Soda, Diet Soda–is it really that bad?

I think the general consensus on soda is that it is most definitely bad for the body.  Caffeine, fructose corn syrup, and many other ingredients the average person (well, me) can’t pronounce are just a few reasons that soda has been declared unhealthy.  Many people have listened to the warnings about the high sugar content of regular soda.  The general public seems to be listening to their doctors and dentists touting the potential damage that sugar can cause to the body’s organs, mouth and teeth, and fat content,  So diet soda is the new choice.  As a matter of fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one fifth of all Americans are consuming diet soda every day.  That’s a lot of artificial sweetener in a lot of people!  How about diet soda?  Are there potential health risks associated with drinking diet soda?

Any adult with internet access has probably seen something somewhere declaring artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, deadly.  The last such post I read on Facebook equated aspartame to embalming fluid, stating that every diet soda drinker was slowly preserving/pickling every cell in the body.  I have read other suppositions blaming diet soda for constipation, heartburn, obesity, diabetes, as well as many more much more outrageous claims.  I’m inclined to agree that artificial sweetener isn’t natural.  It even says it in the name, artificial.  I’m not sure how much I believe when it comes to radical claims such as aspartame pickled so-and-so’s mother’s brain, or paralyzed Billy’s cousin, or gave Juanita cancer.  Time to consult the experts I suppose.

An article from Medical Daily was recently released, outlining whether diet soda is worse or better for you than regular soda.  You can read the full article here.  In this article, a certified dietitian weighs in on diet soda, stating that diet soda has been shown to actually cause an increase in weight gain.  While this is indeed true, I would like to say whoa, don’t jump to conclusions!  There has been very limited studies completed concerning diet soda.  According to WebMD, there have only been four studies completed, and only a couple studies have been performed on humans.  So while there has truly been a study linking diet soda to weight gain, one study isn’t enough to call it conclusive evidence that diet soda is going to make you fat.  There have been many studies completed linking soda in general to obesity, period.  The bottom line for many Americans is that soda is just no good, in any form.  That bottom line decision is affecting the soda industry’s bottom line, too.

Bloomberg Business Week spoke with Coca-Cola’s president in July about declining sales.  Coca-Cola has been the nation’s number one in soda sales since Coca-Cola’s inception.  In 1998, Americans were drinking, on average, 56 gallons of soda yearly.  Now, however, soda purchasing levels have dropped drastically, to only an average of 5,400 ounces of soda a year, or 42 gallons.  The decrease in sales translates to about a $1.2 billion loss for Coca-Cola.  I wonder if that translated to an increase in health for Americans?

While the overall decline in soda consumption should mean that Americans are taking their health more seriously, I somehow doubt that a reduction in soda intake really speaks of a reduction in sugar and caffeine intake.  When talking to a co-worker about diet and exercise, she proudly declared she had quit drinking soda.  She then turned and took a swig on a zero-calorie energy drink.  I wonder what the long-term health ramifications of energy drinks will be?  Is caffeine in any form something to be avoided?

Caffeine is the only legal, non-prescribed, form of stimulant not exclusively found in medication in American.  The word stimulant makes me nervous.  A stimulant surely can’t be a healthy choice, right?  Well, the Mayo Clinic says that the amount of caffeine found in about 10 cans of average cola is safe.  That is approximately four cups of coffee.  So, if even the Mayo Clinic says caffeine is okay, who am I to argue?

There may not be an answer to the soda dilemma.  There aren’t enough scientific studies to make a positive declaration either for or against all forms of soda.  But, we may not need a study to use our common sense.  It can’t be healthy to replace all the intake that should be water with carbonated beverages.  The body needs quite a bit of water to function properly.  If I’m getting most of my fluids in the form of soda, diet or otherwise, I know I won’t be as interested in drinking the same amount of water as I would if I weren’t drinking soda.  So, just because there isn’t a definitive answer either for or against soda yet, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t stop and think.  Listen to our bodies.  That’s what I plan to do.

