Fat: Good or Bad For You?

Fat: Is it Good or Bad For You?


Hi There,

I mentioned in my last post, “Sugar: It Is a Big Deal,” that the low-fat craze in the eighties was a big factor in increasing the amount of sugar used in producing many foods.

Without the fat, manufacturers needed an ingredient to enhance the flavor, hence many variations of sugar was added to make the product taste better.

I certainly remember thinking at that time, fat is bad, low-fat is better, without giving any thought to the other ingredients. Some thirty years later, and loads of studies performed, we’ve concluded, fat is not the enemy, but the type of fat is.

Like my posts about sugar, there is SO much information about fats that I’ll need to break it out over a couple of posts. This week I’ll cover why the body needs fat, digestion of fat and the best food sources of fat. Next week I’ll discuss the different types of fat, there are quite a few!

Let’s start with the one question I hear often…

Does the body need fat?

Fats are found in every cell membrane, organ and tissue, which is why an adequate amount of fat is necessary for the body to function properly. Good dietary fat can help our cells communicate, can help our nerves send messages, our glands make hormones and good fats can help our bodies transport vitamins.

Good Dietary fats are:



  • A source of energy


  • A source of essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot make


  • A way to absorb fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K


  • A way to insulate our bodies and protect organs


How much fat is needed?

According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines, it’s recommended that 20-35% of daily calories come from total fats. That’s about 44 grams to 77 grams of fat per day if you eat 2,000 calories a day.

To give you an idea of what this looks like in food, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is 17 grams of fat, one slice of cheese (1 oz.) is 9 grams of fat, and one tablespoon of olive oil is 14 grams of fat. Depending on the cut of beef and method of preparation, a 6 oz. portion can range from 16 grams to 48 grams of fat.

So, if you’re having a steak and salad for dinner, make sure it’s a lean cut and limit the salad dressing. Otherwise, you’ll be consuming 30 grams to 62 grams of fat. And that’s just one meal!

Why is there a wide range for consumption of fat?

Each person is unique, and the requirement of fat needed varies widely and needs to take the following into consideration:

  • Age, babies need at least 35% fat in their diet


  • Stage of development, fat is essential for brain development


  • Level of activity


  • Other health factors, blood pressure, diabetes, etc.


  • Medications taken daily, including vitamins


How do you know how much fat is right for you?

Based on the range given above, you might be wondering where you fall?

Are you eating enough fat or too much fat?

Too much fat in your diet can lead to:

  • Weight gain and obesity


  • Heart disease and related issues, like high blood pressure


  • High blood cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels


  • Metabolic syndrome


  • Diabetes and insulin resistance


  • Digestive issues


If you’re not eating enough fat, you may experience any one of the following:

  • Dry and scaly skin


  • Dry eyes


  • Feeling constantly cold


  • Dry hair and/or hair loss


  • Inability to feel full/always feeling hungry


  • Deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins


  • Constant fatigue


How to get the right amount of fat into your diet.

Getting just the right amount of fat into your diet, can take a little trial and error. While I was studying for my Holistic Nutrition Certification, I had one teacher, who was also a doctor, swore by a high-fat diet. Albeit, only “good” fats though.

I took this as a green light to eat whatever “good” fats I wanted without considering portions or calories. I ate lots of avocado, nuts, seeds, etc. I felt great, but I also started to gain weight.

I lost sight of the fact that fat grams are more dense and higher in calories than protein and carbohydrates, hence the weight gain. Since then, I read the labels and nutritional facts more carefully. I still eat some of my favorite fats: nuts and avocado, I simply eat smaller portions.

By now, you’re probably wondering, once more, what the heck can I eat?!

