More and more Americans are turning away from sugary soft drinks as they discover just how unhealthy soda can be.
This video below shows an experiment in which Coca-Cola and Coke Zero are boiled down to reveal the amount of sugar inside. Watch with caution—this may make you want to never drink soda again.
The reasons for avoiding soda pop is abundant. For starters, soda causes tooth decay. The acids and sugars in sodas soften your enamel, which can result in cavities. And the phosphates and phosphoric acid in soda have been shown to accelerate aging, Rodale News reported.
Sugary drinks can also increase blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Even if you're not overweight, one soda per day increases your risk of type 2 diabetes.
While Coke Zero may not contain sugar, the artificial sweeteners in it—aspartame and acesulfame potassium in the U.S. market—can be just as bad and maybe even worse than regular sugar, Dr. Mark Hyman warned.
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Most health conscious people can admit to carefully looking over the nutritional information and ingredient list on the foods they buy, but how often do they do the same for personal care products?
If your toothpaste contains dangerous ingredients like triclosan, sodium laureth sulfate, glycerin or any artificial sweeteners (including aspartame, sorbitol and saccharin), then you should seriously consider tossing that tube into the trash and going for a much safer, natural alternative that can get the job done just as well as regular toothpaste—if not better.
You could head on over to your local health food store to look for organic toothpastes or you could even conduct some thorough research on the more common brands of toothpaste sold in stores (since not all of them contain toxic ingredients). But if you want to save a bit of money in addition to going all natural with your oral care, you could simply stop using toothpaste all together and instead switch to some of the alternatives listed below.
1. Baking Soda
A study from the Journal of Clinical Dentistry found that Arm & Hammer baking soda was effective at cleaning teeth and removing plaque to fight off tooth decay. You’re probably already well aware of the many toothpastes that actually contain baking soda already. If you can withstand the taste and the grittiness of plain baking soda, you might want to try it.
According to WebMD, peroxide can be an effective cleansing solution for your mouth because of its bacteria-killing power, but you have to be ultra careful with it. If you’re going to try this alternative, make sure you dilute the peroxide in water so you’re not brushing with it at full strength, which could potentially burn your gums.
3. Sea Salt
Sea salt is rich in a variety of essential minerals and some people claim that it really helps to whiten their teeth. Try diluting sea salt in water and using it to brush your teeth. If you decide to use straight sea salt (without diluting it) you could risk abrasion.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that can be found in fruits and vegetables, which is often used as a sugar substitute in some food products. Some research has shown that it may prevent tooth decay, but ultimately more evidence is needed to back this claim up. You can get xylitol as a gum, as lozenges or you can simply take it in its sugar form and swish it around in your mouth prior to brushing.
5. Coconut, Sesame or Sunflower Oil
Have you heard of oil pulling? It’s an ancient oral health technique that involves taking about a tablespoon of carrier oil and swishing it around in your mouth for around 20 minutes a day. Research has shown that it can help reduce plaque and fight gingivitis. Just don’t use this as a complete substitute for brushing–gives those pearly whites a scrub with your toothbrush dipped in water at the very least.
6. Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Cinnamon, Rosemary or Lemon Essential Oil
It’s no secret that essential oils have some seriously great antibacterial properties that make great cleansers for a range of things–including your teeth. When using essential oils, make sure you follow the safety precautions outlined by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. Use a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil in water and brush away.
If you’re going to try any of these natural oral care alternatives in place of regular toothpaste, make sure to treat it like toothpaste by not swallowing it. Spit it right out when you’re done and give your mouth a good rinse.
Talk to your dentist first about any concerns you may have. If you find a natural solution you really like that works well for you and your oral health, you may never go back to regular old toothpaste ever again.
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Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
The United Health Foundation and American Public Health Association released their annual report last week of what they claim is the "longest-running comprehensive state-by-state study of our nation’s health."
The study analyzes each of the U.S. states on a wide variety of health measures, including obesity, cardiovascular disease rates, physical activity, violent crime, insurance rates, air pollution and poverty. The researchers rely on outside sources, such as government surveys, to collect their data, and then they rank the states on each measure, as well as, for overall health.
This year's report found improvements in preventable hospitalizations, decreases in cigarette smoking and increases in immunizations among children. However, rates of drug deaths, diabetes, obesity and children living in poverty are currently on the rise.
The full report is definitely worth a read-through to see where your state ranks for each health measure and where it ranks overall. One especially interesting ranking was most active states. Researchers looked at the "percentage of adults who report doing no physical activity or exercise (such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening or walking) other than their regular job in the last 30 days."
The state with the most active residents was Colorado with only 16.4 percent of respondents saying they had not engaged in any physical activity in the last 30 days. In contrast, the least active state was Mississippi with 31.6 percent of respondents saying they had not engaged in any physical activity in the past month.
To put that another way, 83.6 percent of Coloradans said they were active in the last 30 days, whereas only 68.4 percent of Mississippians claimed to have been active in the same time period.
Here are the top 10 most active states:
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There's no evidence that the behavioral disorder ADHD is caused by diet.
However, research suggests that for some people, dietary changes can improve symptoms.
In fact, a substantial amount of research has examined how nutrition affects ADHD.
This article is an overview of these findings, discussing the foods, diets and supplements involved.
What Is ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD is unclear, but research shows that genetics play a major role. Other factors, such as environmental toxicity and poor nutrition during infancy, have also been implicated (5, 6, 7, 8).
Bottom Line: ADHD is a complicated behavioral disorder and common treatments include therapy and medication. Dietary changes may also be useful.
Nutrition and Behavior
The science behind food's effects on behavior is still quite new and controversial. However, everyone can agree that certain foods do affect behavior.
Nutritional deficiencies can also affect behavior. One study concluded that taking a supplement of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals led to a significant reduction in antisocial behavior, compared to a placebo (24).
Since foods and supplements have been shown to influence behavior, it seems plausible that they could also affect ADHD symptoms, which are largely behavioral.
For this reason, a good amount of nutrition research has looked into the effects of foods and supplements on ADHD.
Mostly, two types of studies have been performed:
- Supplement studies: Supplementing with one or several nutrients.
- Elimination studies: Eliminating one or several ingredients from the diet.
Bottom Line: Studies show that certain foods and supplements do affect behavior. For these reasons, quite a few studies have looked into how nutrition affects ADHD symptoms, which are mostly behavioral.
Supplement Studies: A Research Review
This caused researchers to speculate that supplements might help improve symptoms.
