blood pressure for an adult is approximately 120/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure is referred to as hypertension – stage 1 (140-159 and 90-99) and stage 2 (160+ and 100-109).

When diagnosed with high blood pressure, people are usually told to improve their diet and start exercising. Luckily, there are specific foods you can eat that will target high blood pressure and may even reverse the condition. It is no surprise that these foods also work to fight off diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

But how do they work, why are they recommended and how do you incorporate them into your daily routine?

Whole Grains – Whole grains are grains that are still completely intact and have not been refined to remove the bran and germ. Whole grains retain the entire grain kernel, making them high in fiber and other nutrients. The high level of potassium and magnesium in whole grains is linked to lower blood pressure.

Breakfast: oatmeal or oat bran muffins for breakfast.                    
Lunch: healthy sandwiches made on whole grain bread for lunch.

Low-Fat Dairy – Dairy products are high in both calcium and vitamin D. These two nutrients boost each other’s health benefit and are more powerful at lowering blood pressure when consumed together. A calcium deficiency can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Breakfast: try skim milk with a whole grain cereal.                      
Lunch: stir in fruit and granola with low-fat yogurt.

Spinach -It’s full of magnesium and folate which are both powerful tools in fighting high blood pressure.

Breakfast: add some fresh spinach leaves to an egg white and turkey wrap.  Add some salsa for a an added kick of flavour and antioxidants!
Lunch/Dinner: Add fresh or packaged spinach leaves to just about any lunch salad and replace lettuce on sandwiches with fresh spinach leaves Toss some spinach leaves with other fresh veggies and add them to pasta dishes for a healthy dinner main.

Nuts, Seeds and Beans – Unsalted sunflower seeds and other nuts are also full of magnesium. Beans are also high in potassium and fiber, and the combination of nutrients found in beans make them an excellent choice to help lower blood pressure.

Lunch: Nuts, seeds and beans can all easily be added to salads, soups and sandwiches.
Snacks: Edamame, soybeans that are still in the pod, can be boiled in minutes and taste great eaten straight out of the pod.

Bananas – An excellent source of potassium, bananas can significantly impact blood pressure levels. When your potassium levels fall below recommended levels, your body will hang onto sodium, which raises blood pressure. However, the opposite is true! When potassium levels are high, the body will release stores of sodium.

Breakfast: Eating bananas is quick and easy – add sliced bananas to whole grain cereal or oatmeal or add to protein shakes or smoothies.                 
Lunch: For a healthy mid-day snack, add top whole grain bread with some peanut butter and banana slices.

Baked Potatoes – YES! Baked potatoes!! Potatoes are fat-free and cholesterol-free, and are a rich source of magnesium and fiber. Much like bananas, baked potatoes pack a whopping punch of potassium into every serving. Eating baked potatoes can help lower blood pressure by helping to keep potassium levels high and sodium levels low.

Lunch/Dinner: Enjoy baked potatoes alone, or with a spoonful of fat-free sour cream. For added flavor, add some fresh minced garlic or freshly chopped chives. For added protein, top with cooked ground turkey – yum!

Dark Chocolate – Again a big YES! Unlike milk chocolate, dark chocolate is very high in antioxidants and vital nutrients. Just one ½ ounce serving of dark chocolate a day may help to bring blood pressure levels back down to the normal range – which is like an invitation to eat it!

Snacks: Dark chocolate bars or grate some chocolate shavings over fat-free yogurt, fat-free ice cream or decaffeinated tea. Don’t go crazy here though. As this is high calories, it can be too much of a good thing!

Green Tea – The theory is that the polyphenols in tea are high in antioxidants that help protect the heart and fight off free radicals that can elevate blood pressure.

Breakfast: Try a cup of hot green tea in place of your morning coffee.

Avocados – Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, which are high in antioxidants and nutrients such as vitamin B6, magnesium and folic acid. Avocados contain more potassium than bananas. This combination of nutrients is what makes avocados a healthy blood pressure lowering food.

Lunch: Add slices to salads, sandwiches and wraps.
Snacks: Mash up some avocados and add some fresh diced tomatoes, fresh garlic and lime juice to make yummy and anti-oxidant rich guacamole.

As you can see, there are many foods that may help lower your blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s orders for treatment. However, you can try adding these foods for either a natural remedy or to build on your existing treatment. Not only for your blood pressure but for overall good health!

Vitamins 101

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If you are anything like me, walking down the vitamin aisle is a little overwhelming. Between the different types of brands – generic, name brand; doses, forms and combinations, it can be nearly impossible to know what to choose.

So what vitamins, if any, should you take? Well, as with any other health advice out there, there are varying opinions. In this blog, I am going to provide you with what I have learned. However, this is my opinion and I am not a doctor, naturopath, dietician or other health practitioner. I would suggest taking what you read here and consulting your health care professional as they will be aware of all of your other issues, lifestyle and medications that may be a factor in what vitamins or supplements you should or shouldn’t be taking.

