Is Hidden Sugar Holding You Back From Your Hidden (Slimmer) Figure?

angry-doughnuts-size-custom-crop-1086x745Summer is closely approaching and many of us are looking forward to trips to the beach, brunches al fresco and relaxed “Rosé all day” weekends. Despite the anticipation of warm air and sun-kissed skin, many of us are dreading shedding the layers of forgiving fabrics for their thinner, sheerer clingy-er counterparts. The pressure to get into a swimsuit has many re-upping gym memberships, consulting personal trainers and reconnecting with our accountability partner who has also fallen off the wagon.

Exercise is wonderful for overall health and looking and feeling great, but many people overlook the importance of eating a healthy balanced diet – not for the short term to get in shape but for the long haul. The saying is true: you can’t out train bad eating habits.

Unfortunately, many of us are unaware of what we are really consuming and how it is affecting our health. This brings me to sugar. Here in the United States, sugar is an unregulated ingredient in the foods we eat. Look at any nutrition fact label and you will see that fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates and even fiber are given a breakdown of percent daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Although sugar is included on a nutrition label, there is not a daily percent value assigned making it easy to ignore and not factor in with our food choices. This is a huge mistake. As a result of this lack of information, many of us are unknowingly consuming way too much sugar. Long term, the over consumption of sugar contributes to a plethora of health concerns, including Diabetes Type 2, heart disease and even cancer. Long term, too much sugar can cause us to hold on to extra unwanted pounds as unused sugar turns into stored energy (better known as fat), for later use by our bodies. Unfortunately, this stored energy doesn’t get used and we end up with too much – hence the disease processes that follow.

So why is it that we don’t look at sugar as a serious contender with our weight management and overall health? In the 1960’s the sugar industry heads came together to form the Sugar Research Foundation to work directly with Harvard’s Public Health Nutrition Department to fund research that supported the link of fat to Coronary Heart Disease. Why would the sugar industry be so concerned with heart health research? It turns out, in the 1950’s reports were beginning to surface questioning sugar as a quality carbohydrate and later linking it with Coronary Heart Disease. The sugar industry saw an opportunity not only to protect their product from being demonized in the food industry but also to boost sugar sales by making fat the scapegoat and reversing possible negative attention. If people were going to cut back on their fat consumption as a result of condemning research, what was going to replace fat in their diets? Well, sugar of course. So here we are almost 70 years later, dealing with the repercussions of food industry paid research, wasting in an epidemic of heart disease and diabetes.

Diabetes Type 2 once known as adult onset diabetes is now being seen in children as young at 5 years old. It’s hard not to love the frothy sweet coffee drinks from our favorite trendy chain cafes. Unfortunately, our bodies are paying the ultimate price as beverages high in added sugar are linked with an increase in visceral fat, the fat surrounding your vital organs i.e. heart and liver. More recent studies have shown the link between sugar and addiction, illustrating that many of the same neurotransmitters fire the same in the human brain when we eat sugar as when someone is using stimulating drugs like cocaine.

According to the American Heart Association, the daily intake of sugar should cap off at about 24 grams per day for women or 36 grams a day for men. This amount speaks for added sugar like the sugar found in soft drinks, unlike naturally occurring sugar such as that found in whole fruit. There are about 4 grams in every teaspoon. That is the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. So if 3,800 calories contribute to gaining one pound and each gram of sugar contains 4 calories then it takes 875 grams of sugar to equal one pound. Although 875 grams of sugar sounds like so much excess that it’s nothing for most of us to worry about, proceed with caution as sugar consumption can easily accumulate, especially with all the hidden sugars added to processed foods. According to a 2012 article in Forbes Magazine, the average American adult consumes an average of 22 grams a sugar a day; a fair share of that is hiding in beverages. That’s about 12-16 grams over the suggested daily intake. With daily averages this high, it’s not hard to see how quickly the grams can add up.

“Healthy” Foods with High Added Sugar Content:

Snack Bars/ Meal Replacement Bars: Back in undergrad, my dentist informed me that snack bars are the worst thing for your teeth (at the time I was eating lots of snack bars and the effects were quite visible to his professional eye). Snack bars can be tricky. Let’s take a glimpse at the Kind Bars brand, for instance, a natural snack bar containing lots of goodness from nuts, dried fruit, dark chocolate and sometimes yogurt. If you look closely, the ingredient label lists sugar amounts as high as 16 grams.