Never Go On A Diet–Guest Post

This week I have participated in a blog swap!  My guest poster is Megan Starbuck.  She is a tiny house enthusiast that enjoys blogging about her unusual lifestyle.  She has paid off her student loans in three years while still enjoying life by traveling outside the country.  Other than being a nanny and an aunt to 11 nieces and nephews, she also studied Kinesiology because of her interest in fitness and nutrition.  You can check her out here or here, and look for my guest post on her blog here.  

Thank you, Megan for a great experience!  Please keep reading for the guest post from Megan on nutrition.

Mindy Minix

 

“Never go on a diet.”That’s some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. It’s worked out pretty well for me so far.

Diets seem to focus on cutting out a certain food because it’s bad for you (which here lately seems to be all food). This is frequently what causes people’s weight to fluctuate so much because they eventually reintroduce those foods into what they typically eat.

I prefer to focus on balance, common sense, and grace. I mean, we’re all gonna die anyway. Give yourself a break. You’re never gonna “figure it out” by following the latest trends. Relax, and do what works for you.

Some people swear by the all or nothing approach. To me, it’s not practical or even healthy to go without sugar or white bread. Don’t get me wrong, I try to avoid it to an extent. However, the thought of never having it again makes me feel deprived. Instead, I slowly began eating less of it so that I don’t crave it. If it’s the only thing to eat at a party, though, I’m not going to go hungry. I just take a smaller portion. As I said, that may not work for you. There’s no need for you to be like me. Know yourself, be patient with yourself, and be yourself.

I think Shel Silverstein’s poem makes the point pretty well about how ridiculous we sometimes are over our food:

I was waitin’ in Rosie’s Restaurant
When the waiter came up and said, “What do you want?”
I looked at the menu — it looked so nice
Till he said, “Let me give you some advice”
He said, “Spaghetti and potatoes got too much starch,
Pork chops and sausage are bad for your heart.
There’s hormones in chicken and beef and veal.
Bowl of ravioli is a dead man’s meal.
Bread got preservatives, there’s nitrites in ham,
Artificial coloring in jellies and jam.
Stay away from donuts. Run away from pie.
Pepperoni pizza is a sure way to die.
Sugar rots your teeth and make you put on weight.
But artificial sweetener’s got cyclamates.
Eggs got cholesterol. There’s fat in cheese.
Coffee ruins your kidneys, and so does tea.
Fish got mercury. Red meat is poison.
Salt’s gonna send your blood pressure risin’.
Hot dogs and bologna got deadly red dyes.
Vegetables and fruits are sprayed with pesticides.”So I said, “What can I eat that’s gonna make me last?”
He said, “A small drink of water in a sterilized glass.”
And then he stopped and he thought for a minute,
And said, “Never mind the water — there’s carcinogenics in it.”
So I got up from the table and walked out in the street
Realizing there was nothing I could eat.
I ain’t eaten for a month, and I’m feeling fine…

So, go enjoy your favorite fruits and vegetables, but don’t feel guilty about having a little dessert afterwards or junk food snacks here and there. The stress and guilt and worry about being a particular weight is worse for you than the dessert.

Enjoy life.Appreciate where you are now. Be thankful for your body and all that it can do for you even if you don’t always like the way it looks.

If you are overweight, let me tell you a secret.
Yep, lean in close.
*whispers* Being your ideal weight doesn’t make you love everything about your body.
There. Now don’t you feel better?All those people you were comparing yourself to? The ones you want to look like or fit in with? They don’t like everything about the way they look. Maybe you’ve already noticed their complaints about themselves…complaints that probably make you feel even more self-conscious.

So go ahead and focus on the things you do like about yourself. And do something that makes you feel strong and free. Health has to do with more than what’s on the outside. Take up journaling to keep your mind from being overwhelmed. Make it a list of things you’re grateful for, or use it to express your frustration, but try to end on a positive note reasoning with yourself as to why your negative self-talk isn’t true. You’ll have a far healthier self-image than those focused on all of their flaws and trying to cover them up.

And if you haven’t already, make sure to never go on a diet.

Have you ever found yourself at a restaurant feeling like you’re in Silverstein’s poem with nothing safe to eat?

