Why Allulose is My Favorite Zero-Carb Sweetener

I have always despised the flavor of alternative sugars. This article is about the first zero-carb sugar that I ever really liked.

“Despise” may sound exaggerated, but I use that word carefully: it’s a flavor that I really, really hate. I find it astonishing, for example, that anyone cannot tell the difference between diet soda and regular soda. The diet version seems to sear my tongue at the very first sip, and even the tiniest amount fills my mouth with a nasty flavor that lingers for minutes.

When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, as an adult, I immediately knew that I would reduce my sugar intake. And with my aversion to fake sugars, I figured that I just wouldn’t get to enjoy sweet flavors very often.

As I dove into the diabetes online community – a totally incredible resource, by the way, worth far more to me than anything I ever learned from my doctor or endocrinologist – I noticed with trepidation how enthusiastic everyone else was about alternative sugars. It seemed like everyone’s favorite hobby was baking low-carbohydrate sweets at home, something that I had no interest in doing.

I wasn’t enthusiastic, but I figured that I might as well give alternative sugars a shot. I already knew that I hated Sweet’n Low, Equal, Splenda, and the like. And so I started ordering and tasting ones I’d never tried, newer and trendier alternatives. I gave stevia and erythritol and others a fair shake, but they all had nasty chemical flavors, or strange aftertastes, or both. No thank you. Around this time I figured that if homemade stevia cookies and cake was the best I could look forward to, you could count me out. I’d splurge on real sugar treats from time to time, and otherwise just pass on dessert.

The first alternative sweetener that I found more than halfway tolerable was monkfruit powder. Monkfruit has a powerful sweet flavor. It is subtly but identifiably distinct from sugar, and it still has a hint of a weird aftertaste. This was a partial success, the first sweetener I tried that I thought was actually good enough to use. But I didn’t love it.

Finally, I tried a winner.

Allulose is my favorite zero-carb sweetener. My reasons are incredibly simple: of every alternative sweetener I’ve tried, it tastes the best, which is to say that it tastes the most like true sugar. There is no aftertaste, no chemical flavor, no strange mouthfeel issues. I have dumped huge amounts of allulose into my tea, in the name of science, and have never noticed an off-flavor of any kind.

Allulose is not quite as sweet as sugar, and even if you add in extra to a recipe, it never will be as sweet. It’s also not quite as delicious as sugar. It tastes like actual sugar that has been somehow dulled or muted. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for me. Anyway, ever since reducing my carb intake, it definitely takes less sweetness than it used to in order to satisfy my sweet tooth.

When I’ve cooked with allulose I’ve been extremely pleased with the results. The texture is not different enough from granulated sugar to make much of a difference, as far as I can tell. You could easily fool an unsuspecting guest, especially in recipes like pudding that don’t require any starch or starch replacements. It’s also available as a liquid sweetener – an instant simple syrup replacement for cocktails.

The blood sugar effect is, from what I can tell, nonexistent. My CGM line doesn’t budge. Your mileage may vary, of course – there’s no telling how any one person might react to a new ingredient – but I couldn’t be more pleased about its blood glucose impact.

And guess what? Allulose might be kind of healthy, too. I admit that didn’t know or care about any secondary health impacts when I fell in love with allulose – it doesn’t spike my blood sugar, and that’s good enough for me. But it turns out that allulose may have a host of other metabolic health benefits. Dr. Peter Attia has written a long and exceedingly detailed essay on the subject. While most of the encouraging study of allulose has been in rodents, one meta-analysis of human trials found that allulose may actually reduce post-prandial glucose levels.

I’ve tried several brands of allulose, some with fancy brand names and packaging, some without. I haven’t discerned a difference from one brand to the other, so now I buy in bulk, usually whichever vendor happens to have lower prices at the time.

Maybe in the future we’ll have an even better option, an alternative zero-carb sweetener that is exactly as sweet and delicious as sugar. But in the meantime, allulose is a pretty great replacement, good enough to have turned me into an alternative sugars believer.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

From Caveman to Caving in: Understanding Why We Eat

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Caterina Florissi and Dr. Francine Kaufman

How do our brains and bodies motivate us to eat? What makes us eat past the point of hunger? And how we can develop healthier eating habits?

Thousands of years ago, some of our ancestors, as hunters and gatherers, roamed vast savannas searching for food. Traveling long distances, men scavenged for meat, speared fish, and hunted down animals. Women foraged for nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Their work was demanding, tiring, and relentless. It was also necessary for survival.

To keep them going on their essential search, our ancestors evolved not one, but two, systems to motivate them to eat. One encouraged them to eat when they needed energy. The other led them to see food as a gratifying and fulfilling reward.