Nutrition studies have looked into the effects of several supplements on ADHD symptoms, including amino acids, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.
Amino Acid Supplements
For this reason, a few trials have examined how amino acid supplements affect ADHD symptoms in children.
Bottom Line: Amino acid supplements for ADHD show some promise, but more studies need to be done. For now, the results are mixed.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Nevertheless, a 2014 trial of a multivitamin and mineral supplement did find an effect. The adults taking the supplement showed a convincing improvement on ADHD rating scales after 8 weeks, compared to the placebo group (49, 50).
Bottom Line: The results from vitamin and mineral supplement studies have been mixed, but several show promise.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements
Omega-3 fatty acids play important roles in the brain.
What's more, the lower their omega-3 levels, the more learning and behavioral problems the ADHD children seem to have (53).
In studies, omega-3 fatty acids appear to help improve task completion and inattention. Additionally, they decreased aggression, restlessness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity (59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65).
Bottom Line: Numerous trials have found that omega-3 supplements can bring about modest improvements in ADHD symptoms.
Elimination Studies: A Research Review
Studies have examined the effects of eliminating many ingredients, including food additives, preservatives, sweeteners and allergenic foods.
Eliminating Salicylates and Food Additives
By accident, an allergist named Dr. Feingold discovered that food could affect behavior.
In the 1970s, he prescribed a diet for his patients that eliminated certain ingredients that produced a reaction for them.
The diet was free of salicylates, which are compounds found in many foods, medications and food additives.
While on the diet, some of Feingold's patients noted an improvement in their behavioral problems.
Soon after, Feingold started recruiting children diagnosed with hyperactivity for dietary experiments. He claimed that 30–50 percent of them improved on the diet (67).
Although reviews concluded the Feingold diet was not an effective intervention for hyperactivity, it stimulated further research into the effects of food and additive elimination on ADHD (69, 70, 71).
Bottom Line: The Feingold diet pioneered elimination diet research for ADHD. It improved symptoms in children with ADHD, although recent evidence is mixed.
Eliminating Artificial Colors and Preservatives
After the Feingold diet was no longer considered effective, researchers narrowed their focus to look at artificial food colors (AFCs) and preservatives.
One study followed 800 children suspected of hyperactivity. 75 percent of them improved while on an AFC-free diet, but relapsed once given AFCs again (74).
Nonetheless, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires certain AFCs to be listed on food packages. The EU, on the other hand, requires foods containing AFCs to have a label warning of adverse effects to children's attention and behavior (80, 81, 82, 83).
Bottom Line: AFCs may affect behavior in children, although some say the evidence is not strong enough. However, the FDA and the EU require food labels to list additives.
Eliminating Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Theoretically, it's more likely that sugar causes inattention, rather than hyperactivity, as blood sugar imbalances can cause attention levels to drop.
Bottom Line: Sugar and artificial sweeteners have not been shown to directly affect ADHD. However, they may have indirect effects.
The Few Foods Elimination Diet
The Few Foods Elimination Diet is a method that tests how people with ADHD respond to foods. Here's how it works:
- Elimination: Follow a very restricted diet of low-allergen foods that are unlikely to cause adverse effects. If symptoms get better, enter the next phase.
- Reintroduction: Foods suspected of causing adverse effects are reintroduced every 3–7 days. If symptoms return, the food is identified as “sensitizing."
- Treatment: A personal dietary protocol is prescribed. It avoids sensitizing foods as much as possible, in order to minimize symptoms.
Twelve different studies have tested this diet, each of which lasted 1–5 weeks and included 21–50 children.
Eleven of the studies found a statistically significant decrease in ADHD symptoms in 50–80 percent of the participants, while the other one found improvements in 24 percent of the children (91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102).
The reason why this diet works for some children and not others is unknown.
Bottom Line: The Few Foods Elimination Diet is a diagnostic tool to rule out problems with food. All studies have found a favorable effect in a subgroup of children, usually more than half.
Take Home Message
Research about how food affects ADHD symptoms is far from conclusive.
Yet the studies mentioned here suggest that diet can definitely have powerful effects on behavior.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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“I know you’re not big on sugar and frequently tell people to cut down on it,” writes this week’s House Call. “But what about artificial sweeteners? Can I use those instead?”
Sadly, the answer is emphatically no. Human, animal, experimental and other studies show artificial sweeteners can be just as bad and maybe even worse than regular sugar.
Artificial sweeteners have long been positioned as “guilt-free,” innocuous, safe alternatives, so why would I argue they are actually worse than sugar?
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Manufacturers love to position zero-calorie sweetened foods and drinks as better because they create a “halo effect” and they know you’re more likely to buy them.
We’re surrounded by low-calorie or calorie-free foods and diet soft drinks that contain artificial sweeteners touted as healthy or consequence-free. As a result, the number of Americans who consume products that contain sugar-free sweeteners grew from 70 million in 1987 to 160 million in 2000.
At the same time, the incidence of obesity in the U.S. has doubled from 15 percent to 30 percent across all age groups, ethnic groups and social strata. And the number of overweight Americans has increased from about 30 percent to more than 65 percent of the population. The fastest growing obese population is children.
High sugar intake deservedly takes the blame here, but we frequently overlook artificial sweeteners as a potential culprit. The evidence is catching up. Recent studies have not been kind to artificial sweeteners, claiming among other problems they adversely affect gut health and glucose tolerance.
You’re probably wondering, though, how a calorie-free sweetener could make you fat. If you’ve read my blogs, you know that while calories count, other factors like hormonal imbalances contribute far more to weight gain.
Let’s briefly look at three reasons artificial sweeteners create adverse consequences to your waistline and health.
1. Artificial sweeteners increase your risk for diabesity. Studies show sugar substitutes potentially can increase your risk for weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. One study of rats that were fed artificially sweetened food found that their metabolism slowed down and they were triggered to consume more calories and gain more weight than rats fed sugar-sweetened food. In another animal study, rats that consumed artificial sweeteners ate more food, their metabolic fire or thermogenesis slowed down and they put on 14 percent more body fat in just two weeks even if they ate fewer total calories than the rats that ate regular sugar-sweetened food.
2. Artificial sweeteners rewire your brain chemistry and metabolism. How could aspartame and other fake sweeteners make you gain weight even though they’re calorie-free? Because they stimulate your taste buds and trick them to think you’re eating real sugar. Artificial sweeteners can be 1000 times sweeter than sugar, so your body becomes confused and revs up production of insulin, your fat-storage hormone. Your metabolism slows down, you become hungry more quickly, you’re prone to eat way more food (especially carbs) and increased belly fat is the inevitable result. Because they confuse and slow down your metabolism, you burn fewer calories every day. Artificial sweeteners make you hungrier and cause you to crave even more sugar and starchy carbs, such as bread and pasta.