My Hummus Experience

It took me a long time to get up the nerve to try hummus. Just the name made me nervous. I had never heard of a chickpea until I began researching hummus. I finally tried some hummus a couple of years ago, and now I am so happy I did. Before I tried any hummus, I called up my favorite vegetarian friend and asked her for advice. I wanted to make sure I was going to try hummus at its best. She broke it down for me.

Her best advice was that I stick with major brands only. I live in an area where there are no specialty stores, so she suggested Sabra hummus. It was a brand I could find at my very small, local store as well as Wal-Mart and other larger supermarkets further away from home. Wal-Mart also makes a hummus by the brand name of Marketside. There is more variety in this brand, but I’m not particularly adventurous.

My personal favorite is roasted garlic hummus, but there are several flavors in both brands. Plain hummus on a pita with black olives, feta cheese, Romaine lettuce, and onions is pretty yummy. Roasted red pepper hummus with tortilla chips is another option to try if you like a little spice.

Some benefits to eating hummus are all diet related, obviously. Hummus with some Pretzel Crisps is a good substitute for traditional chips and dips. Hummus is a good source of protein and healthy fat. Yes, I just said healthy fat. Look it up. The protein will help you feel fuller longer. Hummus also contains iron, and who doesn’t need a little iron?  Chickpeas have been shown to lower cholesterol, as noted here.

So the next time you are feeling adventurous, try some hummus.  It’s pretty good!

Green Bean Fries

I have been searching for an alternative to French fries for, well, most of my life.  Sweet potato fries are a healthier alternative, but sweet potatoes still carry quite a bit of carbohydrates.  Sweet potato fries are a bit labor intensive and time consuming to prepare (at least without using a fryer), too.  I have discovered an alternative that still satisfies my craving for French fries.

Green bean fries are the best! 

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees (Fahrenheit)
2. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
3. Take as many fresh green beans as you want, or as many as will fit in a single layer on the cookie sheet, and rinse. 
4. Pat these dry with a towel, and then remove the stem ends of the green beans.
5. Place green beans in a bowl or a large ziplock bag.
6. Add oil of your choice (I use extra virgin olive oil) to very lightly coat the green beans.  This is approximately 2 tbsp of oil for an entire gallon bag of green beans, with oil remaining in the bag after green beans have been removed.
7. Add seasoning of your choice.  1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper is my favorite mixture.
8. Toss the green beans, or shake the bag, to coat thoroughly.
9. Place in a single layer on the cookie sheet.
10. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Flip the green beans.  Bake for another 8-10 minutes until desired level of crispiness.

I prefer mine to be a bit like a soggy McDonald’s fry, and so I only cook for 8 minutes each time.  Cayenne and chili powder could also be added to make green bean fries with a kick.

Memorial Day Diet

Memorial Day and BBQ are practically synonymous these days.  Our diets play a leading role in determining our overall health and wellness.  So today, Memorial Day, I thought I would take a look at the diet of our troops when they are on front lines.  

MREs, or meals ready to eat, is a familiar term for most adults.  Many jokes exist about the MREs we serve our soldiers, and understandably so.  Any food that can last for years and years probably isn’t the highest level of healthy nutrition in existence.  The latest MRE in development is a pizza that can last for three years in its pouch. 

For a better idea how to prepare and eat these meals, follow the link below to a video from the BBC.

http://youtu.be/c_aldlRKzvQ

For a better idea what soldiers all over the world eat, follow the link below to The Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/02/25/army-ration-packs-worldwide-troops-eat-battle-lines-pictures_n_4854980.html

 

To all those who have served in the U.S. armed forces, thank you does not fully express my gratitude.  To the families of all that have served, whether they have come home or not, thank you for living extraordinary lives to protect our ordinary lives.

Hooray For Intervals

Exercise, exercise, exercise.  The impact regular exercise has on general health and well-being is undeniably significant.  The excuses for not exercising regularly can be endless, though, and the one excuse I find myself using most often is lack of time.  Who has time to go to the gym?

Well, that excuse has now been made invalid.  A study in 2012 showed the positive effects a few minutes of exercise can have on hypertension.  Now a new study with a focus on blood glucose levels has again shown the benefits of exercising for a few minutes several times a day.

