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The smell and taste of pumpkin pie in unmistakable, and until recently a completely unavoidable part of fall. Everything has been pumpkin-spicified (including our own pumpkin spice Mocca Shots).

Where does it come from, what is it made of and are there any benefits to indulging in that pumpkin spice latte?

Pumpkin spice isn’t a singular spice but rather a combination of the spices including: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves, and Allspice. During the heyday of spice trading, these spices were important for flavoring and preserving meats, fruits, and vegetables. Since fall is the season of harvests, these spices are deeply rooted in baking and cooking at this time of year as colonists preserved and baked with these spices to preserve food for the winter. Moreover, pumpkins are plentiful in North America at this time of year.

Pumpkin spice as a product didn’t become popular until 50 years ago when McCormick began selling their blend of these spices which they dubbed “Pumpkin Spice.” This is how we have been baking pumpkin pies now for half a century!

 

And of course, love it or hate it, the introduction of the Pumpkin Spice Latte by Starbucks has launched a huge market for this flavor in recent years. As of 2016, the market for pumpkin spice products grew to over $500 million.

 

What are the health benefits?

Cinnamon

Cinnamon acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It can help control blood sugar, and aid in digestion.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is another great antioxidant and is packed with minerals and B-vitamins. It has been shown to relieve pain, promote digestion and helps to detoxify the body.

Ginger

Ginger is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It has been shown to aid digestion and prevent nausia, and reduce muscle pain and soreness. In addition, ginger could help lower the risk of cancer. We chose this as an ingredient in Energon Recover for a reason. Learn more about the benefits of ginger it in our blog.

Cloves

Cloves are a great source of fiber, are packed with vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.

Allspice

Another anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that boosts the immune system, aids digestion, and helps with circulation.

References

Black, C D, and P J O’Connor. “Acute Effects of Dietary Ginger on Muscle Pain Induced by Eccentric Exercise.” Phytotherapy Research : PTR., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21031618.

Cox, Savannah. “A Brief History of How Pumpkin Spice Took over Our Lives.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 12 Oct. 2016, www.businessinsider.com/how-pumpkin-spice-took-over-fall-2016-10.

D’Costa, Krystal. “The Rise of Pumpkin Spice.” Scientific American Blog Network, 20 Sept. 2017, blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/the-rise-of-pumpkin-spice/.

Hlebowicz, et al. “Effect of Cinnamon on Postprandial Blood Glucose, Gastric Emptying, and Satiety in Healthy Subjects | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 June 2007, academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/85/6/1552/4632985.

Mancini-Filho, J. “Faculdade De Ciências Farmacêuticas, Depto. De Alimentos e Nutrição Experimental, São Paulo, Brasil.” Bollettino Chimico Farmaceutico, 1 Dec. 1998, europepmc.org/abstract/med/10077878.

P., G. “Some Aspects of Dioecism in Pimento (Allspice) | Annals of Botany | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 July 1964, academic.oup.com/aob/article-abstract/28/3/451/125401.

Pham, Antony Q., et al. “Cinnamon Supplementation in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy, Wiley-Blackwell, 6 Jan. 2012, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1592/phco.27.4.595.

“PPARα Mediates the Hepatoprotective Effects of Nutmeg.” Journal of Proteome Research, pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jproteome.7b00901.

Ryan, J L, et al. “Ginger (Zingiber Officinale) Reduces Acute Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea: a URCC CCOP Study of 576 Patients.” Supportive Care in Cancer : Official Journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer., U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21818642/.

SHELEF, L. A., et al. “SENSITIVITY OF SOME COMMON FOOD‐BORNE BACTERIA TO THE SPICES SAGE, ROSEMARY, AND ALLSPICE.” Journal of Food Science, Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111), 25 Aug. 2006, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1980.tb07508.x.

Zhang, Lei, and Bal L. Lokeshwar. Current Drug Targets, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3891794/.

