kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Medical anthropologists have identified several major phases of human disease, starting with the Age of Pestilence and Famine to the stage we’re in now, the Age of Degenerative and Man-Made Diseases. In 1900 in the United States, the top-three killers were infectious diseases: pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrheal disease.

Now, the killers are lifestyle diseases: heart disease, cancer, and chronic lung disease. Although antibiotics allow us to live longer, the emergence of these chronic disease epidemics has been accompanied by dramatic shifts in dietary patterns. This is best exemplified by what’s been happening to disease rates among people in the developing world as they’ve Westernized their diets.

Around the world in 1990, under-nutrition was a major concern. Now, the greatest disease burden is attributed to high blood pressure, a disease of over-nutrition. The chronic disease pandemic has been blamed in part to the near-universal shift toward a diet dominated by animal-sourced and processed foods. More meat, dairy, eggs, oils, refined grains, soda, salt, and sugar are being consumed than ever before. In America sugar consumption is on a sharp rise:

  • 1776   4 pounds of sugar annually
  • 1850   20 pounds of sugar annually
  • 1994   120 pounds of sugar annually

Today, we may be closer to ingesting 160 pounds of sugar every year, half of which may be fructose, taking up about 10 percent of our diet.

The Coca-Cola Company acknowledge sugar is empty calories without essential micronutrients. Concern has been raised, though, that sugar calories may be worse than just empty. Mounting evidence suggests that, in large enough amounts, added fructose in the form of table sugar and high fructose corn syrup may trigger processes that can lead to liver toxicity and other chronic diseases.

One of the biggest changes to the Nutrition Facts Label is the inclusion of added sugars. These are the syrups and sugars added to beverages and foods during preparation. For example, many fruit yogurts contain sugars from three sources: lactose from milk, natural sugars from fruit, and added sugars.

Under the American Heart Association’s sugar guidelines, most American women should consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars, with the maximum for most American men being 150 daily calories. A tablespoon of sugar equals about 50 calories.

That means one can of soda could take us over the top for the entire day.

The World Health Organization recommends we reduce our added sugars, along with consumption of salt, trans fats, and saturated fats, because consumption of such foods may be the cause of at least 14 million deaths every year from chronic diseases.

  • Consuming too much added sugar, especially from sugary beverages, increases your risk of weight gain and can lead to visceral fat accumulation. Excessive fructose consumption may cause resistance to leptin, an important hormone that regulates hunger and tells your body to stop eating.
  • Consuming too much added sugar increases heart disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and inflammation. High-sugar diets have been linked to an increased risk of dying from heart disease.
  • A diet high in refined carbs, including sugary foods and drinks, has been associated with a higher risk of developing acne. Foods with a high glycemic index, such as processed sweets, raise your blood sugar more rapidly than foods with a lower glycemic index. Sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which  play a role in acne development.
  • A high-sugar diet may lead to obesity and insulin resistance, both of which are risk factors for diabetes. Prolonged high-sugar consumption drives resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels.  Insulin resistance causes blood sugar levels to rise and strongly increases your risk of diabetes.
  • Too much sugar can lead to obesity, insulin resistance and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for cancer.
  • A diet high in added sugar and processed foods may increase your chances of developing depression. A study following 8,000 people for 22 years showed that men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar per day were 23% more likely to develop depression than those who ate less than 40 grams per day. Another study in over 69,000 women demonstrated that those with the highest intakes of added sugars had a significantly greater risk of depression, compared to those with the lowest intakes.
  • Poor food choices can worsen wrinkles and speed the skin aging process. Sugary foods can increase the production of AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which can accelerate skin aging and wrinkle formation.
  • Consuming high amounts of sugar has been shown to accelerate telomere shortening, which increases cellular agingTelomeres are structures found at the end of chromosomes, which are molecules that hold part or all of your genetic information. Telomeres act as protective caps, preventing chromosomes from deteriorating or fusing together.  As you grow older, telomeres naturally shorten, which causes cells to age and malfunction. Consuming high amounts of sugar has been shown to accelerate telomere shortening.
  • High-sugar foods can negatively impact your energy levels by causing a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash.
  • Eating too much sugar may lead to NAFLD (Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease), a condition in which excessive fat builds up in the liver.
  • Consuming too much sugar may worsen cognitive decline, increase gout risk, harm your kidneys and cause cavities.

Answers to the questions in today’s email: (Excerpt from Food: What The Heck Should I Eat?, by Mark Hyman, MD)

1. The main problem with sugar is that is it just empty calories.
2. Agave syrup is a healthy alternative to high-fructose corn syrup and sugar.
3. Saturated fat from butter or meat causes heart disease, not carbs from sugar.
4. Sugar may be more addictive than cocaine.
5. One of the benefits of eating sugar is that it provides fuel to your brain.
6. High-fructose corn syrup is sugar with a different name.
7. If you want to lose weight, replace sugary drinks with diet soda.

 

  1. False: Sugar isn’t just empty calories. It causes heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more. It doesn’t just make you fat; it makes you sick, even if you don’t gain weight.
  2. False: Agave syrup is pure fructose, which causes fatty liver, diabetes and inflammation. More importantly, it is processed with toxic chemicals.
  3. False: We now know that sugar in all its forms, NOT fat, is the leading cause of heart disease.
  4. True: Eating sugar has a potent impact on the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin. In animal studies, rats will work eight times harder to get sugar than cocaine. If they are already cocaine addicted, they will switch to sugar as their preferred drug when given the chance.
  5. False: You can get all the sugar you need from eating fruits and other whole foods, and your brain can get energy from fats, too.
  6. False: High-fructose corn syrup is an industrial product that is metabolized differently than sugar and does even more harm, including damage to the gut and liver. Mercury might be a by-product of how it is processed.
  7. False: The artificial sweeteners in soda and other junk foods make you eat more than you would if you just consumed sugar instead. Artificial sweeteners can alter your gut flora and promote obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Strawberries

Local markets are featuring strawberries, bright red and succulent, looking as they should without the white underbellies of winter.

