1. Stevia

  • Derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant.

  • Nonnutritive sweetener, which means that it contains little to no calories or carbs (1)

  • May help lower blood sugar levels (2, 3)

  • Available in both liquid and powdered form

  • Much sweeter than regular sugar: for each cup (200 grams) of sugar, substitute 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of powdered stevia

2. Sucralose

  • Is not metabolized, passing through the body undigested (4)

  • Splenda is the most common sucralose-based sweetener (5), other names include Zerocal, Sukrana, SucraPlus, Candys, Cukren, and Nevella

  • While sucralose itself is calorie-free, Splenda contains maltodextrin and dextrose, resulting in 3 calories and 1 gram of carbs in each packet (6)

  • Not a suitable for baking as it might result in harmful compounds when exposed to high temperatures (7, 8)

  • Pure sucralose is 300-1000 times sweeter than regular sugar, so you’ll only need to use a tiny amount in place of sugar for your favorite foods (9)

3. Erythritol

  • A sugar alcohol that stimulate the sweet taste receptors on your tongue to mimic the taste of sugar

  • Up to 80% as sweet as regular sugar, yet it contains only 5% of the calories at just 0.2 calories per gram (10)

  • Studies have suggested that it may help lower blood sugar levels (111213 )

  • As it is more difficult for intestinal bacteria to digest, compared to other sugar alcohols (maltitol, sorbitol, lactitol), it typically doesn’t cause the digestive issues such as gas or bloating (14).

  • Can be used in both baking and cooking

  • Tends to have a cooling mouthfeel and doesn’t dissolve as well as sugar

  • Substitute 1 1/3 cups (267 grams) of erythritol for each cup (200 grams) of sugar.

4. Xylitol

  • Another type of sugar alcohol

  • As sweet as sugar containing just 3 calories per gram and 4 grams of carbs per teaspoon (4 grams) (4)

  • The carbohydrates in xylitol don’t count as net carbs, as they don’t raise blood sugar or insulin levels (15, 16)

  • Works well in baked goods but may require extra liquid in the recipe, as it tends to absorb moisture and increase dryness

  • Exchange for sugar in a 1:1 ratio

  • Has been associated with digestive problems when used in high doses (14).

5. Monk Fruit Sweetener

  • Extracted from the monk fruit, a plant native to southern China

  • Contains natural sugars and compounds called mogrosides, which are antioxidants that account for much of the sweetness of the fruit (17)

  • Between 100–250 times sweeter than regular sugar (18)

  • Contains no calories and no carbs

  • May also stimulate the release of insulin, which can improve the transportation of sugar out of the bloodstream to help manage blood sugar levels (17)

  • Check the ingredients label, as it may be mixed with sugar, molasses or other sweeteners

  • Can be substituted anywhere you would use regular sugar, the ratio can vary between different brands based on what other ingredients may be included

See article at Healthline.com  September 11, 2018

Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol (CBD) Extracts Sold Online

With the growing use of cannabidiol (CBD), this article might be of interest. Because of discrepancies between federal and state cannabis laws, there is inadequate regulation and oversight, leading to the inaccurate labeling of some products. This article examines the labeling accuracy of CBD sold online and includes identification of present but unlabeled cannabinoids.


Eighty-four products (from 31 companies) were purchased and analyzed for CBD concentration

  • 18 of 40 oil products were within 10% labeled concentration

  • 5 of 20 tinctures were within 10% labeled concentration

  • 3 of 24 vaporization liquids were within 10% labeled concentration

Deviation from labeled content (Mean % of deviation)

  • Oil – 29%

  • Tinctures – 220.62%

  • Vaporization liquids – 1099% (yes, that is one-thousand)

Concentration of unlabeled cannabinoids was generally low

  • THC was detected (up to 6.43 mg/mL) in 18 of the 84 samples tested

  • Cannabidiolic acid (up to 55.73 mg/mL) in 13 of the 84 samples tested

  • Cannabigerol (up to 4.67 mg/mL) in 2 of the 84 samples tested

See this article in JAMA, November 7, 2017

Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909.

Is It Healthy to Eat Avocados Every Day?

An article in LIVESTRONG.com discusses the health benefits of avocados. Avocados are high in fat, but the majority is a type of monounsaturated fat known to lower cholesterol.  Other health benefits include fiber potassium and essential vitamins.

Health Benefits of Avocados

1. Healthy Unsaturated Fats

Most of the fat in avocados comes in the form unsaturated fats. They are especially high in monounsaturated fat, which boosts your levels of (good) HDL cholesterol without raising the (bad) LDL cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats may also help lower triglycerides in your bloodstream.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating one Hass avocado per day decreased overall cardiovascular disease risk factors.

You can work this amount of fat into your daily diet as long as your total fat intake stays within the recommended range: According to the Institute of Medicine, 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat.

