Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Truth on Tuesay

Detox Diets:
a Do or a Don't?

Master Cleanse. Fat Flush. The Raw Food Detox Diet. They're all out there and undoubtedly popular this time of year. These crazy diet plans promise to remove various toxins from your body and allow you to drops lbs fast. Some even claim to cure problems such as GI distress and food intolerances.  But is it really necessary to go on a detox diet? Here's some truth:

Let's start by defining detox.  Now, before the recent craze, the word “detox” referred mainly  to a medical procedure that rids the body of dangerous, often life-threatening, levels of alcohol, drugs, or poisons. Patients undergoing medical detoxification are usually treated in hospitals and the treatment generally involves the use of drugs and other therapies (1).  These days, we associate detox more with the idea of products or supplements, such as laxatives, diuretics and other components that aid in removing various "toxins" we're exposed to through food, water, and the environment. 

But while we are exposed to many a lot more chemicals than we were 20-30 years ago, there is really no health advantage of going on a detox diet.  Individuals who go on detox diets may be reducing their exposure to toxins but there is no evidence to support which toxins they are and to what extent it may help (2).  

In fact, most research shows that going on these extremely low calorie restrictive diets actually lowers the body's metabolic rate.  So while you will likely lose weight, as soon as you resume normal eating you will gain the weight back quickly as you body is not use to metabolizing a normal amount of food.  Other risks associated with detox diets include dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and kidney problems (3).

Another thing to consider is that fact that all of these detox and cleansing supplements being sold at your local GNC or late night infomerical are not being regulated by the FDA.  Most health professionals will echo the notion that none of the herbal laxatives, syrup, or saltwater solutions serve as effective methods to remove toxins (2).  

Keep in mind too that our bodies are very equip at eliminating toxins naturally.  Both the liver and kidneys play important roles in the elimination of toxic substances within the body.  The liver produces proteins called metallothioneins that aid in metabolizing dietary nutrients like copper and zinc and act to neutralize hazardous metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury, before they are eliminated from the body (1). The liver also produces various enzymes that act to breakdown toxins and harmful substances acquires from various drugs or medications.  The kidneys also act to filter out various wastes from the body.

The Bottom Line
Going on a fast, cleanse or detox diet for a 2-3 is not going hurt you.  In fact, some people find it motivating to eliminate junk foods from their diets to "jump start" a healthy eating plan.  However, it's important that you have a healthy eating plan in place to follow.  If you're looking to eat cleaner, try "detoxing" from things like fast food, sugary snacks and sodas, and most processed foods.  Shift your focus to whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and dairy.  So long as you are feeding your body a generally healthy & balanced diet along with regular exercise and adequate fluids,  getting good rest and staying up to date on your medical check ups, your body will do a fine job at defending itself against the chemicals and toxins it's exposed to.  If you really feel like you may be experiencing undue fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, or unexplained weight loss or gain, I would recommend speaking with your doctor instead of jumping on the detox diet train. 

1. The dubious practice of detox. (2008). Harvard Women's Health Watch, 15(9), 1-4.

2. Shaeffer, J. (2008). Spring Cleansing: Assessing the benefits and risks of detox diets. Today's Dietitian, 10(5), 34.

3. Detox danger: trendy colon cleansing, risky ritual. (2011). http://yourlife.usatoday.com/health/story/2011/08/Detox-danger-Trendy-colon-cleansing-a-risky-ritual-/49753954/1  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Meatless Monday

The one problem many vegetarians fall subject to is eating a diet that is too low in protein.  Research has shown that individuals on low protein diets have a lower metabolic rate at rest than those who consume a diet that has adequate protein (1).  So how much protein should you be eating?  A good rule of thumb is to consume about 1.0- 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight, or 1.2-1.4 grams per kg if you are active.

In the spirit of Meatless Monday, I wanted to talk about a good vegetarian protein source- Quinoa. Pronounced KEEN-wah, Quinoa is an amino acid rich seed that originated as a dietary staple in South America. Just 1 cup packs 9 grams of protein, which is more than the 8 grams found in an egg.  

Often categorized as a grain, quinoa cooks up into a fully, slight crunchy texture that can provide a somewhat nutty flavor.  What makes quinoa superior in terms of nutrition is that it is considered to be a complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids.  Also, since quinoa is a good source of manganese, magnesium, folate, and phosphorus, this "grain" may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis (2,3,4,). 