Fast-forward to the present day, and the hardwiring that drives us to eat remains the same. Yet, our food environment has changed substantially. Developing a deeper understanding of our drives, the advantages they once served, and the challenges they now pose can help guide us on a path to a healthier lifestyle.

Two drives to eat

Traditionally, researchers have identified two drives that motivate us to eat: one ensures we consume enough calories to survive (known as “homeostatic”); the other encourages us to eat for pleasure (known as “hedonic”).

Homeostatic drive (from ‘homeo-’ and ‘-stasis,’ meaning staying the same)

Our homeostatic drive works to maintain our body’s energy reserves. To do so, careful bodily systems diligently manage our intake, storage, and use of nutrients.

Short-term monitoring takes place at the level of a meal or snack. As food moves down the digestive tract, receptors in the stomach and intestines detect expansion. Additional receptors also recognize the presence of proteins, carbs, and fats. This information is relayed to the brain, which determines whether we should feel hungry or full.

Longer-term, tissues and organs release chemical signals – natural hormones – based on the state of their energy stores. When reserves are running low, for instance, fat tissues reduce release of the hormone leptin (which signals fullness) while the stomach increases release of the hormone ghrelin (which signals hunger). Together, falling levels of leptin and rising levels of ghrelin act on the brain to stimulate appetite and eating behaviors. Similarly, dips and peaks in levels of insulin (which also signals fullness) can increase or decrease hunger, respectively.

Hedonic drive (from ‘hedonism,’ meaning pleasure)

In contrast, our hedonic drive is motivated by pleasure and reward. To ensure we kept looking for sources of energy, our ancestors evolved to crave foods high in fat and sugar. Today, our brains remain engineered to both like and want these foods.

Liking refers to the emotional state of enjoying food. When we eat meals or snacks, we appreciate different scents, flavors, and textures. Sweet and high-fat foods, in particular, bring us intense feelings of pleasure. They’re even believed to trigger the release of natural opioids, molecules whose effects include pain management and euphoria.

Separately, wanting refers to the motivation or need to eat more of something. This need can persist, even if we do not enjoy the taste or already feel full from what we’ve consumed. The difference between liking and wanting can be understood in terms of a drug addiction – a person may dislike, but still intensely crave a drug. The same brain pathways that regulate drug addiction are also involved in the consumption of food. As expected, foods that combine both fat and sugar have been found to be especially addictive.

The two systems underlying our homeostatic and hedonic drives do interact with one another. Notably, our hedonic system can override homeostatic signals of fullness, leading us to continue eating. At some point, however, we become full enough to turn away even the tastiest of treats.

From caveman to caving in

While our homeostatic and hedonic drives served us well in our early days, they have not aged well in our current environment. Rather, our modern landscape is saturated with processed, high-carb and sweetened foods. These foods have made it difficult for our homeostatic system to detect when the body has sufficient energy stores and have kicked our hedonic system into overdrive.

On the homeostatic front, the same signals our ancestors relied on fall short when processing today’s foods. Their inadequacy can be understood through the changing nutrient profiles of our meals. Living in hunter-gatherer societies, our ancestors routinely consumed foods rich in protein, fiber, and complex carbs. These nutrients took time to digest, giving the body more time to send the brain signals of feeling full. Today, the food industry produces nutrient-poor products that are quickly digested and leave us less satisfied.

In our current environment, the abundance of products that are high in carbs and added sugars also poses another problem. More often than not, packaged foods and beverages are prepared with excess amounts of both sugar and fat. These properties exploit our hedonic system, dangerously increasing their addictive properties and leading us to overeat.

Tips for healthier eating

So, what can we do to lead healthier lives?

1) Practice mindful eating – With time and the right diet, we can learn to recognize, follow, and trust our homeostatic signals of feeling full. Before reaching for food, take a moment to notice whether you’re physically hungry, or whether you may be responding to another feeling instead (e.g., stress or boredom). Eat at meal times and, if desired, have a healthy snack to avoid grazing throughout the day.

2) Choose filling foods – When preparing meals, look for foods high in protein and fiber. These nutrients will help you feel and stay full, lowering the hedonic temptation to keep eating. Eggs, fish, avocados, and leafy greens are a few great options.

3) Avoid sugary and processed products – While cheap, tasty, and convenient, processed and high-carb foods are readily liked and wanted. They also lead to rapid increases in glucose, which cause insulin levels to rise and fall more quickly than usual. As your glucose and insulin levels drop, your body will feel hungrier sooner. Instead, opt for ‘real’ foods, such as fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, or seeds, that do not have the same addictive properties. Cooking at home can make for great opportunities to incorporate more ‘real ingredients’ in your meals. Check out Catherine Newman’s recipes for inspiration.

4) Skip the juice and soda – When in doubt, stick with the drink of our ancestors: water. Other beverages tend to contain large amounts of sugar. These not only trick the homeostatic system into feeling hungrier, but also activate the hedonic urge to continue drinking for pleasure.