For anyone who has been looking to get in shape, the prevailing belief is to avoid carbs at all costs. While cutting carbs is effective if your primary focus is fat loss, it is detrimental to strength, performance, and muscle gain.

Bodybuilders know a thing or two about gaining lean muscle mass. For years, they have recommended eating fast absorbing sugars such as gummy bears right after a workout. But why? Isn’t sugar supposed to make you fat?

 

Common misconception #1: sweets are bad

Not all carbs and sugars are the same. There are a wide variety of carbohydrates from simple to complex along the spectrum we refer to as the glycemic index. Carbohydrates that digest fast and immediately spike blood sugar/insulin levels are high on the scale, and carbohydrates that take a long time to digest or only slightly elevate blood sugar levels for a longer period of time are low on the scale.

 

Common misconception #2: Protein, Protein, Protein

Protein is King when it comes to post work out supplementation, but it’s only one component of sports performance nutrition. Protein and BCAAs are important for muscle synthesis. However, equally important is how we replenish our glycogen stores after depleting them through intense activity. Inadequate glycogen levels decrease your ability to gain strength and muscle.

When glucose levels rise in the blood, our bodies either use it immediately for fuel, or it is converted to glycogen for later use. Glycogen functions as long-term energy reserves in our bodies, think of it as the human equivalent of batteries. It is primarily stored in the cells of muscles and liver. So, glycogen is the stored form of glucose; it is a multibranched polysaccharide, meaning it is composed of numerous strings of glucose branches. When cells need energy, glucose break from the glycogen chain as needed in order to generate ATP.

 

What happens during and after intense exercise

 

There is a short period post-exercise, that the body will be most effective at converting glucose back into muscle glycogen. The workout or metabolic window only lasts between 30 to 120 minutes after activity. Outside of this window, the body is less effective at converting glucose into muscle glycogen storage.

So, it is important to replace glycogen in this period as quickly and efficiently as possible. Researchers recommend the best way to replace muscle glycogen is to consume a fast-acting (high-glycemic) carbohydrate immediately after working out.

Bodybuilders prefer gummy bears because they are sweetened with ingredients like dextrose and corn syrup- both of which are fast absorbing carbohydrates. Because these ingredients don’t have to be broken down through the digestive process, they are quickly absorbed into the blood and utilized by the muscles.

 

Different types of carbs

So, what’s the difference between a high-glycemic fast carbohydrate vs. other carbohydrates. From our previous post, glucose is the most important monosaccharide as it is the primary form that the body uses for energy. All other carbohydrates must be converted to glucose during digestion so that it is readily available. Glucose and glucose equivalents are immediately absorbed into the blood and utilized right away.

 

Can’t I just eat fruit?

Fruit is a healthy way to get carbohydrates but is a sub-optimal choice post-workout. The reason is because it is actually a low glycemic option and will not spike blood sugar adequately to efficiently replace muscle glycogen. Fructose must be broken down by the body and converted to glucose in the liver where it is also subsequently stored as glycogen. By the time any of the glucose from fruit reaches the muscles, it will be an inadequate amount and past the optimal time to replenish glycogen in the muscles.

This is why bodybuilders eat gummy bears. They are sweetened with dextrose and corn syrup. (regular corn syrup is primarily composed of glucose, unlike it’s high fructose counterpart). Wonka Pixie stix are also used since they contain pure dextrose. We, of course, recommend Energon Qube Recover as SGCs performance gummies contain the right mix of glucose and other beneficial ingredients that help you recover faster post-workout.

Not only will high glycemic carbohydrates refuel your muscles after an intense workout, you’ll feel better too. Because you are quickly replenishing glycogen stores, you will be less tired, and are less likely to eat junk later in the day. You are more likely to make better food choices because your muscles aren’t starving!

 

What should you eat post workout?

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References:

Ivy, J. (1998). Glycogen Resynthesis After Exercise: Effect of Carbohydrate Intake. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 19(S 2). doi:10.1055/s-2007-971981

Ivy, John & Portman, Robert. Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition. Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2004.