3. Artificial sweeteners are highly addictive. I regularly see patients who complain they can’t kick their diet-soda habit. “I have one in the morning and I can’t stop,” they say. It isn’t just their imagination: Artificial sweeteners can quickly become addictive. In an alarming study, rats offered the choice of cocaine or artificial sweeteners always picked the artificial sweetener, even if the rats were previously programmed to be cocaine addicts. The author of the study said that, “The absolute preference for taste sweetness may lead to a re-ordering in the hierarchy of potentially addictive stimuli, with sweetened diets … taking precedence over cocaine and possibly other drugs of abuse.”
Let’s consider that last point a little more closely, particularly with diet sodas, which account for a fair amount of the artificial sweeteners we consume.
One of the biggest struggles I see with patients—ironically, usually overweight or obese patients—is surrendering their diet sodas. Like artificial sweeteners, we’ve been misled to think they’re guilt-free alternatives to regular soda.
Hardly. Diet soda and diet drinks make you fat and cause type 2 diabetes.
Wait … diet soda makes people fat? Really? How does that happen?
If losing weight were all about the calories, then consuming diet drinks would seem like a good idea. That’s certainly what big-name cola companies want us to believe, judging by the ad campaigns highlighting their efforts to fight obesity. (And the other food giants making diet drinks push the same propaganda).
Soda companies proudly promote the fact that it has 180 low- or no-calorie drinks and that it has cut sales of sugared drinks in schools by 90 percent. Is that a good thing? I don’t think so. In fact, it may be worse to drink diet soda than a regular soda.
A 14-year study of 66,118 women published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (and supported by many previous and subsequent studies) discovered some frightening facts that should make us all swear off diet drinks and products:
Diet sodas raised the risk of diabetes more than sugar-sweetened sodas.
Women who drank one 12-ounce diet soda a week had a 33 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes and women who drank one 20-ounce soda a week had a 66 percent increased risk.
Women who drank diet sodas drank twice as much as those who drank sugar-sweetened sodas because artificial sweeteners are more addictive than regular sugar. The average diet soda drinker consumes three diet drinks a day.
The bottom line is you can’t outsmart Mother Nature. Fooling your brain into thinking you are getting something sweet plays dirty tricks on your metabolism. Artificial sweeteners disrupt the normal hormonal and neurological signals that control hunger and satiety (feeling full).
The use of artificial sweeteners, as well as “food porn,” the sexy experience of sweet, fat and salt in your mouth, alters your food preferences. Your palate shifts from being able to enjoy fruits and vegetables and whole foods to liking only the sexy stuff.
Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners: What’s the Answer?
Let’s be clear here that I am not letting sugar off the hook. Of the more than 600,000 food products—note I said food products, not foods—80 percent have added sugar. That’s where the trouble begins.
We went from eating about 10 pounds of sugar per person, per year in 1800 to 152 pounds of sugar (and 146 pounds of flour) per person, per year today. Think about it: On average we eat about one pound of sugar every day!
Those sugar-laden foods literally become drugs: Pharmacological doses that hijack our metabolism and make us fat and sick.
Adding a teaspoon of sugar to your coffee or having an occasional dessert doesn’t make you fat and sick. Added sugars in even so-called healthy foods or non-sweet tasting foods creates the real, cumulative damage.
I realize this can all become confusing. Here are five ways I recommend making sense about sweeteners:
1. Have a little. If you like sugar and want a little bit, fine, but eat real food and then have sweet things. Consider sugar a recreational drug that you can partake of in moderation like red wine or tequila. Put a little sugar in your coffee because at least you’re aware about how much you’re getting. Likewise, you’re not going to overeat cake, because you know it’s bad for you. One caveat: If you know a little sugar will become a slippery slope for overeating, stay away from the sweet stuff period.
2. Become aware of hidden sugars even in so-called healthy foods. Read ingredients and realize sugar lurks even in foods that don’t taste sweet or that are positioned as healthy.
3. Learn to appreciate natural sweetness. Fruit, nuts and other real foods contain natural sweetness without processed foods’ sugar overload or the detrimental effects of artificial sweeteners.
4. Stop confusing your body. If you have a desire for something sweet have a little sugar, but stay away from “fake” foods. Eating a whole-foods diet that has a low-glycemic load and is rich in phytonutrients and indulging in a few real sweet treats once in a while is a better alternative than tricking your body with artificial sweeteners, which leads to wide scale metabolic rebellion and obesity.
5. Judiciously use this one sweetener. Among sweeteners, I make one exception with stevia. A little bit in your coffee or tea should be fine, but be judicious. Besides, overdoing stevia creates a bitter effect, so you’re more likely not to get carried away. If you partake, make sure you’re buying 100 percent pure organic stevia, not the stuff that contains bulking agents like maltodextrin (corn) and nebulous natural flavors.
If you really want to break free from the addictive grip of artificial sweeteners and sugar, as well as food sensitivities, I highly recommend doing The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. I’ve witnessed patients curb their worst sugar and artificial sweetener cravings and learn to appreciate the natural sweetness of real, whole foods in just 10 days.
Whatever you do, stay away from artificial sweeteners. I recommend giving up aspartame, sucralose, sugar alcohols such as xylitol and maltitol and all of the other heavily used and marketed sweeteners unless you want to slow down your metabolism, gain weight and become an addict. Use a little stevia if you must, but skip out on the others.
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Bloating, it happens to most at one time or another. It is when one’s belly feels enlarged or swollen due to gas or digestive issues that can occur after eating. Sixteen percent to 30 percent of people state they experience bloating regularly.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Sometimes bloating can be a sign of a serious medical condition, but more likely than not, bloating is due to something a person eats. There are many foods that cause bloating and removing them from one’s diet will normally fix any bloating issue.
Here is a list of foods that can cause bloating:
Photo credit: Shutterstock
As most know, beans are a type of legume. They can be high in protein, healthy carbs, fiber and many minerals and vitamins. However, beans also contain sugars called alpha-galactosides, which belong to a group of carbs called FODMAPs.
“FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) are short-chain carbohydrates that escape digestion and are then fermented by gut bacteria in the colon. Gas is a byproduct of this process.” (Eat Local Grown)
For those with irritable bowel syndrome, beans can cause serious bloating issues.
