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Category Archives: Weight Loss Nutrition

High Fructose Corn Syrup – Just a Sweetener?

Posted on May 25, 2021 by

High fructose corn syrup can be found in almost everything. Is it the “fruit of the devil” or is it really just a sweetener? Are there more problems with it than just being a sweetener? There’s been a lot of controversy over HFCS. When you think of sugar, you generally think of the white stuff in the bowl. Starting in the mid 1970’s, HFCS began to sneak into our food and beverages. Now it makes up >40% of all caloric sweeteners added to food and beverages. The annual intake has increased 1000% since then. American’s health has suffered. Is this just a coincidence? Is there a potential cause here too?

 

Is HFCS an innocent vegetable or is it liquid death??!!

It’s in everything: soft drinks, fruit juice, frozen yogurts, ketchup, canned fruit, cereal, etc.… It’s in so many products now that if a product doesn’t contain HFCS there will be a label on it stating there is no HFCS.

HFCS was introduced in 1957. It’s a chemical reaction that changes starch in corn to a true sweetener. The industrialization didn’t occur until the mid-1960’s. This was also the time when Castro took over Cuba. A lot of the US sugar came from sugar cane grown in Cuba. When Castro came into power, there was an embargo and we couldn’t import sugar any longer. We had to find a different sweetener and we had lots of extra corn. The farmers were really good at it. High tariff on cane and subsidies for corn farmers made HFCS extremely cheap. So it made its way into just about every food product that uses sweetener.

The problem was we didn’t know if there was a difference between one sweetener versus another. Corn is milled to produce corn starch. Corn starch is processed to yield corn syrup which is almost all glucose. Glucose by itself isn’t very sweet. A number of enzymes are sequentially added to change some of the glucose to fructose. Fructose is a much sweeter sweetener. The typical final concentration of HFCS used in most foods and beverages is about: 55% fructose, 42% glucose, and 3% other sugars.

Why should we care?

Is it really natural? In the chemical transformation could there be mercury contamination? That was a question back in the early days. The other thing that occurs when we do this enzymatic reaction is the formation of carbonyls. Carbonyls can potentially be formed in carbonated beverages. It typically comes from HFCS. The problem is carbonyls can increase cellular damage potentially leading to diabetes. Is it from the carbonyls or from the sugar itself? This also was a time when Americans were taking in a lot more sugar and carbohydrates. It was around the time people were talking about low fat diets. Which change in our diets caused the most problems? It’s hard to tell.

Regular sugar comes from processing sugar cane or sugar beets. Sugar is sucrose. Sucrose is a disaccharide (2 sugar molecules). Sucrose is a glucose and a fructose bonded together. When sugar is digested it’s broken down into 50% glucose and 50% fructose. That doesn’t sound much different than HFCS. There is a difference. Sucrose does have more steps of digestion. HFCS are monosaccharides and don’t need to be digested. The percentages are different than sugar.

Sucrose has the same molecular formula as the glucose and fructose but there’s a lot that has to be broken. It takes more to break it down and utilize it. Is the fructose the problem and not the glucose? Glucose is what we utilize as an energy source. Any carbohydrate we take in that’s used as an energy source is eventually broken down into glucose. Could it be the fructose? Inherently it doesn’t make sense. Fructose is “fruit sugar.” Historically man ate only a small amount of fructose (<15 grams/day). We didn’t have big fruit farms or anything like that. Hunter/gatherers would stumble on a fruit tree every now and then. Nowadays we routinely get about 80-100 grams/day. What could possibly be bad about fruit sugar?

There is a difference between how fructose is digested and the way glucose is digested. Glucose is a simple sugar. It’s what we use as an energy source. It can be burned for energy is every single cell of your body. Mitochondria in the cell metabolize glucose to ATP (energy). ATP is adenosine triphosphate. This is where our energy really is. Glucose can also be stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. It can be utilized as an energy source or be stored later.

Fructose is metabolized much differently. It’s also a simple sugar. The chemical structure is similar but it can only be broken down in the liver. The rest of the cells in our body can’t actually utilize it. It’s broken down to acetyl CoA. This is the starting point of fatty acid synthesis. This can make your triglycerides, LDL, and HDL worse. This is where fatty liver comes from. This opens the flood gates of fat deposition. When you have fructose it doesn’t actually make your blood sugar go way up. Glucose makes your blood sugar go up.

Fructose can stimulate hunger and indiscriminate eating by NOT stimulating Leptin (a “fullness” hormone) and increasing Ghrelin (a hunger hormone). It won’t make your blood sugar increase, but will worsen insulin resistance, subsequently leading to increased blood sugars and fat storage. Fructose can also cause a depletion of inorganic phosphorus in the liver cells leading to fatigue (due to decreased ATP). If you decrease the phosphorus you have less energy. Fructose can do a number of things that can really work against you.