Quinoa is also gluten-free, so it is a great option for people with Celieac disease or gluten sensitivity. 

So try Quinoa tonight in this Meatless Monday recipe for

 Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Serves 6


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 7 bell peppers (1 cored, seeded and chopped; tops removed and reserved from remaining 6 then cored and seeded)
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 pound baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until transparent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes more. Add carrots and chopped peppers, cook until just softened, then add parsley and spinach (in batches, if needed). Let spinach wilt then stir in cinnamon, cumin and cooked quinoa and toss gently to combine. Add salt, pepper and cashews and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Set aside to let filling cool until just warm.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9- x 13-inch baking pan with oil then set aside.
Divide quinoa mixture evenly among remaining 6 bell peppers, gently packing it down and making sure to fully fill each pepper. Top each pepper with its reserved top then arrange them upright in prepared pan. Cover snugly with foil and bake, checking halfway through, until peppers are tender and juicy and filling is hot throughout, about 1 hour. Transfer to plates and serve.


Per serving (1 pepper): 250 calories (90 from fat), 10g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 280mg sodium, 36g total carbohydrate (7g dietary fiber, 6g sugar), 9g protein

*Recipe taken from Whole Foods

1.  Bray, G., Smith, S., Jonge, L., Xie, H., Rood, J., & Martin, C. (2012). Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating. Joural of the American Medical Assocaition, 307, 47-55.

2. Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986 1986. PMID:15210.

3. van Dam RM, Hu FB, Rosenberg L, Krishnan S, Palmer JR. Dietary calcium and magnesium, major food sources, and risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. Black women. Diabetes Care. 2006 Oct;29(10):2238-43. 2006. PMID:17003299.

4.Erkkila AT, Herrington DM, Mozaffarian D, Lichtenstein AH. Cereal fiber and whole-grain intake are associated with reduced progression of coronary-artery atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women with coronary artery disease. Am Heart J. 2005 Jul;150(1):94-101. 2005. PMID:16084154.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thank God It's Thursday

Well you've almost made it through another week at work and are ready to hit up Happy Hour with co-workers and friends.  Here's a tip on where to find something healthy to eat while you're out.

If you live in the Dallas area, you're probably familiar with Katy Trail Ice House.  Voted Best Bar Patio by D Magazine, this is an excellent place to be outside and enjoy the oddly warm January Texas weather.  Enjoy a light beer at Katy Trail before you head next door to Company Cafe for a healthy bite.

Company Cafe is new in the Dallas area providing a fresh innovative concept that offers natural, fresh fare of great-tasting comfort food with a healthy, organic twist. Healthier menu items include for grass-fed beef, bison, and wild salmon and this restaurant also serves a variety of  gluten-free cake and french toast. Finally, Company cafe is a leader in supporting local eating by ordering majority of its meat,  dairy, produce and gluten-free goodies directly from local Texas vendors.

Skinny Sips
Split a bottle of wine with friends for only 120 calories per glass! A crisp white pairs well with seafood while red wine offers added antioxidants. Either way, wine is a great choice to compliment your meal!

Healthy Bites


Diver sea scallops with tomato citrus glaze
*Add a seasonal house salad to make it a meal


Organic greens, cucumbers, pickled onions, blueberries, dried cranberries, goat cheese and homemade candied pecans with house vinaigrette


Salmon smoked served with sautéed broccolini & cauliflower mash


Pan-seared red fish with herb risotto and sautéed broccolini sided with herbed white wine sauce
*ask for sauces to be on the side
*ask to sub sauteed veggies or black beans  for the risotto

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wine Down Wednesday

Wind down your Wednesday with fresh  Mahi Mahi & Balsamic Grilled Vegetables.  Mahi is high in protein and low in calories. It is also low in saturated fat, rich in niacin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium. Hawaii Mahimahi provides about 400 mg of omega-3’s (DHA and EPA) per 4 ounce serving of fresh fish (1).  Its firm texture and mild, slight sweet flavor make it a great option for grilling, sauteeing, or broiling.

Mahi Mahi with Balsamic-Wine Sauce


  • 4 (6-ounce) mahimahi fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


  1. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and onion; cook for 3 minutes. Turn fish over. Stir in wine, vinegar, and capers; cook 3 minutes. Remove fish from pan. Cook wine mixture an additional 3 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Serve sauce with fish; sprinkle with parsley.

