Archive for October, 2010

Sugar Part 3: Practical Applications

Halloween is right around the corner.  Are you likely to eat more simple or complex carbohydrates?

Of course, as you know from yesterday’s post about sugar digestion and absorption, simple sugars are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and are either used for fuel or stored in the liver and/or fat tissue.  Let’s pretend you go to town on the candy corn and ingest two handfuls of the stuff.  Your blood will be loaded with glucose almost instantly since there is zero protein, fat or fiber in candy corn to slow down absorption.  These are what we call “empty calories,” because they provide absolutely no nutrition to the body.

Ingesting loads of simple sugar might put a dent in your hips, but it will enhance exercise performance, which is why we offer Propel Waters in the gym – a small amount of sugar during a workout is utilized by the muscle and can optimize energy during a tough workout.  Post-exercise, simple sugars shuttle the use of dietary proteins for muscle recovery.

That said, too much simple sugar throughout the day will hinder concentration and any weight loss goals.  For this reason, the majority of your carbohydrate intake should come from complex carbohydrates or naturally occurring sugars from fruits and milk products, versus processed or refined (maple, table sugar, cane, high fructose corn syrup).  This is because complex carbs take a whole lot longer to digest and absorb.

But there is also another a reason why we want most of our carb intake to come from complex over simple.  Complex carbs not only have fiber to help move food quickly through your colon, they also help reduce the risk of colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders.

There are many strategies that you can start today in order to learn more about simple and complex sugars and how to incorporate them into your diet. Here are some ideas:

  1. Begin to read a food label and point out the sugar ingredients. Example: a cup of yogurt has high fructose corn syrup and an oatmeal cup has whole grain rolled oats.  Which one has the simple sugar? If you guessed yogurt, you’re right.
  2. Start to reduce or avoid ingesting empty calories from sugar. Example: If your goal is weight loss, having more than 40 grams of added sugar is an easy way to keep those pounds!
  3. Start the morning with complex carbs.  One idea is to have a cup of oatmeal and add some fruit, to taste.

Sugar Part 2: Digestion and Absorption

The body digests and absorbs simple and complex carbohydrates differently.  Why would this information be useful to you?  Although there is a time and place for both types of sugar in the diet, the quantity and timing will change drastically depending upon your fitness and health goals.  For example, if you want to optimize your workout potential, you will have better physical and mental stamina by ingesting a small amount of simple sugars during the workout.  If your goal is simply to resist hunger pangs between breakfast and lunch, eating complex carbs in the morning will delay the speed at which sugar is absorbed, thereby making you feel fuller for longer.

Digestion and Absorption

Digestion is different from absorption.  Digestion is the route by which food and drink travel through the digestive tract (mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum).  Absorption is the uptake and use of food and drink from the digestive tract.  Both simple and complex carbohydrates must be broken down into glucose before being absorbed into the body.  You can only absorb ONE FORM of sugar from your small intestines and into your bloodstream: glucose.  Glucose is a single molecule of sugar.

Simple Sugars

The body digests and absorbs simple sugars rapidly.  Simple sugars are only one-two molecule sugars. As a result, it takes little to no time for the body to break down simple sugars in the digestive tract.  As soon as you swallow orange juice, soda, or dried fruit, the sugar will move down your esophagus, through your stomach and quickly into the small intestine.  In the small intestine, the simple sugar is absorbed right away into the bloodstream.  Almost instantly, your blood sugar level rises.  The sugar can either be utilized by your muscle and brain cells for fuel, stored in the liver as glycogen, or in your adipose tissues as fat.

Complex Sugars

The body takes a longer amount of time to digest and absorb complex sugars because they have a long chain of molecules that take time to break down.  This is also because the two subgroups of complex sugars (starchy and fibrous) pack a lot of fiber per bite.  Fiber delays the time it takes for food to pass from the stomach to the small intestine.  The body cannot absorb fiber and so complex carbs move faster through the intestines and rectum. Starchy carbs include brown rice, potatoes, oatmeal, whole wheat pastas and whole grains. Fibrous carbs include vegetables like celery, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, spinach, peppers and any dark leafy greens.

