Q. I would like to try to understand the amount of sugar in foods. How do I decipher the labels?
A. There are two things you want to look at – how much sugar is there, and what is the serving size? This may astonish you, but about four grams of sugar are equal to one teaspoon. Therefore, if the package says there are 20 grams of sugar per serving, that’s five teaspoons of sugar. Also, remember to consider how realistic the serving size is. Will you only have one serving, or is it likely you will have more? For example, one cup of grape juice contains about 40 grams of sugar – that’s 10 teaspoons, and many people pour a glass that is actually much bigger than one cup.
Remember, too, when it comes to high calorie drinks full of sugar, like juice and pop, it is so easy to drink 200 to 500 calories per day or more, that one cup of grape juice contains 180 calories, one can of pop about 160. If you were to substitute these beverages with water, you could lose one-half to one pound per week doing that alone! We need to reduce our total calories by 250 per day to lose half a pound per week, and by 500 calories per day to lose one pound per week.
The way I decide if there is too much sugar is to ask: would I add that amount of sugar to this food if I was making it?
I recently wanted to buy a refrigerated green tea beverage, and I noticed that it contained 20 grams of sugar. First, I never add sugar to my green tea, but if I did, I certainly wouldn’t add five teaspoons. So I bought sparkling water instead.
If you are, however, looking at a dessert or a jam, higher sugar content may be more reasonable, but by knowing the above information, you will be surprised now at how much sugar is in some packaged and processed foods. Also, when reading the ingredient list, usually words ending with “ose” are sugars – for example, sucrose, fructose, lactose and maltose.
Q. I would like to take a calcium supplement. Is there one that you feel I should buy?
A. There are certainly many calcium supplements on the market now. I think there are two very important things to try to get. First, look for calcium and magnesium in a 2:1 ratio. This helps with absorption of the calcium and prevents constipation. Also, look for one with vitamin D3, as I believe strongly that we should all be getting about 1,000 milligrams of vitamin D3 per day and about 1,200 milligrams of calcium.
However, calcium is not well absorbed; so it often comes in smaller doses and you take more than one tablet per day for optimal absorption. And avoid taking calcium within two hours of drinking tea, as tea will prevent its absorption as well.
Q. I keep kosher but am trying to reduce my salt intake. Is there a way to extract salt from koshered chickens?
A. The most common way that I am familiar with is to soak chicken in cold water with a little fresh lemon juice for about half an hour, and then rinse and dry it well. It’s hard to know how much is ultimately removed, but there will be less left.
Q. I have recently heard about steel cut oats and wonder how these differ from regular quick oats.
A. Both are oatmeal, but the steel cut variety offers additional benefits. It also takes longer to cook, but I think it’s well worth it. Steal cut oats are much nuttier in taste and texture, and they are less processed, so they are a more whole food.
In general, all varieties of oatmeal are a great and nutritious choice. Natural oats are sugar free and a slow-burning complex carb that will keep you feeling fuller longer by preventing your blood sugar from rising rapidly. In addition, oatmeal’s soluble fibre fills you up and helps lower your bad cholesterol, and oatmeal is rich in silicon which helps nourish skin, hair, bones and teeth. Furthermore, oats contain phosphorus, which helps nerve and brain development in children.
One cup of cooked oats (a very generous portion) contains only 148 calories but gives seven grams of fibre and six grams of protein. Add some milk, berries and ground flaxseed or nuts and you have a nutrition homerun!
Lisa Weinberg is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in Toronto, in private practice and at the Genesis Professional Group. If you have any nutrition questions, please send them to The CJN.