Beans to Eat: Soaking beans before cooking can help and pinto and black beans tend to be easier to digest. One can also replace beans with grains or quinoa.
2. Carbonated Drinks
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Carbonated drinks contain carbon dioxide gas which is used to give the beverage that bubbly texture. However, when drinking soda, all that gas can go into the digestive tract and cause bloating or even cramping.
What to Drink: Just drink water. It is so much better for the body than a sugary, artificially colored beverage.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Wheat has taken some heat in recent years because it contains a bunch of gluten. This is a serious problem for those who suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. However, wheat is also a major source of FODMAPs, which can cause digestive problems in many people.
If wheat gives a person digestive issues, there is plenty available to replace it with.
Wheat Alternatives: Pure oats, quinoa, buckwheat, almond flour, banana flour and coconut flour are all good substitutes for wheat.
4. Cruciferous Vegetables
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts to name a few. These are very healthy, containing many essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron and potassium. However, they also tend to give some people issues with bloating.
But don’t worry! There are plenty of vegetables out there that do not create gas.
Vegetables to Eat: Spinach, cucumbers, lettuce, sweet potatoes and zucchini are all great to eat and do not cause bloating.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Onions are a commonly consumed bulb vegetable. It is normally eaten cooked in a dish but can sometimes be found raw on sandwiches or salads.
It is raw onions that give some bloating and gas issues. This is because onions contain fructans which are soluble fibers that can cause bloating.
If cooked onions still gives one issues, there are some alternatives to try.
Onion Alternatives: Give food a punch with herbs and spices and leave the onion out.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Barley is a cereal grain that contains loads of fiber and vitamins and minerals like molybdenum, manganese and selenium. It is the fiber and gluten found in barley that can cause bloating and gas.
Barley Alternatives: Refined barley, like pearl or scotch barley, may be tolerated better. Barley can also be replaced with other grains or pseudocereals like oats, brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Rye is another cereal grain that is closely related to both wheat and barley. It contains high amounts of fiber, manganese, phosphorus, copper and B-vitamins. It also contains gluten.
Like with rye, it is the fiber and gluten that can cause bloating.
Rye Alternatives: Other grains including oats, brown rice, buckwheat or quinoa.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Dairy products include milk, cheese, yogurt and butter to name a few. They are well loved but about 75 percent of the public can’t process them. The issue is a sugar found in dairy called lactose and people who can’t processes it have lactose intolerance. This causes bloating and gas.
Dairy Alternatives: Coconut, almond, soy or rice milk are good alternatives to dairy. Coconut milk is tops on my list.
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Garlic is fantastic in food and as a health remedy. I personally love garlic and will eat it raw. However, like with onions, the fructans in garlic can give some digestive issues. Cooking the garlic will reduce the body’s reaction to it, but that will not work for everyone.
Garlic Alternatives: Herbs and spices in your cooking, such as thyme, parsley, chives or basil will help food taste almost as good.
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Yes. It is true that beer will cause bloating. It is actually a double threat. Beer is carbonated and contains fermentable carbs like barley, maize, wheat and rice, along with some yeast and water. The carbonation and grains work together to create one big digestive problem. Beer also has gluten.
What to Drink: Again, water is the way to go. If one must drink beer, only in moderation.
If cutting these foods from one’s diet has not reduced bloating, it is time to consult with a doctor. As we stated in the beginning of the article, bloating could be a sign of a serious medical condition.
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Most likely, the food industry holds your kitchen hostage. No doubt your cupboards and pantry are filled with ultra-processed fare. Detoxifying your kitchen allows you to escape these shackles and transform your kitchen to a place of wellness. A healthy kitchen provides the foundation for a healthy you.
If you make your kitchen a safe zone, with only foods that nourish rather than harm, then you will automatically make the right choices. If you fill it with crap, you will eat crap, no matter how much willpower you have.
The first step to detoxify your kitchen, then, is not to load it with junk and clear out whatever junk currently is stocking your cupboards. If its not there you won't eat it. It's that simple. If you have to get in your car and drive five miles you probably will skip that donut, cookie or ice cream. You are removing ways that you will unconsciously sabotage yourself.
I've created a four-step process to effectively detoxify your kitchen and restock it with healthy foods.
Step 1: Set aside an hour to purge your kitchen
Schedule it into your planner if you need to. This requires some detective work. Read food labels for added sugar and other junk ingredients that don't belong in a healthy kitchen. Have a big garbage bag ready (better yet, recycle containers if you can) to dump the junk. It might take longer depending on how much hidden junk and toxic ingredients lurk in your cupboard or fridge.
Step 2: Scrutinize labels
Ideally, you'll replace anything that is questionable with real fresh or whole foods without labels. A fresh avocado or a kiwi doesn't come with a nutrition facts label, or a bar code or ingredient list. If you decide to keep foods with labels, follow these rules:
- Focus on the ingredient list, not the “nutrition facts" that are mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy.
- If you don't recognize, can't pronounce it, or it is in Latin or you don't have it in your cupboard and you wouldn't use it in a recipe—maltodextrin, for instance—then don't use it.
- On every ingredient list, note that the most abundant ingredient is listed first. The others follow in descending order by weight.
- Be conscious of ingredients that may not be on the list. Some ingredients may be exempt from labels. Get rid of these foods.
- Beware of foods with health claims on the label. These claims usually signal a marketing ploy to make you think they're good for you when they're really just healthy pretenders. Things like sports beverages, energy bars, and even multigrain breads (which often contain high fructose corn syrup) fall into this category.
Now that you know what to look for, I'll walk you through the process of determining what can stay and what needs to take a permanent vacation on your kitchen detox.
Step 3: Ditch These Foods
When you detoxify your body, you eliminate harmful toxins. Likewise, when you detoxify your kitchen you'll want to get rid of any food that contains these harmful ingredients.
- You probably know obvious sugar culprits, but be aware of hidden sugars that lurk in salad dressings, processed foods, drinks, and even “healthy" foods like cereals and wheat. Sugar goes by many aliases. Just as boys named Andrew often go by Andy or Drew, sugar might be called organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses. There are 257 names for sugar, most made from corn with names that you wouldn't recognize like maltodextrin and xanthan gum, which make you fat and addicted. Look carefully at condiments like salad dressing, barbecue sauce, or ketchup, which are often high-fructose corn syrup traps.
