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home : opinions : opinions June 24, 2016

2/12/2013 12:03:00 PM
Guest column: Treat your heart right this Valentine's Day

Janine Rotter
Specialist in Fitness Nutrition

February is Heart Health Month. By kicking one simple ingredient in your food to the curb, you can lessen your chance of cardiovascular disease.

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and with it comes all of the beautiful red and pink cellophane heart shaped boxes filled with delicious tiny chocolate treats. But what you need to know is those tiny little treats carry with them big health consequences. You may be giving more than the three words "I Love You" are meant to represent.

Sugar. Most of us love the taste of it. And some of us, for whatever reason, tend to lean toward it to comfort us during stressful or emotional times. Like alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs, sugar is an addiction and a very hard one to break.

Sugar has been linked to obesity and suspected of being implicated in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension-conditions, dementia, macular degeneration, candida and tooth decay.

Sugar is the main cause of inflammation in your entire body and your artery walls, making it the number one dietary contributor to heart disease. Inflammation also causes you aches and pains, which make your daily activities difficult.

Sugar is sugar. Whether it is derived from raw whole cane sugar, white refined sugar, or even honey it should be eaten in moderation. They all have the same effect on our bodies and this is what is leading to the major illnesses we are seeing today.

Sugar is hidden in most of our pre-packed foods, from our breakfast cereals, peanut butter and even our bread. No wonder the average American consumes nearly 156 pounds of it per year.

One of the simplest ways to improve your health is to reduce the amount you eat of all simple sugars. Educate yourself and read the ingredients on the nutrition labels. Look for names like concentrated fruit juice, barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, cane-juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, date sugar, dextran, dextrose, fructose, crystalline fructose, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, glucose solids, golden sugar, golden syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, molasses, raw sugar, refiner's syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose, sugar, turbinado sugar and malt syrup. If it ends in "ose," it is sugar.

What is the difference in raw and refined sugar?

Whole raw cane sugar is unrefined sugar, which is obtained from sugar cane. Sucanant or Rapadura is pure dried sugar cane juice. Both raw cane sugar and sugarcane juice is the least processed product of the sugar cane.

White Sugar is refined from its original state of sugar cane or sugar beet.

In this process it may be treated with phosphoric acid and/or calcium hydroxide and carbon dioxide, stripping it of its nutrient value. Nutrients that are lost during this refined process are iron, phosphorus, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C, calcium and chromium.

When it comes to sweeteners, the choice is yours - but keep in mind that all caloric sugars are virtually the same. If you are going for the occasional treat and want a simple sugar go for the choices that have nutrients; raw honey, maple syrup, raw cane sugar and molasses. For everyday sweet urges, stick with the all-natural Stevia sweeteners. Remember, it is always better to satisfy your sweet tooth with whole fruit than with any kind of simple sugar. Fruits are unprocessed, nutrient-rich and have the added fiber that helps to slow down the carbohydrate absorption.

Why not give heart healthy alternative this Valentine's Day. Remember to be thoughtful of the recipient and what he or her likes. A great stress relief idea is a massage; this can also be a couple's massage. You can make a healthy sweet alternative like chocolate covered strawberries made with pure chocolate containing at least 80% cocoa. A homemade candlelit dinner is always nice or best of all, make your own memories with the gift of time.

Here's to your heart and your health!

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