Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Do Carbs Cause More Bad Than Good?

Lately I've been experimenting with a low-carb diet. It's close to ketogenic (65% fat, 30% protein, 5% carbs), but I don't stress if I go over a bit with carbs from vegetables and I do carb-ups (refeeds) whenever I fancy (usually two or three meals each week). A month into it and things are working out well for me so far. I've lost 10 lbs and am averaging 1,000 more calories a day than when I followed a low-fat diet. The best part is that my sugar cravings (especially for chocolate candy) are way down, and that right there is enough to keep me low-carbing for life.

I'm not an expert on low carb dieting, so I won't get all giddy and say that everyone in the world needs to follow this way of eating, but I just wanted to share the good news. If anyone's interested in what inspired me to go this route, read Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories book.

Below are the 10 most important findings from Taubes' research (taken from page 454 of his book). Dave Draper's site also has some more interesting information about the Good Calories, Bad Calories book.

1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease or any other chronic disease of civilization.

2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the
hormonal regulation of homeostasis—the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body. The
more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, the greater the effect on your health,
weight and well-being.

3. Sugars—sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically—are particularly harmful, probably because the combination of fructose and glucose simultaneously elevates insulin levels while overloading the liver with carbohydrates.

4. Through their direct effect on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, starches and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. They are most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and the other chronic diseases of civilization.

5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating, and not sedentary behavior.

6. Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter, any more than it causes a child to grow taller. Expending more energy than we consume does not lead to long-term weight loss; it leads to hunger.

7. Fattening and obesity are caused by an imbalance—a disequilibrium—in the hormonal
regulation of adipose tissue and fat metabolism. Fat synthesis and storage exceed the
mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and its subsequent oxidation. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of fat tissue reverses this balance.

8. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated—either chronically or after a meal—we accumulate fat in our fat tissue. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and use it for fuel.

9. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.

10. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sun Crystals Natural Sweetener: The Best of Both Worlds

I recently strayed away from my usual stevia liquid drops. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have come across my Does Stevia Taste Good? post where I discussed my distaste for stevia powder packets. But the FDA approval on part of the stevia leaf got me wondering how the conventional sugar section at Kroger was holding up. It turns out that there’s a bunch of stevia-inspired dry sweeteners on the shelves in that section now.

Curious, I bought a box of packets made by Sun Crystals. Each 5-calorie packet contains a mixture of stevia and pure cane sugar that is the sweetness equivalent of 2 teaspoons of regular sugar. Costing $3.99, it’s a fairly competitive price for 50 packets per box. (I got mine on sale for $3.59, or something like that—I lost the receipt.) Plus, the company donates one percent of their sales to 1% For The Planet, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental causes. That just sweetens the deal for me (sorry for the lame pun, but you know your lovable-but-corny Food Meister had to go there, right?).

How’d the Sun Crystals packets fare? The sweetener’s tasty enough that I actually bought a second box. Good-bye liquid stevia. (At least, until I get [fill in the blank] and decide to buy a bottle of the wet stuff again.)

The only downside to the stevia and cane sugar packets is that one is not enough for my tea cup. I’m a 2-packet-per-cup person, but it’s probably just my zest for sweets in general. Still, 10 calories for 2 packets is better than the 60 calories found in straight sugar. And Food Meister’s waistline is a full supporter of low-calorie stevia products!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Zevia Natural Sodas

So I tried out the rest of the flavors from Zevia—Cola, Ginger Ale, Black Cherry, Twist, and Orange. (Here's the review of Zevia Natural Root Beer, in case you missed it.) I cannot believe how rich the flavor is for these no-calorie sodas. They taste like candy!

Zevia’s Natural Ginger Ale especially impressed me. I have never been a fan of the leading conventional ginger ale sodas, both the regular and diet varieties, so I assumed that this taste test would be no different. But Zevia really comes through on the ginger ale flavor. It doesn’t have that stinging “after burn” effect of the usual brands. All I tasted was sweet, sweet ginger ale goodness. Unbelievable!

I swear, after trying out these Zevia Natural Sodas, it makes me want to open up a website dedicated to selling nothing but food products containing Stevia. It’s so cool to know there’s a naturally calorie-free soda that really delivers on flavor. Are you paying attention, conventional soda execs?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Zevia Root Beer

The new Zevia came yesterday (thanks Ian!). After chilling a can of the Natural Root Beer flavor (because who on earth likes warm soda?), I have a totally new stance on Zevia soda: It rocks!

Remember my review of Hansen’s Diet Root Beer soda? I gave it a thumbs up, even though it took me drinking an entire 6-pack (not all in one day, LOL) before I got used to the different taste. Not knocking Hansen's (because it's still a decent soda brand), but Zevia Natural Root Beer is delicious. From the very first sip, I was digging the flavor. Which I wasn’t really expecting, since (even though I hate to admit this) my taste buds prefer Splenda over Stevia for certain food products, so I assumed Hansen’s Splenda soda would fare better than Zevia’s Stevia soda in the taste department.

Unlike that older flavor I had first (unwittingly) tried, the newer Zevia Natural Root Beer flavor is smooth—like the big league brands, but without the poisonous chemicals. And it has just enough bite from the natural anise seed and ginger root extracts to give that ooh-la-la tingle, but not so much that you’re left with a bitter aftertaste.

I need to go tell that store owner who sold me the older Zevia soda to stock up on the newer flavors. Or, better yet, I need to ask Trader Joe’s (my favorite grocery store) to start carrying Zevia. Why shop at two stores if I don’t have to?

A downside of Zevia is its cost. A 6-pack is currently priced at $5.99. Compare this with Hansen’s price of $2.69 and it can cause some sticker shock. Those of you who drink the conventional soda brands (Pepsi, Coke, Dr. Pepper, etc.) are probably scoffing at both prices, am I right? I did, too, until I bought my first natural soda and realized how much less I drink the stuff.

I swear, there is something mighty addictive in those conventional sodas. Downing a 2-liter of Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi a day is easy as pie for me. I just keep craving more and more of the stuff. But switching to a more natural soda, I find myself enjoying a few sips and then storing the rest of the can in the fridge for later (or for even the next day). What an amazing difference! Instead of feeling like my usual diet soda addict self, I feel in control. And so, while the natural soda may cost more per ounce, I’m actually saving money each week.

As you can see from the photo, the Zevia company was nice enough to give me a case of all six flavors, plus a thermos lunch tote and a t-shirt. (The t-shirt was made in the USA. Cool!) I’ll be testing out all 6 flavors, so stay tuned for more Zevia soda reviews.