Great question. Please see the resource “What causes food cravings and how can I curb them?”.
I have read your numerous posts on how aspartame is “safe”. But why all this controversy? I can’t understand who to trust. It seems every and any authority is saying it is either safe or extremely harmful. Dr. Mercola (mercola.com) says it is dangerous along with all these other “Dr.’s” on 60 minutes but the FDA says it’s all good and the cosmetic database says there is no harm in it despite some studies saying it causes some mutations in lab rats. I drink almost 1-2 gallons a week according to my calculations and this was one of the thresholds for interrupting homeostasis in the body.Thursday, March 24th, 2011
Thank you for reading The Dish. I use Health Canada and Dietitians of Canada as a reference for many of my posts. Although aspartame is permitted for use as a food additive in Canada, I don’t usually recommend it. It is “artificial”, made from a chemical process and many experts and consumers alike are trying to minimize our exposure to chemicals in all regards. Concerns arise with increased intake. Having 1-2 gallons per week of an aspartame containing beverage is of increased concern compared to someone who drinks a couple of cans of diet pop in a week. Even if we set aside the chemical issue, this amount of a beverage containing aspartame is likely displacing more nutritious beverages from your diet. Also, if the beverage is diet pop the acidity can damage tooth enamel.
Although aspartame is considered “safe”, the ADI (or Acceptable Daily Intake) for aspartame is 40 mg/kg body weight per day. For example, a 50 kg (110 lb) person could safely have 2000 mg of aspartame per day. One can of diet pop contains up to 200 mg of aspartame BUT that doesn’t mean it is recommended to drink 10 cans of pop in a day or even in a week.
There is a breadth of health information online and it is important to critically evaluate everything we read and look for scientific references. It is also important to make food and beverage choices you believe in. For example, some people prefer only organic foods while others choose items with the best value. So I really leave it up to the individual.
Nutritional science is also an evolving field, who knows what new information or products will be available in 10 years time. Have you heard of Stevia? There may be more beverages available soon with this plant based sweetener which is also much sweeter than regular sugar but without the calories.
I was wondering how healthy granola bars are? Specifically Nutri-Grain bars and Nature Valley, are they actually nutritious?Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
Firstly I will say that as per Canada’s Food Guide, “Another important step towards better health and healthy body weight is limiting foods high in calories, fat, sugar or salt such as cookies and granola bars…”
The problem with granola bars is they sound healthier than they are. Have a look at the ingredient list. One of my key recommendations is if there are ingredients you cannot pronounce it is a good idea to put the product back. Although Nutri-Grain bars are “made with whole grain oats” they only have about 1 gram of fiber per bar. That is not a lot considering we need 25-35grams of fiber a day. Also their “real fruit filling” is mostly sugar as well as the second ingredient in the crust.
With Nature’s Valley products, there are many of types of bars but most of them too are not a good source of fiber (only 1-2grams per bar) and are packed with a lot of sugar and ingredients you cannot pronounce.
I’d recommend making your own granola bars, try the Booster Bar recipe I posted a while back. Or if you are looking for a quick portable snack, I recommend trail mix. Make your own with your favorite, plain nuts and seeds. Try trail mix with a piece of fruit for a snack instead of a commercial granola bar.
I was wondering if there were some spices we could add into the berry banana shake? Would it be better with vanilla extract or added sugar or perhaps nutmeg? I made a banana blueberry shake today and found it didn’t taste as good as, say, Orange Julius or Starbucks. What is the difference between their recipe and ours?Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Thanks for your great question, I’m glad you tried the Banana Berry Smoothie recipe. The big difference is likely added sugar. Orange Julius and Starbucks don’t give away their recipes online but judging from the nutrition information there is added sugar. One thing I would suggest it using a very ripe banana. The more ripe, the sweeter it tastes. Also feel free to add any other flavors that you prefer, vanilla and nutmeg are great ideas. You could also try cinnamon. Also try different combinations of fruit to see what you like best. If you prefer a super sweet taste it’s okay to add a teaspoon or 2 of sugar or honey. Your homemade version would still have less sugar than the store bought equivalents.