Nutritional Information

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 fillet and 2 tablespoons sauce)
Amount per serving
  • Calories: 182
  • Calories from fat: 17%
  • Fat: 3.5g
  • Saturated fat: 0.6g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1.9g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.5g
  • Protein: 31.8g
  • Carbohydrate: 4.2g

Grilled Vegetables with Balsamic Vinaigrette


  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved
  • 2 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 (1-pound) eggplant, cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 onion, cut into 2-inch-thick wedges
  • 1 small bunch kale (about 8 ounces)
  • Cooking spray


  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Combine tomatoes and next 5 ingredients (tomatoes through kale) in a bowl. Divide balsamic vinaigrette and vegetable mixture evenly between 2 large zip-top plastic bags. Seal; marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning bags occasionally.
  3. Remove vegetables from bags; reserve marinade. Prepare grill. Place vegetables on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 7 minutes on each side or until onion is tender, basting with reserved marinade.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving
  • Calories: 87
  • Calories from fat: 24%
  • Fat: 2.3g
  • Saturated fat: 0.3g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1.3g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.4g
  • Protein: 2.7g
  • Carbohydrate: 16.6g

*Recipes taken from Cooking Light

1. Nutrient analysis was performed on Hawaii-caught fish by PacMar Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii under NOAA Award No. NA06NMF4520222. Nutrient labels and claims follow the NLEA Labeling Act and were prepared by Joannie Dobbs, PhD, CNS Nutrition Specialist (University of Hawaii, Manoa) and John Kaneko MS, DVM (PacMar)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Truth on Tuesday-

Are All Natural Sweetener Better than Artificial?

A few weeks ago I posted about the safety and use of artificial sweeteners.  This week I want to discuss the all natural varieties that are available.  Likely you've read the press about the wonders of agave nectar and various all natural zero calorie sweeteners like Truvia and  Purevia.  So what's the deal with these? Are they healthier options than the standard artificial sweeteners?  Here are a few facts about the most common "all natural" sweeteners on the market.

First off, let me remind you that there is no legal definition for the word "natural" in terms of food labels.  So just because something is all natural does not necessarily mean it's better for you.  Take Agave Nectar for example:

Agave Nectar
Made from the agave plant grown wild in Mexico, this sweetener has gained alot of popularity due to it's intense sweet flavor. The idea is that because it is sweeter than sugar, you can use less to achieve the desired sweetness.  However, agave derives its super sweet flavor from the sugar fructose Depending on the variety it can be as high as 92% fructose (1).  This is more than the amount found in  the high fructose corn syrup of sodas -- Regular soft drinks are 55% fructose and 45% glucose (2).  Because fructose is metabolized differently than glucose, it can lead to elevated triglycerides and free fatty acids in the liver (3).  Furthermore, many studies have linked increased fructose consumption with the development of diabetes, liver disease, and metabolic syndrome (2).  So while agave nectar may be an all natural alternative to artificial sweeteners, you should use it only in moderation and possibly avoid it if you have known elevated fasting blood sugar or high triglycerides. 

Honey is about 38% fructose, 31% glucose, and the rest a mixture of maltose, sucrose & carbohydrates (4).  Honey is in fact a natural source of sweetness, but again remember the fructose content- while it has a lower percentage of fructose than agave, remember to use it sparingly! 1 tablespoon of honey is about 60 calories, which should provide plenty of sweetness.  Furthermore, honey has some antimicrobial and antioxidant properties (5).

Sugar in the Raw
Is derived strictly from sugar cane syrup then crystallized into a hard particle form.  White sugar is obtained by refining the sugar cane crystals to remove all the sugar cane juice flavor.  Sugar In The Raw contains very small amounts of nutrients, mainly due to traces of molasses from the sugar cane that are not found in white sugar.  However, these mineral are found in such small amounts, it's likely to impact your overall nutritional intake.   In terms of calories, both regular sugar and Sugar in Raw contain about 15 calories per teaspoon. 

Stevia is derived from a plant grown in South America and Asia. The plant’s intense sweetening qualities are complex molecules called steviosides that are glycosides made of glucose, sophorose and steviol. These are what make stevia up to 300 times sweeter than sugar and non-caloric. These glycosides do not get absorbed into the body but rather simply pass through leaving no calories (6). 

