What Sugar Does To Your Kids

Let's start with the good news…kids are consuming less sugar now than they were in 2000. However now in 2015, a higher percent of their total calories comes from added sugar. Added sugar can put kids at risk for obesity and other health problems.

Kids may be more sensitive to sugar then adults, they even seem to be biologically wired to crave it. Children in this country eat the equivalent of 34 teaspoons of sugar per day. Compare that to the 22 teaspoons adults consume on average, both of which are significantly higher than the recommended 6-teaspoon-per-day limit for adults. 

A study in The Lancet reviewed the link between childhood obesity and sugar consumption. Research found that children who consume sugar-sweetened drinks had the highest probability of being obese.

Hyperactive children seem to metabolize sugar differently in response to high-sugar meals. These kids increase their output of the stress hormone called cortisol, which plays an important role in regulating blood sugar levels. Studies of children’s high-sugar diets show that while activity levels go up for both normal and hyperactive kids, the hyperactive kids also become aggressive.

Starting healthy eating habits early with your children is imperative to ensuring they become healthy adults. Studies show that when your child eats a low-sugar breakfast, they can be more productive at school with an improved attention span and short-term memory. 

One study done recently in the Bay Area showed how much a child’s health can be improved by eliminating sugar from their diet for just ten days. By reducing sugar, even without reducing calories, the study proved that sugar is toxic because it’s sugar, not just because it has extra calories.

There are many ways to get your kids more involved in the preparation of healthy family meals and desserts – PBS Parents has great recipes (like these blueberry oatmeal muffins), and most counties have programs to help families be more healthy. By, the way, have you read the Potter the Otter books? Potter encourages kids to drink more water – another important way to keep kids healthy.

For the “sweet” holidays coming up - Christmas Valentine’s and Easter - you might adapt the Halloween Switch Witch idea – take away the candy and leave a special gift in its place.

Why Too Much Sugar is a Dangerous Thing

too much sugar dangerous enjoy vibrant health

The World Health Organization currently recommends that no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from sugar – and they are considering new guidelines to lower that to 5% for the average adult, which is about 6 teaspoons (25gm).

You might think 6 spoonfuls of sugar is plenty for anyone, but do you really know where sugar is hiding in everyday foods, not including fruits and veggies?
  • 12oz can of soda: 8 tsp  (39gm)
  • 8oz of fruit yogurt: 4 tsp  (19gm)
  • ½ cup pasta sauce: 2+ tsp  (12gm)
  • 1 bagel: 1+ tsp  (6gm)
The average sugar intake for a person in the US is 22 teaspoons per day - nearly 4x the recommended guidelines! Did you know that drinking just one can of soda a day can lead to 15 pounds of weight gain per year?

To keep the appropriate level of sugar (glucose) moving through your blood stream so your body releases the right amount of insulin (the hormone that converts food into usable energy), you need only 1 teaspoon of sugar at any given time in your body.

Insulin works by stimulating your cells to pull excess sugar out of your bloodstream, otherwise glucose builds up in your blood, leading to insulin resistance. Symptoms of insulin resistance include high blood pressure, weight gain around the middle, brain fog and fatigue.

Dr. Robert Lustig from UCSF says our bodies can safely metabolize only 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. He also agrees that the majority of excess sugar we ingest becomes fat, which can lead to diabetes. Over the last 30 years, cases of diabetes in the US have risen by 128%, affecting over 25 million people.
high protein vegetables

What are other dangers of too much sugar in your diet?

  • Metabolic diseases such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, heart disease
  • Insulin resistance - with too much insulin, glucose builds up in your blood, causing brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, high blood pressure
  • Liver damage - the liver metabolizes sugar the same way that it metabolizes alcohol
  • Brain function - high levels of sugar consumption can increase and the risk for Alzheimer's
The AMA has reported that people who consume too much added sugar will likely have elevated blood triglyceride levels (fat in the blood) and lower HDL (good cholesterol), whereas those who eat very little sugar can reduce their triglycerides and raise their HDL. By removing sugar from your diet for even a few weeks, you can improve your cholesterol considerably.

There have been warnings about the dangers of sugar since the 1950s. John Yudkin, professor of nutrition at Queen College in London, argued when it came to heart disease and other chronic diseases, “it's sugar, not fat that's the culprit."

How we can support proper blood sugar and insulin levels?

