Sugar, fats, and fruits
Sugars and fats
In his book, The End of Obesity, David Kessler talks about the powerfully addictive effects of sugar, salt and fat. But people don’t crave sugar. When you reach into a sugar bowl, you aren’t indulging your sweet tooth. No, you search out your favorite combination of sugar and fat, like a bakery item or chocolate candy, to get that sweet fix delivered just the way you like it.
But what about the kids? They seem to have a pathological sweet tooth. Is there a biological reason for kids to crave sweets? Researchers have shown again and again that kids are more likely to reach for sugary foods than are grown-ups.
Young kids’ preference for extremely sugary foods might be even more biologically ingrained than we thought. Scientists now think that kids’ growing bodies may prompt them to crave more sugar — and a child’s sweet tooth might be heightened during growth spurts.
In a small study, researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia determined what tastes kids prefer by having them rate various soups, sugar waters, jellies and crackers with different levels of salt and sugar.
The study included 108 kids, ages 5 to 10, as well as their moms. The children who preferred sweet solutions over salty ones tended to be tall for their age. And there was a slight correlation between sweet preference and a biomarker of growth found in the kids’ urine.
- Menella, the study’s lead author and a biopsychologist, says scientists have known for a while that kids prefer both sweeter and saltier tastes than adults, and that kids don’t have to learn to like sugar and salt. But no one could say exactly why.
This study suggests it has to do with children’s development — kids crave more energy and sugar because they’re growing, Mennella thinks. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, since kids who sought out more calories were probably more likely to survive. Concentrated sources of fat, salt and sugar are rare in natural foods, so we are biologically programmed to consume them excessively when we find them.
Unfortunately, these natural systems have been hijacked in our crazy modern food society, and we can get these concentrated sources of unhealthy calories all day, at every single meal and snack. Consequently, a kid who eats a lot of sugar probably also eats a lot of fats, and that would result in faster growth rates and biomarkers of growth increasing in their systems. The cravings you experience for high fat, sugary and salty foods like buffalo wings or bakery products, have a powerful basis in evolution.
And the widespread availability of these foods these days makes it easy for kids to overindulge, putting them at risk for obesity and diabetes, she says. Just like us grownups.
“When you understand the biology of taste, you realize how vulnerable they are to the food environment,” Mennella says.
Among adults, individual taste preferences are somewhat genetic: Differences in a taste receptor gene can explain why some adults are obsessed with sweets, while others prefer more savory tastes, Mennella says. But among the kids in this study, there was no correlation between their genotypes and a preference for sugar. We are all susceptible to marketing techniques to change our eating patterns.
Your action: Share your great new eating patterns with your family. Everyone benefits from healthier eating, and the earlier the habits are established, the better off everyone is.
Apples: NATURE’S CANDY; energy without the crash
I love all variety of apples. While the grocery store often only supplies a few different types of grapes and tomatoes and potatoes, the fall brings so many different types of apples that it’s hard to choose my favorite. There are an unbelievable 15,000 varieties that once grew in the U.S.!
As heirloom fruits and vegetables have come into style, plenty of old fashioned apples are available again, so there really is a variety of apple for every taste, from tart to sweet.
Apples contain many types of phytochemicals and encourage strong antioxidant activity. Apples are especially high in quercetin, an antioxidant linked to reduction in certain cancers, heart disease and even asthma.
One medium-sized apple is just 95 calories and contains 14% of your vitamin C. They’re entirely fat-free and contain 4 grams of dietary fiber per apple. That’s 17% of your recommended daily fiber intake in just one medium apple! They’re also a good source of potassium and Vitamin K.
Because of all that fabulous fiber, apples are actually pretty low on the glycemic index. The pectin in the apple is a type of soluble fiber that works to lower cholesterol by preventing the absorption of cholesterol from the diet. When the whole apple is consumed, studies show that the pectin interacts with the other nutrients in the apple to even more profoundly reduce the cholesterol absorption. Of course, eating apples helps to alkalinize the colon and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria.