Many products such as Purevia and Truvia boast about using this all natural compound to provide sweetness, however both products have added compounds to balance out the taste.  Truvia has erythritol, a sugar alcohol, in addition to "natural flavors". Unlike some sugar alcohols, erythritol is not associated with laxative effects.  Purevia has added dextrose (a natural sugar), cellulose powder (a fiber substance from plants; added for textural properties) and natural flavors. 

Stevia In the Raw does not contain added erthyritol or extra sugars, and claims to be 100% Rebeiana (Reb-A). However, under the ingredients list, it does contain dextrose and maltodextin which are two naturally occurring sugars.  The use of Stevia as a sweetener is really too new for any long term research studies to have been conducted on potential harmful side effects. My hunch is that too much of anything is going to trigger some sort of adverse health effect. 

The Takeaway...
Pick your poison, but use it in moderation.  As a Registered Dietitian, I support both the use of artificial sweeteners and natural sweeteners.  Science relating to artificial sweeteners and their contribution to certain cancers are inconclusive at this point, while the science is clear that over consumption of natural fruit sugar (fructose) is associated with a myriad of metabolic diseases including diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  On a personal note, I would recommend looking to cut back on the use of artificial foods in your diet, including artificial sweeteners, and to focus on eating more whole foods. 

1. Deis, R. (2001). Sweetners for Health. Food Products Design. http://www.foodproductdesign.com/articles/2001/02/food-product-design-february-2001--sweetners-for.aspx 

2.  Nseir, W., Nassar, F., Assy, N. (2010). Soft drinks consumption and nonalcholic fatty liver disease.  Word Journal Gastroenterol. 16(7), 2579-2588.

3. Rutledge A, & Adeli, K. (2007). Fructose and the metabolic syndrome: pathophysiology and molecular mechanisms. Nutr Rev, 65, 3- 23.

4. National Honey Board. (2010) < "Carbohydrates and the Sweetness of Honey">

5. Gross H, Polagruto J, Zhu Q, Kim S, Schramm D, Keen C. Effect of honey consumption on plasma antioxidant status in human subjects. Paper presented at the 227th American Chemical Society Meeting, Anahein CA, March 28, 2004. 2004.

6. Goyal, S. Samsher, & Goyal, R. (2010). Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) a bio-sweetner:a review. Internation Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, 61, 1-10.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Meatless Monday

"Looks like somebody's got a case of the Mondays..."
Monday, arguably the longest day of the week and knowing that you still have 4 more days ahead of you until the weekend makes it seem even longer.  Likely, the last thing you want to do when you get home after a long day is think about how to cook up a complicated dinner. 

Well, I'll make it easy for you- try this Meatless Monday recipe tonight for Tomato-Ricotta Spaghetti! This recipe requires only 7 ingredients, many of which may already be in your pantry at home.  Serve this pasta with a spinach salad to add more veggies into your meal. Bon appetite!

Tomato-Ricotta Spaghetti


  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved (about 4 cups)
  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divide
  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) ricotta salata cheese, crumbled


  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. 2. Place tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until tomatoes collapse.
  3. 3. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/3 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta and reserved liquid to pan; stir in tomatoes, remaining 4 teaspoons oil, remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt, basil, pepper, and cheese. Toss well. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups
Amount per serving
  • Calories: 314
  • Fat: 8.4g
  • Saturated fat: 1.8g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 4.7g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.4g
  • Protein: 10.5g
  • Carbohydrate: 50.3g
  • Fiber: 3.6g

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fitness Friday

Wouldn't you love to have the body of Brooke Burke? Ever wonder what she does for work outs? Turns out she does more than walk around in those Skechers commercials. This mother of 4 is as devoted to her family as she her 5 day a week workouts. Brooke does  Pilates on the reformer 3 times per week along with hour long cardio interval weight training with her trainer.  Here are a few moves she does to keep her body toned. Try them out at home!

Crisscross Lunge

Targets butt, legs

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, elbows bent, hands clasped in front of chest.
  • Cross right leg behind left, stepping right foot out to left, and then bend both knees about 90 degrees to lower into a curtsy.
  • Return to start; switch legs and repeat.
  • Do 20 reps, alternating sides. Do 4 sets.

