Win by Losing Nutrition Videos

In these videos, our registered dietitian, Shanthi Appelo, uncovers some “Food Secrets.” Watch the videos to find out more.


Food Secrets – Hidden Sugars

Well, sugar is a master of disguise, and just because you don't see it listed on an ingredient list doesn't mean it's not hiding in there. In fact, there are 56 different names for sugar, so let's get into it.

While processed foods are super convenient, oftentimes they can be full of added sugar and sweeteners. From your average jarred marinara sauce to your go-to granola bar, added sugars are almost impossible to escape today worse yet some of these sugars are hidden with funny names in the ingredient list sugar in and of itself isn't bad for us but too much certainly is so

Let's start with this question: Why are added sugars bad for us? Excess sugar can cause weight gain and it doesn't give us that same level of satisfaction or feeling of fullness like other nutrients do, and this can inhibit our hunger cues leading us to eat more than necessary. And we know that obesity is a major contributor to many chronic illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many cancers. When we eat too much sugar our body stores it as triglycerides, or a storage form of fat, and when triglyceride levels are too high in our body it can lead to hardening of the arteries and increase our risk for heart disease. Having too much sugar can alter your resistance to insulin, which is a hormone that regulates blood sugar and plays a role in type 2 diabetes. These added sugars are found in more packaged foods than most people think. Most of us know names like high fructose corn syrup, fructose and sugar, but some can be misleading and even sound healthy. Take brown rice syrup for example. It's the first ingredient in a popular protein bar marketed as healthy. Be on the lookout for names that end in o-s-e or "ose," and also items labeled as syrup, nectar or juice. You'll want to see these listed towards the bottom of the ingredient list which indicates a lesser amount of that ingredient.

It's important to note that sugar is sugar and these various forms affect our body similarly, regardless of where they were extracted from, so when fiber and nutrients are removed to create sugar from various plants, only the sweet part and very minimal nutrients are left. Here are a couple of names to be mindful of.

Since all this extra sugar is bad, are non-nutritive sweeteners a healthier option? The short answer is no. They may be calorie free but they trigger some of the same effects as sugar does in our brain. Your brain identifies sweetness through taste receptors on your tongue. Sugar triggers this receptor, and because non-nutritive sweeteners are similar enough to sugar they also trigger this receptor, some research suggests that artificial sweeteners are not as rewarding to our brain as regular sugar is and causes us to crave more sweetness later on. Non-nutrient sweeteners are also much sweeter than their sugar counterparts: some that are over 20 000 times sweeter than sugar. Take sucralose for example, or splenda as you may have seen it: it is 600 times sweeter than sugar, so you have to make sure not to use as much as you would with regular sugar. Non-nutrient sweeteners may be a temporary solution for weight control, but the best thing you can do is try to reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet overall. Choose water over sweetened beverages and pick an apple when that sweet tooth kicks in. And finally, just allow yourself to indulge once in a while.

Food Secrets – Seasonal Produce

Well, it is no secret that Michigan is home to an enormous variety of agriculture. From apples to livestock to wheat, Michigan's farmers produce over 300 different types of food and agricultural products. In fact, Michigan is the leading producer of several products: potatoes, beans, flowers, grapes, apples and even Christmas trees. Summertime is an important time in Michigan not only for all the fun to be had, but because nearly all the major crops are in season. With that in mind, let's take a look at a few of Michigan's most famous crops and just what it is about them that makes them nutritious and delicious.

Cherries are arguably the most famous of Michigan's crops. Michigan ranks number one for the production of tart cherries and number four for sweet cherries, with their seasons running from May to August. Cherries can be used in everything from pies to barbecue sauce to sweet wines. Cherries may reduce the risk of several chronic inflammation diseases like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. There is also evidence that cherry consumption may improve sleep, cognitive function and recovery from pain after strenuous exercise. Add cherries to savory dishes to smoothies to overnight oats, or baked into homemade bread.

Let's move on to corn. In 2014, Michigan farmers harvested the largest crop of corn on record at more than 355 million bushels. Michigan's corn is used in a variety of ways, from livestock feed to ethanol production, but we're here to talk about the sweetness that accompanies many summer barbecue meals. From fresh corn to popcorn to tortillas, corn is a versatile crop. It's filling because it has a high fiber content. It also contains energizing B vitamins and even antioxidants, something that is uncommon in cereal grains. Beyond on the cob, enjoy corn this summer mixed in with a fresh salsa or in a veggie rich stir fry.

Here's one that you might not be aware of: Michigan is the number one producer of asparagus in the country. On top of that, Michigan's asparagus is harvested by hand, resulting in a more tender and flavorful product. Surprisingly versatile and delicious, asparagus peaks in May and June. Asparagus is loaded in nutrients but low in calorie,s making it a nutritional powerhouse. It contains folate, which is an important nutrient that helps form red blood cells and produce DNA for healthy growth. In fact, it's recommended to supplement with folate during pregnancy because it fosters healthy development and prevents serious neural tube defects. Enjoy asparagus grilled and finished off with lemon juice, or roasted then topped with shaved parmesan, or in a stir fry.