Robergs, R. A., Pearson, D. R., Costill, D. L., Fink, W. J., Pascoe, D. D., Benedict, M. A., . . . Zachweija, J. J. (1991). Muscle glycogenolysis during differing intensities of weight-resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 70(4), 1700-1706. doi:10.1152/jappl.1991.70.4.1700

Tesch, P. A., Colliander, E. B., & Kaiser, P. (1986). Muscle metabolism during intense, heavy-resistance exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 55(4), 362-366. doi:10.1007/bf00422734

Our diets can have a dramatic impact on our energy levels. First and foremost, it is important to start with well balanced diet that is rich in whole, unprocessed foods and healthy balance of protein, carbs, and fats. Incorporating foods rich in nutrients, complex carbohydrates, and protein are important for sustained energy all day long.

If you feel sluggish or have trouble maintaining levels throughout the day, try adding more of these foods to your diet. And if you still need a boost- reach for a Mocca Shot.

Almonds

Not only are almonds are great balance of protein, fiber, healthy fats and carbs, they are also loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are a great snack anytime you’re feeling peckish and need a quick pick-me-up. (Snack suggestion- mix one oz almonds with a pack of Functional Fruit for a super snack full of energy boosting vitamins.)

Eggs

We all know eggs are a great source of protein providing long lasting energy throughout the day. They are also rich in an amino acid called leucine which is known to stimulate energy production. In addition, eggs are rich in B-vitamins which aid in breaking down food for energy. The great thing about eggs is they are so versatile- they can be incorporated in any meal of the day, and hard boiled eggs make a great snack.

Oatmeal

You’ve probably heard that oatmeal is great for long lasting energy, but why? You know that gel-like consistency of oatmeal when you add hot water? This is a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan, and it helps delay the absorption of glucose into the blood when digested. So in effect, oatmeal is a natural form of controlled-release energy. In addition, it’s full of vitamins and minerals including B-vitamins, iron and manganese all of which help elevate energy levels.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate has a number of health benefits, which can be attributed to the flavonoids found in cacao. The effects of these powerful antioxidants have been shown to improve cognitive function and mood. The compounds in dark chocolate increase blood flow throughout the body, reduce mental fatigue, improve mood, and are a stimulant for the brain. All of which help give you the energy to focus and perform better throughout the day.

Leafy Greens

While eating spinach won’t give you bulging forearms, there may be something to the boost of energy that Popeye gets when he eats a can of spinach. Leafy greens are full of nutrients that promote energy. They are chock full of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C, E, and K, in addition to folic acid and antioxidants.

Quinoa

Quinoa has become an increasingly popular grain over the past decade, and for good reason. Because it has a low glycemic index, it is slowly absorbed over time and can provide sustained energy. One cup of quinoa contains 39 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of protein in addition to a variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Fish

Fish like tuna and salmon are a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. One serving of fish contains your daily recommended value of omega-3 fatty acids and B12, both of which have been shown to reduce fatigue.

Hummus

Hummus is made from chickpeas which are a great source of complex carbohydrates and fiber for sustained energy. Other ingredients include sesame seed butter and olive oil which are both healthy fats and help to slow the absorption of carbohydrates to avoid blood sugar spikes.

Avocados

Avocados are ridiculously nutritious and contain 20 different vitamins and minerals- the most abundant are Folate, Potassium, and vitamins K, C, B5, B6 and E. Moreover, they are rich in healthy fats and fiber. Nearly 84% of the fats in avocados are from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These healthy fats combined with the fiber in avocados are shown to help maintain steady energy levels.

 

References

Amino Acids. 2016 Jan;48(1):41-51. doi: 10.1007/s00726-015-2067-1. Epub 2015 Aug 9.

Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties Nutrition Facts & Calories. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2018, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1843/2

Cereals, oats, instant, fortified, plain, dry [instant oatmeal] Nutrition Facts & Calories. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2018, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/breakfast-cereals/1599/2

Chem Biol Interact. 2006 Oct 27;163(1-2):94-112. Epub 2006 May 1.

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.2013;53(7):738-50. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.556759.

Dan Med J. 2014 Apr;61(4):B4824.

Eur J Nutr. 2008 Sep;47(6):294-300. doi: 10.1007/s00394-008-0724-9. Epub 2008 Jul 16.

Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2018, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4102/2

J Psychopharmacol. 2010 Oct;24(10):1505-14. doi: 10.1177/0269881109106923. Epub 2009 Nov 26.

Nutrients. 2014 Oct 3;6(10):4058-73. doi: 10.3390/nu6104058.

Nutrients. 2016 Nov 29;8(12). pii: E766.

Nuts, almonds [Includes USDA commodity food A256, A264] Nutrition Facts & Calories. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2018, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3085/2

Sissons, M. (2016). Pasta. Encyclopedia of Food Grains, 79-89. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-394437-5.00123-6

The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 136, Issue 12, 1 December 2006, Pages 2987–2992, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.12.2987

Turk Kardiyol Dern Ars. 2015 Mar;43(2):199-207. doi: 10.5543/tkda.2015.70360

 

 

While technology improves our lives, brings a wealth of information to our fingertips, and makes us insanely productive, it has also introduced more distractions than our brains can handle. We can write programs that automate mundane tasks and help us learn faster. The downside is that we are constantly barraged with notifications, alerts, and other techno-ruptions that are all vying for our attention. As a result, the switching costs of moving from task to task are high, and productivity goes down. Sometimes accomplishing a simple project that requires just a small amount of focus can seem like an insurmountable task. Have you ever reached the end of the day and wondered what you did all day? Do you find it difficult to start simple tasks?

Below is our collection of apps that can help you focus. While some technology can be distracting, these apps help you be more productive and get ____ done!

 

Freedom: Free yourself from distractions on our phone and computer. Whatever you vice, whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, games, internet, or specific websites, you can use freedom to block access so that you can focus on the task at hand.

Focusbooster: This app leverages the Pomodoro technique: a time management method where you use a timer to break down work into 25-minute intervals separated by short breaks. In addition, if you like to quantify everything- the app can track how long you spend on certain activities and tasks and generate reports.

Forest: Are you constantly looking at your phone and don’t know why? Ween yourself from phone addiction with this app. Plant a seed and watch a tree grow for the time you allot. If you can’t leave your phone alone for the given time, your tree dies! However, the more time you spend away from your phone, the more trees grow.

Blinkist: Do you enjoy learning, but don’t have the time to read everything? Blinkist is like the podcast version of Cliff’s notes. It’s a great way to sharpen your skills or learn something new every day! Each popular non-fiction book is condensed to its key takeaways in just 15 minutes. Perfect for your daily commute, or a mid-day break.

Noisli: Need to get in the zone but your office is either too quiet or too noisy? This app helps you stay focused and productive with ambient background noises. Try distraction-free and lyric-free music and background noise to get ____ done!

Sugars Are in Everything We Eat

Most of us know sugar as what we put in our coffee or use in delicious baked goods.

Table sugar comes from sugar beet or sugar cane. These plants are juiced, the juice is then condensed to a syrup which is then evaporated and crystalized. The crystals come out brown in color and give the name to raw or brown sugar. They are brown because the crystals contain molasses. The white sugar we are familiar with is also called refined sugar, because it has undergone a refining process to remove the molasses.

While these sweet white crystals are what we typically think of when we hear the term sugar, it is only one of many types of sugars found naturally in our foods.

All sugars are carbohydrates and are our body’s main source of energy. We rely on carbohydrates to fuel our brains, muscles and nervous system. Carbohydrates are found naturally in fruits, grains, vegetables, and milk, and are found as an ingredient in much of our foods and beverages.