- Bad fats. Don't be afraid of fat. Fat doesn't make you fat, but the wrong fats can wreak serious metabolic havoc. Toss out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn and soy, fried foods you may have stored in your freezer, and margarine or shortening. These have dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease. Scour labels for the words “hydrogenated fat" (another phrase for trans fat), which has finally been declared not safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Artificial sweeteners. Throw out food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds (aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose and sugar alcohols—any word that ends with “ol," like xylitol or sorbitol). Stevia may be better than aspartame but only whole plant extract, not Pure Via and Truvia, which are made by Pepsi and Coke and are chemical extracts of stevia. Use it sparingly. A new non-caloric sweetener that comes from monk fruit that is rich in antioxidants can also be used in small amounts. But remember, any sweetener can make you hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas and store belly fat.
- Anything with ingredients you can't pronounce. If you purchase something with a nutrition label, there should be less than five ingredients on it and all things that a third grader would understand like “tomatoes, water, salt." Focus on the ingredient list, not the “nutrition facts," which are mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy.
- Any potentially questionable food or ingredients. Seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract and even high fructose corn syrup that have no place in a healthy kitchen.
Step 4: Stock Up on These
Now that you've purged unhealthy foods, you want to replace kitchen cabinets and cupboards with fresh, healthy foods. These are the ones you'll want to load your kitchen with:
- Non-starchy veggies are freebies. Eat as many as you like! Limit fruits because they increase your insulin levels. Berries are your best bet. When possible, choose organic, seasonal and local produce. When you can, avoid the most pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables by consulting the Environmental Working Group's “Dirty Dozen" list and instead choose from the “Clean Fifteen" list featuring the least contaminated options. Just make sure you're buying unseasoned or unsweetened varieties. Also check out your local farmers market or community supported agriculture (CSA). You can find the one closet to you at LocalHarvest.
- Dry foods. These staple foods usually have a longer shelf life and include raw or lightly roasted nuts and seeds, legumes, quinoa and gluten-free grains.
- Herbs, spices and seasonings. You'll want to have a range of pantry ingredients, including seasonings and spices, on hand. Buy organic when you can. Because you only use a little of some of these, they tend to last a long time so you get a lot of value from them. Among my favorites include extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut butter, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and seasonings and spices. Just read your labels to ensure they don't contain hidden sugar, gluten or other problem additives.
- Fresh foods. Get in the habit of keeping your fridge and freezer stocked with these items. When selecting beef or meat, choose grass-fed, hormone-free, or organic, whenever possible. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) mandates that all poultry is raised without hormones, so look for the terms “antibiotic free" or “organic" when buying poultry. Check out the Environmental Working Group's “Meat Eater's Guide" to choose meat that's good for you and good for the planet. Optimal protein choices include:
- Boneless, skinless chicken and turkey breasts
- Ground chicken and turkey
- Lean cuts of beef, lamb, and bison (buffalo) meat
- Omega-3enriched eggs
- Whole forms of non-GMO soy food, like tofu, tempeh, and gluten-free miso (organic, when possible)
- Wild or sustainably farmed, low-mercury seafood like sardines, salmon, herring, flounder, clams, crab, oyster, perch, pollock, shrimp, sole, squid, trout, whitefish etc.). Avoid those fish that are high in mercury such as tuna, swordfish and Chilean sea bass. Refer to the Natural Resources Defense Council website to download their wallet guide to choosing the fish lowest in mercury.
With these strategies, you're ready to begin detoxifying your kitchen. What food would you add that does or doesn't belong in your healthy kitchen? Share your thoughts below. If you want to go a step further and detox completely, I encourage you to join The 10-Day Detox Challenge.
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But most of us are accustomed to sweet foods, and don’t want to live our lives without them.
For this reason, various artificial chemicals have been invented to replicate the effects of sugar.
These are substances that can stimulate the sweet taste receptors on the tongue.
They usually have no calories and don’t have the harmful metabolic effects of added sugar.
These chemicals are known as “artificial” sweeteners … as opposed to “natural” sweeteners like sugar or honey.
These chemicals are very sweet, and they are often added to foods and beverages that are then marketed as weight loss friendly … which makes sense given that they are virtually calorie free.
However, despite increased use of these low-calorie sweeteners (and diet foods in general), the obesity epidemic has only gotten worse.
The evidence regarding artificial sweeteners is actually fairly mixed and the use of these substances is highly controversial.
So … what is the truth about artificial sweeteners? How do they affect appetite, body weight and our risk for obesity-related disease?
Let’s have a look …
There Are Many Different Types of Artificial Sweeteners
There are numerous different artificial sweeteners available and the chemical structure varies between them.
What they all have in common, is that they are incredibly effective at stimulating the sweet taste receptors on the tongue.
In fact, most are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, gram for gram.
Here is a table showing the most common artificial sweeteners, how sweet they are relative to sugar, and brand names they are sold under:
Then there are other low-calorie sweeteners that are processed from natural ingredients and therefore don’t count as “artificial.”
This includes the natural zero-calorie sweetener stevia, as well as sugar alcohols like xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol and mannitol. Sugar alcohols tend to have similar sweetness as sugar but less than half as many calories.
This article is strictly about the artificial sweeteners … but you can read about the natural ones here.
Bottom Line: There are many different types of artificial sweeteners. The most common ones are aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame and acesulfame potassium
Artificial Sweeteners and Appetite Regulation
Animals, including humans, don’t just seek food to satisfy energy needs.
We also seek so-called “reward” from food.
While artificial sweeteners provide sweet taste, many researchers believe that the lack of calories prevents complete activation of the food reward pathway.
This may be the reason artificial sweeteners are linked with increased appetite and cravings for sugary food in some studies (8).
Magnetic imaging in 5 men showed that sugar consumption decreased signalling in the hypothalamus, the appetite regulator of the brain (9).
This response was not seen with consumption of aspartame, suggesting that the brain does not register artificial sweeteners as having a satiating effect.
It may be that sweetness without the calories leads to further food seeking behavior, adding to your overall caloric intake.
Bottom Line: Some researchers believe that artificial sweeteners do not satisfy our biological sugar cravings in the same manner as sugar, and could therefore lead to increased food intake. However, the evidence is mixed.
Sweeteners and Sugar Cravings
Another argument opposing artificial sweeteners is that the unnatural sweetness encourages sugar cravings and sugar dependence.
This idea is logical considering that flavor preferences in humans can be trained with repeated exposure (13).