This added sugar is listed as coming from “natural” sources like honey or agave – your body recognizes and processes it all the same. Fortunately, Kind Bars come in many different flavor varieties with added sugar amounts as low as 5 grams. So with a little investigating, you can make a smarter choice in the grocery aisle.

Yogurt: Plain non-fat yogurt is going to have about 9-10 grams of naturally occurring sugar per serving, which is not of concern. It’s the added sugar which often is an additional 10 grams per one cup serving that proves problematic. Look for varieties with no added sugar.

Boxed Cereal: Sugar is added to many box cereals to improve taste. Despite being advertised as a healthy “adult” breakfast option, Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran has 14 grams of sugar per 3/4 cup serving. Granola is another “healthy” favorite that can have sizeable amounts of added sweeteners.

Coffee Drinks: A 12 oz. (tall) Starbucks Carmel Frappuccino made with non-fat milk and without whipped cream contains a whopping 42 grams of sugar. This drink alone puts you 18 grams over your daily added sugar quota.

Cocktails: Happy hour can be the downfall to a day of nutrition dense eating. Cocktails often contain mixers and juices high in added sugar. The average restaurant mojito can have upward of 25 grams of sugar per serving. Bummer.

Pre-made Smoothies: Pre-made smoothies seem like a healthy snack when you’re on the run as they will boast nutritious ingredients and no added sugar. But the flip side is they’re all fruit juice without the fiber content found in fruit and the body processes them like all high sugar beverages. Bolt House Farms Green Goddess has 30 grams of sugar per serving. Proceed with caution.

Canned and Boxed Soups: Read the labels very carefully on boxed and canned soups- as these tend to be very high in sugar as well as sodium. Campbell’s Harvest Tomato with Basil Soup has 16 grams of sugar per one cup serving. It’s not common for prepared soups to have such a high sugar content but just read labels prior to purchase to be sure you know what you’re getting.

Salad Dressing: Low fat and non-fat varieties of salad dressing tend to have added sugar to help with flavor. Salad dressings prepared with monounsaturated fats like olive oil and grape seed oil that are low in sodium and sugar are actually a healthier option when used in moderation. Try making your own salad dressing at home and you many never go back to store-bought dressing again!

Sports Drinks/Vitamin Water/ Coconut Water: Most people are not training hard enough in the gym to require sports drinks instead of water for fluid replacement. A 12oz bottle of Powerade has 21 grams of sugar, so it’s probably best to leave these for the professional athletes.

Condiments: Ketchup, barbecue sauce, honey mustard, the list can go on and on. As Americans we love to dip, dunk, sink and baste our foods in sauce. Most ketchup (unless otherwise stated) is made with high fructose corn syrup and over 3 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Who eats just one tablespoon of ketchup?

What I want to leave you with is this: the food industry (much like the pharmaceutical industry) pays lots of money annually to fund research and marketing that sways in their favor. We can rely on FDA but so much. Be a protective gatekeeper of what goes in your body. Good in. Good out.

For further reading on the history of the sugar industry and check out the article below: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/13/493739074/50-years-ago-sugar-industry-quietly-paid-scientists-to-point-blame-at-fat

http://newsroom.heart.org/news/sugar-sweetened-drinks-linked-to-increased-visceral-fat

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/08/30/how-much-sugar-are-americans-eating-infographic/#140ead964ee7

Skincare’s Great Eight: Navigating Product Ingredients

good-skincareLet me clue you in on a little secret: most over the counter skincare products are about 95 percent marketing fluff and 5 percent efficient. What most people use on their skin is largely based on how well it’s advertised. If I asked you to name five skincare companies, more than likely you’re going to recall names of lines found in drug and department stores. The reason being is that these products are advertised everywhere: so you recognize them and ultimately purchase them.

Unfortunately, mass marketed skincare does not always correlate with quality products that have the most benefit to your skin. As an aesthetician, I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had that didn’t have acne yet consistently used Proactive. Why? Proactive has one of the best sales campaigns in skincare. For those suffering from acne, Proactive isn’t bad; let’s just say there are better options for prevention and treatment of acne breakouts. The reality is that some products are packed with effective ingredients that are excellent for achieving or maintaining healthy glowing skin; while others are just water and mineral oil derivatives wrapped in pretty packaging. Ingredients are all that matter- not the celebrity endorser, and not the designer label. Let Chanel stick to making suits and handbags; leave the skincare products in the hands of dermatologists and chemists.

