Lose the Sugar, Learn the Love Your Heart Eating Plan

Did you know February is American Heart Month? Boston.com recently challenged readers to cut the sugar in their breakfast for one week, in part because information from the American Heart Association reveals that excess sugar can contribute to obesity and heart disease, and we thought the challenge was a great idea.

The truth is, we can all benefit from reducing the amount of high-sugar foods we eat—in addition to high-carb foods, since carbohydrates turn to sugar in the digestive tract (a fact many experts miss when making recommendations about sugar). Are you up for the challenge? Get started today with Brenda Watson’s Love Your Heart Eating Plan—a simple way to eat healthfully and decrease your daily sugar intake. But why stop at breakfast?

Love Your Heart is an all-day plan that focuses on filling your plate with lean proteins and vegetables instead of typical comfort foods like breads, cereals and sweets. It teaches you how to make the right choices when it comes to food and helps you make positive changes in your diet that will ultimately empower you to take control of your body and your health. Just follow these three simple eating plan rules:

Rule 1: Track teaspoons of sugar
It all comes down to how much sugar is in your food—and not just natural and added sugars, but the sugar produced by the breakdown of carbohydrates in your body. You may not realize it, but even carbs from fruits and veggies break down into sugar in your digestive tract. (The only exception is fiber, which is a carbohydrate that resists digestion.) To track teaspoons of sugar, use this simple formula:

teaspoons of sugar = (total carbohydrates – dietary fiber) ÷ 5

Rule 2: Eat 6 to 8 teaspoons of sugar daily
Remember, these 6 to 8 teaspoons are coming from the formula in Rule 1. Don’t use grams of sugar as found on Nutrition Facts panels on food packaging, since those only account for natural and added sugars.

Rule 3: Eat 12 portions of lean protein daily
Protein is an important part of the Love Your Heart Eating Plan. Be sure to eat 12 portions of lean protein throughout the day to help keep your appetite satisfied. Opt for lean poultry, meat, seafood, low-fat cheese and yogurt, eggs, tofu, tempeh and nuts. Remember: eating protein at breakfast is essential to help you avoid carb cravings later, and studies show that a high-protein breakfast helps you feel full longer!

This month and throughout the year, make heart health a priority. With the Love Your Heart Eating Plan, you will learn what foods you can eat by simply tracking teaspoons of sugar. And, filling your plate with lean proteins and healthy veggies will not only have a positive effect on your heart, but it will help trim your waistline too!

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Flame Retardants and Lower-Birth-Weight Babies

During pregnancy, mothers-to-be generally try to eat better and take better care of themselves in the hopes of improving the health of their infants. Pregnant moms may also try avoiding certain chemical exposures like cigarette smoke and even harsh cleaning products. This can be a tricky task, however. One recent study has found that flame retardant exposure—a difficult exposure to avoid—is linked to lower birth weight in babies.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that for every tenfold increase in PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ether) levels in the mother’s blood, there was a 4.1 ounce drop in the baby’s birth weight. Lead researcher Kim Harley, from the University of California, Berkley’s School of Public Health, stated, “What we saw was a shift toward lighter babies among women with higher PBDE exposure rather than a dramatic increase in the number of low birth weight babies.” For babies already at risk for low birth weight for other reasons, 4.1 ounces would make a big difference.

The PBDEs tested for in the study were actually phased out of use in 2004, but because they are found in many household items, their persistence is still widespread. These chemicals leach from furniture, upholstery, carpet, electronics and more (even baby products and children’s pajamas!), and are stored in fat cells. Flame retardants have been linked to reduced fertility and thyroid dysfunction in women.

How do we get out of this toxic soup? Well, we can’t. But the researchers do recommend wet mopping when dusting since flame retardants are concentrated in dust, and frequent hand washing to avoid ingesting these chemicals.