Cheek to Cheek

Targets abs, obliques

  • Start in plank position, balancing on floor on forearms and toes, a straight line from head to heels.
  • Keeping shoulders level, twist midsection to lower left hip toward floor; touch floor if possible.
  • Return to plank and then lower right hip to floor.
  • Do 20 reps, alternating sides. Do 4 sets.

Swimmer Squat

Targets back, abs, butt, legs

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms by sides.
  • Lower into a deep squat.
  • As you stand, lift extended right leg behind you and hinge at hips, reaching left arm forward so that body forms a straight line from left hand to right foot, as close to parallel to floor as possible.
  • Return to start.
  • Do 20 reps, alternating sides. Do 4 sets.


Targets shoulders, triceps

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a 3- to 5-pound dumbbell in each hand, palms up, with elbows bent by ribs and forearms pointing diagonally up out to sides.

Dead Bug

Targets abs, obliques

  • Lie faceup on floor with arms extended behind head, knees bent 90 degrees with feet raised, shins parallel to floor.
  • Crunch up and hold position throughout as you bring left arm forward to reach toward toes and extend left leg.
  • Switch sides and repeat.
  • Do 20 reps, alternating sides. Do 4 sets.

*Workout taken from Fitness Magazine

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thank God It's Thursday

 Start your weekend off right with a healthy night out at the Porch! The Porch is located on Henderson and offers a variety of entrees from Salads to BBQ. The Porch menu is a culinary melting pot combining a broad range of the classic urban tavern, neighborhood bistro, boulevard cafe, corner bar and grill and home-style favorites. A casual atmosphere makes the Porch a popular spot for date nights or gatherings with friends and family.  They an extensive wine menu in addition to hand-crafted cocktails and a premium selection of draft and bottled beers from around the world. 

Skinny Sips
The Porch offers a menu full of unique cocktails made with fresh ingredients.  Slim them down by asking the bartender to omit the simple syrup- the drinks will be sweet enough from the fresh fruit and flavored liquors. 
  • Black and Blue Martini- Hand Pressed Blackberries, Blueberries and Mint/Sobieski Vodka/St. Germain Elderflower/Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice/Simple Syrup
  • Cucumber Rickey - Hand Pressed Mint/Cucumber Infused Tanqueray/Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice/Simple Syrup/Club Soda
Remember you can always order a glass or red or white wine for about 120 calories or any light beer for about 100 calories.

Light Bites
  • Crab Cake Salad- *order with dressing on the side
  • Seared Tuna Nicoise- *order without egg & dressing on the side
  • Poached Shrimp Greek Salad- *order with dressing on the side
  • Grilled Salmon- *order any sauces on the side
  • Fresh Catch of the Day- *Ask to have it grilled and order steamed veggies as a side
  • Pounded Chicken Parm- *order any sauces on the side

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wine Down Wednesday

Treat yourself to a healthy dinner of Pan-seared Tuna after your long work day.  Tuna is an excellent source of protein as will as B vitamins. It is high in Omega-3 fatty acids which have a variety of health benefits including reduced inflammation, improved cholesterol ratios, and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.  Also, research shows that just 2 servings of fatty fish per week can lower your triglyceride levels (1). Other fish that are rich in Omega-3's include Salmon, Halibut, Mackerel, and Herring.  Try these varieties in addition to the recipe listed below!
Pan-Seared Tuna with Olive-Wine Sauce
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pitted Greek black olives
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 (6-ounce) tuna steaks (2 inches thick)
  • 2 cups hot cooked couscous
  • Orange rind (optional)


  1. Place a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat until hot. Add fennel seeds and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until seeds are lightly toasted. Spoon mixture into a bowl. Add wine, olives, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon orange rind, and red pepper; stir well, and set aside.
  2. Sprinkle black pepper and salt over tuna. Recoat skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until very hot. Add tuna; sauté 5 minutes on each side or until medium-rare or to desired degree of doneness. Remove tuna from skillet. Spoon couscous into each of 4 large shallow bowls; arrange tuna to the side. Set aside; keep warm.
  3. Add wine mixture to skillet; cook 2 minutes or until sauce is slightly reduced. Pour sauce evenly over steaks. Garnish with orange rind, if desired.
  4. Note: Substitute kalamata olives for Greek black olives, if desired

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving:
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 tuna steak, 1/2 cup couscous, and about 1/4 cup sauce)
  • Calories: 365
  • Calories from fat: 25%
  • Fat: 10.2g
  • Saturated fat: 2.4g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3.4g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 3.1g
  • Protein: 43.6g
  • Carbohydrate: 23.1g
  • Fiber: 1.5g

1. Moore CS, Bryant SP, Mishra GD, Krebs JD, Browning LM, Miller GJ, Jebb SA. Oily fish reduces plasma triacylglycerols: a primary prevention study in overweight men and women. Nutrition. 2006 Oct;22(10):1012-24. 2006. PMID:17027436.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Truth on Tuesday

Do artificial sweeteners cause Cancer?