So what ingredients give you the most bang for your buck? Essentially you want products that are going to a) increase cell turn over, b) maintain/ boost collagen and elastin production and c) protect from free radical damage caused by environmental exposure (air pollutants and sun). As with food labels, read skincare product ingredient labels and purchase the products packed with the best ingredients.

Here are the ingredients you want in products, that will support healthy beautiful skin; I call them The Great Eight.

1) Vitamin A: The retinols. If you’re over 30 and use anything on your face at night, it should contain retinol. Retinols increase cell turn over and are a first line defense for maintaining skin’s collagen and elastin for firmness and elasticity. Retinols are deactivated by UV light, so they are only efficient in your evening routine. It’s important to remember, if you’re using retinols at night you must use sunscreen during the day, as these products increase photosensitivity.

2) Hyaluronic Acid: A polymer that occurs naturally in skin cells. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant capable of drawing moisture from the environment to the skin. Not only does HA draw moisture to the skin, it capable of holding one thousand times its weight in water providing hydration without the use of heavy creams or oils. HA serums are great for all skin types but especially beneficial for oily or acne prone types that don’t benefit from occlusive moisturizing methods (methods that block water from evaporating off the skin such as cold cream).

3) Panthanol: A derivative of vitamin B5, panthanol is used to help with hydration, reducing inflammation and promoting healing. Vitamin B5 is often found in topical serums to help boost skin’s moisture levels improving texture, elasticity and reducing redness.

4) Vitamin C: If retinols are the foundation of your night routine, antioxidants like vitamin C should be the basis of your daytime routine. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps boost collagen production and fights free radical damage all while brightening and evening skin tone.

5) Vitamin E: Also known as Tocopherol, vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that like vitamin C, has powerful antioxidant properties. Vitamin E helps boost the antioxidant properties of vitamin C when paired together. Vitamin E applied topically has been known to help reduce hyperpigmentation from scarring.

6) Ferulic Acid: Aother small molecule antioxidant that is found in plant cells, Ferulic Acid helps boost vitamin C and vitamin E’s protective benefits. The trifecta of vitamin C and E with ferulic acid is the money shot for your daytime skincare routine. Look for serums that contain all three.

7) Alpha Hydroxy Acids: Alpha hydroxy acids are chemical exfoliates that help slough off dead keratinized skin of the epidermal layer to reveal younger skin cells underneath. Despite the title of ‘chemical’ AHA’s are derived from natural plant sources. The most commonly known AHA’s are glycolic and lactic acid. Alpha hydroxy acids are great for treating hyperpigmentation (dark spots), evening texture, and preparing skin to better receive other skincare products. Like retinols these products increase photosensitivity, so always pair with sunscreen. Because AHA’s can cause skin irritation at higher efficacy levels, see your skincare professional for more information on how to best incorporate these products into your skincare routine.

8) Coenzyme Q 10: Coenzyme Q 10 is an enzyme naturally occurring in body cells that help fight free radical damage. Coenzyme levels decrease with age, making it a reliable biomarker for aging. A small molecule antioxidant, Coenzyme Q 10 easily penetrates the epidermal layer (the top layer of skin exposed to the environment).

I hope this helps! More posts to come featuring specific product suggestions for your skincare routine.

What’s Beef?

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Do you know what beef is? According to the late, great, hip-hop artist, Notorious B.I.G., “beef is when you need two gats to go to sleep”. For American consumers, beef is corn fed and potentially just as dangerous to your health. From USDA Prime, to the crème de la crème, USA Waygu, the best cuts are well “marbleized” showcasing veins of intramuscular fat running throughout the meat. The more marbleized and evenly dispersed the fat is with lean muscle, the higher the grade of beef. Therefore, the more marbling, the more expensive the cut. Chefs and foodies alike can deeply appreciate this marbling for the juiciness and flavor it brings to culinary delights. Beef farmers achieve highly marbleized meat by feeding cows extensively and bringing them to slaughter young. Cows are fed corn, cow fat (tallow), and antibiotics so that within 12-16 months, a cow goes from 80 pounds to over 1,000 pounds; ready to be served up with a bun and fries on your plate.

