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Find Out How Megen Lost Half Her Body Weight


Pick up a copy of the March issue Health magazine (with Jillian Michaels on the cover) to read how SparkPeople member Megen Karlinsey (MERTNESS) lost 150 pounds! Find out how this Washington schoolteacher, who once weighed 300 pounds, beat her sugar addiction and broke the cycle of emotional eating.

Way to go, Megen!
Posted 2/19/2013  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 46 comments   30,769 views
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What You Need to Know about Nectresse, the Zero-Calorie Sweetener


I turned the corner and headed down aisle #6--the baking section of my local grocery store--eyes peeled for the "new kid" on the shelf. The new zero-calorie sweetener, Nectresse from the makers of Splenda.  There it was, in canister and packet form. The label read: "100% natural" and "made from monk fruit."  Really?  100% natural?  Made from monk fruit? 
Now, it was time to investigate.
 
What is monk fruit?  Monk fruit (a dark-green, plum size fruit) comes from the plant, Siraitia grosvenorii, which is native to southern China and northern Thailand. The fruit also goes by the names Swingle fruit, Buddha fruit, luo han guo or luo han kuo. This fruit is noted for its intense sweetness, which comes from naturally occurring sweet constituents called mogrosides. In pure form, mogrosides are up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar.  There are five different mogrosides, numbered from I to V, with mogroside V being the desired component.  To remove the interfering components and aromas, manufacturers used an ethanol solvent solution
 
How do they extract the sweetener? The end product is a powdered concentrate of mogroside V which is about 150 times sweeter than table sugar (depending on the mogroside V concentration).  This non-nutritive sweetener is calorie-free and diabetic-safe, as it does not raise blood sugar levels.  The powdered concentrate is very soluble in water and ethanol, heat stable, and can be stored for long periods of time without changes in taste, smell, or appearance.  
 
Is it safe to eat? It is classified by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).  Therefore, it can be used as a tabletop sweetener, as a food and beverage ingredient (gums, baked goods, snack bars, candy, drinks, etc), or as a component in other sweetener blends (since it may have an aftertaste at higher levels on its own).  There is very preliminary research investigating possible health benefits—anti-cancer properties, antioxidant activities, benefits for diabetes with insulin production.  However, much more research is needed before any health claims can be made.
 
What is in Nectresse? And is it 100% natural?
Posted 1/18/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 57 comments   19,143 views
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Sweet Deception: Why You Can't Trust 'Sugar' Labels


Raise your hand if you think that sugar is bad for your health. Now keep your hand up if you try to avoid foods with added sugars. I’m guessing most still have their hands up (at least I would hope so). Here's one more question. Keep your hand up if you read the "Sugars" section of the Nutrition Facts label in order to determine how much sugar is in the foods you eat.
 
If your hand is still up, I've got some shocking news for you: That label doesn't mean a thing.
 
Although Nutrition Facts labels were designed to help consumers better understand the foods they buy, many people find them downright confusing. And the whole "sugar" issue is just one of many reasons why.
Posted 8/17/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 49 comments   18,261 views
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High Fructose Corn Syrup Won't Become Corn Sugar


The Corn Refiners Association petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) several years ago requesting a name change for high fructose corn syrup. According to the Association, the change was to alleviate confusion about the ingredient. However, some believed it was nothing more than a way to trick consumers who had become wary of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
 
Between 1970 and 2005, corn sweeteners like HFCS replaced cane and beet sugars at an increasing rate and became the leading substitute for sucrose because of its lower cost. Analysis conducted in 2005 found that HFCS-42 (one of the popular blends of HFCS) cost an average of $13.6 cents per pound compared to beet sugar that averaged $29.5 cents per pound. Because of its liquid form it is easier to blend in foods than sugar and has become a common sweetening agent in soft drinks, sports drinks, and condiments as well as numerous other processed foods.
 
