Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Facts About Sugar

by Shelly Guzman, RD, CD

I was recently contacted by a high school student who asked if I wouldn't mind answering some questions about sugar for a research paper he was writing. After answering the questions for the student, I thought "why not share them on the Momentum blog?" This is good info for everyone to know. So here they are...

Q: Could you describe for me the positive and negative effects sugar has the body?

A: Sugars are a natural part of fruits, vegetables, dairy products and grains. The carbohydrates in these foods provide energy, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals -- nutrients necessary for good health. Added sugars include table sugar, brown sugar, agave syrup, honey, molasses, maple syrup, and other caloric sweeteners and offer almost no nutritional value. They are found in soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks/fruit-ades, dairy based desserts like ice cream or yogurt, and other grains like sweetened waffles or cereal. Naturally occurring and added sweeteners all fall under the category of “carbohydrates.”

There are no positive effects of added sugar per se, but sugar can be used to supply quick fuel to muscles during a moderate to hard endurance workout. You can significantly increase stamina by consuming about 30-60 g of carbohydrate per hour of exercise. However, a snack is not necessary if you exercise for less than one hour.

Exercise that lasts more than 60 minutes depletes carbohydrate from muscle glycogen stores, and you must increasingly rely on blood sugar for energy. Sugar, often from sports drinks, gels, or candy, helps to maintain a normal blood sugar level to keep the brain and muscles fed. Natural sugars from fruits and juices are also good choices for maintaining performance during exercise. Fueling with mixed carbohydrate sources during exercise can help you absorb more carbohydrate and have more available fuel.

The negative effects of added sugars is well-studied and continues to be a hot research topic. Sugar is linked to obesity, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Added sweeteners stimulate the body to release more insulin to process the sugar which may result in a low blood sugar level and feelings of hunger, fatigue, and craving for more sugar. Fructose (naturally found in fruit and honey) is concentrated in some sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup and agave syrup, and has been linked to higher levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol in the blood. The fructose from these sweeteners may also contribute to the unhealthy accumulation of deep abdominal fat. Another negative effect of added sugars is that they often displace the intake of more nutritious foods. The sugar highs and lows may cause people to continually make poor food choices. Sugars also create an acidic condition in the body, and in an effort to create balance, the body may draw alkalizing minerals from the bones and teeth -- leading to a link between sugar consumption and osteoporosis. Lastly, high sugar intake can contribute to tooth decay and cavities. Current recommendations suggest limiting refined sugar intake to no more than 6-10% of total daily calorie needs (Institute of Medicine) or about 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men per day (American Heart Association). For some perspective, a 12 ounce can of soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar! Most Americans consume almost 3 times the recommended limit for added sugar intake each day.

Q: What role does insulin play in the body, and why is it so important?

A: Your body has a system that regulates how much sugar is circulating in your blood stream. Insulin has many functions in the body, but one of it’s main roles is to regulate blood sugar levels in the blood. After you eat a meal, insulin transfers the excess sugar (remember, this includes all carbohydrates not just added sugars) in your blood to muscle, liver, and fat tissues where it is used as fuel or stored for later use. Simple carbohydrates, especially sugar, are quickly digested and enter the bloodstream rapidly. Insulin also acts quickly to clear the excess sugar from the bloodstream -- this accounts for the sugar high and subsequent sugar low that people often describe after eating sweets. Without insulin, sugar accumulates in the bloodstream (diabetes) leading to very serious health complications. Without insulin to act as the key, cells cannot access the energy that carbohydrates provide.

Q: Is it good to eat sugar right before a work out, or does it defeat the purpose of working out?

A: People often consume sweets for an “energy boost” before a workout. Depending on the caloric content of the sweet snack, you may not burn enough calories during the workout to make up for your pre-exercise splurge. However, exercise has benefits beyond burning calories which sugar intake should have little effect on including strength, speed, agility, flexibility, and endurance. In general though, having too much to eat before a workout without sufficient time for digestion, can affect performance. Most people can tolerate pre-exercise sugar intake without physical problems, but if you are sensitive to the highs and lows of sugar, eating a candy bar or drinking a soda before exercising can leave you feeling weak, shaky, and light-headed during your workout due to a rapid surge and subsequent drop in blood sugar. A better solution is to maintain a high energy level throughout the day by eating balanced meals (containing carbs, pro, and fat), and if necessary, having a carbohydrate rich snack like fruit or yogurt 30-60 minutes before exercise.