2. Added Dietary Fiber

Chances are good that you need to add fiber to your diet. Most Americans only consume 15 grams of fiber daily, compared to the recommended daily intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, reports the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Adding avocados to your daily diet will help you increase your fiber because you’ll get 4.5 grams from half of an avocado. The soluble fiber in avocados helps protect your cardiovascular health by lowering levels of cholesterol. It also slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, which keeps your blood sugar balanced.

3. Loads of Nutrients

Even though avocados are a little high in calories, those calories come packaged together with a good dose of nutrients. Just a half of the fruit has 487 milligrams of potassium, which is the same amount as a large banana (without the sugar). Potassium can help lower your blood pressure and keeps your muscles and nerves working.

Avocados are a good source of many of your daily vitamins. You will get about 11 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C and niacin and 20 percent of the daily folate and vitamin B-6 from half an avocado. The same portion is also a good source of vitamins E and K.

See article at LIVESTRONG.com  July 06, 2018

Andrew TomasComment
Snake Oil Supplements

Scientific evidence for popular health supplements

(Showing tangible human health benefits when taken orally by an adult with a healthy diet)

Information is beautiful - This visualization generates itself from this Google Doc. So when new research comes out, the data is quickly updated and the image regenerated. (How cool is that??)

Note: You might see multiple bubbles for certain supplements. These are because some supplements affect a range of conditions, but the evidence quality varies from condition to condition. For example, there’s strong evidence that garlic can lower blood pressure. But studies on whether it can prevent colds have produced inconclusive results. In these cases, the supplement is given another bubble.

See it in its interactive mode on Information is beautiful – Snake Oil Supplements


Oils for your Health

Which oil is right for you? That depends largely on the type of cooking you’re doing. An oil’s smoke point, which is the point when oil starts burning and smoking, is one of the most important things to consider. If you heat an oil past its smoke point, it not only harms the flavor, but many of the nutrients in the oil degrade—and the oil will release harmful compounds called free radicals.
If you’re wondering which is the best cooking oil for your health—and which oils are not healthy—there’s some disagreement. TIME spoke to two cooking oil experts—Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and Lisa Howard, author of The Big Book of Healthy Cooking Oils—about how to choose the best option.

  1. Olive oil

    • Use only extra virgin (not refined, and therefore of high quality containing a large amount of monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fatty acids)
    • Relatively low smoke point, so only use for low and medium-heat cooking
    • Also use for baking and as a dressing
    • Be aware that many “extra virgin” labeled olive oils may not be. Use one of the following: California Olive Ranch “Extra Virgin Olive Oil”, Colavita “Extra Virgin Olive Oil”, Lucini “Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil”, Trader Joe’s “ Extra Virgin California Estate Olive Oil”, Trader Joe’s “100% Italian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil”
  2. Coconut oil

    • High in saturated fat, which has resulted in conflicting recommendation for health
    • High smoke point, so use when cooking at a very high temperature or frying food
  3. Vegetable oil

    • Most vegetable oils on the market are a blend of canola, corn, soybean, safflower, palm and sunflower oils
    • Refined and processed, past their heat tolerance and become rancid in the processing
    • Lack of flavor and nutrients
    • Associated with more degradation of land for production
  4. Canola oil

    • Derived from rapeseed
    • Contains a decent amount of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats
    • High smoke point, so use when cooking at a very high temperature or frying food
    • Refined and processed, unless “cold-pressed”
  5. Avocado oil

    • Unrefined
    • Higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil, so use when cooking at a high
    • Contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (it has one of the
      highest monounsaturated fat contents among cooking oils) as well as vitamin E
    • Expensive
  6. Sunflower oil

    • High in vitamin E
    • High smoke point
    • High in omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory (while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory)
  7. Peanut oil

    • Highest monounsaturated fat contents among cooking oils
    • Flavorful with a nutty taste and smell
    • High smoke point
  8. Walnut oil

    • Low smoke point

See the article in Time, Jul 23, 2018 

Do I have to do cardio to lose weight?

If your goal is fat loss, the answer is NO! But that does not mean that you can give up on cardio for some of the other health benefits that it provides.

Now, while cardio isn't necessary for weight loss, that doesn't mean cardio is unnecessary ~in general~. The American Heart Association currently recommends 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise per week (spread over five days) OR 75 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise per week (spread over three days) plus two strength training sessions for optimal heart health. (Only about 23 percent of Americans are meeting those requirements, though.) That's because getting your heart rate up is still crucial for keeping your heart healthy.