Below is a short list of “good” fat foods to eat, with the recommended serving sizes:

  • Avocados – ½ cup = 11 grams fat


  • Almonds – 1 oz. = 14 grams fat


  • Walnuts – 1 oz. = 18 grams fat


  • Shredded Coconut (unsweetened) – ½ cup = 14 grams of fat


  • Sunflower seeds (shelled) – 1 oz. = 14 grams fat


  • Pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) – 1 oz. = 5 grams fat


  • Salmon – 3 oz. = 11 grams fat


  • Chicken breast (skinless) – 3 oz. = 2 grams fat


Fat and digestion

If you recall from, “Trust Your Gut,” the digestive process begins in the mouth. However, unlike carbohydrates and proteins, only a small amount of fat digestion occurs in the mouth and stomach.

Most of the fat digestion takes place in the small intestine with the aid of bile. Bile is what emulsifies the fat so it can be broken down into smaller molecules to help with digestion.

Digestive enzymes are necessary for the digestion of fat. Another factor taken into consideration during the digestion of fat is the type of fat being digested.

Who knew the digestion of fat could be so complicated!

If you or anyone you know suffers from digestive issues, the type of fat you’re eating could be the culprit.

Next week I’ll discuss the different types of fat and which ones you really want to avoid. Plus, I’ll give you more “good” fat foods too!

Many Blessings,


P.S. I purposely waited until after Fat Tuesday to send this out!

Sugar: It IS a Big Deal

Sugar: It Is a Big Deal!


Hi there,

Now that Valentine’s Day is over, and all the chocolate goodies have been eaten, I want to get back to talking about sugar. My whole goal is to provide information so you can make the best decision for your health. So, with that in mind, “Please don’t shoot the messenger!”

In my previous post, Sugar: What’s The Big Deal?” I explained just how much we’ve increased our intake of sugar as a nation, the unlikely sources that contain high amounts of sugar, the alternative names of sugar and how to read labels to decipher just how much sugar you’re really eating.

This week I’ll cover the difference between natural and chemical sugars and their impact on your immune system, as well as the difference between glycemic index and glycemic load (very important, especially for individuals with diabetes). Plus, I’ll give my recommendations for what sugars are the best to use on a regular basis.

Let’s start with the question I get asked the most: “Is any sugar good for you?”

This is sort of a trick question! The truth is our body does need glucose for energy. However, glucose in its purest form, is not to be mistaken for the sugar products that we consume. All sugar (or byproduct of sugar) contains glucose, only not in its simple form. Which means our body must break it down to be able to digest it and use it properly. This is why the type of sugar you consume is so important- I’ll go into more detail when I discuss the various forms of sugar.

So, the real question becomes, how much glucose does our body need?

Before I can answer this I need to explain the role of blood sugar and its impact on every cell in our anatomy.

As I mentioned above, glucose is needed to provide energy to our cells. Once glucose is in our blood stream it’s up to insulin- a hormone produced by the pancreas- to carry the glucose to our cells for use.

For people who live with diabetes, their cells become resistant to the action of insulin and the pancreas is unable to make enough, or any, insulin to overcome that resistance.

Since each person’s lifestyle and cells are unique, the amount of glucose and insulin a person needs can vary a great deal. So unfortunately, there isn’t one answer that I can give that would pertain to everyone.

But one thing is true for everyone: too much sugar is not good for anyone.

What happens when the body ingests too much sugar? Well, we know the liver produces glucose and has the ability to store excess glucose for later use. But if you’re consuming large amounts of food that break down into glucose, then the excess will never be used for energy because there is simply too much!

The liver will then convert excess glucose into fat, YIKES!

Now if you remember from the prior post about sugar, we as a nation are consuming about four to five times the recommended daily amount of sugar. So, it’s no wonder obesity has increased greatly over the last few decades! The manufacturers may have taken out the fat in the eighties, but they added in a whole bunch of sugar.

While most of the focus with increased sugar is on weight gain, there have been a few studies performed by the American Heart Association that indicate an increase in sugar can also lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular heart disease (CHD).

One study completed in 2012 concluded the following: “The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with increased risk of CHD and some adverse changes in lipids, inflammatory factors, and leptin.”

In addition to sugar impacting your heart, a diet that consists of too much sugar will have a negative impact on your gut flora. In a previous post, “Trust your gut,” I explain that bad bacteria loves sugar and a diet high in sugar will allow for the bad bacteria in your gut to overtake the good bacteria. This can leave you with a weakened immune system among many other issues stated in that post.