With regard to yogurt, I’m wondering why Silhouette can provide more vitamins with less calories than any other brands? Is there a single most recommended yogurt brand out there?Thursday, March 18th, 2010
I just reviewed the specific nutritional information for Silhouette and a comparable product, Yoplait Source. I wouldn’t say Silhouette has more vitamins. Both Silhouette and Yoplait Source have the same amount of Vitamins A, D and B2. Source actually has more vitamin B12 while Silhouette has more vitamin B5. But overall they are very slight differences that will not have a great impact on your daily nutrient intake.
Silhouette has less calories though because it is sweetened with an artificial sweetener called Sucralose. You may have heard of Splenda, it is a sucralose-based artificial sweetener. I don’t recommend products sweetened artificially, go for natural sweetness instead. The best alternative is buying plain yogurt and adding your own fruit or sprinkle of sugar. Or choose a product that is all, or at least partially, naturally sweetened like those from Astro or Dairlyland. And just so you know this is not an endorsement.
There is a lot of concern among students regarding sugar intake. Keep in mind that as adults we do not want to consume more than 10-12 teaspoons of added sugar per day. That does not include the naturally occurring sugar that is in milk and fruit. So there is no need to go with an artificially sweetened yogurt.
Interestingly, when I was looking at the Silhouette website, they promote that their product does not contain Aspartame. Which is fine, but sucralose is just another type of artificial sweetener so what is the big deal? Also, in my opinion any snack that only gives you 35 calories is not really much of a snack at all.
I am a very active person who has recently been diagnosed with an overgrowth of candida (yeast) in my body. It was recommended that I eliminate as many sugars in my diet as I can, including carbohydrates found in pasta and the like. How does a very active person eliminate as many carbs as possible, yet still have enough energy to exercise?Monday, March 8th, 2010
This is not true and I hope it wasn’t a doctor who gave you this advice. Anti-candida diets are very popular in the lay literature and alternative medicine but there is no scientific evidence to support their use. There is some evidence to support restricting refined carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are our primary energy source, especially for active individuals so I would never tell you to eliminate carbohydrates. You absolutely need energy from carbohydrates! Choose whole grain (as much as possible) breads, pasta and brown rice. Whole-grain grain products are less refined. Focus on eliminating more refined carbohydrates such as sugars found in sweets such as candy, cookies, pastries etc.
There is a dramatic difference between refined carbohydrates (such as sugar and white flour) and whole grain carbohydrates (whole grain bread, brown rice). Even though our body breaks them all down into sugar or glucose, whole grains are providing us key nutrients such as folate and fiber while refined carbohydrates are just contributing energy.
You may also be interested in taking a probiotic supplement to manage candida. Although there is not enough scientific evidence to support this, Esther Blum (a Registered Dietitian) has a great book called, “Eat, Drink and Be Gorgeous” that talks about remedying yeast overgrowth.
Does fruit and milk sugar break down in the body the same way as regular table sugar? Are they all considered of equal “healthyness”?Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
The sugar found in fruit is called fructose and the sugar in milk is called lactose. Table sugar is sucrose. Sugars are broken down into monosaccharides (single units of carbohydrate) during digestion.
Lactose = glucose + galactose
Sucrose = glucose + fructose
All sugars provide 4 calories per gram. After sugars are broken down they pass through the wall of our intestine into the blood stream, to the liver and to our body’s tissues. I would not recommend choosing foods that contain sugar based on the way our body breaks them down.
However, fructose in fruit and lactose in milk are naturally occurring sugars in foods which fit into Canada’s Food Guide. Fruit provides additional nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium and fiber while milk is a great source of calcium and vitamin D. Sucrose (table sugar) is an added sugar and is one we want to limit, as the advice in Canada’s Food Guide states, “Limit foods and beverages high in calories, fat, sugar or salt.” Sucrose does not provide any additional nutrients; it is often referred to as an “empty calorie” meaning it is contributing energy to our diet and not much else. So in terms of your question when we think of healthy eating, these sugars are NOT equal. See another similar question on fructose by clicking here.