Fresh strawberries have a high water content. Most of the carbs come from simple sugars (glucose, fructose, and sucrose) but they also contain a decent amount of fiber.  Strawberries have a glycemic index (GI) score of 40, which is relatively low. This means that strawberries should not lead to big spikes in blood sugar levels and are considered safe for people with diabetes.

The nutrients in 3.5 ounces of raw strawberries are:

  • Calories: 32
  • Water: 91%
  • Protein: 0.7 grams
  • Carbs: 7.7 grams
  • Sugar: 4.9 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams – both soluble and insoluble – Dietary fibers are important to feed the friendly bacteria in your gut and improve digestive health.
  • Fat: 0.3 grams

Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, manganese, folate (vitamin B9), and potassium. To a lesser extent, strawberries also provide iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B6, K, and E.

Strawberries contain high amounts of beneficial plant compounds and antioxidants:

  • Pelargonidin. The main anthocyanin in strawberries, this compound is responsible for the bright red color.
  • Ellagic acid. Found in high amounts in strawberries, ellagic acid is a polyphenol antioxidant that may have many health benefits.
  • Ellagitannins. Related to ellagic acid, ellagitannins are converted to ellagic acid in your gut. They have received considerable attention and have been linked to numerous health benefits. This includes fighting bacteria and a reduced risk of cancer.
  • Procyanidins. These are antioxidants commonly found in strawberry flesh and seeds that may have beneficial health effect.

Studies have found a relationship between berries and improved heart health. Large observational studies link berry consumption to a lower risk of heart-related deaths. According to a study in middle-aged people with well-established risk factors for heart disease, berries may improve HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood platelets function.

Strawberries may also:

  • improve blood antioxidant status
  • decrease oxidative stress
  • reduce inflammation
  • improve vascular function
  • improve your blood lipid profile
  • reduce the harmful oxidation of LDL cholesterol

When carbs are digested, your body breaks them down into simple sugars which are released into your bloodstream. Your body then starts secreting insulin, which tells your cells to pick up the sugar from your bloodstream and use it for fuel or storage.

Imbalances in blood sugar regulation and high-sugar diets are associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Strawberries seem to slow down glucose digestion and reduce spikes in both glucose and insulin following a carb-rich meal, compared to a carb-rich meal without strawberries.

A number of studies suggest that berries may help prevent several types of cancer through their ability to fight oxidative stress and inflammation. The protective effects of strawberries may be driven by ellagic acid and ellagitannins, which have been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells.

Strawberries are usually well tolerated, but allergy is fairly common, especially in young children. Strawberries contain a protein that can cause symptoms in people who are sensitive to birch pollen or apples, a condition known as pollen-food allergy. Common symptoms include itching or tingling in the mouth, hives, headaches, and swelling of the lips, face, tongue, or throat, as well as breathing problems in severe cases.

The allergy-causing protein is believed to be linked to strawberries’ anthocyanins. Colorless, white strawberries are usually well tolerated by people who would otherwise be allergic.

 

How to Buy

Look for bright red strawberries in containers that don’t have juice stains. This would be a sign that the strawberries are moldy or too ripe.    Turn the container over to check if there are any moldy berries hidden at the bottom. Always, look for organic and local, if possible. During winter months, buy organic, frozen strawberries.

How to Store

The best way to store strawberries depends on when you plan to use them.

Wash strawberries only before you plan on eating them. This is important for two reasons. Strawberries are like sponges, so once wet, they soak up every bit of moisture, making them more likely to get mushy and spoil faster. Also, wet berries are more apt to get moldy.

Leave the stems on until you are about to eat them. It will prolong their shelf life.

If you notice any moldy berries in the container, remove them immediately. Mold spreads easily, so it’s best to remove any spoiled berries before they ruin the rest of the bunch.

If you plan to use strawberries the day you bring them home, there’s no need to put them in the fridge. You can leave them at room temperature on the kitchen counter.

If you don’t plan to eat your strawberries the day you bring them home, the best place for them is in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. It helps to maintain humidity and keep the berries from losing moisture and becoming dry.

Remove the berries from their original container, and store them whole and unwashed in a partially-closed container lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture, preferably in a single layer so they don’t get crushed. They should last up to five to seven days.

If you don’t have plans to use strawberries within a few days of bringing them home, freeze them. Remove the stems, halve or slice them, then freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet until solid. Store in an airtight container.

How to Cook

Strawberries are versatile and can be a part of both sweet and savory dishes. Try a salsa with strawberries, avocado, cucumber, lime and  jalapeno chile pepper, and honey. Sweet and savory strawberry bruschetta with goat cheese, strawberries, mint, and honey on a baguette.

Strawberries can be added to granola and yogurt, tossed into salads, as toppers for ice cream and added to cheese plates.

Simplest Strawberry Spinach Salad

Beth Dooley

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 10-12 ounces of fresh spinach, stemmed and torn
  • 1 pint (2 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered if large
  • 1 jalapeño or cherry bomb pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 T thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 t honey, or more to taste
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Instructions

Place the spinach, strawberries, pepper and basil in a bowl.

In a small covered jar, shake together the lemon juice and honey.

Lightly coat the salad with as much dressing as needed.

Season with salt and pepper.

This salad comes together quickly. Do not toss in the lemon dressing until just ready to serve.

Resources

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