We have all heard that excessive fat consumption is related to poor heart health and excessive weight. But did you know that research now proves that excessive sugar intake is just as bad or worse? Increased sugar intake by Americans over the past 40 years is being pointed to by the American Heart Association as a primary reason for increased weight, proliferation of cadiovascular disease and reduced intake of nutrients in our diets. As a result of this compelling research, the American Heart Association recommends that we all minimize the intake of beverages and foods with added sugars, like soft drinks (also known as "liquid candy"). If you have been telling yourself that it is natural to gain weight as you age and blaming it on your metabolism...think again. Maybe it is simply because, on average, Americans are taking in 19% more calories than they were 40 years ago. Where do those excess calories go? Straight to your waistline. To read the entire article, search Dietary Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Health.
Goal: Eliminate soda from your diet for one whole week. Don't replace it with diet soda or other unhealthy beverages like sweet tea, milkshakes or energy drinks. Simply drink plenty of cold refreshing water. Do you think you can do it? I did it. This is despite the easy availability of soda in my workplace. While everyone else is sipping down the calories (or the unhealthy chemical sugar substitutes that some experts say are even worse), I treat myself to one cup of coffee per shift and about a liter of water. I rarely crave soda anymore like I used to and every once in a while, when I allow myself to have a single serving...I often wonder why I ever thought it was so great. Where else can you eliminate added sugars in your diet? Can you learn to drink your coffee without sugar? Can you experiment with reducing the added sugar in dessert recipes? What about breakfast? Breakfast cereals are a landmine of hidden sugar. Find a tasty one with plenty of fiber and no high fructose corn syrup. I bet you will be surprised at how difficult that is. An easy solution is plain instant oatmeal (plain is the only one with no added sugar) with fresh fruit, nuts, and cinnamon sprinkled in. Delicious! I also like raisins, pure vanilla extract and hazelnut in my oatmeal. I've even added unsweetened cocoa to make it a real indulgance! And for a cold indulgance, try my sister's recipe for homemade granola. Store bought granola has an unearned repuation as a health food. Most have outlandish amounts of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. My sister relies on a small amount of honey and dried fruits to sweeten hers.
Val's Homemade Granola:
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup honey
1 cup dried fruits (raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries, etc...)
Melt butter in small saucepan. Add cinnamon, salt, vanilla extract and honey and stir to combine. Combine remaining dry ingredients (except dried fruit). Pour honey/butter mixture over and mix well. Spread on two baking sheets in thin layer and bake 20-25 minutes at 325 degrees F. As soon as it comes out of the oven, break it up and mix in dried fruit. Store in airtight container. Enjoy dry or with milk or soy milk.