Apple juice, however, is a totally different product. One cup contains 114 calories and no fiber. While it is still a good source of potassium, Vitamin K is not present in apple juice. The glycemic index goes up, since the fiber isn’t available to slow the absorption of the sugar. Because of these lesser health benefits, choose whole, organic apples over applesauce or apple juice whenever possible.
Unfortunately, apples are frequently grown with high concentrations of pesticides. Because they have thin skins that are edible, you’ll be much better off spending some extra money to enjoy locally grown or organic apples for the best taste and long-term health. It is especially important to eat the antioxidant-rich, pigmented apple skin.
Ready to experiment with some great new apples to find your fave? When you find them, buy them up and store them for you and your friends to enjoy for the next several months. Wrap each apple in a paper towel or newspaper to prevent touching, and store in a cool place such as the basement or garage.
Make an easy apple crisp by combining 4 cut-up apples with ¼ cup orange juice, topping with your favorite muesli ( I like Bob’s Red Mill) or granola, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Yum! I love to spoon this in layers while it is still warm out of the oven, into a glass and serve immediately. You get bites of sweet crunchy granola mixed in with warm apples. So good!
Here are some yummy apple varieties to choose from:
McIntosh: Since the 1820’s the Mac is the juicy, tart, bright apple to reach for when you are looking for a fresh tasty apple, or an apple that you would like to bake and have it still retain its shape.
Lady: Since 1628, the Lady is one of the oldest known varieties. It is a tiny apple used frequently in centerpieces. It is delicately sweet with no tartness. Best eaten fresh.
Honeycrisp: This is a new apple, just developed since 1960’s in Minnesota, and is in high demand because of its juiciness and sweetness. If you find them, buy those little treats up. They grow best in cold climates.
Ginger Gold: This apple was also developed in the 1960’s, with a sweet start and spicy finish. It’s one of the best apples early in the season.
Ruby Frost: This brand new apple, only available in the northeast, was especially developed to avoid browning. It’s perfect for transporting in your lunchbox, and has a nice balance between tart and sweet.
The FUTURE: Growers all over the world are cross-pollinating apples to maximize antioxidants, decrease bruising, and maximize flavor. I hope you enjoy trying all the great new varieties and circling back to a few of the old ones, too!
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Eat All the Fruit You Want
This study, published in August of 2013 in the British Medical Journal, looked at the risk of diabetes and fruit consumption. Type 2 diabetes is the kind of diabetes that comes on with aging and is associated with other metabolic conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It’s generally treated with medications for 5-7 years before insulin becomes necessary.
Type 2 diabetes responds very well to changing your diet, too. Some people worry that fruits, with their higher sugar content, contribute to the development in Type 2 diabetes in adults.
But look at this data! Increasing consumption of fruits results in decreasing risk of diabetes. Consuming fruit juice does not have a health benefit, but consuming whole fruit definitely reduces risk of development of diabetes.
How does fruit do that? The sugars in whole fruit have to be digested a bit after eating, and whole fruit is loaded with fiber. Both the type of sugar, and the high fiber content, combine to slow the absorption of fruit sugars into the bloodstream, resulting in gentle increases in blood sugar over time, which are easily managed and which help maintain a healthy metabolism.
I love fruits for giving us the rare opportunity to eat things that are blue or purple. I love that the benefits to your metabolism are highest with blue/purple fruits like blueberries, grapes & prunes!
Researchers state, “There is a decreasing risk of Type 2 diabetes with increasing whole fruit consumption, independent of glycemic index or glycemic load. The ranking of fruits held in today’s BMJ correction with blueberries, prunes and grapes/raisins being the best.
Just three servings of blueberries per week reduce your risk by 32%. If you eat blueberries daily, the reduction will be even more than 32%. Fructose fears, as far as whole fruit goes, must be wrong.”
Juicing vs. Smoothies
I often find myself staring at the juicers when I go the kitchen store, wide-eyed at their shiny technology and whopping price tags. Everyone else seems to be “juicing”, but I’m still drinking smoothies and enjoying only the occasional juice from the juice stores in NYC. I drink a juice now and then at the grocery store, but juice is not a regular part of my diet. I wonder if I’m missing out on health benefits by not jumping onto this diet craze with more fervor.