The thing is: Strength training, when done strategically, can definitely get your heart rate high enough to count as vigorous cardiovascular exercise. (Here's a primer on how to use heart rate zones to train for max exercise benefits.) "Compound movements are a great way to get your heart rate up while doing strength training," explains Gozo. Because you're working several muscles at once, your heart rate is going to climb. (If you've ever heard your heartbeat in your ears after doing a few heavy deadlifts, you know exactly what she's talking about.) Plus, by minimizing the rest you take between sets, adding heavier weights, and/or stepping up your pace, you can boost your heart rate.

See Shape Article 6 Jul 2018

Resistance Training May Help Relieve Depression

Another great reason you should be strength training!

Strength training is good for your body and your mind, according to a new review of more than 30 previously published studies.

The paper, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, found that resistance exercise training (RET), such as weightlifting and strength training, is associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. It also, of course, comes with physical benefits, like making bones stronger and preventing chronic conditions.

While the current review specifically examined resistance training, plenty of evidence suggests that other forms of physical activity, such as aerobic exercise, cardio and yoga, may also improve depressive symptoms.

See Time Magazine Article 9 May 2018

Why Weight Training Is Ridiculously Good For You

Modern exercise science shows that working with weights—whether that weight is a light dumbbell or your own body—may be the best exercise for lifelong physical function and fitness.

Resistance training counteracts all those bone losses and postural deficits.. Through a process known as bone remodeling, strength training stimulates the development of bone osteoblasts: cells that build bones back up. While you can achieve some of these bone benefits through aerobic exercise, especially in your lower body, resistance training is really the best way to maintain and enhance total-body bone strength.

More research links resistance training with improved insulin sensitivity among people with diabetes and prediabetes. One study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that twice-weekly training sessions helped control insulin swings (and body weight) among older men with type-2 diabetes. 

Strength training also seems to be a potent antidote to inflammation, a major risk factor for heart disease and other conditions.

Lifting “almost to failure”—or until your muscles are near the point of giving out—is the real key, regardless of how much weight you’re using. 

See Time Magazine Article 6  Jun 2018

Are Omega-3s Good for Your Brain?

There’s a reason fish oil capsules and other omega-3 supplements are so popular. “Omega-3 fatty acids are involved in many different fundamental [brain] processes,” says Simon Dyall, a principal academic and head of nutrition at Bournemouth University in the UK.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids—namely EPA and DHA—and their metabolites influence gene expression, oxidative stress, cerebral blood flow, levels of neurotransmitters, and other brain-related processes such as the production of new neurons, Dyall explains. DHA in particular is an essential building block of the brain’s cell membranes. So at a molecular level—like a house without bricks or walls—the brain could not exist without omega-3 fatty acids.

There seems to no downside to eating more fish, with omega-3 fatty acids are uniquely high in fish, with a typical portion of salmon providing 2.5 to 3.5g. There is no official daily recommendation, but 250-500 mg is "recommended".

Before relying on supplements, it might be worth considering that something else in fish is also, or in combination [with omega-3’s], having some benefit.

If you want to double down on omega-3 and take a supplement along with your weekly portions of fish, the NIH states that the potential side-effects are mild. Just be sure to keep your supplement intake below 2 grams per day to avoid potential (though unlikely) health complications—including reduced immune function or increased bleeding, the NIH warns. (Ask your doctor first if you’re on prescription meds—especially blood thinners.)

So should you be taking an onega-3 supplement? Maybe, but look at your weekly fish consumption first.

See Time Magazine Article 20 Jun 2018

Top 15 Omega-3 Foods

If you are spending money on expensive omega-3 supplements, consider looking at  adding some of these foods to your diet.

  1. Spinach -Omega-3 Payoff: 352 mg per ½ cup (cooked)
  2. Fontina Cheese -Omega-3 Payoff: 448 mg per 2-ounce serving
  3. Navy Beans -Omega-3 Payoff: 1 cup has 1,190 mg of ALA
  4. Grass-fed Beef -Omega-3 Payoff: 160 mg per 6-ounce steak
  5. Anchovies -Omega-3 Payoff: 597 mg per 1 ounce boneless
  6. Mustard Seed -Omega-3 Payoff: 230 mg per tablespoon
  7. Walnuts -Omega-3 Payoff: 2,500 mg per ¼ cup
  8. Winter Squash -Omega-3 Payoff: 332 mg per cup (baked)
  9. Eggs -Omega-3 Payoff: 225 mg per egg
  10. Purslane -Omega-3 Payoff: 300 mg per ½ cup
  11. Flaxseed Oil -Omega-3 Payoff: 7,300 mg per Tbsp
  12. Wild Rice -Omega-3 Payoff: 240 mg per ½ cup (uncooked)
  13. Chia Seeds -Omega-3 Payoff: 2,500 mg per Tbsp
  14. Red Lentils-Omega-3 Payoff: 480 mg per cup (raw)
  15. Firm Tofu -Omega-3 Payoff: 814 mg per 3-ounce serving