And Here It Is: Diet Soda Causes Heart Problems

Photo by: Rafakoy

Diet soda always seemed so good to be true, didn’t it? Sweet but no calories? A sugary, bubbly, and guilt-free green card? Well, a new study out of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center found that people who drank diet soda daily had a 43% increased chance of suffering a vascular event (heart attack, stroke, vascular death) than people who drank none, and that was after taking into account pre-existing vascular conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome. The researchers are unclear why diet soda had such harmful effects. Interestingly enough, however, researchers found that regular soft drink consumption and a more moderate intake of diet soft drinks did not appear to be linked to a higher risk of vascular events.

I’ve long discouraged diet sodas and artificial sweeteners because while they can technically help you meet your fluid needs, they leave your body wondering why it didn’t get any sugar out of the sweet-tasting beverage, causing you to eventually crave and scavenge for sugary treats. This makes you grumpy and crazy, and causes you to cycle through diet sodas, candy bars, guilt, more diet sodas, free-based sugar, and so on. Plus, many individuals feel more anxious after consuming artificial sweeteners and often have trouble falling asleep at night, regardless of caffeine consumption.

If you need to sweeten and a touch of real raw sugar or agave nectar won’t do it, stevia powder like Truvia (made from stevia leaves) has zero calories and is made from nature, not chemistry. Plus, it doesn’t have the unhealthy heart or  sugar-craving delirium side-effects. For beverages, however, straight up water jazzed with fresh fruit and cucumber wedges, or filtered water seltzered with the at-home Soda Stream, are always best.

Sorry to bear the bad news, diet soda lovers! But, the good news is that after 3 diet soda-free weeks, your taste buds will adjust and you’ll be clear out of the health risk woods. Plus, you’ll feel shockingly amazing. No more panicked vending machine runs!

Vitamin D DanDy

Photo by: Barry Bridges

Are you feeling unexcited about your recent lottery win, or less energized about the energizing aspects of your life? If so, it may be time to load up on vitamin D. New stats show that 70% of Europeans have low Vitamin D levels, and I was reminded of this potential as I gazed out my window this morning at a snow-covered yard and a sun-deficient sky. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is produced when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike your skin. It’s found naturally in very few foods, added to some foods, and also available as a supplement.

SPF 8 and glass windows block vitamin D’s synthesis, darker skin produces less vitamin D with sunlight exposure, and cloud cover and shade reduce UV rays by about half, which is why it’s no surprise that many, many “I used to have energy” folks are coming up short this time of year. If you live at 42 degrees north latitude (I’m talking to you, northern Cali to Boston!), UV energy is insufficient from November through February. Once summer hits, it’s crucial to soak up a little bit of sun to refuel your tank.

How much do you need?
Just 5-30 minutes of summer sun from 10 AM – 3 PM twice a week to your face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen will do the trick. You make about 20,000 International Units (IU’s) with just 20 minutes of summer sun. If you go the supplement route—necessary in winter months—the recommended intake is 400-1000 IU’s per day. However, some doctors and researchers recommend 2,000-4,000 IU’s daily for people with normal levels, and 5,000-10,000 IU’s daily for people with below normal levels. Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol, a synthetic form of D) is less bioavailable than Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol, animal-derived, and the kind that the sun makes in your skin), which means you need more D2 than D3 to increase your blood levels of Vitamin D when sunshine isn’t around.

Why is D so essential?
Bones need it for calcium absorption, and it’s also critical for neuromuscular and immune function, reduction of inflammation, and may be helpful in preventing cancer of the breast, ovary, colon, and prostate, and improving mood, depression, and energy levels especially during winter-time months. Plus, vitamin D research is getting close to proving it’s key role in preventing and treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, heart disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and other medical conditions.

Anything else?
A brand spankin’ new study just found that adequate Vitamin D could reduce inflammation and aging of the eyes as it improves retina health. Plus, previous studies have found Vitamin D deficiency to be a complication with liver disease and linked with increased risk of asthma among African American kids. Adequate Vitamin D levels are crucial for cancer prevention and survival, and are even pointing to increased survival among elderly women. For more info on D facts and figures, check here.

Where to Get It in the Winter
Many foods are fortified with Vitamin D, and say so on the label: Super sources are non-dairy milks including Earth Balance Soymilk which contains more Vitamin D than other non-dairy milks (120 IU’s per cup compared to 100 IU’s per cup). Non-dairy milks are also fortified with Calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B12.

So where do you get your D? Time for a sunny vacation perhaps?

Mediterranean Diet Increases Lifespan

Mango Summer Salad from SKINNY DISH!

A friend of mine always joked that healthy eating doesn’t make you live longer, it just seems longer. Well, looks like I can finally prove him wrong! A conglomerate of four studies to be published by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg has shown that a diet rich in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains, and low in meats and dairy foods increases lifespan and lifetime health. Read the summary here. Just in time to set those veggie-heavy New Years Resolutions. And, I guess I can continue my healthy eating preachery in 2012!