While this is not proven, it does seem to make sense. The more we eat of sweet foods, the more we want them.
Bottom Line: The strong sweetness of artificial sweeteners may be causing us to become dependent on sweet flavor. This could increase our desire for sweet foods in general.
Observational Studies on Artificial Sweeteners and Body Weight
Many observational studies have been conducted on artificial sweeteners.
These kinds of studies take a group of people and ask them about various factors, such as what they eat.
Then many years later, they can see whether a particular variable (such as artificial sweetener use) was associated with either an increased or decreased risk of disease.
These types of studies don’t prove anything, but they can help us find patterns that warrant further investigation.
Several of these studies have paradoxically found that artificially sweetened drinks are linked to weight gain rather than weight loss (16).
However, the most recent review, which summarized the findings of 9 observational studies, found that artificial sweeteners were associated with a slightly higher BMI, but not with body weight or fat mass (17).
I should point out that this study was industry sponsored. It doesn’t mean that the results are invalid, just that we should be extra skeptical because the funding source of a study can often skew the results and the interpretation of the data (18).
That being said … correlation does not imply causation, so these studies don’t prove anything one way or the other.
Fortunately, the effects of artificial sweeteners on body weight have also been studied in numerous controlled trials (real science).
Bottom Line: Some observational studies have found artificial sweeteners to be linked with increased weight, but the evidence is mixed.
Controlled Trials on Artificial Sweeteners
One of the largest trials looked at 641 children aged 4-11 years who had to drink either 250 ml (8.5 ounces) of an artificially sweetened drink, or the same amount of a sugary drink every day for 18 months.
The children who were assigned the artificially sweetened drinks gained significantly less weight and less fat than the sugar-drinking children (19).
The most recent review of 15 clinical trials found that replacing sugary drinks with their artificially sweetened versions can result in modest weight loss of about 1.8 lbs (0.8 kg), on average (17).
So… according to the best available evidence, artificial sweeteners appear to be mildly effective for weight loss.
They certainly don’t seem to cause weight gain, at least not on average.
Bottom Line: Numerous controlled trials have studied the effects of artificial sweeteners on body weight. On average, replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with diet beverages may cause weight loss of about 2 pounds.
Artificial Sweeteners and Metabolic Health
All of this being said, health is about way more than just weight.
There are some observational studies (again, studies that don’t prove anything) linking artificial sweetener consumption to metabolic disease.
This includes an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Another study found that these beverages were linked to a 34 percent greater risk of metabolic syndrome (26).
This is supported by a recent high-profile study on artificial sweeteners, showing that they caused a disruption in the gut bacterial environment and induced glucose intolerance in both rats and humans (27).
Whether artificial sweeteners cause problems by disrupting the gut bacteria needs to be studied further, but it appears that there may be some cause for concern.
Take Home Message
Replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners may be helpful in reducing body weight, but only very slightly at best.
Their intake certainly does not seem to cause weight gain, at least not in the short-term.
At the end of the day, artificial sweeteners are not “toxic” like some people make them out to be, but I’m not convinced that they’re perfectly safe either.
The research goes both ways … and the decision about using them must come down to the individual.
If you’re healthy, happy and satisfied with the results you’re getting and you happen to use artificial sweeteners… then there’s no need to change anything. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
However … if you suffer from cravings, poor blood sugar control or any mysterious health problem, avoiding artificial sweeteners may be one of many things to consider.
Different strokes for different folks.
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Reposted with permission from Rodale News.
"Brush three times a day!" You probably grew up hearing that conventional oral-hygiene wisdom, but unfortunately, doing so today could pose an unnecessary threat to your health, thanks to certain bad-actor ingredients cropping up in popular toothpaste brands. The kicker? Some of the worst ingredients don't even help keep your teeth cleaner. "Does the risk outweigh the benefits?" asks Linda A. Straub-Bruce, BS Ed, RDH, author of Dental Herbalism. "It's what I always ask my patients to consider."
The "benefit" of these dyes is pretty obvious: They color the toothpaste. That's it. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
She recommends avoiding these six ingredients that just aren't worth the risk:
1. Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS)
SLS seems to fuel canker sores. Researchers have linked SLS to higher numbers of canker sore outbreaks. As if that's not enough, SLS also seems to cause more frequent outbreaks that last longer, too, Straub-Bruce says. She also points out that there is a definite correlation with cold sensitivity as well. No one likes canker sores or sensitive teeth, so manufacturers must have a really good reason to justify its inclusion, right?
"All it does is foam," explains Straub-Bruce. "There is no other viable purpose other than the experience. This doesn't translate into better health or lower microbial load, but people associate foaming with clean." In fact, she suggests that you get more cleaning power from the scraping action of brushing or flossing (or even just eating a carrot) than you do from SLS.
"About 15 years ago, triclosan came to oral care because it fights the bacteria in plaque for up to 12 hours," says Straub-Bruce. Unfortunately, research is now showing that, much like BPA, triclosan is a hormone disruptor.
"And now that it's been out for a long time and it's been going down the drain, we're starting to see the environmental impacts," says Straub-Bruce. She points out that not only is it a hormone disruptor for people, but it's also a food-chain disruptor because it affects algae.
3. Blue #1 and #2
The "benefit" of these dyes is pretty obvious: They color the toothpaste. That's it. Unfortunately, the fun color is offset by some pretty serious health concerns. "When swallowed it's a respiratory irritant, digestive tract irritant, and there have been correlational studies between blue #1 and behavioral problems in children," says Straub-Bruce.
Sure, we love the minty-fresh taste, but what do the toothpaste companies add to make their pastes palatable? "No matter what it says on the front, you have to read the back," says Straub-Bruce. It's important to watch out for flavoring agents like aspartame. If you're making the jump to natural herbal rinses and need help getting used to the new taste, she recommends looking for natural sweeteners like xylitol or stevia.
5. Hydrated Silica
This chemical is used for stain removal, but Straub-Bruce explains that it doesn't break down over time. "This means that it can damage your enamel," she says. She recommends using baking soda instead. You'll get sparkling teeth—without destroying them.
Straub-Bruce points out that alcohol is a false friend when it comes to mouth rinses: "Alcohol is an antimicrobial, but it's also a drying agent," she says. "So while it freshens your breath initially, it flips back twofold later because the bacteria thrive in a dry mouth."
Instead, Straub-Bruce suggests making a tea of herbs (and letting it cool) as a rinse. To freshen your breath, try brewing a 2:1:1:0.5 ratio of cardamom, cumin, fennel and orange peel in water. After it's cooled, rinse as you would with your regular mouthwash.