Now that you have a brief understanding about how simple and complex carbs are digested and absorbed, I will review practical applications of each tomorrow…

Sugar Part 1: Overview

All carbohydrates are sugars. (The word “sugar” is synonymous with the word “carbohydrate”).  There are two forms of sugar that this post will discuss.  Sugars are either “simple” or “complex.”  We can also call them “simple carbs” or “complex carbs.”

Simple carbs are the types of sugars you find in fruit, fruit juice, table sugar, milk, honey, yogurt, molasses, maple sugar and brown sugar.  These types of sugars are comprised of one or two molecules.  For example, fructose is a simple sugar found in fruit.  Lactose is a simple sugar found in milk.  Sucrose is a simple sugar found in brown and white sugar, cane or beet sugar, molasses and maple sugar.  Simple sugars are absorbed into the body rapidly.

Complex carbs are the the types of sugars you find in vegetables, whole grains, whole grain breads, oatmeal, legumes, brown rice and whole wheat pasta.  They are also known as “starches” and “fiber.”  They are considered complex because they are comprised of long chains of sugar molecules.  Complex carbs are absorbed more slowly into the body.  This is generally because they are packed with fiber, which slows down the digestive process.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the absortive details in what happens when you consume simple and complex carbs.  Stay tuned!

Secrets About Trans-fat Labeling

On a nutrition label, it is easy to tell if a food has trans-fat by looking at the ingredients.  Even if the food states “zero grams trans fat” in the nutrition fact label, there may still be trans-fat in the product if one of the ingredients listed is, “partially hydrogenated oil.”

Why is this the case?

Companies are allowed to state the term “trans-fat-free” if the product provides less than 0.5 grams per serving, since consuming less than this amount daily is considered safe.  But packages tend not to have only one serving, and it is easy to consume over that amount.

How can I tell if a product has trans-fat?

You must read the label to see if it has partially hydrogenated (cottonseed, palm kernal, soybean…etc) oils. Here is an example of a “trans-fat free” product below:

Why does it matter?

Having trans-fat everyday will raise your risk of getting heart disease.  For this reason, it is important to look at the ingredients listed in a product.  As an alternative, try eating foods that have a better and healthier source of fat.  Read yesterday’s post to learn some alternatives.

NxJ’er asks: Why is avocado considered a ‘healthy fat’?

“Why is avocado considered a ‘healthy fat’?” and “what are the differences among dietary fat types?”

At 30 grams of fat, an entire avocado fruit has just as many fat grams as a McDonald’s Big Mac.  But while the Big Mac’s fat comes directly from saturated and trans fat, avocados are loaded with the healthier poly- and mono-unsaturated fats.  The type of fat in an avocado is therefore its discerning characteristic.

Looking at fats more closely

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, there are health differences among the dietary fats.  What makes avocado fats healthier is its high unsaturated fat content.  This type of fat lowers blood cholesterol (if eaten in place of saturated fats).  The two types of fats under the unsaturated fat umbrella are mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.  These types of fats help maintain elasticity of the blood vessels and keep hair, skin and nails strong.  Olives, nuts, seeds, and fish are good sources.

A Big Mac has mostly saturated fat and trans-fat, both of which raise cholesterol.  Saturated fats raise both the good and the bad cholesterol.  Saturated fats are okay to consume, but it should be limited to 10% of your total daily calories.  Usually, you will find saturated fats in animal products (fatty meats, marbled meats, butters, cheeses, whole milk products, half and half, ice cream, and cream).  Additionally, you can find them in vegetable oils, such as coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.

Trans-fat forms when vegetable oil hardens (hydrogenation), and it is a fat that raises bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body AND lowers the good (HDL).  This is the WORST type of fat you could possibly consume, found mostly in fried foods, baked goods and processed foods.

Tomorrow I will provide a post describing trans-fat in more detail, stay tuned ♫

“Do I need to eat fat? Won’t it MAKE me fat?”

