I’ve decided to start something new. Check out the upper right-hand corner for the page “What I Ate” to see what I’m eating, including recipe links whenever I can.
It was all over the news last week: the World Health Organization has released draft guidelines on sugar intake. These guidelines recommend a further reduction in added sugar intake from less than 10% of total daily calories to less than 5% of total daily calories. They state that this would be roughly 6 teaspoons of sugar a day for the average person. But what does this really look like?
Let’s look at the “average” person first. The “average” sedentary Canadian woman (31-50 years of age) needs roughly 1, 800 calories per day (1). Honestly, that sounds like rather a lot to me. I’m shorter than the average Canadian woman but far more active; my job is very physical and I’m currently training for the Boston Marathon and that’s about all I need in a day. Anyway… Let’s pretend that Health Canada isn’t over estimating our caloric needs. That would mean that the average Canadian woman should aim to have no more than 90 calories a day from added sugars. Knowing that one gram of sugar contains about 4 calories that means that this Average Woman would be permitted 22.5 grams of added sugar a day, or 5.63 teaspoons.
The Average Man (same age range) needs about 2, 350 calories a day. That would mean that he could have 117.5 of those calories from added sugar, or 29.38 grams, or 7.34 teaspoons.
Now, just to be clear, even though your body doesn’t distinguish between added sugar, refined sugar, unrefined sugar, naturally occurring sugar, yada yada, the WHO is only referring to added sugars. Lest you think that the food industry can get tricky and use pureed fruit or fruit juice concentrate to sweeten foods and get around these counting as “added sugars” these have been included in the definition of added sugar.
Just as most of the sodium in our diets is hidden in processed and packaged foods, so is much of the sugar. It’s not going to be as simple as eliminating the teaspoon of sugar in your cup of tea. Although, if you’re one of those people who adds two sugars to your coffee, once you’ve had two cups you’re creeping up on that limit.
How easy is it to reach that limit? Here are a few common “foods” and their respective sugar contents:
A small (16oz) Coke contains 41.4 g of sugar or 10.35 teaspoons (2).
A medium DQ Blizzard contains 74 g of sugar or 18.5 teaspoons (3).
A vanilla latte at Starbucks has 35 g of sugar or 8.75 teaspoons (4).
A 3/4 cup serving of Liberte 2% Coconut Greek Yoghourt contains 19 g of sugar or 4.75 teaspoons (reference: the tub in my fridge).
Two slices of Dempster’s 12 Grain Bread contain 6 g of sugar or 1.5 teaspoons (5).
Check out this infographic for more.
To be fair, some of these sugars will be naturally occurring. But… How are we as consumers to know how much of the sugar is naturally occurring and how much is added? And does it really matter? Unless we are eating diets that consist solely of unprocessed foods it’s going to be damn near impossible for any of us to know precisely how much sugar in a food is added and how much is naturally occurring. Unless food labels start changing to indicated added and naturally occurring sugars it’s going to be a bit of a guessing game. Personally, I think it would be better if we focussed less on individual nutrients and focussed more on overall diet. Recommending limits on processed and fast food and encouraging increasing consumption of home cooked meals and minimally processed foods would be easier to follow. The way these recommendations are framed they just steer people in developed countries toward foods sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners and allow the food industry to market nutritionally-void foods as healthy choices by replacing sugar with other things. They also make things like fruit juice perfectly acceptable even though they are essentially just liquid candy.
If you’re interested in contributing to the draft guidelines you can download the complete document here and send your comments in by March 31st.
My mum recently sent me a link to this local blog post about hosting successful food swaps. Ever since I heard about food swaps from Zahra at Rustik Magazine a few months back, I’ve thought that they sounded like a pretty great idea. I have yet to get around to attempting to organize one myself (I’ll let you know if I ever do). If you’re interested in organizing one the blog post above is a great place to start and if you’re in the Halifax area feel free to send an invite my way!
The other day one of my twitter RD friends tweeted a link to the post “Broccoli has more protein than steak”—and other crap on the blog Eathropology. Even though the post was written nearly a year ago it’s just as relevant today. I must confess, it was a little long for my attention span (as much as I respect lengthy blog posts, who has time to read them?) but I read most of it and skimmed the rest. And I liked what I read.
The author of Eathropology is Adele Hite, an RD in the US. She’s got a great personable writing style that makes you feel like she’s writing to a close friend while also being intelligent and informative.