Want to control what's going into your toothpaste? Try making it yourself.
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In April, I submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on behalf of Center for Food Safety regarding proposed nutrition guidelines for “competitive foods” sold in schools. These are foods sold outside the school program and consist mainly of junk food and soda. Our position was that schools should do away with these foods altogether and focus on improved school meals.
While some groups celebrated when the interim final rule was released in June, numerous questions remain. USDA is calling the rule “Smart Snacks in School.” You can submit comments to USDA until Oct. 28; the rule goes into effect for the 2014 school year.
I asked registered dietitian Andy Bellatti to take a closer look at the new nutrition guidelines for potential weaknesses.
Simon: What about the food guidelines are most troubling to you?
Bellatti: While in general, the food guidelines are not bad and certainly an improvement, the sugar limits are especially lax. USDA is allowing foods with less than 35 percent sugar by weight, which is quite a lot. This means, for example, a product like Yo! Crunch yogurt with M&Ms topping “passes.”
Simon: I see that the dairy industry lobbied for USDA to measure the sugar standard by weight instead of by calories. Why is that significant?
Bellatti: In terms of using “by calories” or “by weight,” there is no universally better choice. Depending on the caloric and sugar content of a product, either one could be the stricter choice. The issue here is that 35 percent is way too high of a limit. I would have preferred 10 percent. In the rule, USDA noted the following:
Many commenters stated that this alternative [using 35 percent of sugar by weight, rather than 35 percent of sugar by calories] would allow greater flexibility and would permit more products that are favorites among students, such as low-fat ice cream, sweetened frozen fruit and yogurt parfaits.
Therefore, it certainly seems like “percent of sugar by weight” (rather than by calories) was chosen in order to provide more allowances for sweetened dairy products.
In fact, had USDA used less than 35 percent of calories standard, these candy yogurts would not have passed. By calories, 80 calories from sugar, based on 140 calories equals 57 percent of calories come from sugar. Even without the naturally occurring sugar, you get to more than 35 percent. It seems pretty clear that USDA essentially went with percent of sugar by weight to allow sweetened dairy products an easy in.
Simon: It seems the dairy industry is quite happy with the rule. What else bothers you about the role of dairy products?
Bellatti: In order to qualify as a “smart snack,” a food must have a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, dairy product or “protein” as its first ingredient. This is based on federal dietary guidelines, which is silly because “protein” is not a food group and it gives dairy another easy pass. Also, this caught my eye in the rule:
One commenter suggested specifying that ‘‘dairy products’’ include non-standard products such as cultured dairy snacks and frozen dairy desserts. In drafting the proposed rule, the Department did not intend to exclude non-standard dairy products such as those mentioned by the commenter.
Translation: “Cultured snacks” equal yogurt, and “frozen dairy desserts” equal ice cream. Both of these are essentially sugar vessels. I would have preferred to see cheese and unflavored milk as the only allowed dairy products as a way to cut back on sugary foods.
USDA did acknowledge the problem of high-sugar dairy products:
Ingredient lists reveal that many popular drinkable yogurts have significant levels of added sugars instead of sugars conveyed naturally from fruit or dairy. USDA will gather additional information as competitive food standards are implemented and may address standards for drinkable yogurt in a future rulemaking.
That doesn't sound too promising, though; I would have preferred they not allow drinkable yogurts until they come up with a guideline, especially since unlike yogurt, which is considered food and therefore must be less than 35 percent of sugar by weight, lax as that is, drinkable yogurt is a beverage and therefore has no sugar limits.
Simon: There are no sugar limits on dairy beverages?
Bellatti: No, USDA has set no sugar limits for any beverages, including fluid milk); instead there are limits on portions sizes and flavored milk is only allowed in non-fat form. USDA said:
We are not supportive of requiring a calorie or sugar limit for flavored milk at this time. We will continue to monitor this issue as the competitive food standards are being implemented to determine if a future calorie cap and/ or sugar limit for flavored milk is warranted.
I find it very problematic that these guidelines do not set calorie or sugar limits for flavored milk. I think it is imperative to establish sugar limits or, even better, only allow unflavored/unsweetened milks; dairy or otherwise.
The absence of sugar guidelines for flavored milk means, that, in theory, an eight ounce serving of chocolate milk that contains five teaspoons of added sugar (20 grams) can be sold. Keep in mind that the American Heart Association recommends that children ages four to eight should consume no more than three teaspoons of added sugar a day. Most eight ounce servings of chocolate milk contain anywhere from two to four teaspoons of added sugar, depending on manufacturer formulations.
Simon: What about the beverage rule bothers you more generally?
Bellatti: The rules seems overly concerned with calories, while allowing diet sodas, diet iced teas and diet juice drinks, without a care about the potential hazards of artificial sweeteners or dyes, or any other artificial ingredients for that matter. Also, USDA set no guidelines on caffeine, so diet “energy drinks” are allowed.
Simon: Anything else you find troubling?
Bellatti: For the food guidelines, USDA has adopted FDA’s rule to allow foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving to be “rounded down” to zero grams. This bothers me, as it should not be used as a guideline; rather, the presence of partially hydrogenated oils in a product should automatically disqualify it from being sold in schools.
Are these guidelines better? In some ways, yes. However, they still fall prey to nutritionism by utilizing numbers on the nutrition facts label rather than ingredient quality. They also propagate the troubling idea that as long as a food product offers calcium, it shouldn't have any problem finding its way into schools, no matter how sugary or processed.
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH pages for more related news on this topic.
Food and beverage companies regularly obscure the negative health effects of over-consuming sugar when trying to influence food policy, according to a new report from the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The report, Added Sugar, Subtracted Science, comes as Congress debates allowing states to opt out of federal school lunch standards and as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers an added-sugar label on foods.
“Sugar interests are using the same playbook the tobacco industry pioneered,” said Gretchen Goldman, a lead analyst for the center and the report’s author. “They question the science, hire their own experts and try to hide the simple fact that eating too much sugar is bad for our health.”
The report draws heavily from documents released earlier this year as part of a lawsuit between the Sugar Association, which represents the sugar cane and sugar beet industry, and the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), which represents corn syrup producers.
Scientific evidence clearly links over-consuming sugar to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other illnesses, but in many cases, trade groups and the companies they represent dismiss the evidence and refuse to acknowledge the public health damage their products cause.