I feel like this comes up a lot, and with so many different types of sweeteners out there how do you know which one you should be using? Here are the facts about some of the most common artificial sweeteners, their speculated health risks, and truth about how it applys to you.

Saccharin (Sweet'N Low, Sweet Twin, Necta Sweet)
300 to 500 times sweeter than sugar
This is where the rumors began- studies during the 1970s done in laboratory rats during linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer. This lead to Congress mandating that all food containing saccharin have a warning label stating “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.”
While studies in rats showed an increased incidence of bladder cancer at high doses of saccharin,  mechanistic studies have shown that these results apply only to rats. Human studies have shown no consistent evidence that saccharin is associated with bladder cancer incidence. In 2000, Saccharin was taken off the list unsafe products by the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens (1).

Aspartame (Equal, Nutasweet)     
200 times sweeter than sugar
Aspartame was approved by the FDA in 1981 and questioning related to its safety arose from a 1996 report suggesting that an increase in the number of people with brain tumors in might be associated with the introduction and use of this sweetener.  However, after further analysis, it was realized that the then-current NCI statistics showed that the overall incidence of brain and central nervous system cancers actually began to rise in 1973, 8 years prior to the approval of aspartame. A newer study done in 2005 found more lymphomas and leukemia in rats fed very high doses of aspartame (2).  However, these was only see at extremely high doses- the equivalent to drinking 8 to 2,083 cans of diet soda daily and there was no dose-dependent response associated. That is, researchers did not find that the number of cancer cases rose with increasing amounts of aspartame. The main health concern associated with Aspartame is that it is metabolized and broken down into phenyalanine and therefore should be avoided by those who have the rare genetic disease Phenylketoniuria (PKU). 

Sucralose (Splenda) 
600 times sweeter than sugar
This is the newest artificial sweetener on the market and held in high regard as the safest. While some studies claim that sucralose is not fully broken down,  metabolisms studies have revealed that it does not accumulate in the body (3). Studies done on acute toxicity revealed no adverse effects (4), and long term studies done in rats suggest that surcralose is safe for  pregnant women (5). Furthermore, FDA has specifically noted that it has found sucralose safe for use by children, and people with diabetes (6).

  • All of the artificial sweeteners mentioned above are approved by the FDA and have established Acceptable Daily Intakes (ADIs), which is level that a person can safely consume everyday over a lifetime without riskFive nonnutritive sweeteners with intense sweetening power have FDA approval and are supported by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietitetics (7).

 5 most common artificial sweeteners

Type kcal/g      Regulatory status Other names Description
Saccharin 0 Approved as a sweetener for beverages and as a tabletop sweetener in foods with specific maximum amounts allowed Sweet and Low, Sweet Twin, Sweet ‘N Low Brown, Necta Sweet 200–700 times sweeter than sucrose; noncariogenic and produces no glycemic response; synergizes the sweetening power of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners; sweetening power is not reduced with heating
Aspartame 4 Approved as a general-purpose sweetener Nutrasweet, Equal, Sugar Twin (Blue box) 160–220 times sweeter than sucrose; noncariogenic and produces limited glycemic response
Acesulfame-K 0 Approved as a general-purpose sweetener Sunett, Sweet & Safe, Sweet One 200 times sweeter than sucrose; noncariogenic and produces no glycemic response; synergizes the sweetening power of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners; sweetening power is not reduced with heating.
Sucralose 0 Approved as a general-purpose sweetener Splenda 600 times sweeter than sucrose; noncariogenic and produces no glycemic response; sweetening power is not reduced with heating
Neotame 0 Approved as general-purpose sweetener Not available at time of publication 8,000 times sweeter than sucrose; noncariogenic and produces no glycemic response; sweetening power is not reduced with heating

200 times sweeter than sugar
Approved by the FDA in 1988, this sweetener is often found used in combinations with other artificial sweeteners due to its intense sweetness and different flavor. The "K" stands for potassium, which is not absorbed but excreted in the urine, so it does not contribute to potassium levels (8).