Blenders work by blending all ingredients together. For super-creamy green smoothies, a high speed blender is the best option. By maintaining the fiber and pulp in the smoothie, you support digestive health by allowing fiber to bind toxins and hormones in your gut and sweep them out of your body. Fiber also regulates the absorption of sugars and slows digestion, thereby preventing blood sugar and insulin fluctuations.
Make a delicious, powerfully healing smoothie by combining:
- A base of water, coconut water, or nut milk
- 3:1 ratio of veggies to fruits
- 1/2 avocado or a spoonful of nut butter (optional)
- Optional, for extra antioxidants: Add chia seeds or superfood berries (like goji berries)
Juicing separates the juice from the fiber. All kinds of juicers are available, which offer different health benefits, although head-to-head studies are unavailable. Some types of juicers include centrifugal, masticating, twin-gear, and hand-crank. Most juicers work without heating or cooking the foods at all, delivering a raw product. By removing the pulp and fiber from the final product, juicing results in an instant infusion of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to your bloodstream. Juices are perfectly simple to digest because they are instantly absorbed.
You can make a beautiful green juice, loaded with antioxidants, by combining:
- A base of cucumber and celery
- 1-2 leafy greens
- 1-2 fruits — apples and organic oranges are good choices
- Add ginger root, broccoli or chard stems, or spices as an added bonus
There’s a lot of waste with juicing. Some people throw it away, and some feed it to the dog. Some make crackers or wafers out of the pulp and fiber by adding nuts and a source of fat, like coconut oil. I won’t include a recipe here, because this method is very high in fat and not likely to support your weight loss. Another method of using up the waste from juicing is making a soup. You can use your immersion blender to make a creamy treat that you might like just as much as the juice.
If you are just starting a healthier path, juicing may be the way to go. It’s easier to pick up a juice at the store and see how you like the new flavor combinations. Smoothies offer excellent nutrition with a balancing of blood sugars and intestinal support that I really love for my patients, and my members.
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And finally, there’s the equipment cost. Smoothies require only a blender. A quality, high-speed blender will save time but any blender can work. Blenders generally cost less than juicers and can be used for a lot of things in the kitchen beyond just making smoothies. Juicers, in contrast, are more complicated machines and so tend to cost more and are usually used only for juicing.
If you’re trying to decide between the two, and you are working on weight loss, I recommend a blended smoothie over a juice. The nutrition will still be there, but with the fiber included to keep you full, balance your blood sugars, and help you stay on track with your weight loss goals.
++++++ A word of caution +++++++
I have a small subset of patients that prefer to drink all their nutrition in the form of juices or smoothies. They believe that the human mouth has not evolved to properly chew foods before swallowing, and cite the presence of lettuces and corn in stool as evidence that we are unable to chew our food properly. They also confide to me that the unnecessary wisdom teeth are another sign that our mouths have shrunk and therefore are not as useful for chewing as we think. For this reason, they blend or juice all of their foods. Over the course of my twenty year career in medicine, I have met about 20 of these women. Every single one of them had elevated blood sugar levels, even though they were very thin.
Smoothies and juicing may contribute to blood sugar abnormalities by making nutrients too available. When you slurp down a delicious sweet smoothie in just a few minutes, you’ve consumed a huge pile of vegetables and fruits that would have taken a much longer time to eat if left in a whole, unprocessed form. That’s an unnatural amount of nutrition for your body to receive so quickly.
We have evolved with digestion starting with the chewing process: the pancreas and small intestine start to respond to eating when food is being chewed. That’s right: your pancreas is already aware that you are eating food before you even swallow. So, imagine how confusing it must be for your pancreas and small intestine to find a stomach full of food without any chewing going on. That’s never happened before, in our whole human evolution! That’s probably why my smoothie patients are dealing with metabolic abnormalities.
Enjoy a smoothie now and then, and a juice a little more infrequently than a smoothie. Rely on whole, unprocessed foods to deliver the best health to your fantastic bod, in the right balance, just the way you were made to eat it.
Posted on by Mary Clifton, MD