 

Simple or Complex

Carbohydrates can be classified into two groups: complex and simple.

Complex carbohydrates are made up of multiple simple carbohydrates that are joined together by chemical bonds. The longer the chains, the more complex the carbohydrate, and as a result the long it takes for the body to break down.

Simple carbohydrates are either monosaccharides – a one sugar molecule, or disaccharides – a two sugar molecule. Since they are much shorter chains of carbohydrates they are digested much faster.

 

Simple Carbohydrates: Monosaccharides

There are three main monosaccharides that combine to form the many different types of disaccharides found naturally in foods:

Glucose: this is the most important monosaccharide since it is the primary form that the body uses for energy. All other carbohydrates are converted into glucose during digestion so that it is readily available.

Fructose: as its name implies, fructose is known as fruit sugar and is the main monosaccharide found in fruits, berries, honey and other naturally occurring sweet plants.

Galactose: this is the monosaccharide that is found in milk.

 

Simple Carbohydrates: Disaccharides

When two monosaccharides join together they form a disaccharide. The following are the most common found in our diet:

Sucrose: also known as table sugar. As we know from above- it is primarily obtained from sugar cane or sugar beet but can also be found in varying amounts in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

Sucrose = 1 glucose + 1 fructose

Lactose: This is the primary sugar found in milk and milk products.

Lactose = 1 glucose + 1 galactose

Maltose: can be found in germinating grains such as barley and is often called malt sugar.

Maltose = 1 glucose + 1 glucose

 

Complex Carbohydrates: Polysaccharides

Complex carbohydrates are also called polysaccharides and can contain chains of anywhere from 10 up to several thousand monosaccharides. The following are the more common types of complex carbohydrates found in our diets.

Starch: is the most common polysaccharide. It is made up of long chains of glucose. It can be found in cereal grains (wheat, rye, oats, barley, rice, etc.) potatoes and legumes.

Cellulose: is another long chain polysaccharide made from glucose. In our diets this is commonly referred to as fiber.

Pectin: is another type of fiber that gives fruit its structure. Pectin is found in varying amounts in fruits and vegetables. If you have every made jam or jelly you are familiar with how pectin is used as a gelling agent.

Gums: you may have seen these ingredients on your food labels: agar agar, guar gum, or xanthan gum. They are what is known as vegetable gums and primarily used as thickeners in foods.

 

You’ve probably heard ad nauseum how important it is to keep moving throughout the day and that our sedentary lifestyles are linked to myriad health issues. So here are some tips to help you stay mobile:

1. Incorporate walking in your commute:

Try parking your car further away from the office, or if you take public transportation, walk an extra 3-5 blocks to/from the next stop. This is a great way to add more movement into your day and can help you clear your head before and after work!

2. Have a day full of meetings?

If you are scheduling meetings, be sure to incorporate breaks in your day. Try limiting some of your meetings to 45 minutes so that you have 15 minutes on either side to get up, walk around and take a break. Also, if you are taking a meeting with 1 or 2 others, organize a walking meeting. The change of pace, scenery and movement can also encourage more creativity and productive conversation.

3. Stand whenever possible:

Standing desks are great- but not everyone has access to them. Try finding spaces in your office where you can stand up and do some of your work, and if you have tasks that require standing, spread them out throughout the day.

4. Schedule time to move:

It may seem overly simplistic, but dedicating time every day to move can be helpful for both your physical and mental health. Sometimes we get absorbed in our work and forget to take breaks, so put a half hour aside on your calendar to go for a walk. It’s a great way to get the blood pumping as well as provide a nice mental break from the day-to-day.

5. High Tech Solutions:

While technology is constantly fighting for our attention at work, there are tools that can help nudge us in the right direction.

Fitbit: It turns out you don’t actually need the activity tracker on your wrist to track your movement. The Fitbit app also uses the motion tracking hardware in your phone to track your activity.