For instance, while seeking to weaken federal school lunch standards in 2013, General Mills told the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that except for dental issues “sugar intake has not been shown to be directly associated with obesity or any chronic disease or health condition.”
Similarly, the Sugar Association told the USDA that “experts continue to conclude that sugar intake is not a causative factor in any disease, including obesity.” Ultimately, the USDA adopted a weaker rule than it first proposed, limiting kids’ sugar intake at school by weight rather than by calorie as public health experts had recommended.
The CRA has long funded two controversial scientists to produce research that aligned with CRA’s policy goals. Dr. John White and Dr. James Rippe were paid to promote the idea that corn syrup affects the body the same way table sugar does. A 2013 email from an employee at Cargill, which sits on the group’s board, described Dr. White as “CRA’s hired gun.”
Similarly, CRA has suggested that inconvenient findings about sugar should be concealed from the public. When a 2011 University of Southern California study found that there was more high fructose corn syrup in products than companies were disclosing, a CRA consultant suggested that the group sponsor its own research and that “if for any reason the results confirm [the original study], we can just bury the data.”
In 2009, the Sugar Association created a website to promote unscientific claims about sugar and diabetes. The now-defunct website claimed that “No! Sugar in the diet does not cause diabetes.” Similarly, for Halloween in 2010, the group created a factsheet that claimed “sugar adds to the quality of children’s diet.” A memo from a staffer at the time described the group’s strategy to “question the existing science” on the health effects of glucose versus sucrose.
The food industry adds sugar to a variety of products, including cereal, yogurt, soup and bread. Americans consume about twice as much sugar, on average, than the USDA indicates they should in its dietary guidelines.
Goldman will share the report findings at a June 26 public hearing the FDA is hosting in Washington, D.C. on its proposed added sugar label and other Nutrition Facts label changes. Several trade groups, including the Sugar Association, have already asked FDA to extend the comment period on the rule and the Grocery Manufacturers Association is promoting a misleading voluntary labeling program for its members. Other trade groups, including the CRA, have asked the FDA to wait for them to conduct their own research regarding consumer reception of new label changes.
Several public health experts have written to the FDA to ask the agency to adopt an added sugar label. Last month, the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS released a report documenting how the food industry obscures the added sugar in its products, including by highlighting other nutritional information, such as protein content in yogurt and whole grains in cereal.
“The good news is that the science is clear and people seem to be waking up to the risks associated with eating too much sugar,” Goldman said. “The bad news is that producers of sugar and sugary products continue to mislead decision makers on the science in order to undermine health and food policies.”
The report recommends that researchers disclose all real or perceived conflicts of interest, that investors and citizens pressure companies to align their consumer marketing and policy advocacy efforts with established science, and that Congress and federal agencies enhance transparency around corporate political activities.
The U.S. is in the midst of a public health epidemic due to poor diet. While much of the focus has been on obvious culprits such as sugary soft drinks and fast food, dairy foods often get a pass. The dairy industry, propped up by government, has convinced us of the health benefits of milk and other dairy products. But the context of how people consume dairy matters.
My new report, Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods, shines a light on the shifting patterns of consumption away from plain milk toward dairy products laden with sugar, fat and salt. For example:
- About half of all milk is consumed either as flavored milk, with cereal, or in a drink.
- Nearly half of the milk supply goes to make about 9 billion pounds of cheese and 1.5 billion gallons of frozen desserts–two-thirds of which is ice cream.
- 11 percent of all sugar goes into the production of dairy products.
It’s bad enough for the dairy industry to promote junk food in the name of health, but making matters worse, Uncle Sam is propping up the effort. The federal government mandates the collection of industry fees for “checkoff programs” to promote milk and dairy. Far from being just a privately-funded program, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees attend checkoff meetings, monitor activities and are responsible for evaluation of the programs. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the checkoff programs as “government speech,” finding: “the message … is controlled by the Federal Government.”
Checkoff money is also only supposed to be used for “generic” marketing activities. However, the program gives a huge boost to leading fast food chains. For example:
- McDonald’s has six dedicated dairy checkoff program employees at its corporate headquarters who work to ensure that dairy plays an important role in McDonald’s product development.
- The dairy checkoff program helped Taco Bell introduce its double steak quesadillas and cheese shreds, which resulted in a four percent increase in the chain’s dairy sales.
- The dairy checkoff program helped Pizza Hut develop a 3-Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza and the “Summer of Cheese” ad campaign.
- Dominos benefitted from a $35 million partnership with the dairy checkoff program, resulting in the company adding more cheese, with other pizza makers following their lead.
- Domino’s “Smart Slice” program brought the pizza to more than 2,000 schools in 2011, with help from the checkoff.
Speaking of schools, the dairy industry, with a government assist, is heavily promoting chocolate and other sugar milks to schoolchildren, desperate to maintain its presence in a lucrative market with a captive audience. For example:
- USDA’s milk checkoff program promotes “Chocolate Milk Has Muscle” and “Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk” campaigns to defend chocolate milk.
- Dean Foods’ TruMoo is a popular brand sold in schools; one serving of TruMoo strawberry milk contains an incredible 23 grams of sugar.
- Milk checkoff educational materials were even used to change the mind of one school official who was planning to remove flavored milk.
Finally, many federal checkoff-funded dairy organizations make dubious health claims to market their dressed up junk foods. Would you believe that:
- “Cheese can fit into almost any eating plan.”
- “Process cheese is made from natural cheese.”
- “Cheese contributes essential nutrients for good health.”
- “Chocolate milk is the perfect balance of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and protein—a combination that can’t be found in any other beverage.”
At a time when our nation is suffering from an epidemic of diet-related health problems, we cannot allow the decades of whitewashing by the dairy industry to continue. The assumption that eating dairy is essential to the diet has obstructed our ability to criticize federal government support for unhealthy forms of dairy.
It’s time to stop dancing around the federal checkoff programs by pretending they are privately-funded. As this report demonstrates, federal government administers, oversees and approves almost every aspect of the dairy checkoff program. These funds are directly used to promote junk foods, which are contributing to the diseases our federal government is allegedly trying to prevent.
Andy Bellatti is a registered dietitian who contributed to the report by calling out the many misleading health claims made by the dairy industry. He says:
In our cultural glorification of dairy, we often forget that many of these products are directly contributing to our current public health epidemic. Even more troubling, due to the dairy industry’s deep pockets and political connections, federal authorities are giving these foods a stamp of approval, rather than raising a nutritional red flag.