Link Between Added Sugars and Cholesterol Levels

My parents send me the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter after they read it each month, which is great because I learn something and occasionally get material for the blog. The cover article for July was about how sugars affect cholesterol levels, which is something I thought many of you would be interested in. I often get e-mails from people asking what foods are good for lowering cholesterol. This is always a tough question. I know people who eat a healthy diet who have high cholesterol, and I know people who eat terribly but have low cholesterol. So, it’s difficult to tell someone what to eat without knowing a lot more about their family medical history, current diet, exercise routine, and more.

This article claims that the first study was conducted on the relationship between sugar and cholesterol levels, and the conclusion was that sugars added to processed foods can increase LDL cholesterol, lower HDL cholesterol, raise triglycerides, and increase overall risk of heart disease.

It states that Americans get about 16% of our total daily calories from added sugars found in processed foods. That’s about 90 grams of sugar, or 21.4 teaspoons. Gross!

The group that ate increased levels of added sugars from processed foods had lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels at the end of the study, and higher levels of unhealthy triglycerides. The interesting part, though, is that LDL (bad) cholesterol levels increased only in women in this group. There wasn’t really any explanation as to why men’s LDL cholesterol was not affected by the processed foods in the same way the women’s was. I was surprised to hear these results, but I recommend taking them with a grain of salt. Not that I know more than the medical experts at Tufts, but I don’t want men to read this and think it’s okay to eat more processed foods! We all know that processed foods can take a toll on our health in many different ways, and the best diet is one consisting of fresh, whole foods and minimal amounts of processed foods.

There’s one other interesting part of the article I wanted to point out. Towards the end, they provide some “tips” for reducing sugar intake. One tip reads, “Buy sugar-free or low-calorie beverages.” Besides the fact that I completely disagree with this, there is another tip they give that says to “Use zero-calorie sweeteners in moderation.” Now, I agree with using zero-calorie sweeteners in moderation, but these are the sweeteners used in sugar-free or low-cal beverages, which they are encouraging people to drink! Makes no sense to me.

Either way, it’s an interesting article and I’m glad there is some concrete evidence that sugars from processed foods are not good for cholesterol levels. So many people are constantly concerned about their cholesterol levels, yet continue to eat a diet high in processed foods. Maybe this will give them the motivation they need to transition into a more whole foods based diet! And remember that even foods that appear healthy usually have lots of added sugars and are still highly processed. They may advertise the protein or fiber, but always check sugar content!

Have a great weekend!

Source for this post: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, July 2010, Volume 28, Number 5


New PWN Website is Up!

I had lots of great comments and e-mails in response to yesterday’s post on school lunches and kids not getting enough time to eat. I’m happy to hear there are parents out there who feel so strongly about this issue!

On another note, I am really excited to announce that my business website is finally ready to go! You can visit it here, or it's also linked at the top of the blog. It took me a while to get organized but once I was, my awesome designer Lizzie Sorensen got right to work and did a great job. I told her I wanted something fresh and simple. I love her style and the other websites she has designed, so I knew it would turn out well! Thanks Lizzie! (Follow her on twitter here).

I also want to thank my sister, Alice Dickherber, and one of her friends, Katie Guymon, for providing the photographs for my website. I knew that fresh food photos would really add to the look I was going for, and when they each offered to take some for me, I was so excited. These girls have professions outside of photography, but I think they should be selling their photographs on the side! I wanted to use them all on the website, but Lizzie and I decided that less is more. However, I’ve added some of the extras throughout this blog post because they are so good! Katie also writes a blog called I Used to Vacation, and contributes to a music blog called Speakers in Code. Check them out! Follow Alice on twitter here, and Katie here.

Eventually I hope to have a Paypal account set up on my website, so clients can pay me directly through there. Right now I am offering a student rate through June of 2011, when I graduate. It's about half of what I'll eventually charge, so I hope people take advantage of it! There are also discounts for those who buy a package of sessions. I will start clients off with a free 15-minute phone consultation to make sure I’m a good fit for them, and we will schedule any appointments after that. Please forward the website on to anyone who may be interested! I can do in-person counseling out of my home office, or phone consultations for those who do not live in Denver. Between now and June I will be balancing full-time school and clients, so I will only take a limited amount. After that, I look forward to growing my business! I appreciate your help with networking.

Thanks again to Lizzie, Alice and Katie for helping me out with everything. I am really excited to start seeing more clients!


School Lunch

This is not directly related to nutrition but it’s something that was brought to my attention last night, and I wanted to reflect.

While Ed was making dinner, three of our darling neighborhood kids knocked on the door. They were selling Nestle cookies and Sally Foster things for a school fundraiser – to raise money to take a science class field trip to Keystone for a couple of nights. I invited them in (don’t worry – we know them and their parents well) and spent $40 on things we do not want or need, and then just talked to them about school.

Apparently they have a new principal this year, and she has come up with some new rules that they don’t approve of. One of them is regarding lunch and recess time. They get 5 minutes for lunch, and 10 minutes of “organized play” for recess, and that’s it. They’re in 4th and 5th grade. Now, I realize they could be exaggerating on their allotted lunch time, but I trust these kids. They’re smart and wouldn’t lie.