7,000-13,000 times sweeter than sugar
Neotame is the newest artificial sweetener to hit the market.  Receiving  FDA approval in 2002, neotame is is marketed to provide a  clean sweet taste without bitter off flavors (9), and is recognized as safe for by individuals with PKU.

Benefits for Consumers

There are benefits to using artificial sweeteners, the most obvious being weight control.  Artificial sweeteners have virtually no calories, in contrast to regular table sugar which contrains 4 calories per gram. A teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams.
  • Now, consider that one 12-ounce can of a coke which contains 8 teaspoons of added sugar, or about 130 calories. If you're trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain, products sweetened with artificial sweeteners may be an attractive option. While you may have heard that some research has suggests consuming artificial sweeteners may be associated with weight gain, these studies are not yet conclusive.
Artificial sweeteners may also be a good alternative to sugar if you have diabetes, because they do not raise blood sugar levels. However, some "low sugar" & "sugar free" products contain sugar alcohols which some carbohydrates and  about 2 calories per gram
  • Sugar alcohols are different from artificial sweeteners in that they provide some calories. They contain less energy than sugars and have other potential health benefits such as  reduced glycemic response, decreased dental caries, prebiotic effects (7).
  • The reason they contain less calories then normal sugars is due to the fact that they are only partially absorbed by the gut.  However, because of they can cause digestive issues in high doses.  This translates to greater than 50 g/day of sorbitol or greater than 20 g/day of mannitol.
  • Products with sorbitol and mannitol may or may not have a label  that warns of these effects so read your labels carefully! All sugar alcohols are approved by the FDA and generally recognized as safe (GRAS).  However, I would still advice to read the labels of the food you consume, especially if you experience any sort of digestive issues. 
  • Sugar alcohols are common in sugar free, low sugar candies, jellies, baked goods, frozen treats and gum.  You may also see them in powders as a bulking agent.  Anything that ends in "ol" is typically a sugar alcohol.  Here are a few common ones you'll see:
    • xylitol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, HSH, erythritol, tagatose, trehalose, mannitol, sorbitol
The Takeaway...
As of this time, there is no evidence that the artifical sweetners mentioned above contribute to cancer.  If it comes in a little pink, blue, or yellow packet, you're fine.  I would advise however, that you use them sparingly and beware of products that contain sugar alcohols. 

*Next week I will discuss the many forms of "all natural" sweeteners. Stay tuned!

1. Artificial Sweetners and Cancer. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/artificial-sweeteners

2. Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Esposti DD, Lambertini L. Aspartame induces lymphomas and leukaemias in rats. European Journal of Oncology 2005; 10(2):107–116.
3. McLean Baird et al., 2000 I. McLean Baird, N.W. Shephard and R.J. Merritt, Repeated dose study of sucralose tolerance in human subjects. Food Chem. Toxicol. Suppl., 2 (2000), pp. S123–S130.
4. Goldsmith, L.A., 2000. Acute and subchronic toxicity of sucralose. Food Chem.Toxicol. Suppl. 2, S53–S69.
5. Mann, S.W., Yuschak, M.M., Amyes, S.J., Aughton, P., Finn, J.P., 2000a. A carcinogenicity study of sucralose in the CD-1 mouse. Food Chem. Toxicol. Suppl. 2, S91–S98.

6. Grotz, V., & Munro, I. (2009). An overview of the safety of sucralose. Regulations in Toxicology and Pharmocology, 55, 1-5.

7.  Duffy, V. & Sigman-Grant, M. (2004). Position Stand of the American Dietetic Association:
Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 104, 255-275.

8. Walker R. Acesulfame Potassium: WHO Food Additives, Series 28.Available at: www.inchem.org/documents/jecfa/jecmono/v28je13. htm. Accessed March 18, 2003

9. Witt J. Discovery and development of neotame. In: Corti A, ed. Low-calorie Sweeteners: Present and Future. World Rev Nutr Diet.Basel, Switzerland: S. Karger AG; 1999;85:52-57.