Corn feeding expedites the fattening process of a cow, insuring that the beef is sufficiently marbleized and the supply of meat in the market is abundant. However, there are many health problems for cows fed a corn-based diet, increasing the dietary health risk of those who consume corn fed beef. In his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, discusses some of the issues with the American diet beginning with corn. Pollan explains how corn being less expensive and readily available, has become a staple in the Western diet. Corn is hidden in a lot of processed foods. (Just read the labels.) We’re eating corn even when we think we’re having a steak, drinking a soda or eating a piece of bread. Just think of all the foods that have high fructose corn syrup as a primary ingredient. I’ll be sharing more insight from The Omnivore’s Dilemma in future posts. But for now, let’s focus on corn fed beef.

Cows have a second stomach called a rumen. Its function is to extract protein from grass, as grass is the staple of a cow’s natural diet. A corn diet, on the other hand, is not only unnatural, it’s also toxic to a cow’s health. Corn causes extreme bloating within the rumen, expanding the stomach which compresses the cow’s lungs, resulting in potential suffocation. Veterinarians on cattle farm are constantly monitoring cattle herds, identifying sick cows and reliving them from this possibly fatal bloating.

Digestion of corn changes the acidity of a cow’s stomach, by decreasing the PH, and causing the stomach to be more acidic. This high acidity results in a problematic breakdown of the cow’s stomach lining. From here, bacteria are able to seep from the compromised stomach compartment into the cow’s bloodstream. A cow’s liver is now working overtime to clear toxins that normally would be eliminated from the body through the gastrointestinal track. Very quickly, this overworked liver becomes diseased and begins to fail. At this point, you essentially have a sick animal that probably would succumb to death due to health issues if not brought to slaughter within 12-16 months of its life.

As consumers of corn fed beef, this bacteria proves problematic for us as well. American beef cows spend most of their short lives cramped amongst thousands of other cows in a sea of their own manure, which leads to the need be pumped with antibiotics in order to the fight the constant attach of super germs growing and evolving in such unsanitary conditions. The PH of our stomach is higher than that of a cow’s allowing us a natural defense to kill off bacteria found in beef. However, with the acidity of a cow’s rumen being closer to our own due to a corn based diet, super strands of bacteria like e-coli are ever evolving. These strands can withstand the higher acidity of a human stomach leading to higher risk of food poisoning. Makes you think twice about that medium rare rib eye, doesn’t it?

Another issue with corn fed beef is the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fats only supplied to the human body through dietary sources. Among several key functions, these essential nutrients support heart and neurological health. Ideally you want your ratio of omega-6 to Omega-3 to be 1:1 but getting and as close to 4:1 or 5:1 have proven health benefits. The American diet is already high in Omega 6 due in part to increased consumption of processed food containing corn derived oils and byproducts. Many individuals are consuming diets with omega ratios as high as 17:1. Not surprisingly, corn fed beef has a ratio of about 14:1. Studies done by institutions like the National Institute of Health, have linked higher ratios of omega-6 to elevated risks for cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Some researchers link cow’s corn fed diet to the epidemic of heart disease in the United States. On the other hand, cows fed a grass fed diet tend to have a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 about 1.5:1, very similar to fatty fish like salmon.

In addition to having a more balanced ratio of omega polyunsaturated fats, grass fed cows are raised for 3-4 years, before being brought to slaughter, and without the use of antibiotics reducing the risk of growing super strands of bacteria. Grass fed beef does tend to have a different retail cost, taste and texture than that of corn fed beef but essentially you’re eating a food your body is going to use and process differently. This difference extends also to other cow products like milk and butter.

So, the next time you go out to celebrate some special occasion at your favorite high-end steak house, think twice about the corn fed cowboy rib eye, costing upward of $100 sans a la carte side dishes. What are you really paying for?

 

*If you’re in the Washington D.C. area and interested in trying grass fed beef, check out Elevation Burger for a cost efficient option. For those of you with deep pockets, try Bourbon Steak, at the Four Seasons Hotel. Let me know what you think!