  • Eat a well-balanced, plant-based diet with plenty of vegetables, protein, whole grains and healthy fats
  • Reduce your sugar intake to 6 teaspoons a day by limiting concentrated sources, such as refined carbohydrates and sodas
  • Limit your intake of fruit juice (even freshly squeezed) – try diluting it with water
  • Stay active and exercise to build your muscles, where extra sugar is stored. Having more muscle tissue helps you self-regulate your blood sugar
  • Read your food labels on food packaging - 74% of processed foods contain 60+ different words for sugar

How to Get Enough Magnesium in Your Diet

benefits of magnesium enjoy vibrant health
Now that you know how important magnesium is for your health, how do you make sure you’re getting enough of it in your diet? 

The recommended daily allowance of magnesium is between 350mg and 400mg. You don’t want to over-consume it though, because that leads to digestive discomfort as the body tries to evacuate the excess.

Foods that are high in magnesium include whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, fish, dairy, some fruits and vegetables…and even dark chocolate has a touch of this marvelous mineral (yay!).

Here’s a list of some of the most magnesium-rich foods and the percentage of the daily allowance:
  • 1 cup cooked spinach – 39% 
  • 1 oz. pumpkin seeds – 37% 
  • 1 cup cooked edamame – 37% 
  • 1 cup cooked black-eyed peas – 23% 
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice – 21% 
  • 1 cup cooked kale – 19% 
  • ½ cup walnuts – 16% 
  • 3 oz. tuna – 14% 
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt – 12% 
  • 1 cup whole wheat pasta – 11% 
  • ½ cup dried apricots – 10% 
  • 1 cup lowfat milk – 10% 
  • 1 medium banana – 8% 
  • ½ large avocado – 9% 
  • 1 Hershey’s Special Dark Bar (1.45oz) – 3% 

If you aren’t a fan of the leafy greens (or you’re not a banana-lovin’ minion) you can take a daily magnesium supplement. When selecting supplements, it's important to look at their ingredients for quality, purity and efficacy. Whole food supplements supply our bodies with nutrients found in nature which we are not currently getting from our diet.

You also want to make sure you aren’t consuming something that actually takes magnesium away from you. For example, drinking carbonated colas will deplete your magnesium levels because their phosphates bind up the magnesium in your body. A diet that’s high in saturated fat makes it harder for magnesium to absorb in your gut. Eating too much sugar forces your kidneys to increase the excretion of magnesium.

As always, balance is key to good health - now go have a look at some of these delicious recipes that pack a healthy dose of our favorite miracle mineral. Bon appetit!

Brown Rice with Spinach & Walnuts
Sweet-n-Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Garlic Shrimp & Black-Eyed Peas
Avocado & Greek Yogurt Tuna Salad
Bittersweet Chocolate Fruit & Nut Bark

The Health Benefits of Magnesium

benefits of magnesium

The benefits of magnesium in your body are almost too many to count, but count them we must! So what is magnesium exactly?

Magnesium is a mineral that enzymes need to keep your body functioning properly. Enzymes are substances that act like spark plugs for our cells – they are the catalysts that bring about hundreds of biochemical reactions in our bodies, such as during digestion or the conversion of food into energy. Without enzymes, toxic chemicals can grow to dangerous levels in your organs.

Magnesium helps you store energy and it’s a powerful antidote to stress and insomnia. It helps relax your muscles and transmit nerve signals. Magnesium keeps your teeth and bones healthy, and can be used to treat many chronic conditions including fibromyalgia, menstrual cramps, migraines, acid reflux, diabetes and hearing loss.

benefits of magnesium insomnia

Magnesium is probably the most important mineral for your heart. It helps the heart function properly, protects blood vessels, and acts as a natural blood thinner. A number of studies have shown magnesium can benefit your blood pressure and possibly prevent a heart attack or stroke.

Fewer than 30% of adults get enough magnesium in their foods to meet the recommended daily allowance, which is between 350mg and 400mg. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include anxiety, restless leg syndrome, irritability, nausea, abnormal heart rhythms, muscle spasm or weakness, hyperventilation or even seizures.

By taking your nutrition seriously and learning more about the roles that vitamins and minerals play in your body, you will feel better and maybe even prevent the need for additional medications.

Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle, sums it up nicely:

“All the metabolic processes in the body depend on vitamins and minerals. Magnesium is responsible for the function of 325 enzymes – it’s an absolute requirement for calcium to be incorporated into bone, it keeps toxic chemicals out of the brain, it dances with calcium to create nerve and muscle impulses, it keeps muscles (including your heart and blood vessels) relaxed…and if deficient, it triggers dozens of health conditions.”

Click here to learn more about how to build more magnesium into your diet.