That’s just the physical impact of excess sugar. But what about its impact on our mental health?

In a previous post, “Living with Anxiety,” I mentioned that according to Psychology Today the so-called Standard American Diet, which is full of sugar and fat, does not necessarily cause anxiety but it does appear to worsen anxiety symptoms and impair the body’s ability to cope with stress.

With all these scary statistics you might be wondering: “What in the world can I eat!”

The good news is there are many foods that contain natural sugars, such as fruits, some vegetables and whole grains that are actually beneficial for you. The key is in understanding how the body digests the various forms of sugar and deciphering between the glycemic index and glycemic load.

Glycemic Index (GI) measures the effect of carbohydrates (aka sugars) on blood sugar levels, also known as glucose. The GI is a measurement that can show how rapidly glucose is released by the particular foods you eat.

Glycemic Load (GL) focuses on the quality (simple vs. complex) and quantity of the carbohydrate. Foods that contain other beneficial nutrients, such as fiber, tend to reduce the GL.

Ranges for Glycemic Index are as follows:

  • A GI that is less than or equal to 55 is low.
  • A GI that is between 56 and 69 is medium.
  • A GI that is equal to or great than 70 is high.

Ranges for Glycemic Load are as follows:

  • A GL that is less than or equal to 10 is low.
  • A GL that is between 11 and 19 is medium.
  • A GL that is greater than or equal to 20 is high.


Both measurements need to be taken into consideration, but from a nutritional aspect the glycemic load provides a more accurate depiction of how the body digests and releases the glucose into the system.


If people rely strictly on the glycemic index they will potentially eliminate beneficial foods, such as certain fruits, from their diet. For example, 120 grams of watermelon has a high glycemic index of 72 but its glycemic load is 4, mostly because of its high water content.

So what about using substitute sweeteners?


Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame, neotame and sucralose are currently approved by the FDA and used in many foods and beverages. However, even though they’re approved, I certainly wouldn’t recommend drinking or eating any products that contain these synthetic sweeteners.

There have been multiple studies to support limiting or even eliminating the consumption of products that use artificial sweeteners. In one publication by Harvard Health, Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity and weight-loss specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital, expressed worry about artificial sweeteners and here’s why:

  • Studies performed by the FDA to allow the use of substitute sweeteners used small control groups consuming amounts less than the average person consumes today. In addition, they haven’t performed any studies with respect to long-term consumption.


  • In 2008 a Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, showed a daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes.


  • Referencing another article in Harvard Health Publications, Dr. Ludwig claims artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain. Participants in a San Antonio Heart Study who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as people who didn’t drink diet soda.


So what sugar is acceptable?

  • Fruits are nature’s perfect source of energy. Plus, they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are beneficial for your health.


  • Dates: cooking with dates is a wonderful way to sweeten smoothies, breads, cookies, etc.


  • Real maple syrup. I’m not talking about Aunt Jemima! Real maple syrup contains beneficial vitamins and minerals.


  • Coconut nectar derived from coconuts is one of Mother Nature’s best kept secrets, but it’s gaining notoriety as more people turn to it.


  • Stevia, a natural zero calorie sweetener, is another option, but I use this one sparingly.


When in doubt, choose a product made from a “whole” food source, such as fruits and vegetables.

And for all you chocolate lover’s out there: choose dark chocolate that contains a minimum 70% cacao. Raw cacao beans contain highly beneficial antioxidants that help fight free radicals (but that’s a whole other topic!)

However, since there is some sugar in dark chocolate, only eat a small piece. And be sure to find a good hiding spot: I caught George the other night digging in to my stash!

I pray your days are sweet even without sweet treats to eat!

Many blessings,


Sugar: What’s the Big Deal

Sugar: What’s the Big Deal?


Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July… What do these special occasions all have in common? Sugary, sweet treats, that’s what! If we limited our indulgence of sugar to these few days of the year, I honestly don’t think our sugar intake would be a big deal, yet…

The reality is sugar consumption on a daily basis has dramatically increased over the years and continues to do so, making it a big deal.

In fact, there’s so much information to cover about this topic that I’m going to have to break it up into two posts. Today’s post will explain just how much we’ve increased our intake of sugar, unlikely sources that contain high amounts of sugar, alternative names of sugar and how to read labels to decipher just how much sugar you’re really eating.

Next week I’ll cover the difference between natural and chemical sugars and their impact on your immune system, as well as the difference between glycemic index and glycemic load (very important, especially for individuals with diabetes). Plus, I’ll give my recommendations for which sugars are the best to use on a regular basis.

Mind you, I wasn’t always this conscious of my sugar intake. Believe it or not, I have very fond memories of those beautiful white crystals…

When I was a young child my family lived in a small town called Blue Island. Like many small towns in the early seventies they had quite a few “mom and pop” stores. The uptown area, as we called it, had a different store for everything you could imagine: clothing, shoes, bikes, hairdresser, salon and my favorite, the bakery.

During that time my grandparents lived right up the street from us. I have wonderful memories of my grandfather, who was an early riser, coming to our house with fresh-baked white bread from the bakery. One of my favorite ways to eat a slice was to slather it with a bunch of butter and sprinkle sugar all over it… Absolute heaven!

But my sweet tooth didn’t stop there. I loved chocolate bars, cookies, cupcakes and who could resist thick buttercream frosting? Not me, that’s who!

No one worried or fretted that I was eating too much sugar partly because no one knew any better and partly because I didn’t eat that way all the time. Most of the time I indulged when it was a special occasion like a birthday or holiday. Sure, we had sweets in our house, just not on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, that’s not true today.

To make positive changes for today and our future we need to understand the past and how we got where we are today.

How much has our consumption of sugar really increased?

According to researchers Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen, who wrote an extensive report about sugar in 2012, our consumption of added sugars has skyrocketed over the past two centuries. They found credible data going back to 1822 and what they uncovered was astounding:

In 1822 people ate an average of 6.3 pounds of sugar per person per year. By the year 2000 the average person was consuming 107.7 pounds of sugar in one year! To put this in perspective: on labels sugar is listed by grams, and one pound of sugar is equal to 454 grams (rounded), so in one year the average person now consumes 48,895.8 grams of sugar- the equivalent of drinking 1,222 cans of Coca Cola!

Based on the numbers above, the average person is consuming 134 grams per day of sugar and that’s way above the recommended daily allowance.

So, what’s the recommended daily allowance for sugar?

I found the answer to this question rather confusing, mostly because the USDA doesn’t offer any clear-cut guidelines with respect to sugar consumption. This federal agency is supposed to evaluate nutrients and provides recommended daily allowance guidelines based on the nutrient value, but since there really aren’t any nutrients in plain table sugar, the USDA doesn’t provide any guidelines for it. I did, however, find two reputable sources that were consistent.

In March 2014 the World Health Organization (WHO) released the following parameters for sugar consumption: “For an adult of a normal body mass index (BMI), the WHO recommends no more than 25 grams– or about 6 teaspoons– of sugar on a daily basis.”

Since the average person doesn’t know what their BMI is, I found this guideline to be ambiguous, which led me to the next reputable organization that offered guidelines for sugar consumption.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to no more than 100 calories per day for women (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) and no more than 150 calories per day for men (9 teaspoons or 36 grams).

So basically, if you’re a man you get to consume more sugar… NOT FAIR!

All kidding aside, there’s no doubt the consumption of sugar by the average person has increased a great deal and it’s wreaking havoc on our physical and mental health.

My intention, as always, is to arm you with information so you can make the best decisions for your overall health.

Right about now you might be wondering: how did we, as a society, go from consuming 6.3 to 107.7 pounds of sugar?