There are many potential consequences of excess fructose consumption. The biggest consequence is obesity. Fructose turns on fat accumulation everywhere. Once the fatty acids are made in the liver, they can be deposited anywhere. As I mentioned earlier, fructose can cause fatty liver. It worsens lipid profiles: worsens triglycerides, lowers HDL, and raises LDL. It increases hypertension because insulin makes you retain water. It tends to lead to diabetes mellitus. That leads to increased risk of diabetic complications (neuropathy, retinopathy, and kidney problems). It increases uric acid levels. Uric acid leads to gout. And, fructose also causes an increase in accelerated aging-formation of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). That means a sugar molecule gets stuck on other things. If it gets stuck on other proteins that means they can’t function normally. It’s cellular aging.

In summary, there is probably nothing good about HFCS. It’s probably not just the HFCS that is the “fruit of the devil.” The real problem is the fructose itself. The real wolf in sheep’s clothing is likely the fructose itself. Since about 50% of all caloric sweeteners is fructose, you ought to do your best to try and avoid any of them. That doesn’t mean we go crazy on artificial sweeteners. There are potential problems with those too. But that’s another story! (Read more in Artificial Sweeteners – Pros, Cons & Weight Loss)

Dilly Grilled Shrimp with Dill Aioli

Posted on April 30, 2021 by

Simple flavors combine for a winner!

Ingredients:
8 oz large shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 Tbsp olive oil (I used dill infused for extra flavor)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp dried dill

Aioli:
3 Tbsp light mayo
2 oz plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp celery salt
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp sea salt

Directions:
1. Combine oil, garlic, lemon juice and dill in resealable bag or covered bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat.
2. Combine aioli ingredients and chill until serving.
3. Thread shrimp onto skewers and grill over medium heat until pink, turning once.
4. Serve each portion with ¼ of the aioli sauce.

Makes 2 servings (this recipe easily doubles)

Nutrition Facts for Shrimp:
Calories 195
Total Fat 8.9g
Total Carbohydrates 1.7g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Protein 25.8g

Nutrition Facts for Aioli: (1/4 recipe)
Calories 81
Total Fat 2.6g
Total Carbohydrates 3.8g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Protein 11g

Print Recipe: Dilly Grilled Shrimp

Easy Baked Balsamic Chicken

Posted on April 23, 2021 by

Mediterranean sheet pan meal that will quickly be one of your favorites!

Ingredients:
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 small sweet potatoes, diced large
1 medium red onion, cut in wedges
1 sweet pepper, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil (I used garlic infused)
2 Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
Juice from ½ lemon
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp sliced kalamata olives
Fresh parsley

Directions:
1. Combine oil through pepper and whisk together. Add chicken, potatoes, onion and sweet pepper and toss until coated.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.
3. Spread chicken & veggies onto the baking sheet in a single layer.
4. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until chicken is done. Sprinkle feta, olives and parsley over entire pan and serve.

Makes 6 servings

Nutrition Facts:
Calories 277
Total Fat 14.7g
Total Carbohydrates 10.5g
Dietary Fiber 1.1g
Protein 25g

Print Recipe: Easy Baked Balsamic Chicken

Korean Turkey and ‘Rice’

Posted on April 16, 2021 by

A great weeknight dinner – quick & easy!

Ingredients:
1 pound ground turkey
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ground ginger or ¼ tsp dried
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pkg riced cauliflower
1 green onion, sliced
Sesame seeds

Directions:
1. Brown ground turkey over medium heat until cooked through.
2. Mix garlic through pepper in small bowl and add to ground turkey. Simmer and stir to coat and sauce is absorbed.
3. Prepare riced cauliflower as directed, drain if necessary & spread onto plate. Top with ground turkey mixture and garnish with green onion & sesame seeds.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Facts:
Calories 277
Total Fat 14.7g
Total Carbohydrates 7.4g
Dietary Fiber 1.1g
Protein 32.6g

Print Recipe: Korean Turkey and Rice

Spicy Yogurt Grilled Chicken

Posted on March 19, 2021 by

You control the heat!

Ingredients
8 oz plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbls sriracha or harissa sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from ½ lime or lemon
1 Tbls cumin
1 Tbls tarragon
Salt & pepper to taste
4 (4 oz) chicken breasts

Directions
1. Combine yogurt, sriracha sauce, lime juice, cumin, tarragon, and salt & pepper in a bowl.
2. Place chicken in shallow dish or in resealable bag. Use ½ the sauce and coat chicken breasts evenly. Allow to marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. (reserve ½ the sauce for serving)
3. Grill chicken over medium-high heat until cooked through – turning once.
4. Serve with green vegetable or salad and extra sauce.

Note: Adjusting the hot sauce to your personal taste does not alter the nutritional information by much.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Facts:
Calories 138
Total Fat 3g
Total Carbohydrates 1.6g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Protein 24g

Print Recipe: Spicy Yogurt Grilled Chicken

Low Carb Lemon Cheesecake Dessert

Posted on March 11, 2021 by

Wake up your tastebuds with this tart & tangy dessert!