5 easy ways to improve your posture and stay healthy on the job

improve posture at your desk

Our jobs can sometimes feel all-consuming, which makes it easy to forget about our posture while we’re working. Poor posture inhibits your body’s circulation of oxygen, blood and other nutrients throughout your spinal system, which can sap your energy and focus. Over time, poor posture strains your spine, neck, head and shoulders – which can bring on joint pain, backaches and headaches. Improving your posture while you work is critical, not only for your general health and well-being, but also for your productivity and brainpower.

Here are five things you can do today and every day to improve your posture at work:

Sit up properly

When we sit slumped over the computer, our body takes in less oxygen and we’re doing damage to our body’s ability to keep our energy going. Be aware of your unbalanced postures throughout the day, such as leaning to one side, hunching your shoulders or tilting your head – even sitting with your legs crossed can take its toll. Any prolonged sitting position, even a good one, can be tiring. It’s important to sit back and let the chair do its job of supporting your spine.

5 easy ways to improve your posture and stay healthy on the job

Take a break to stretch

Regular stretching for just a minute or two every hour helps your back and reduces the risk of repetitive motion injuries. Try this move while seated at your desk - with your hands behind your head, lean just slightly over the back of the chair, engaging your core. Be careful not to press with your neck. Hold for a moment, then relax forward and repeat. This movement will help your upper spine be more fluid, which makes it easier to hold good alignment.

5 easy ways to improve your posture and stay healthy on the job

Try a standing desk

Research has shown that sitting all day long can lead to serious health issues over time, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. On the other hand, standing all day can also cause problems with your knees and feet. Consider alternating your time between sitting and standing with a portable, height-adjustable addition to your desk. And remember to take regular mini walks – to the break room, the bathroom, or up and down a flight of stairs.

5 easy ways to improve your posture and stay healthy on the job

Make time to breathe

Controlled breathing exercises can increase your focus, lower your blood pressure and help you relax. Try this breathing technique a few times a day while sitting or standing - align your spine and inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four, all through the nose, and repeat. Keeping your body aligned as you breath promotes the delivery of oxygen to your brain.


Just practice!

To instantly improve your posture while sitting or standing, roll your shoulders down and back, then pull your elbows back toward your back pants pockets. Make use of ergonomic desk accessories to maintain normal spinal curves while seated. When you’re standing, pay attention to how your weight is distributed - try to stand on each foot evenly. Keep a small diagram of good posture on your desk to remind you to break bad habits.

Improving your posture at work can help you make better decisions, boost your productivity, and reduce your overall stress. Keep at it - bad posture habits can be so ingrained that it takes constant vigilance to improve them.

7 reasons why good posture is so important

Good posture is essential to good health for so many reasons, not the least of which is just feeling better. By changing your slouchy, slumpy habits, you can:
  • Reduce the fatigue and strain in your muscles, ligaments and joints 
  • Alleviate low back pain - the 2nd most common reason people visit the doctor
  • Breathe better and increase the oxygen flow to your brain, which helps you concentrate and maybe even makes you more creative
  • Enjoy a stronger sense of confidence
  • Reduce wear and tear on your spine and all its discs
  • Improve digestion by keeping your ribcage upright and your diaphragm relaxed
  • Improve circulation from your limbs to your heart
So how do you improve your posture? Maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise is important, as is paying attention to how you sit, stand and carry yourself during the day and at night.

Sitting for good posture

You want to have the lower and the middle portions of your back against the back of your chair, distributing your weight evenly. Your knees should be bent at 90° with your feet flat on the floor. Avoid sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time. Get up every half-hour and move around - do some stretches, get a drink of water and practice a little deep breathing.

Standing for good posture

Pay attention to your shoulders. Instead of hunching up or curving forward, they should be back, relaxed and aligned with each other. Your chest should be perpendicular to the ground (not puffed out) and you can tighten your stomach muscles to support your back and stand a bit straighter. Don't lock your knees - they should be bent slightly to take pressure off your hips. If you need to be standing for long periods of time, wear supportive shoes.

Walking for good posture

Looking down at your cell phone while you're walking doesn't do your posture any favors. Keep your chin parallel to the ground. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your stomach and bottom should be aligned with the rest of your body. Try not to arch or bend your back too much and make sure each step starts on your heel.

Sleeping for good posture

Invest in a supportive mattress. Sleeping on your back is best, but side-sleepers can stay in better alignment by placing a pillow between your legs. Avoid sleeping on your stomach (which creates extra pressure on your neck) and choose a pillow that doesn't cause your your neck to bend at an unnatural angle.