Last month the FDA formally rejected the name change request largely because the FDA defines sugar as a solid, dried, and crystallized food and not liquid syrup. Did you know that HFCS is just one of many sweeteners produced through the corn refinery process? Let's get to know some of them--and take a look at the corn syrup debate.
Posted 6/18/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 13 comments   7,577 views
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Don't Tax My Sugar


I’ve had sugar on the brain for the past few weeks.  For one, I have been testing some lower-sugar dessert recipes for my hospital’s patient menu. Then, my husband came home from work and said that one of his employees said he heard that sugar is just as addictive as heroin and cocaine. “What’s up with that?” he asked. 
 
Well, what’s up with that, for those of you who don’t know, is that recent studies have shown that sugar poses dangers to health (such as chronic disease and premature death) that justifies controlling them like alcohol and tobacco products.
 
I don’t think anyone would argue with the authors that many people consume an excessive amount of sugar every day—up to 500 calories or 30 teaspoons of the sweet stuff.  In fact, sugar consumption has tripled over the last 50 years.  Foods with added sugars can be abused and are connected to high blood pressure, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and liver damage. 

However, is it the government's place to step in?
Posted 2/23/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 112 comments   10,925 views
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Do We Want Kids Starting the Day with a Bowl of Sugar?


We’ve all heard how “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and that it’s critical to give your kids a healthy meal before they head to school each day.  You’d think that cereal would be a good choice:  pair it with some milk, a piece of fruit, and they’ve got a well-rounded meal, right?  Well, not necessarily, especially if you’re not paying close attention to the label on the cereal box.  A new report shows that most cereals marketed to children do not meet voluntary federal nutrition guidelines.  Many have too much sugar, others have too much salt, not enough whole grains, etc.   Buyer beware…..
Posted 12/9/2011  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 28 comments   9,679 views
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Confession: My Sugar Addiction has Returned


Back in May, I wrote a blog titled "Confession: I'm Breaking My Sugar Addiction". At that point I had significantly cut back on the amount of candy, cookies, cake, etc. that I was consuming. I felt better (both physically and mentally) and had more energy. I thought I had finally changed my eating habits, only eating treats now and then (instead of daily.) But since then, things haven't exactly gone as planned….
Posted 12/17/2010  11:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 287 comments   21,952 views
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High Fructose Corn Syrup Soon May Be 'Corn Sugar'


"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

--Shakespeare


High fructose corn syrup, that ubiquitous refined sweetener found in everything from jams and sodas to breads and tomato sauce, has taken quite a beating in the last couple of years. Documentaries such as King Corn vilified the ingredient. Conscientious consumers started reading labels and asking for less refined sweeteners. Companies such as Gatorade, Hunt's ketchup and Thomas English muffins publicly removed the ingredient from its products. ("Now with no high fructose corn syrup" boast packages in every aisle of the supermarket.) And the industry took note.

First came the "Sweet Surprise," a $20-$30 million campaign by the Corn Refiners Association to boost the reputation of HFCS. (Watch the ads here.) Now, the Corn Refiners Association has decided to petition the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow for a name change. High fructose corn syrup would be known as called corn sugar, if the industry gets its way.

According to SparkPeople dietitian Becky Hand, "theories abound that HFCS has a greater impact on blood glucose levels than regular sugar (sucrose). However, research has shown that there are no significant differences between HFCS and sugar (sucrose) when it comes to the production of insulin, leptin (a hormone that regulates body weight and metabolism), ghrelin (the "hunger" hormone), or the changes in blood glucose levels. In addition, satiety studies done on HFCS and sugar (sucrose) have found no difference in appetite regulation, feelings of fullness, or short-term energy intake." (Read more about HFCS and its effects on the body here.)

Still, SparkPeople members and the general public have qualms about consuming it.
Posted 9/20/2010  1:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 179 comments   28,077 views
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Confession: I'm Breaking My Sugar Addiction


My love affair with sweets goes back many years. I enjoy foods like French fries and chips, but if I never had them again that would be okay with me. However, if you take away my cookies, candy and cake, we've got a problem. The more I eat sweets, the more I want them. And usually I end up feeling guilty afterwards, knowing that I could have opted for the small dish of ice cream instead of the giant sundae. Too much sugar makes me feel sluggish, and for a long time I've wanted to break my sugar addiction but felt like I didn't have the willpower to do it. Recently I had the opportunity to make a serious commitment to cut back on sweets, and so far it's going better than I expected.
Posted 5/4/2010  1:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 165 comments   20,232 views
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Are You Consuming Too Much Sugar?