Black Coffee, No Sugar, No Cream: The Extraordinary Benefits of Taking Your Morning Joe O’Natural

I love coffee. One cup every morning is all I need to stay mentally alert through most of my day.  Last year, a good, good, girlfriend of mine gifted me a Nespresso machine. I went from traditional brewed coffee to espresso coffee drinks conveniently made in my own kitchen. I took on a new persona as a barista every morning as I perfectly paired my espresso with my frothed almond milk, a tad of Hershey’s cocoa and a spoonful of gourmet French vanilla syrup. Voila! A mocha latte! If everyone started making lattes so good at home, Starbucks was going to have some trouble. Keeping my coffee drinks as low in sugar as possible sounded like a great idea but it just tastes so good with all the sweet additives. The downside to my wonderful latte was the stomach bloating that followed not having any dairy, it had to be the sugar. Hooked as I was on my morning beverage ritual, I ignored my body trying to tell me something wasn’t quite right.

Coffee alone is a powerful antioxidant, that helps fight free radical damage in the body (think breast and liver cancer prevention).  The caffeine in coffee helps improve mood, and increase metabolism.  In fact, research has shown that coffee can help reduce insulin resistance, reducing risk for Diabetes Type II by 25%.  Studies have also shown that coffee has cardiovascular benefits.  Cardiovascular health and Neurological health are often linked so it’s no wonder that coffee helps to protect against Alzheimer’s  and Parkinson’s disease as well.  Let’s be clear, these wonderful benefits from coffee only hold true with the consumption of black coffee.  The reality is that sugar laden coffee beverages are often no better than drinking a can of soda, thus contributing to body inflammation, weight gain and the domino effect of health issues that come with it.

The problem is that despite negating the natural benefits of a fresh brewed cup, all those flavored syrups and dairy creamers just taste so dang good! That first sip of a caramel Macchiato from Starbucks can feel like heaven.  International Delight coffee creamers come in the most delicious flavors not to mention those convenient little pods for a drink on the go.  Unfortunately now we have undone so much potential good for our bodies, short and long-term.  So how do we go from, delicious confection morning beverage to the distinctly strong (and sometimes bitter) flavor of natural coffee.  Well, you may just have to retrain your taste buds.  Reducing your sugar intake in general is a good idea, but lets take this one step at a time. Below are some suggestions on how to adjust to black coffee.

5 Ways to Adjust to Black Coffee:

  • Add a teaspoon of pure extracts to enhance flavor like almond, or vanilla
  • Try a packet of Stevia, an all natural sugar alternative
  • Drink less.  With your coffee no longer diluted by additives you can have a shot of espresso and be on your way. You will certainly feel the energy boost and one shot of espresso has 3 calories and 0 grams of sugar. No wonder the Italians are so slim!
  • Put it on ice.  It’s cold outside now, but drinking your black coffee cold is a refreshing treat in the warmer months.
  • Find your perfect roast.  Explore different roast flavors to find one that appeals to your taste buds in its natural state.  Might be time to step it up from Folgers!

When you think of all the benefits you are gaining and the calories you are saving, black coffee might begin to sound as good as pumpkin spice latte. Let’s try a  30-day black coffee challenge and compare notes. What are you doing to adjust?

Self-Preserving Womanhood: Simply

“Women in particular need to keep an eye on their physical and mental health, because if we’re scurrying to and from appointments and errands, we don’t have a lot of time to take care of ourselves. We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.”
― Michelle Obama

Thank you for joining me on this journey of health and wellness consciousness; as we aim to preserve and grow as healthy, happy, women. Whatever your mission in life let this blog be an information source, and community; supporting and encouraging you to recharge and replenish while you work hard to achieve the visions for your life. The content of this blog will focus on three concepts: self-preservation, womanhood, and simplicity. Let me explain. Self-preservation is a natural means of survival.  I want to challenge the stereotypes that self-sacrifice is part of being a good woman who loves, nurtures, supports and pursues her goals.  Healthy, happy, mothers, wives, sisters, friends, entrepreneurs, executives, teachers, directors, (the list goes on an on),are better able to pour from their cup and meet the challenges of life in comparison to those who are depleted. Keep it Simple Sweetheart (K.I.S.S. for short) is here to support your balance .  Womanhood. The definition of womanhood is always best defined by the woman. This blog is a space that allows you to work with your own definition(s), to inspire personal growth and wellbeing, meeting you wherever you are in as you navigate the waters of being a woman.  Simplicity.  Let’s get down to basics explore how we can enhance, renew and build with what’s already there or use that which is (figuratively or literally) in arms reach.  Most of us are overextended in one way or another so why not keep it simple? So that’s a rough map for the course; let’s get started!