Hotseat: This is a great app for the workplace to help get employees away from their desks more often. It gamifies activity in the workplace so that employees can organize challenges with their colleagues, and it reminds users to take periodic activity breaks.

BodySpace: In addition to traditional fitness apps that have training programs and trackers, this app is a great way to stay motivated as it leverages what they call “social fitness,” a community of users to help cheer you on.

 

 

While we already know that chocolate has many health benefits, here are some interesting facts about chocolate that you may not know:

1. Chocolate is literally “the food of the gods”.

Chocolate originates from the cacao tree, the botanical name of which is Theobroma Cacao. Theobroma is derived from the Greek theos meaning “god” and broma meaning “food”—making choclate the food of the gods.

2. Chocolate has been around for a while:

The first people to harvest chocolate were the Mokaya and other pre-Olmec peoples who lived in southeast Mexico around 1,000 B.C. The word “chocolate” is derived from the Mayan word xocolatl, or “bitter water.”

3. Cocoa beans were used as currency:

In Mayan civilization, cacao beans were the currency, and counterfeiting cacao beans out of painted clay had become a thriving industry. Goods could be priced in units of cacao. While the Spanish conquistadors hoarded gold, the Mesoamericans hoarded cacao beans. In some parts of Latin America, the beans were used as a currency as late as the 19th century.

4. That’s a lot of beans:

It takes approximately 400 cacao beans to make one pound of chocolate.

5. What does chocolate look like before it’s harvested?

Cacao pods are harvested which each yield about 50 cocoa beans [pictures]

Cocoa Fruit (pod)

Cocoa Beans in Cocoa Pod

6. Chocolate was originally consumed as a drink.

In fact, chocolate was consumed in liquid form for 90% of its history until… The Fry and Sons shop concocted what they called “eating chocolate” in 1847 by combining cocoa butter, sugar, and chocolate liquor. This was a grainy, solid form of the treat. In 1847, Fry’s produced the first solid chocolate bar.

7. Cocoa actually helps prevent tooth decay:

It has an anti-bacterial effect on the mouth. A study by researchers at Osaka University found that parts of the cocoa bean help to thwart tooth bacteria and prevent tooth decay. Unfortunately, most chocolate also contains sugar, so it’s probably not a good strategy to avoid cavities.

8. Consuming chocolate has been linked to lower risk of heart disease.

Studies have shown that eating DARK chocolate reduce the risk of heart disease by one-third.

9. That’s a lot of chocolate!

The world’s largest chocolate bar weighed 12,770 lbs.

10. Don’t eat it all at once:

Turns out there is too much of a good thing. The primary active ingredient in chocolate, theobromine, is a powerful stimulant of the central nervous system. Theobromine poisoning can cause heart failure, seizures, acute kidney damage and dehydration. A lethal dosage of chocolate is about 22 lbs.

 

References:

Grivetti, Louis E. and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2009.

Rosenblum, Mort. Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light. New York, NY: Macmillan, 2006.

Mintz, Sidney (2015). The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Oxford University Press. p. 157

“Chocolate ‘Fights Tooth Decay’ Claim Scientists.(News).” The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), 24 Aug. 2000.

“Chocolate Reduces Heart Disease Risk.” Live Science, 29 August, 2011.

“Largest Chocolate Bar by Weight.” Guinness World Records, www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-chocolate-bar-.

Compiled by Molly Oldfield & John Mitchinson. “QI: Quite Interesting Facts about Chocolate.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 21 July 2009, www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/qi/5878406/QI-quite-interesting-facts-about-chocolate.html.

 

Sugar is essential for life on Earth. It can be found in nearly all food sources. What is it, where does it come from, and what is it used for. Most of us are familiar with granulated table sugar (sucrose). However, sugar encompasses a wide range of molecules.

One of the earliest science lessons we are all taught is the process of photosynthesis: where energy from the sun is used to combine water and carbon dioxide to yield food (sugars) and oxygen; two components that are vital for all life on Earth.