As they were in our ancestors, our homeostatic and hedonic systems remain fixed within us. By keeping these tips in mind, we can aim to channel our ancestral drives into eating habits that help us stay healthy today.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

10 Ways to Reduce the Sugar in Your Diet

Eating too much sugar is known to contribute to heart disease, obesity, tooth decay, cancer and numerous other health problems. Yet, the average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the American Heart Association. Many studies have linked high-sugar intake to an increase in cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality due to CVD.  As people living with diabetes, we must be especially mindful of the amount of sugar we take in. Limiting our added sugar can help us manage our blood sugar, avoid weight gain and improve our overall health.

Here are some realistic and manageable ways to cut back on your sugar intake. Making these small changes can lead to a healthier version of you!

1. Step Back and Re-evaluate

Make healthy changes in other areas of your life. For instance, make sure to get adequate sleep so you’re not relying on coffee laden with sugar to get you through the day. Also, adding some structure to your day can help you avoid making last-minute food choices that are usually out of convenience and less healthy than those snacks and meals we eat at home. Being prepared means less haphazard choices that may not be the best for your overall health.

2. Don’t Fall for the Low-Fat Trick

Many food companies love to boast their low-fat products but what they don’t tell you is that these foods often contain more sugar and calories than their low-fat alternatives. When fat is removed from a food, it takes away from the natural flavor, therefore they add sugar to sweeten it up. Opt for full-fat versions, and keep in mind that there are also plenty of benefits of adding fat to our diet!

3. Cut Back on Sugar-Filled Drinks

Thankfully, there are so many healthy beverage options now on the market. With options like Vitamin Water, Kevita probiotic drinks, a host of flavored sparkling seltzers, and many more, it is a lot easier to avoid those more sugary drinks that can quickly lead to both weight gain and high blood sugars. If you are a fan of coffee and/or tea, its best to keep it black or use a natural sweetener such as Lakanto’s Monkfruit Sweetener.

4. Experiment with Rubs Instead of Sauces

Condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce are commonly used but come loaded with sugar. One tablespoon of ketchup usually contains about 1 teaspoon of sugar. Check for reduced-sugar or sugar-free versions which still pack the flavor. Also, when cooking your own food, try using dry rubs of flavorful herbs and spices instead of sauces. Some other low sugar options to consider are pesto sauce, mayonnaise and even avocado. They are absolutely delicious and can spice up any meal, even a slice of bread!

Pesto sauce is a low-carb option. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

5. Consider Diet-Friendly Sugar Substitutes

While some people can take their coffee black others may cringe at the thought. Thankfully there are plenty of healthy sugar substitutes that you can use in place of the real deal. This doesn’t only go for your morning coffee but for your cooking and baking needs too. You can easily take a high sugar dessert and replace it with one of these flavorful and healthier options. And the best news is we longer have to be tempted by sugar-free treats that contain sorbitol or maltitol and are known for causing stomach upset.

6. Change Your Mindset When It Comes to Snacks

We are all quick to grab packaged goods when we need something quick to eat. Processed foods are loaded with sugar so are not the best choice for a snack to help fuel you. Consider opting for cheese, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, and beef jerky to name a few. And if you are hosting a get-together or need an idea to bring elsewhere, consider healthy options that are low in sugar such as hummus and vegetables, shrimp skewers and meat and cheese charcuterie boards.

7. Moderation

It is important to remember that some sugar in moderation is okay. And some people may be able to better manage eating sugar in moderation than others. Listen to your body and do what works for you. Having a healthy mindset when talking about any type of food group will help to avoid any negative feelings or emotions that could come along with eliminating something altogether.

8. Technology Is Your Friend

Some like to take advantage of apps like Myfitnesspal to track their calories and track macros. It is eye-opening to track a day of eating and see how much you are really consuming. For example, when I did this exercise I learned that I wasn’t taking in nearly enough fiber so I was able to adjust my daily intake. Another great app is by Companion Medical for the use of InPen. Here you will be able to enter the number of carbs and it will tell you exactly how much insulin you need based on your doctor recommended settings. Use technology as your guide and keep the sugar to the amount that you are comfortable with while still feeling in control.

9. Increase Your Protein Intake

The benefits of protein in your diet are endless, and it is vital in helping fuel our body and give us energy. It also helps us build muscle mass, helps keep our bones strong, and helps keep us satiated. By adding more protein to your diet you can avoid those sugar-laden snacks since you will be fuller for longer. Try making all meals protein-dominant, with a small portion of any foods that may spike your sugar or add on pounds if you are weight conscious.