Fat is imperative for normal bodily functions.  Without it, your skin, hair, and nails would not be strong.  Without it, your body couldn’t produce hormones, your sex drive would be low or non-existent and you’d, well, look sort of sickly!  More importantly, fat controls inflammation, blood clotting, and brain development.  Since fats are one of the three macronutrients, they are an important energy source.  When you exercise, you use your fat stores for energy, mostly after the first 20 minutes of exercise (the body uses up calories from carbohydrates at first and then begins to depend on the calories from fat).

OK… so eating fat is healthy. But you’re sure it won’t make me fat?

Eating fat does not make you fat.  That was a misconception back in the 80’s, which for some reason we can’t shake as a nation.  As a result, the low-fat movement prompted manufacturers to produce low or no-fat products, which ended up having high amounts of sugar as a replacement for taste.  And what happened?  The world just got fatter.  Bottom line: you get fat when you eat more calories than your body requires everyday.  That’s it.

So then – you’re telling me I can eat any fat I want and not get fat?

Within your calorie-needs, yes.  But from a health stand-point, it’s very important to avoid trans-fat and keep your saturated fat intake low, since both fats are risk factors for heart disease.

Tomorrow I will provide a post on healthy fats and review the differences among dietary fat types, stay tuned ♫

Fruit Pearls for NextJump

If you’ve ever eaten “Dippin Dots,” (think: mini balls of ice cream in a cup), Fruit Pearls is the healthier form thereof.  Well, you guessed it, NextJump now has it 🙂

For the UK and Boston, here is the link to order them for your offices:

For NYC, check out our locked coronitas fridge in the Fitness Center… Open unlocked freezer, and grab a cup of frozen fruit pearls.

Is it healthy?

Yes – it’s not bad for a snack.  The cups’ main ingredients come from whole fruits and range from 60-80 calories.  They also have zero fat, zero cholesterol, negligable sodium and contain four grams of fiber (this is the amount you would receive in a medium-sized apple or cup of blueberries, which is a good source).  Like most snacks or desserts, there is some added sugar in the product – but the amount (8-11g) is the equivalent of having a few yogurt covered pretzels.  Even better, this might help satisfy a sweat craving without wrecking your day.

Fruit Pearls Nutritional Information
Banana Berry Fruit Pearls
Nutritional Facts
Serving Size 3.175 oz (90g)
Servings Per Container 1

Calories 75
Fat Calories 0g
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0g
Sodium 3mg
Potassium 103mg
Total Carb. 16g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 11g
Protein 0g

Ingredients: Oranges and/or Tangerines, Strawberry Puree, Raspberry Puree, Blueberry Puree, Blackberry Puree, Sugar, Water, Black Currant Concentrate, Banana Puree, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Pectin, Ascorbic Acid (Used For Vitamin C), Skim Milk, Liquid Sugar, Condensed Milk, Corn Syrup, Maltodextrin, Yogurt (NonFat Dry Milk, Whey Protein Concentrate, Skim Milk, Yogurt Culture), Sodium Citrate, Guar Gum, Malic Acid, Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Phosphate, Locust Bean Gum, Citric Acid, Carrageenan, Standardized with Dextrose, Natural Flavor.

How long do these cups last?

Expiration date: FEB 2011.  Something tells me they will be gone from NextJump before then …

When is the best time to eat Fruit Pearls?

Post workout, your body needs to replenish glycogen stores – having a bit of carbohydrate will help speed up the process.  There is no protein in this product, which means that you will have to eat a protein-rich food in order to get a full-recovery from a tough workout (ideas: a handful of nuts, cup of milk or piece or cheese).

Another time of day – when you are craving something disgusting, fatty, sugary and salty like a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, a Fruit Pearl cup is probably your better bet.

Where can I find these Fruit Pearl cups again???

Walk to our fitness center.  Park yourself in front of our locked coronita’s fridge. Open up the freezer (yes, it is unlocked), and grab yourself a cup.

Where did you find these things?

Our very own Matt Biben has recommended Fruit Pearls for NextJumpers.

Do you recommend one flavor over another?

Nutritionally speaking, no. All are similar in their nutrition fact panel contents.  From a taste perspective, I tried the Wild Berries & Cream – not too shabby.