If you want to geek out on the chemistry behind photosynthesis, google “the Calvin Cycle” which describes the process that yields sugar and oxygen in great detail.

Think of photosynthesis as nature’s original solar cell, and sugars as nature’s molecular batteries. Many different simple sugars or monosaccharides are formed in photosynthesis. Monosaccharides are also called simple sugars or simple carbohydrates because they cannot be broken down further. The most important monosaccharide for all animal life is glucose as it is the primary source for energy in our cells. Plants use glucose for energy just as we do. However, plants typically produce excess glucose and other monosaccharides.

Through further reactions- plants combine monosaccharides to form larger entities called disaccharides and polysaccharides (e.g. sucrose and starches) that plants use to store energy and for structural integrity (cellulose)

Our next blog will cover more details about the most common types of sugars found in the human diet.

 

cancer coffee

This last week, you may have heard about the ruling by a California judge requiring coffee companies to put a cancer warning on coffee beverages sold in the state. But—haven’t there been many studies touting the health benefits of coffee? Why is California making this requirement?

All the troubles start with a chemical compound called acrylamide. In the process of roasting coffee beans into that delicious dark roast you enjoy so much, acrylamide is generated through a chemical reaction called the Maillard Reaction when sugars and amino acids (naturally occurring in the coffee bean) are cooked at high temperature.

Unfortunately, this compound happens to be on a list in California, called the Proposition 65 list, which contains chemicals “known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.”  The reason that acrylamide is on the Proposition 65 list is mainly because of a Swedish study published on the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) a decade ago, which evaluated acrylamide and women’s breast cancer risk. Specifically, 43,404 Swedish women were evaluated from the years 1991 through 2002 with the average age of 39 at the start of the study. The data seems to show that the women with the higher consumption of food containing acrylamide have the higher cancer risk. However, despite all the data analysis in the paper, the authors concluded at the end of the paper that “Compared with the lowest quintile of acrylamide intake, there was no significantly increased risk of breast cancer in the higher quintiles and no evidence of a linear dose response.”

In 2010, citing the Swedish study, a California-based nonprofit, the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT), sued 90 coffee retailers, including Starbucks, on the ground that they were violating California law requiring companies to warn consumers of chemicals in their products that could cause cancer.  Last week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle sided with CERT and ruled that coffee must carry cancer warnings.

While some animal research has shown that acrylamide can cause DNA damage that may lead to a heightened risk of cancer, the evidence is much less clear in humans.  After the Swedish study (which in itself was inconclusive on the link between the acrylamide from food source and cancer risk in human), many studies have been carried out and none seems to be conclusive. At the minimum, this is a case that law outstepped the science.

While the jury is still out on whether acrylamide in coffee causes cancer, if you are truly worried about the cancer risk but need that caffeine fix, try Mocca Shots, a delicious caffeinated dark chocolate gummy with each gummy equals to one cup of coffee.   You can find it here.

Journal Reference: Lorelei A. Mucci; Sven Sandin; Katarina Balter, et al., “Acrylamide Intake and Breast Cancer Risk in Swedish Women,” JAMA. 2005; 293(11): 1322-1327. doi:10.1001/jama.293.11.1326

Sugar gets a bad rap, and for good reason. We consume an average of 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day and it is the leading cause of a plethora of health problems including obesity, metabolic disorders, diabetes, and circulatory and heart health. But, is sugar really that bad? Sugars are necessary for our survival but can cause major health issues when taken in excess. Why is this? What effect does sugar have on the body? Are certain kinds of sugar better or worse for you? Is sugar addictive? Should you totally avoid sugar? What about fruit? What is the glycemic index?

<p “>Sugar tends to be a controversial topic. The goal of this series is to provide more clarity about sugar so you can make informed decisions about the types of sugars and carbohydrates you consume, when to consume them, and what effect it has on your body.

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