10. Know What to Look for on the Label

Back in 2016, the FDA changed their rules so that companies would have to disclose how much added sugar was in their products along with the % of the daily value. This is helpful but there are over 50 other names for added sugars, making it even more difficult to detect. Check out the nutritional label and be sure to pay attention to the order of ingredients as they are listed with the highest % first. Some of the common names to look out for are: high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar or juice, maltose, dextrose, molasses, rice syrup and caramel.

If you are looking to get better control of your blood sugar or are looking to lose or maintain your weight, cutting back on sugar is an easy way to better your health. Taking the steps above will ensure you much success in your diabetes and weight management efforts.

Have you tried cutting back on your sugar intake? What measures did you take and what were the results? Comment and share below!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Six Tips: How to Cut Sugar and Processed Foods from Your Diet

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Frida Velcani

UCSF’s Dr. Robert Lustig explains how we all can reduce our consumption of sugar and processed foods and why it’s important for promoting health

As people spend more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, attitudes and behaviors around food are shifting. While some people may be making healthier and more conscious food choices, others may find themselves responding to stress (prompted by work, health, unemployment, family, or communication challenges) by snacking more often and gravitating toward processed and ultra-processed foods (more on ultra-processed food from the American Heart Association here). Experts are calling what we’re in a “syndemic” – a word coined in the 1990s to mean multiple interrelated epidemics happening at the same time – in this case, COVID-19, under-nutrition, and obesity. The word was popularized most recently in an article in The Lancet. In this article, we focus on the dangers of processed foods and how to cut down on them.

One of the main ingredients in processed foods is sugar – which is shown to cause chronic diseases and inflammation in the body. As background, inflammation occurs when something damages your body’s cells and your immune system releases chemicals that increase blood flow and support to that area. While this response is essential to fighting infections, too much inflammation for a long time (chronic inflammation) can be harmful to our health.

In a compelling recent webinar hosted by the New York Times, University of California San Francisco’s Dr. Robert Lustig discussed the negative health effects of consuming too much processed food and sugar. He cut through the nutritional clutter and described helpful steps that people can take to improve their eating habits and cut unhealthy foods from their diet. While this is easier said than done, there are many benefits to eating less sugar for people with diabetes – you can increase blood glucose stability and improve your time in range.

What makes most processed food unhealthy?

Processed foods often include substances that are not found in typical home-cooked meals – substances such as dyes, artificial flavors, non-sugar sweeteners, and preservatives. Processed foods also lack many of the key nutrients that your body needs, including fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals. For examples of processed foods and a deeper dive into how they can affect the body, read our article.

As Dr. Lustig emphasized, about 90% of the sugar we consume comes from processed foods, and 75% of packaged items in grocery stores are spiked with sugar.

Sugar can be found in many sweeteners: table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, and agave. Consuming excessive amounts of any of these sweeteners can increase your risk of weight gain and chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. While obesity can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing these diseases, Dr. Lustig said that people who do not have overweight or obesity can still be at risk for chronic conditions, particularly if they are eating more processed foods. As if the heightened risk for complications is not bad enough, sugar consumption has also been shown to speed up aging.

Simple (but not necessarily easy) ways to cut down on sugar and processed foods

A fiber-rich diet (consisting of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and nuts) can help reduce inflammation in the body by feeding helpful bacteria in your gut and keeping sugar from being absorbed into your liver. You should aim to eat at least 25 grams of fruits and vegetables per day. If you are looking for some ways to incorporate more fiber-rich foods (and fewer processed foods) into your diet, you can:

  • Shop in the fresh produce section of the grocery store and avoid shelved items if you can – we know this is not always easy with a limited budget for groceries.

    Image source: diaTribe

    Read the nutrition facts label with an eye for added sugars, and try to avoid them.

    • There is an “added sugar” line on most labels that will show how much sugar has been added to the food during preparation.
    • If sugar (or one of sugar’s more scientific names such as “fructose,” “glucose,” or any word ending in “-ose”) is listed as one of the first three ingredients, try hard to avoid that food.
  • Include a vegetable with every meal. If you choose fruit, aim for low-carb fruits, like berries.
  • If you choose to try to quit eating sugar and cut out certain foods with sugar completely, it may help to start with eliminating it from a single meal, such as breakfast.
    • Eliminate foods high in sugar, such as cereal and pastries.
    • Try a protein-based breakfast instead of a breakfast high in carbohydrates and sugar.
  • If you’re able, purchase fresh bread from the bakery instead of from the bread aisle – and if you can, aim to limit bread as much as possible..
  • Limit yourself to one alcoholic drink (or fewer) during social events and try to avoid any alcoholic drinks with sugar.

If this article inspires you to ditch the processed foods and to start cooking more at home without sugar at all, check out our 19 low-cost, low-carb recipes from Catherine Newman!

Source: diabetesdaily.com