One of the girls said that yesterday, by the time she got through the lunch line, the bell had rung for recess. She told her teacher “I need to eat my lunch” (good for her!), and her teacher said “You can bring it back up to the classroom”. They have a friend who is diabetic and needs to test her blood sugar levels before eating, and they said she never gets time to eat because the testing takes a few minutes, and then lunch is over.

I don’t have kids. And when I do, they will follow all of the rules at school, whether they – or I – like them or not. But, this rule would really upset me! Five minutes is NOT enough time for a child to eat a lunch. Kids should not be encouraged to rush through their meals, and they’ll learn better throughout the day if they’re allowed some social time with their friends while they eat. (I’m also not crazy about the “organized play” at recess, but I’ll stick to the lunches here).

For those of you with kids in school, do they also have rushed lunch periods? They must be starving by the time they get home! This is just another reason why breakfast should be emphasized as a very important meal, and you should send them out the door with protein (not sugar) in their bellies so they can make it through their day.

Anyway, this was just something I found really interesting. I’m totally siding with the neighborhood kids here – they deserve a longer lunch period! Even 15 minutes would be appropriate. I can't remember how much time I got to eat in elementary school, but I know it was enough time to eat and be social with my friends, then play a full game of kickball at recess. I never remember feeling rushed!


5 Important Supplements

In the September issue of Whole Living magazine, I found a quick article on five key supplements that most women can benefit from. However, I think both women and men can benefit from these! I happen to agree completely with the five they chose, and I think it’s a good reminder for all of us on what we may be deficient in, and why it’s important to supplement in certain areas.

Vitamin D

I’ve talked about vitamin D before here. It’s SO important, and there are constantly new studies coming out linking low vitamin D levels to higher cancer rates and increased heart attack risk. Even if you think you’re getting enough from the sun, you may not be. To prove my point, I take vitamin D supplements and I live in a state that boasts of sunshine over 300 days per year! I got my levels tested a few months ago and while they were in the “acceptable” range, they were on the lower end. Lluckily I have a doctor who believes as strongly in vitamin D as I do, so she immediately gave me supplements. I strongly encourage people to get their vitamin D levels tested, and when you compare your level to the “optimal” range, aim for the high end. The more the better! If you live in a climate with longer winters, supplementing with vitamin D3 is absolutely crucial.


Many people are able to obtain enough calcium from whole foods. Despite what you may think (due to huge marketing efforts), dairy is not the only source of calcium. In fact, leafy greens have just as much calcium as cow’s milk! Other great sources include sesame seeds (more calcium than milk), blackstrap molasses and yogurt. Calcium is important for healthy bones. If supplementing with calcium, make sure you buy the form calcium citrate because it best delivers the minerals to the body.


Magnesium helps to regulate our neurotransmitters and support mental health. Some doctors even prescribe magnesium supplements for those suffering from insomnia, claiming it’s a natural anti-anxiety mineral. For those with muscle spasms or pain, magnesium helps to relax the muscles. It’s good to take with an evening meal, because it does help people fall asleep more peacefully.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B is necessary for strong immunity. Whole food sources of B-vitamins include leafy greens and meat. If someone is deficient in B-vitamins, they may start to feel depressed, fatigued or just down. B-vitamins help enhance mood and boost energy, and for this reason are best when taken in the morning. This way they’ll provide energy for your day without disrupting bedtime!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I’ve talked about fish oil before as well, but again it’s good to reinforce the importance of fatty acids in the diet. Don’t worry, they WILL NOT make you fat! They actually lower triglycerides and reduce inflammation, which is the cause of many health issues. And, since our brain is made up of mostly fat, they support brain health as well. Omega-3s can be taken in the form of capsules or actual fish oil. I recommend the capsules… trust me, drinking straight fish oil is not fun!

As always, I recommend talking to your doctor before starting supplements. They can test your levels and help you determine which supplements you’d benefit from.


Simple Food Allergy Test

I recently came across this quick self-test for determining whether or not you are allergic to a particular food. I haven’t tried it myself, but it comes from a very credible source. This can be an easy way to test kids for common food allergies such as dairy or gluten.

When you are having an allergic reaction to a food, your pulse rate will increase after eating the food. Therefore, by taking your pulse before and after eating the food, you can find out if you are allergic. The process is below.

Sit down and relax for a few minutes. Once you are completely relaxed, count the number of beats in your wrist for 60 seconds. Normal pulse varies by age, but should look something like this:

  • Newborn infants: 100 – 160 beats per minute

  • Children 1 – 10 years: 70 – 120 beats per minute

  • Children over 10 years: 60 – 100 beats per minute

  • Adults: 60 – 100 beats per minute

  • Well-trained athletes: 40 – 60 beats per minute

After you get your 60-second pulse, eat the food you suspect you may be allergic to. Wait 20 minutes, and then take your pulse again. If your pulse rate has increased more than 10 beats per minute, you may be allergic to that food. Eliminate it from your diet for one month, and then redo this test to see if you get a similar result.