Q: How does sugar effect the liver?

A: Sugar, or glucose, is stored in the liver (and in muscles) as glycogen for later use. The liver can also produce glucose as needed. So you can think of the liver as a fuel reservoir. The need to store or release glucose is signaled by insulin and glucagon. All carbohydrate (from added sugars or naturally occurring sugars) is stored in the liver in the same manner.

Eating excess carbohydrates above your calorie needs over time leads to fat storage and weight gain. Because the liver and muscles can only store a certain amount of glycogen, excess glucose is stored as fat.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas

by Shelly Guzman, RD, CD

Wanting to make something different for dinner, I stumbled upon this recipe for empanadas on the Cooking Light website. This recipe is vegetarian, but can easily be made with a little shredded chicken or pork. My boyfriend added lean ground beef while I kept mine vegetarian. Boy, did they taste goooood!! The other great thing about these empanadas is that they can easily be frozen and stored for a meal later in the week. Since they are a little labor intensive, this is a fun recipe to make with a friend. A little tip, the recipe calls for egg white to seal the edges of the empanadas, but you will also want to use this egg white to brush over the top of the empanadas so they brown up nicely in the oven. Ours turned out a little pale. If you like spicy, this recipe has plenty of that. I chose to tone it down a little by serving a little sour cream on the side. Add a nice green salad, and you've got a well-balanced and tasty meal!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas


  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (2 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten


1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine canola oil, 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and egg in a medium bowl. Gradually add oil mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Knead lightly until smooth. Shape dough into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.

2. Preheat broiler.

3. Place poblano on a foil-lined baking sheet; broil 8 minutes or until blackened, turning after 6 minutes. Place in a paper bag; close tightly. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel chile; cut in half lengthwise. Discard seeds and membranes. Finely chop.

4. Preheat oven to 400°.

5. Cook the cumin seeds in a large saucepan over medium heat 1 minute or until toasted, stirring constantly. Place cumin in a clean spice or coffee grinder; process until ground. Combine cumin, poblano, sweet potatoes, and next 5 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl; mash with a fork until almost smooth.

6. Divide dough into 10 equal portions, shaping each into a ball. Roll each dough portion into a (5-inch) circle on a lightly floured surface. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), spoon 3 level tablespoons poblano mixture into center of each circle. Moisten edges of dough with egg white; fold dough over filling. Press edges together to seal. Place empanadas on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut 3 diagonal slits across top of each empanada. Bake at 400° for 16 minutes or until lightly browned.

Nutritional Information

8.4g (sat 0.7g,mono 5g,poly 2.3g)
Jeanne Kelley, Cooking Light, DECEMBER 2010

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Nutrients For Healing

By Shelly Guzman, RD, CD

Despite precautions, many athletes will become injured. Certain nutrients are critical for successful rehabilitation and recovery. The following recommendations are for nutrients that are essential to the healing process. Though many come in supplemental form, the body absorbs the majority of these nutrients much more efficiently from food.

Vitamin A - promotes cell growth and development, bone development, and immune function
Food sources: liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, mango, turnip greens, spinach, papaya, bell peppers

Vitamin C - powerful antioxidant that helps the body form collagen, which is essential for repair of ligaments and tendons and strengthening of bones
Food sources: oranges, broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries, grapefruit, baked potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, papaya, cantaloupe

Vitamin D - needed for calcium absorption, normal development of bones, and prevention of muscle spasms; may support a healthy immune system
Food sources: cod liver oil, egg yolk, fatty fish like salmon & herring, beef liver, and fortified foods like milk and orange juice (the best source of vitamin D is sunlight)

Vitamin E - antioxidant that may prevent excess damage to cells
Food sources: avocado, egg, milk, nuts/seeds, unheated vegetable oils, whole grains