My aunt asked me my opinion of Splenda as a Kines student. I did a bit of research but wanted to hear your opinion as well, specifically on it’s controversy as an artificial sweetener. I heard that any sweet taste leads to an insulin response which, in artificial products like Splenda since it is not absorbed, would then cause hypoglycemia and increased food intake the next meal.Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
I don’t recommend artificial sweeteners to the general population. In some cases, such as individuals with diabetes, an artificial sweetener can be used to help control blood sugar.
Insulin is a hormone which helps our body’s cells absorb glucose, our primary fuel. Insulin is ONLY secreted in response to a carbohydrate rich food being ingested. Any sweet taste does NOT lead to an insulin response. You included a link from Wikipedia in your question, above that quote there is a message that denotes “unverifiable information”. I am really glad you asked your question rather than trust the incorrect information online.
There is fair evidence to indicate that artificial sweeteners, including sucralose (Splenda), are safe for daily use in moderation or below their Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). Health Canada also has to approve sweeteners before they can be used and sucralose has been approved as a food additive. If you are curious about the different sweeteners and their ADI, check out this Sugar and Sweeteners resource from the Canadian Diabetes Association.
There is also some evidence that suggests foods that use artificial sweeteners do not register the same fullness cues in our body as foods that contain sugar. Or that people end up eating more of an item that contains an artificial sweetener because they believe it is not contributing any calories to their diet. Artificial sweeteners do not affect our blood sugar but sometimes they are in foods that contain other carbohydrates which do impact our blood sugar.
To add to the controversy, artificial sweeteners are not a natural food, they are produced by a chemical process. I am not concerned with occasional use of artificial sweeteners but I always ask students, why are you using them? Making our food and beverage choices according to Canada’s Food Guide is best, and you won’t find any artificial sweeteners listed there.
Nutrition Question: On a nutrition label, if it says 30g carbohydrates, and say 3 of those is sugars or even fibre does that mean the other 27 is starch i.e. complex carbs or the good stuff?Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
Yes, only some labels will include the starch but the numbers should all add up.
And to add some background to your question….all carbohydrate is broken down into glucose (blood sugar). Your body uses this sugar for energy for your cells, tissues and organs.
Carbohydrates are called simple or complex, depending on how fast your body digests and absorbs the sugar. Simple carbohydrates can be from naturally occurring sugars (such as honey and molasses, as well as those found in vegetables, fruit and milk) or refined sugars such as syrups, jams, jelly, table sugar and those in soft drinks and candies. Complex carbohydrates or starches are found in rice, bread, pasta, legumes and starchy vegetables like potatoes.
I hope you are not spending too much time doing math with nutrition facts labels. Keep in mind some sugars are naturally occurring and not necessarily “bad”. You need a balance of simple and complex carbohydrate choices to meet your nutrient needs. Canada’s Food Guide is a great reference to ensure you are choosing quality carbohydrate.
Nutrition Question: I consume about 2-3 packets of Splenda each day. Everyone gives me a hard time about it and says it is bad for me. Am I setting myself up for repercussions in the future?Thursday, April 2nd, 2009
Not in my opinion, this is in line with Dietitians of Canada. Splenda is the brand name for the sweetener called sucralose. Health Canada must approve all the artificial sweeteners that are sold in Canada. A sweetener has to undergo extensive research to show its safety and effectiveness before Health Canada will approve it for use. Once a sweetener is approved, Health Canada sets strict guidelines for how it can be used.
There are also Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels established for each artificial sweetener. For sucralose the ADI is 8.8mg/kg of body weight. For the average adult, that equates to about 85 packets of Splenda! Not that you should consume that much, you can suffer from side effects when your intake is very high. But that helps to put things in perspective, having 2-3 packets a day is just fine.
In moderation, both sugars and artificial sweeteners can be part of your healthy eating plan.