Well, the answer to that one is simple. Do you remember the low-fat craze in the eighties? At the time, manufacturers felt the pressure to reduce the fat content in their products, however, by taking out the fat they also took out the flavor. So, they added sugar. And not just pure cane sugar, oh no. These folks got creative and found ways to process sugar in the least expensive manner possible and proceeded to add it to most foods you eat every day, thereby increasing everyone’s sugar consumption by default.

Unfortunately, you may think you have your sugar consumption under control, but if you eat any of the foods listed below, you may want to check the labels and recalculate your sugars.

Below is a list of common foods we eat on a daily basis that contain a high amount of sugar:

  • Salad dressings
  • Condiments
  • Soups and sauces
  • Cereal and cereal bars
  • Bottled smoothies
  • Some yogurts
  • Nut butters (especially peanut butter)
  • Bread and bread products
  • Let’s not forget the specialty coffee drinks that many teenagers (and adults) are drinking today. One Grande Frappuccino from Starbucks is a whopping 56 grams of sugar!


Some of these you may already be aware of and others you may not.

And not only did manufacturers add sugar to a number of foods, they also have quite the list of alternative sugars used in their products to camouflage what they do. So, while you might not see sugar as an ingredient, if a food item contains any of the alternative names listed below, basically it means it contains sugar.

Below is a picture listing some common and obvious forms of sugar along with a few alternative names:

Now that you know a variety of ways sugar is added to food, your next step is to read the labels. However, reading labels can be very misleading and I’m convinced the manufacturers do this on purpose.

For example, if you’re eating a bowl of cereal, a common serving size is typically ¾ cup. I don’t know about you, but if my kids are pouring their cereal, we’re talking closer to two cups- almost three times the listed serving size, which also means three times the amount of sugar listed in the ingredients!

Below I’ve listed some common cereals, the serving size listed on the box and the grams of sugar per serving. Then I doubled the serving to reflect the amount most kids (and adults) are really eating.

Honey Nut Cheerios: ¾ cup = 9 grams of sugar or 18 grams for 1½ cups.

Lucky Charms: ¾ cup = 11 grams of sugar or 22 grams for 1½ cups.

Cocoa Pebbles: ¾ cup = 10 grams of sugar or 20 grams for 1½ cups.

Don’t forget if you’re a woman your recommended daily intake of sugar is only 24 grams. Meaning, if you choose to eat one of the cereals listed above with a realistic serving size, you’ll be consuming most of your daily sugar in one meal.

And that’s just cereal! I encourage you to grab some food from your refrigerator or pantry and see if any of the names listed above appear on the label, then check the serving size to see what you would really be consuming!

Here’s another fact about ingredients: manufacturers list them in order of largest to smallest amounts. For instance, if sugar is listed in first or second place ingredient, then sugar is one of the main ingredients added to the product.

Once again, my boys have been a wonderful resource for me to bounce all my nutrition facts off of and reading labels and spotting alternative names have been at the top of the list these past few years.

It’s funny to see them police each other when we’re out and they want to buy a drink from a convenience store. They know by now that any products with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are off the table and I’ve seen them put back drinks that contained it.

Thankfully more manufacturers are listening to consumers who are voting with their dollars every day and they’re offering more products without HFCS.

But as I reiterate to my kids, it’s all about balance. Having treats at a party or on the holidays is usually fine, within reason. But eating that way every day can really affect your immune system and your overall health.

I really encourage you to read labels on all your products so you can make the best decision for your health.

By the way, I’m not totally against sugar: I’m happy to share that a little piece of dark chocolate can have some added health benefits… More on that in my next post!

I pray you have a fantastic week!



Open Your Heart to Love

Open Your Heart to Love


Valentine’s Day is Friday and one can’t help but think about love. Do you dread this day or embrace it with open arms?

If you’re heart has recently been broken, you may want to avoid this day and its reminders of love at any cost. I know that’s how I felt the first Valentine’s Day without Larry.

The pain of losing someone can close your heart forever. Unfortunately, when that happens, it also closes your heart to joy, peace and happiness, which are all associated with love.

Why then, would anyone want to keep a hardened heart?