Sugar provides such sweet memories for me. As a child growing up, my mother would often sing the Mary Poppins song A Spoonful of Sugar as she was encouraging us to do tasks and chores we did not want to do. When we had hiccups, she would offer a spoonful of the sweet white granules to suck on to help them go away.

As we seek to make healthier lifestyle choices, it is important to understand the role nutrients like sugar play in our life. Earlier this year I introduced readers to the Life's Simple 7 assessment tool by the American Heart Association designed to help people evaluate their cardiovascular health. Part of the goals of that assessment included maintaining a diet low in sugar.

A study released last week in The Journal of the American Medical Association validated the idea that high sugar consumption plays just as much of a role in heart disease risks as dietary fats. The study found a strong correlation between sugar consumption and lipid profiles. Study individuals with higher sugar consumption appeared to have lower HDL and higher triglyceride levels. These are opposite of what has been found to be protective against heart disease. Average added sugar consumption in the study was over 21 teaspoons per day, which provides over 320 additional calories to daily calorie intake. In comparison, The American Heart Association recommends women limit added sugars to less than six and a half teaspoons (25 grams) per day while men are advised to include less than nine teaspoons (37.5 grams) of added sugars. The World Health Organization suggests diets include no more than 10 percent of caloric intake from added sugars and sweeteners. If we are going to reduce our added sugar intake, perhaps we need to take a closer look to understand what they are and where they come from.

Posted 4/29/2010  5:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 170 comments   83,373 views
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Is Agave Nectar Really a Healthier Option?


Agave syrup has become a popular natural sweetener especially by vegans as a honey alternative. More and more people are becoming drawn to it because of the claims that it is "diabetic friendly" because of the low glycemic impact.

Here is some information that may help you see beyond the marketing hype as we debunk the agave myth.

Posted 2/22/2010  8:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 210 comments   87,848 views
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I'm Not Raising My Hand for Chocolate Milk


I'm not a big fan of the taste of milk, but I drink it because I think it's good for you. Add some chocolate syrup to it, and of course I like it even more. But at that point, is the milk becoming more like a dessert? A new campaign is trying to keep chocolate milk as a choice in school cafeterias, saying that taking it away will do more harm than good.
Posted 11/27/2009  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 245 comments   18,335 views
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When Your Sweet Tooth Strikes, What Do You Reach For?


Most days, right around 3 or 4 o'clock, they spring up out of nowhere. Others are surprised by them at night, usually in the few hours before bed. They come without warning and you can't really explain why they're there. Sugar cravings—they drive you nuts! Why must they appear, temping you at every turn, persuading you to give up on this whole "healthy lifestyle" thing?

I definitely have a strong preference for sweet foods. When they were handing out that gene that makes people think some desserts are "too sweet" or "too rich," I must have been sleeping (or off somewhere eating dessert), because no food is ever too sweet for me! Sometimes I give in, but other times, I find ways to squelch it without turning to sugary junk foods.

So what do I reach for when sugar cravings strike?
Posted 7/8/2009  3:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 247 comments   21,836 views
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Nutrition 101: What Is Crystalline Fructose?


Recently, some of you asked about crystalline fructose, a sweetener that is used in plenty of drinks, even some that call themselves "health drinks." We decided to do some research into this corn-based sweetener to help you better understand what you're sipping.

Fructose is a naturally occurring simple sugar found in fruits and vegetables. Many of us consume it regularly as part of our healthy diet. We also know that fructose is 55% of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) with glucose making up the other 45%.

What about the crystalline form of fructose that is being used in carbonated beverages, enhanced or flavored waters, sports and energy drinks, and nutrition bars as well as baked goods, frozen foods, cereal, dairy products, reduced-calorie foods, canned fruits, and drink mixes?
Posted 5/25/2009  7:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 41 comments   36,762 views
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