Well, we are so lucky to live in a state with such a variety of delicious and healthy foods. With summer here, be sure to get out there and enjoy everything Michigan has to offer if you are in need of recipe ideas for your farmer's market haul head over to a for inspiration.

Food Secrets – Nutrient Absorption

Did you know that some foods work in synergy with each other to maximize nutrient absorption? For example, beta carotene is found in many red and orange pigmented produce and it has cancer fighting benefits. However, when you extract that beta-carotene in the supplement form, it doesn't come along with the same amount of benefits and it can actually increase your risk for certain cancers. If you have too much, this hints that some components of that red and orange produce maximizes the benefits of that beta-carotene. Here are some other examples of how food components work in synergy.

Vitamin C. Found in many citrus fruits, enhances your body's ability to absorb plant-based iron as it's not as easily absorbed as heme iron, which is found in meats. Pair a spinach salad with a citrus vinaigrette or put some fresh cut strawberries on your morning oatmeal.

Calcium. Found in sources like dairy, soy and beans, is important for bone development, muscle movement, nerve function and more. Vitamin D, which is found in fatty fish egg yolks and even sun exposure helps absorb that calcium. This is why you see vitamin D added to many dairy products. For a plant-based pairing, try a power-bowl with beans, rice, mushrooms and broccoli.

Our bodies need fat to survive to help support brain function and to help our bodies absorb fat soluble vitamins A,D, E and K, which in turn have more important roles like chronic disease prevention. Pair leafy greens with an olive oil rich vinaigrette or enjoy a handful of nuts as a snack, as it comes along with healthy fats and vitamin E.

Protein is made up of amino acids. Our body makes some amino acids, but needs to consume others called essential amino acids from food. Protein foods that have all the essential amino acids are called complete proteins and are most commonly found in animal products like poultry and fish. Because some protein foods don't have all the essential amino acids the human body needs, it's helpful to combine them with a complementary protein. For example, combining rice with black beans is a way to get all the essential amino acids and get a complete protein. Hummus with pita bread is another healthy example.

Be sure to visit a for more health and wellbeing tips, recipes and all things Michigan.

Food Secrets – Food Safety

Did you know that very year 1 in 6 Americans will get food poisoning? That's roughly 48 million people! For most that means a rough couple of days, but it can be far more serious for others. 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die annually from a foodborne illness. Adults 65 and up, children under 5, pregnant women and people who have health problems are most susceptible. With that in mind, let's talk about the basics of "food safety." Following just a few simple principles will help keep you and your loved ones safe from foodborne illnesses.

The germs that can make you sick can survive in many places around the kitchen: on your food, hands, utensils, cutting boards, containers and countertops. Washing your hands frequently is one the easiest and most critical steps to take. Wash prior to and after handling foods, before eating, after using the restroom or in contact with foreign or potentially contaminated surfaces. Work surfaces like countertops and cutting boards and all cooking utensils should be washed with warm soapy water prior to and after each use. It's also important to avoid cross contamination with utensils. Knives, spoons and forks should be cleaned or removed from use after contact with certain foods – like raw chicken. It's also important to clean the foods themselves prior to cooking. Rinse fruits and vegetables before cooking and be sure to avoid cross contamination from rinds and skins. Also, don't forget to clean the exteriors of cans and jars before opening and using them.

Keeping foods, utensils and tools away from one another while shopping, cooking and storing is another important part of a good food safety strategy. Raw meats, poultry, seafood, eggs and flour should NEVER come into contact with produce or other ready-to-eat foods. Keep them separated at all times. A second set of tools for raw foods is a great way to ensure that you don't cross contaminate. Even just a few items: a knife, cutting board, etc., can make it easier. If you can't, be sure to wash tools between each use. For serving and storage, it's important use a clean plate or storage container. So, don't use the same plates for raw and cooked foods and be sure that your storage containers are clean and seal well. Keep your raw meats on the lower shelves in your fridge or freezer just in case they leak.

"Heat it before you eat" is the mantra to follow here. Know the cook temperatures for meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Even microwaved foods, like leftovers, should be heated to a certain temp to ensure safety. And, remember that doughs are a "don't."So, flour and egss are not safe unless fully cooked. When microwaving, always follow the package instructions and be sure to rotate your food if your microwave doesn't already.

This step is all about proper food storage and handling. A super useful tool is the USDA FoodKeeper app. It can tell you the correct time to store most foods in your fridge or freezer. An easy, and often overlooked tip is to simply pick up your perishable foods at the store last. It's also important to get your groceries home quickly. 1-2 hours is safe for most foods. Be sure to put your leftovers or takeout away in this time frame too. Temperature is critical to keeping food safe and fresh as long as possible. Set your refrigerator to 40 degrees F or lower, and your freezer to 0 degrees or lower. If you're not sure, grab an appliance thermometer. And lastly, allow some space between items in your fridge. This not only prevents cross contamination, it allows the air to circulate and keep temperatures more even.

Keeping these four simple principles top-of-mind while shopping, handling and preparing food can keep you and your loved ones safe from foodborne illnesses. For more healthy kitchen and food tips, be sure to visit See you next time.

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