Zinc - necessary for wound healing and healthy immune function
Food sources: meat, seafood, sunflower seeds, almonds

Calcium - needed to build strong bones; plays a role in blood clotting, muscle contractions, and nerve-cell communication
Food sources: dairy, leafy greens, fortified tofu or orange juice, yogurt

Omega-3 Fatty Acids - help reduced pain and inflammation; important for brain development; reduces risk of cancer, heart attack, and stroke
Food sources: salmon, cod liver oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, walnuts, chia seeds, eggs

Iron - necessary for oxygen delivery to cells and regulation of cell growth; a lack of iron results in an insufficient supply of oxygen to cells eventually causing anemia, fatigue, poor work performance, and decreased immunity
Food sources: beef, poultry, pork, beans, lentils, dried apricots, leafy greens, soybeans and tofu, and fortified foods (breads, cereals, orange juice)

Stressors such as surgery, anesthesia, and the injury itself can increase the body's basal metabolic rate by 10-20%. It is important for athletes going through surgery and rehabilitation to consume adequate levels of calories and protein for optimal recovery. Weight gain and muscle loss are both concerning for athletes when they are recovering from injury.

An athlete that has been injured should have a nutrition assessment by a sports dietitian. Why? A sports dietitian can help identify an athlete's caloric needs and protein requirements for weight maintenance and optimal recovery. If you have been injured you should see the dietitian as soon as possible, and if you are having surgery be sure the see the dietitian two weeks in advance of your surgery so you will have a plan for recovery after surgery.

Remember, Momentum Nutrition and Fitness is here to help! If you need help making a dietary plan for recovery from injury, call today.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Turning Fear into Motivation

by Shelly Guzman, RD, CD

I recently listened in on a conference call hosted by nutrition counseling guru Molly Kellogg, RD, LCSW and spiritual life coach Reverend Dr. Lorraine Cohen on the topic of "Awakening Your Courageous Heart." What I learned is something I feel I need to share.

The basis of awakening your courageous heart is to ask yourself "How do I make fear my friend, so I can use this energy as motivation as opposed to holding me back?" Talk about an "aha!" moment! Fear can be absolutely paralyzing and can prevent us from experiencing all that life has to offer. Feeling fearful does actually serve us in positive ways. Reverend Cohen outlined the following ways fear serves and protects us:

1) Fear protects us from harm by alerting us to danger
2) Fear helps us to discern a need to set healthy boundaries
3) Fear supports us in developing courage so we can show up to life's situations

Number 3 is perhaps the hardest part about utilizing our fear. How do we use fearfulness as a motivation to build faith in ourselves and in others and to move forward through all situations? According to Rev. Cohen, fear is not meant to stop us. It is meant to make us champions over the things in our lives that are frightful as opposed to being the victim. So, what you must do is to ask yourself what the real truth is about the situation that you are afraid of and determine what you need to do or who you need to be to move forward through that situation. Rev. Cohen encourages us to recognize that when we're in fear, we're not in the present, we are instead in a story of our own creation. Fear projects our thoughts into the future (i.e. if I give that speech, people might laugh at me), but in reality all we have is now. The first step in releasing your fear is to take a deep breath and come back to the present.

Bottom line: we should view fear as an opportunity to learn and grow! Easier said than done but necessary for a happier life. The good news is that we can eventually move towards reducing the power that our fear has by trusting our intuition (something that Rev. Cohen describes as a muscle developed over time). As we become better at neutralizing our fear, we are able to truly transform that fear into a positive motivator. The key is to look at the things you're avoiding and realize that chances are you can handle it or learn how to handle it or seek help to do so. With practice, you develop a courageous heart.

How does this tie into nutrition and wellness? Self care is essential for a courageous heart. When we value ourselves, we can show up in the best possible way for the things and people we care about. Rev. Cohen uses overeating as an example of not loving yourself. She says that eating food that you know in your heart is bad for you is a form of self abuse, a way of punishing yourself instead of showing compassion. When we lack self love, we dream about the success and things we want but won't let ourselves have those things. The greatest ways to unhook from fear are to cultivate self worth, to believe that you are meant to make a difference in the world, and align yourself with people who support you in reaching all you can be!

