Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad?

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I always thought I was doing myself a favor when I would use an artificial sweetener or sugar substitute in my tea, cereal, or anything else I would sprinkle it in, or on. Now all of a sudden I hear advertising claims for the use of sugar.  What gives?

Artificial sweeteners can raise insulin levels, which in turn will send a message to the brain to store fat, which leads to weight gain. It may be psychological as well. When we are told that something has no calories or less calories, we automatically believe that there is room for more. Maybe by cutting calories in your diet soda intake, you justify the burger, fries, chips, second portion of mashed potatoes or whatever you have.

Did you know that as little as one diet soda a day can increase your risk of diabetes or metabolic syndrome? Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that includes increased cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, larger waistlines and elevated glucose. This raises your risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Other negative affects can be headaches, tooth enamel loss and an increased risk of depression. Lower bone mineral density in female soda drinkers, raises the chance of osteoporosis as well.

Nutritional Value? Forget it. Not with an artificial sweetener. Do yourself a favor and drink water. So you like the bubbles? Get sparkling water, or put a straw in the glass and blow bubbles. Just kidding about the straw, I wanted to see if you were still reading. But I enjoyed it as a kid. My dad wasn’t so thrilled with me though.

If you are weaning yourself off of regular soda, a diet alternative soda may be for you, but only if it is short term. Our brains are wired to receive the signal that it had sugar, Not an artificial sweetener.

Our brain responds to sweets by telling us to have more. When we take in a sweet flavor without calorie content, the craving is not satisfied and we drink or eat more sweets to try to make up that difference, thus taking in more calories. Remember that the excess is stored as fat. Sugar actually sends a signal to the brain that it has received it’s reward, Sucralose, (my sweetener of choice),will not do that. So the viscous cycle continues. I will throw a word of caution about the excessive use of refined sugars. Moderation!

I am not a licensed medical professional, registered dietitian, nor do I claim to have all the answers. I am trying to raise your awareness of the possible dangers or hurdles you could face with a weight loss program. If you question this, please research for yourself. Knowledge and the application of it will take you extremely far. 

In fitness, Bob

Chocolate please!

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IMG_20141021_164239_405                                                                                                             The health benefits of chocolate are an excellent reason to indulge daily, not to mention the numerous ways that you can use it while cooking. In it’s purest form, it is bitter. It is only after a fermenting, roasting and mild sweetening, that the raw form of cacao becomes cocoa and then the luscious chocolate that we know and love.

Cacao is a bean the comes from the cacao tree. The beans are found inside football shaped pods that grow on the limbs and trunk of the tree.

Cocoa has been used medicinally for it’s health benefits throughout history. Even more recently it has been shown to decrease blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of stroke, and improve blood vessel health. Decreasing your LDL (bad),  and increasing your HDL (good) cholesterol level, helps improve your cardiovascular health. Cocoa is rich in flavonoids (antioxidants), which has also been found to lower the risk of diabetes.

Mood is elevated by the anti-depressant properties when an increase of dopamine and seratonin are released. No wonder marketing professionals make chocolate seem so seductive, It is!

Chocolate in it’s healthiest form has little to no sugar or added ingredients. When you buy chocolate for your health, try to stick to 70% dark or above.

IMG_20141021_164304_912                                                                                                            One of my favorite ways to indulge in 100% pure cocoa, is to mix 1/2 Tbsp into 8oz plain Greek yogurt, sprinkle in some cinnamon powder and sweeten lightly with honey or agave and serve. Sprinkle pure cocoa on top of banana slices, coated with  peanut butter for a snack. If you are looking for a way to change up a pot of red chili, try adding a couple tablespoons of cocoa in for some extreme depth. This goes well with a touch more heat from your choice of spicy seasoning as well.                                                                                   In fitness, Bob