Ingredients
Crust:
1 ½ cups fine almond flour
3 Tbls butter
½ cup granulated Splenda (or suitable substitute)
Dash of salt

Filling:
16 oz. light cream cheese, softened
½ cup granulated Splenda (or suitable substitute)
2 eggs
Lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
Fresh lemon juice of half a lemon
Yellow food color (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×8 or 7×9 pan or round pie plate with cooking spray.
2. Combine crust ingredients and press into bottom of prepared pan.
3. Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool.
4. Beat cream cheese until smooth and add remaining filling ingredients. Beat until well mixed. Spread over crust and bake an additional 30-35 minutes or until filling is set. Allow to cool and then chill before serving.

Makes 12 servings

Nutrition Facts:
Calories 197
Total Fat 16.4g
Total Carbohydrates 8.9g
Dietary Fiber 5.5g
Protein 4.5g

Print Recipe: Low Carb Lemon Cheesecake

Crunchy Edamame Snacks

Posted on March 04, 2021 by

Perfect for when you want something crunchy!

Ingredients
1 pound bag frozen edamame (in pod)
1 tbsp olive oil
Garlic salt (or other seasoning of your choice)

Directions:
1. Microwave edamame according to directions on package.
2. Shell and separate beans into bowl.
3. Drizzle with olive oil and spread onto baking sheet.
4. Sprinkle with seasoning.
5. Bake at 225 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Check and stir every 5 minutes toward the end.
6. Cool & serve.

Nutritional Info: Serving size ½ cup
Calories: 140
Fat 7g
Total Carbohydrate 12g
Fiber 9g
Protein 9g

Print Recipe: Crunchy Edamame Snacks

Easy Sheet Pan Fajitas

Posted on February 24, 2021 by

All the great taste without the mess!

Ingredients
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp Taco or Fajita seasoning
1 each, red, green & yellow peppers, sliced
1 onion, sliced thin
2 Tbls olive oil
Shredded cheese, sour cream & salsa to garnish
Low carb tortillas – optional

Directions:
1. Slice chicken breasts into thin pieces and place in bowl. Sprinkle seasoning mix over pieces and toss to coat.
2. Spread chicken over foil-lined baking pan. Top with peppers and onions and drizzle with olive oil. (Add red pepper flakes for extra heat if desired).
3. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until browned and chicken is cooked through. Serve with low carb tortillas, salsa, cheese & sour cream.

Nutritional Info: Serves 4
(without tortilla & toppings – adjust accordingly)
Calories: 287
Fat 15.4g
Total Carbohyrate 2.6g
Fiber .6g
Protein 33.1

Print recipe: Sheet Pan Fajitas

Christmas Frittata

Posted on December 18, 2020 by

Switch up the cheeses or add your own twist for a totally different flavor! A great dish for your holiday brunch 😊

Ingredients
2 Tbls olive oil
1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 10 oz pkg fresh baby spinach (or 10 oz frozen)
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
1 10 oz can Rotel tomatoes
1 cup sliced grape or cherry tomatoes
1 8 oz jar roasted red peppers
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
12 large eggs, beaten
½ cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat oil in 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Saute mushrooms 2-3 minutes or until browned.
3. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Stir in spinach, cook stirring constantly until spinach begins to wilt. (if using frozen, thaw & press out excess moisture before adding)
4. Add bacon, tomatoes (both types), roasted red peppers, salt & pepper, and cook. Stir often, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and sprinkle with cheese.
5. Cook 3-5 minutes, gently lifting edges of frittata with a spatula and tilting pan so uncooked portions slip underneath.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Slice into 6 wedges and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

Nutrition Facts:
Calories 295
Total Fat 19.5g
Total Carbohydrates 5.8g
Dietary Fiber 1.5g
Protein 21g

Print Recipe: Christmas Frittata

Spaghetti Squash with Cheesy Ranch Chicken

Posted on December 12, 2020 by

Comfort food goodness but good for you!

Ingredients
4 small chicken breast halves (3-4 oz ea)
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp & chopped
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
4 oz. light cream cheese
½ cup shredded cheddar
1 large spaghetti squash

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
3. Prick skin of spaghetti squash several times and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes.
4. Slice (crossways) squash into 1” rings and scoop away seeds & center pulp.
5. Bake squash for 30-40 minutes or until flesh pulls into strands easily.
6. Place chicken in separate dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until done.
7. Mix together cream cheese & dressing mix.
8. Remove squash from oven and separate strands from outer shell. Spoon into bowl with cream cheese mixture and toss until coated.
9. Plate squash mixture and top with chicken breast.
10. Garnish with bacon & shredded cheddar. Enjoy!

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Facts:
Calories 375
Total Fat 22g
Total Carbohydrates 11.5g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Protein 33g

Print Recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Cheesy Ranch Chicken