Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Spicy Foods

More than half of Americans find hot or spicy foods appealing.  The age group most likely to order spicy foods in a restaurant are in the 10 to 34 year age group.  When people are told they must modify their diet, the most likely response is “Don’t make me give up my chilies.  I cannot live without them.”  Eating hot peppers activates areas of the brain related to both pleasure and pain.  In fact, relief and pleasure are intertwined, overlapping in the same area of the brain.  Sensations of pleasure and aversion both rely on nerves in the brain stem.  Researchers feel that the love of heat from spicy foods, particularly those containing chilies or hot peppers, are these two systems of pleasure and pain working together.

Chili peppers are one of the main sources of capsaicin, which gives them their “heat.”  Capsaicin also has many health benefits.  It may lower the risk of intestinal tumors, has possibilities of lowering other forms of cancer, may help fight obesity by boosting metabolic and fat burning rate, and if applied topically, reduces pain.  Eating spicy foods may agree with you and you may enjoy them.  However, limiting them toward bedtime may help avoid indigestion that makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.  They are still linked with time spent awake during the night and taking longer to go to sleep.

Friday, August 5, 2016


Sugar tastes wonderful and enhances the taste of other foods.  However, it provides only “empty calories” and is of no nutritional value in that it contains no vitamins or minerals.  It is easy for 4 to 8 year olds to eat 60 or so grams of added sugar a day, which over the period of a year adds up to 50 pounds of sugar.  The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends that children and adults limit added sugar to 10 percent or fewer of daily calories.  This is about half as much as children ages 4 to 8 are consuming now.  Children are biologically programmed to prefer a higher level of sweetness than adults do.  Sugar is full of calories, and we crave sweet food at an early age.

Young children who consume too much added sugar are at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, or both.  Children aged 3 to 11 who drink about 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages daily have higher levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of harmful inflammation in their bodies, than do children who do not consume sugary drinks.  Eating too much added sugar may also trigger metabolic syndrome, which can increase the possibility of having heart disease, diabetes, and strokes.

Naturally occurring sugars in dairy products and whole, fresh fruit are not considered added-sugar because the body does not process them in the same way that it does sugar added to food.  Learn to read labels to help identify added sugar, and try to find nonsweetened products.  Encourage drinking water and limit juices.  Limit soda and lemonade to special occasions.  If your child drinks milk, use plain milk rather than flavored milk.  Be sure your food does not contain added sweeteners like sugar alcohols, stevia or sucralose.  Added sugar may be listed as high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrose, fructose, maltose, or grain syrups.  Words ending in “ose” usually indicate the presence of a sugar.