I was going to write a Follow Friday post on the new dietary guidelines coming from Brazil last week but 1. I couldn’t actually find the complete document in English anywhere, 2. I’m not 100% gung-ho with what I’ve seen.
It seems that every story on the Brazilian guidelines linked to Marion Nestle’s article on her Food Politics site. She lists the ten guidelines from the guide on her site. While I agree with all of them in spirit, and I can completely get behind statements such as: “Prepare meals from staple and fresh foods.”, there are others that I think are a little too vague. For example, “Use oils, fats, sugar and salt in moderation.” For sometime now we’ve been hearing backlash against the dietitian’s refrain “everything in moderation”. Why? Because moderation means different things to different people and does not provide adequate guidance. The term makes it too easy for all of us to excuse frequent treats as being “in moderation”.
Nestle includes a link to the complete document on her site. Being unable to fully understand Portuguese I can’t comment too much on the document. It does seem that they do include discussion of balanced meals (and hopefully something along the lines of food groups) which is something I felt was missing from the ten guidelines. However, the document is quite long. I can’t imagine many people, other than health professionals, taking the time to read the entire thing. I hope that the plan will be to have an accompanying condensed version for the public.
I stumbled across a tweet from a doctor in the US last week and was so surprised by it that I did a little Internetting to determine if this tweeter was a licenced MD. Yep, she was. Now I’m not going to use her name because, perhaps (although based on Rate my MD, it seems unlikely) she’s a far better physician than she is a tweeter. My aim is not to attack her. My aim to to combat the outrageous information she’s tweeting. So… What’s she been saying?
The first tweet I saw said:
… Along with flax seeds, throw some China seeds into smoothies or yogurt. No flashes!
Wow. Who knew, all you have to do to prevent hot flashes during menopause is to include chia (I assume that’s what she meant by “China” – hey, typos happen to the best of us!) seeds in our diets. Is this true? Maybe. Although I’m highly doubtful that it’s that simple and as far as I can tell there’s been no published research on the subject. There are some studies of chia and weight loss in post-menopausal women but none investigating the effect of chia seed consumption on hot flashes during menopause. There is some anecdotal “evidence” on the Internet extolling the benefits of chia seeds for reduction/elimination of menopause symptoms. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with incorporating chia seeds into your diet at any stage of life, no sensible health care professional would be providing this unsolicited, unsubstantiated advice on social media.
Scrolling through the docs timeline I came across a few other gems. How about?:
Those of you with hypothyroidism should be taking iodine and selenium supplements to help the conversion of T4 to T3.Helps metabolism
Um. No. The only reason for those with hypothyroidism to take iodine supplements is when the condition is caused by iodine deficiency, which is rare in North America (1). There may be benefits to selenium supplementation for those with hypothyroidism. However, there may also be risks associated with long-term supplementation and supplements should be discussed with your primary health care practitioner, not undertaken upon the advice of a tweet.
There are more horrifying tweets but I have to stop somewhere. One last one:
High cholesterol has many causes. Not least of which is heredity. Yes, there are lifestyle efforts we can all undertake to reduce our risk of elevated LDL (low density lipoproteins AKA “Bad cholesterol). However, these will only go so far and some people can lead extremely healthy lifestyles and still have high LDL. While it’s likely that saturated fats are not the evil, cholesterol raising nutrients we once believed them to be there is also no reason to think that increasing consumption of them will reduce blood cholesterol levels. The evidence is not there to support supplementation with krill oil either. As for the refined carbs the doctor lists, unless she’s referring to potato chips or french fries there’s no reason to diss potatoes. In fact, potatoes are one of the most under-rated foods.
Guys, be cautious. You’ve all seen Doctor Oz. He’s not the only doctor spewing nutrition nonsense. Question everything you read.
It’s been a little while since I gave you a recipe blog for a Follow Friday post. I made two things from Cookie + Kate last weekend and they were both great so I think her blog is worthy of sharing. I made her Curried Coconut Quinoa and Greens with Roasted Cauliflower for supper one evening. It was mighty tasty and easy. Just a little chopping. Cauliflower in the oven, everything else in a pot, done. I also made a batch of these Maple Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies to refuel after my long run on Sunday and we satisfied our sweet teeth on them all week.
If you’re looking for easy, delicious, vegetarian recipes, Cookie + Kate is a great place to look.