Here is what I know or have discovered:

Multivitamin: This is the basic bare minimum of supplements. Most of us do not get all of the nutrients we need in our daily diets for optimal health. This is why a multi is great. Consider it a “top up” to a good overall diet.

Omega Fatty Acids: 3, 6, 9? One? All 3? What does it do? There is varying evidence to support the claim that it can reduce the risk of dementia, useful in the treatment of depression and bipolar disorder, skin disorders and high cholesterol. It may decrease the risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, some cancers and rheumatoid arthritis. How much is enough or too much? This is completely dependent on what you are using it for – either prevention/general health or treatment of a condition. Your best bet is to talk to your health practitioner.

Vitamin D is essential in the absorption of Calcium and phosphorus – both needed for healthy bones.   It is an immune system “regulator”. It may reduce your risk of cancer, MS and rheumatoid arthritis in women. It may also help to maintain cognitive function and a healthy body weight.  So how much Vitamin D to take? There is a range recommended for every age and stage in life. Assuming that you don’t receive virtually any Vitamin D from sunshine, most children aged 9 to those 70 years of age should take a minimum 600 IU each day to a maximum 4,000 IU per day. Children in Canada definitely need to ensure that they receive enough. In fact a recent study showed that 80% of elementary school children in Edmonton were Vitamin D deficient.

Calcium: We all know that calcium helps build strong bones and teeth. However it also has been said to increase metabolism, reduce PMS, prevent certain cancers and help your heart. You can get “too much” calcium though so ensure you follow recommended daily intakes. How much? A general recommendation is 1000mg/day. Remember calcium is in many of the foods we eat so be sure to check your labels!

Magnesium. You may not have heard of this one but it has many potential benefits! It may reverse osteoporosis, prevent heart disease, regulate blood pressure, treat migraines, diabetes, insomnia and depression. It also may improve your skin! How much to take? About 300-400mg/day is recommended but again, consult your pro!

These are just a few of the array of vitamins and minerals out there. Hopefully this has shed a bit of light on the subject.

World Cancer Day

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Today, February 4 is “World Cancer Day”.  Everyone you know has been affected by cancer, either directly or indirectly.  We all know of someone who has either been diagnosed by cancer, fought cancer, survived cancer or succumb to this horrifying disease.  We all have potentially cancerous cells in our body.  Cancer doesn’t care who you are, how much money you make, if you are a good person, what race, religion, sexual orientation or age you are.  It is non-discriminatory.  Only YOU can do something about your own fight to either prevent or early detect this monster.

I have resourced our local “Cancer Care Manitoba” for their tips for prevention and screening.  I want to share these with you now as I hope that it will reach more people and save more lives.  As an early Valentine’s gift, please share this with your loved ones!

There are 2 major things we all need to do:

A) Get checked! Cancer screening saves lives.

Cancer Screening is for people who have no symptoms of cancer.  It helps find cancer early when treatment may work better.  It helps prevent some cancers by finding and treating early changes before they develop into cancer.

These are the screens and recommended ages to do them.  However, family history or personal medical history may change this with frequency or type of screening.

  • Women ages 50-74 should have a screening mammogram every 2 years.
  • Women ages 21-69 who have been sexually active should have a Pap test every 3 years
  • Men and women should have ages 50 -74 should do a home screening test (stool test) every 2 years.

B) Life a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk!

There are 5 basic steps or rules to live by: (the 5th is added by myself from my own research)

1. Be Tobacco Free! Don’t use tobacco products of any kind and avoid second-hand smoke. If you are a smoker, quit now and reduce your lung cancer risk by up to 90%! If you don’t smoke, avoid second-hand smoke at all costs! Cigarettes contain 57 known carcinogens, and the smoke from a burning cigarette contains 70% more of these substances than inhaled smoke.

2. Cover Up! The number of skin cancer cases in Manitoba has increased by two-thirds since 1990. The good news is 90% of skin cancer can be cured if caught early! So, SLIP on clothing, SLAP on a hat and sunglasses and SLOP on sunscreen!

3. Shape Up! Just 10 minutes 3 times a day can help protect against colon and breast cancer.  You don’t have to run a marathon or buy a gym membership!

4. Check Up! The earlier cancer is found, the more successful treatment is likely to be. Follow cancer screening guidelines and report any health changes to your doctor or dentist.

5. You are what you eat!  Healthy eating has been linked to fighting or preventing cancer.  Avoid processed or prepared packaged foods, deep fried foods and saturated fats.  Eat lots of colours – fresh fruits and vegetables.  Choose whole grains as much as possible.  Choose lean meats such as chicken or fish and limit red meat.  Get Omegas into your diet.  Include all these in your diet: Vitamin D, green tea, turmeric, cinnamon, a multivitamin. Educate yourself.  There are so many resources on line. Parents, you are in charge of what your kids eat.  Set them up with a good nutritional foundation and knowledge.

For more information on Cancer Care Manitoba, their research, how to donate, contact information and more, please visit their website at http://www.cancercare.mb.ca

For more information on World Cancer Day, please visit http://www.worldcancerday.org/