Follow the link below to read more at the New York Times blog.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/exercise-snacks-to-control-blood-sugar/

Just The Juicing Facts

Any change in diet can be trying, to say the least.  An extreme change in diet such as juicing is not only trying, but it can be a little scary, too.  There are some facts to consider before making any big changes such as juicing.

1.  Consult your physician.  A generally healthy individual can freely change to a diet that consists of mostly juices without any negative repercussions.  However, an individual with diabetes needs to be well-informed before changing diet strategies.

2.  Protein is a must.  Vegetable and fruit juices will provide all the carbohydrates, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants a body needs.  The body still requires protein to build healthy muscles and cells.  High protein foods such as lean meats, nuts, beans, and certain dairy products can provide the protein the body requires.  Without protein in our diets, the body may begin to pull needed nutrients from muscle tissue, especially if we are actively engaging in exercise several times a week, which can result in muscle wasting.

3.  Fiber, fiber, fiber!  Vegetable and fruit juices without any pulp do not contain fiber.  Adding some pulp from the pulp collector back into the juice will provide the necessary fiber.  The body needs fiber for a healthy digestive tract, but the body also needs fiber to help maintain a healthy blood glucose balance.  For more information, ask your physician, or click here to read what the Mayo Clinic has to say. 

4.  Juicing does not cause diarrhea.  Juicing has an unfair stigma of causing severe gastric upset and diarrhea.  This is, however, not the case with responsible juicing.  Having said that, let’s discuss those who insist juicing gave them uncontrollable diarrhea.  Any food that has not been processed and preserved with chemicals has a higher chance of having bacteria on its surface.  Wash all fruits and vegetables before use to eliminate any bacteria present.  If it looks or smells rotten, go with your gut and toss it.  Also, over-consumption of juice, or juice as the only source of dietary intake, can cause diarrhea.  If the body is only getting liquids, only liquids will be leaving the body.

5.  Vegetable juice goes bad quickly.  The best time to drink vegetable and fruit juice is immediately after it comes out of the juicer.  These juices are not pasteurized, no preservatives added.  This is one of the main draws to juicing is consuming preservative-free foods.  Preparing juice ahead of time, such as juicing in the morning in preparation for lunch, should not cause illness if the juice is being refrigerated.  Just keep in mind that non-citrus juices, even with refrigeration, have a much shorter shelf-life than the average food.

6.  It doesn’t have to taste horrible to be healthy.  A diet high in fruit juice can cause high blood glucose levels, however, a little bit of fruit goes a long way.  Apples, oranges, and strawberries produce quite a bit of juice and can help mask the stronger flavors of vegetables such as bok choy, cabbage, celery, etc.

7.  A little bit of ginger goes a long way.  Juicing a small slice of ginger root with gas-causing foods such as cabbage or broccoli can reduce the occurrence of bloating and odorous gas.  Ginger can also help with nausea and diarrhea. 

8.  Start with boring.  Common vegetables you would normally consume, such as in a salad, combined with your favorite fruit, is a good place to start.  

9.  Beware of juice fasting.  In theory, juice fasting sounds like something that would be highly beneficial to the body.  Anything that can cleanse toxins from the body should obviously be the way to go, right?  As long as the body isn’t being poisoned, a healthy person can expel toxins without any nudges from anything or anyone.  This means, if we aren’t feeding our bodies bad food, then the body will take care of itself.  Juice fasting is most definitely not recommended for individuals with health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.  Again, consult your physician if you have any health conditions before changing your diet.  

10.  Be prepared to pee, a lot.  The first couple days after I began my juicing journey,  I was afraid to go too far away from a bathroom.  I needed to urinate every thirty minutes.  It wasn’t just a little trickle, either.

11.  Energy!  Anyone can Google juicing and find a million reasons why juicing is the best, healthiest choice anyone can make.  The most noticeable difference for me and my husband was the immediate and prolonged increase in energy.

As with any changes in lifestyle, there is always an adjustment period.  Listen to what your body is trying to tell you.  Sometimes a fad is just a fad, and sometimes a fad is based on something real taken out of context and then pushed to the extreme.  Be smart!

Information sources include:
 The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
 US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19935843