May we all find our courageous hearts! Have a great week!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Celebrate Healthy Weight Week: Jan 16-22

by Shelly Guzman, RD, CD

Healthy Weight Week is an annual event to celebrate lifelong healthy living habits that prevent eating and weight issues. I love the Healthy Weight Week mantra: "Our bodies cannot be shaped at will. But we can all be accepting, healthy and happy at our natural weights." It sounds so simple, and yet as many of us know, it is not easy to accept our bodies in a beauty-centric society. As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder in the past, I believe the hardest lesson in learning to lead a healthy life is figuring out how to be kind to yourself. While it is good to expect the best of ourselves in life's endeavors, we must be careful not to punish ourselves for imperfection. Sometimes, it just takes letting go of the reigns and having a little faith that things will turn out all right. For me, I realized what I was losing by clinging to my eating disorder. Life was going on all around me and I was missing out. My motto became "get over yourself", which sounds harsh, but in reality just meant I started volunteering so that I could see how other people lived. Meeting people who I thought had so much less than me live life joyously everyday gave me the courage to face my fears and start accepting myself. Choosing to be healthy has become easier and easier, and when I find myself slipping into old bad habits, I remind myself that nothing makes me feel better than making healthy choices that nourish my body and spirit. My advice to others struggling with body image issues is to have no fear, you hold the key to your happiness. Do your homework, because what they say is true, knowledge is power. Learn about what is best for your body, what works and what doesn't (like fad diets). Seek help if you need it, and let's face it, who doesn't need a little help sometimes? In the words of Bob Greene, live your best life!

To learn more about Healthy Weight Week and how you can get involved, visit their website.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions and Stick With Them

by Shelly Guzman, RD, CD

New year’s resolutions are notorious for being broken. If every year you fail achieve your resolutions, chances are you aren’t setting realistic goals. So your natural response might be to avoid making resolutions all together to avoid the bad feelings that come from this failure. Research suggests, however, that a readiness and self efficacy to change may increase your chances and success of actually changing. A study conducted by researchers at University of Scranton found that successful resolvers employed significantly more behavioral strategies and less self-blame and wishful thinking than unsuccessful resolvers. In other words, be kind to yourself when you mess up and reward yourself when you stick to your goals.

Often times, a new year’s resolution should in fact be a lifestyle resolution. Meaning instead of resolving to lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks, you should focus on making goals that will help you to reduce your weight overtime but will also give you the tools to maintain it by improving your eating and exercise habits. For example, I resolve to try one new vegetable a month or I resolve to walk 30 minutes 5 days a week. Baby steps - breaking your larger goals into smaller, more manageable objectives - can be the key to your success! Be sure to re-visit your resolutions periodically throughout the year to assess your progress, make modifications, or set new resolutions. Involve a trusted friend or family member and support each other in your quest to make positive changes.

Check out this great
article for tips on how to increase your chances of sticking to your resolutions.

From all of us at Momentum Nutrition & Fitness, we wish you a
healthy and prosperous 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Seven Simple Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget

Eating healthy on a budget can be challenging. It does take extra effort to get all the nutrients you need while wisely managing your dollars. At Momentum we help you create plans that work withing your budget. Here are our top 7 tips:

1. Eat frozen
- choose frozen vegetables, especially in winter and purchase when on sale. Nutrient quality is retained and preparation is simplified.
2. Use vegetarian sources of protein- beans, tofu, milk and eggs are high quality proteins that are available at low cost. Vegetarian soups and chilis are a snap in a crockpot.
3. Read the local paper to find staple items on sale
4. Buy reduced cost produce- use low cost grocery stores like Grocery Outlet
5. Cook in bulk- Cook meals with friends or multiple families to save money and time
6. Shop store brands
7. Use foods available in bulk rather than packaged goods-
Items like oatmeal are available in the bulk section of the store and are often available at significant discounts
Use these tips to create balanced eating plans that meet your energy and nutrient needs. Online sites like provide added info for balancing your diet while living within a balanced budget.