I have blogged about sugar numerous times - with a focus on corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup.  Most of us don't add a lot of sugar to our foods, the problem is with the amount of sugar found in most processed foods.  According to Robert Lustig, MD who wrote "Sugar, The Bitter Truth", "Roughly 80 percent of all packaged foods in the United States contain added sweeteners."  The problem with all of the sugar we are ingesting is two-fold.  Not only does sugar give us empty calories lacking in nutrients, it can deplete our systems leading to a fatty liver and other health concerns, including obesity.  When looking at labels, Dr. Lustig states that if you find any kind of sugar listed in the first three ingredients on the label, consider that food a dessert.  The sugar is going to cancel out any of the health benefits that would have been in the other ingredients.  If you are considering cutting down on your sugar consumption, my first recommendation would be to eliminate high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and corn sugar from the foods that you consume.  This one change will greatly improve the quality of food that you are ingesting.  Be sure to look at labels of foods that you wouldn't think would contain these sugars - even savory foods now add these sugars to the ingredient list.  Small steps to health are more attainable, so this is a great item to choose for a New Year's Resolution.  Have a great day ~  Shanna

I have been scanning through numerous diet books lately.  The conflicting information is amazing.  There are recommendations for no protein, all meat, no legumes, no grains, no fruit...the list goes on.  The real problem is that we are all from different cultures and backgrounds, and what might work for one person, is not necessarily ideal for someone else.  I was reading the book Younger (Thinner) You Diet by Eric Braverman, MD.  He spent time talking about neurotransmitters and their affect on our ability to lose and maintain weight.  The first neurotransmitter he discusses is dopamine.  He ties rapid or significant weight gain to a dopamine deficiency.  Dopamine is important because it effects or physical and mental energy.  This also has an affect on on metabolism - slowing it down, also.  If you are someone who always gains weight, even when you haven't changed your eating habits, it may be due to a dopamine deficiency.  According to Dr. Braverman, "Without the right amount of dopamine, the circuits in our brains do not relay the message that we feel satisfied and full.  Instead of walking away from the table, we'll just keep eating and eating and eating:  We are never emotionally or physically fulfilled by food, no matter how much we've eaten."  The following is a list of indicators from the author which point to low dopamine in the system:
  • Do you recognize when you are full? 
  • Do you feel happy after eating?
  • Can a small snack like a piece of fresh fruit tide you over until the next meal?
  • When following other diets, have you found that you were always hungry, even after you finished a meal? 
  • Do you drink copious amounts of liquid with your meal?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, you may want to consider changing your diet to lift your dopamine levels. Recommendations to lift dopamine levels in the body include eliminating sugary foods and processed "simple" carbs from the diet.  It may be beneficial to get your vitamins, minerals and amino acids checked to see if your system is out of balance.  Next week - I will talk about acetylcholine - have a great day - Shanna

I am still reading the book List Maker's Get-Healthy Guide by the editors of Prevention.  I chose this list just based on how frustrating it can be to lose weight,and many times we are being sabotaged by foods that we consider to be healthy options.  As a side note, according to the Washington University School of Medicine, on average, we eat an additional 236 calories on weekends which can lead to a 9-pound weight gain over a year's time.  Thinking of my own diet, I am sure that I eat even more than that on weekends!  The following is a list from the authors of this book as to the top 7 foods that sabotage dieting efforts:
  1. Pre-Measured Packs - this is referring to those 100-calorie snack packs.  This is due to the fact that we don't usually stick with just one pack!
  2. "Diet" Treats - When we select fat-free and sugar-free food options, many times these foods up the fat and hidden sugars in the food.  This does not lead to fewer calories in the product.
  3. Liquid Calories - This is probably the easiest area to blow our diets.  A can of pop has 10 tsp. of sugar - lattes are loaded - and many of us add lots of sugar and cream to our tea and coffee.  Alcoholic beverages also pack a calorie punch.  Even fruit juices will many times have added sugar, so when keeping track of dietary choices, include your beverage choices in the equation.
  4. Super-Snacks - this refers to our tendency to graze through the day.  The authors recommend limiting snacks to two per day, and keep track of the serving size
  5. Rich Proteins - I think many of us are aware of this diet sabotager. Lean proteins (chicken, fish, beans) pack fewer calories than sirloin and processed meats.
  6. Fat-Free Salad Dressings - This is similar to staying away from fat-free diet treats.  The dressing is filled with extra sugar and calories.  We actually need some fat in order to absorb fat soluble nutrients from our food.
  7. Baked Potato Chips - These chips are still loaded with calories, and do not contain nutrients.  The authors recommend popcorn as a better option - I would recommend organic popcorn.  Many people are sensitive to corn products, so if you experience fatigue or headache the day after you eat popcorn, you may have a sensitivity.
It is always helpful for a diet plan to stick with whole foods to avoid chemicals and fattening fillers.  Have a great day - Shanna