Because as wonderful as love can be, it can also hurt just as bad.

At least that’s how I felt when Larry died.

When he died, I admit, there were moments when I wondered,

“Is it really better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all?”

For years I’ve shied away from finding another romantic love. I mean honestly, how in the world, and why for that matter, would I want to feel love for anything or anyone ever again, if I’m only going to lose it?

With Larry’s love taken from me without my permission, I lost the ability to experience some of the positive feelings associated with love- joy, wonder, and hope- to name a few. Instead I felt surrounded by confusion, despair and a whole lot of stress.

Living day to day with a closed heart felt as though I was walking around with a wet blanket over me, everything was very heavy and dark. The longer I carried this wet blanket, the more I wanted to get rid of it.

I knew one thing, before I could open my heart to love, I had to heal my broken heart.

So, I started taking steps in my journey of grief, and slowly I began to heal.

The more I explored how to open my heart the more I came to believe that in order to experience love in your life you must practice living and exuding love from your heart EVERY DAY of your life.

Each person will have to decide what brings love into their life and the best way to share their love with others. For now, I can share what brings love each and every day into my life, which in turn allows me to share my love with others.

Practice gratitude.

This one can be difficult, but in my book, it’s one of the most important. Right when Larry died I found it difficult to be grateful for anything. Then I began to receive so many touching cards and personal notes from friends of Larry’s. I cried as I read every word and felt grateful that someone took time to share this precious memory of Larry. 

Little by little I started to realize that while I had lost my husband, I still had people and relationships in my life to be grateful for. To this day when I say my daily prayers I always begin with gratitude. I’m grateful for my children, my dogs, my family and friends and being surrounded by beautiful nature.

Embrace forgiveness and appreciate your past.

While it may sound crazy I had to forgive Larry for leaving me. The rational part of my brain can understand that his death was not a choice, but the irrational part was screaming, “I can’t believe you left me to deal with all this on my own!” To make things worse, I had- and admit I sometimes still have- a hard time with memories of the past. 

They represent a time in my life when I was so happy, content and filled with so much hope for our future. They are bittersweet to say the least. I have come to accept there is nothing that will change the fact that Larry is dead and I forgive him, God, the doctors and basically anyone associated with his death. I also appreciate that I had almost twenty years with this incredible man. I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I not met him. 

For those of you who are separated or going through a divorce I understand forgiveness may be more difficult, especially if one chose to leave without the others consent. Please know forgiveness does not mean condoning past behaviors. Forgiveness is about giving YOU freedom: the freedom to heal and allow love back in your life.

Commit to positive changes.

When you face life challenges you will have to face more obstacles than you could’ve ever imagined. But how do you get past, over or around an obstacle?

First and foremost, you commit to a positive path. Ask yourself along the way, “will this contribute to my happiness or accentuate the difficulties I face?”

I made many choices to heal from grief and to help my children heal as well. From counseling to sharing memories, the focus was always on love and trying to find peace and happiness.

Focus on those you love and who love you the most.

There are many different forms of love and I’ve been fortunate to have known love in a variety of ways. For example, I know I enjoy unconditional love from my parents, partly because they’ve told me and partly because I see it and feel it in their daily actions.

There’s a special bond of love I share with my siblings and their families that transcends the ups and downs of life. They were the ones who stood by my side as I began to walk, had my back whenever I got hurt in a relationship and jumped on my bandwagon when I needed a few moments to let my hair down and rant about the misfortunes I’ve endured.

I’ve also been fortunate to have shared a deep and passionate love with my late husband, Larry. And together we created the loves of our lives: our children. As I’ve told my boys many times, I will love them forever, no matter what. 

Of course, I can’t forget the two that lift my spirits every day, my four-legged, furry kids: my dogs, Star and Cruiser. After eight years my heart still melts when I look in their eyes and I see the purest form of love. It reminds me how I felt when my boys were babies and I’d see nothing but pure love and happiness staring back at me.

A love like that is precious and I’m beyond grateful to see it every day.

I know I’m fortunate to have so much love in my life.

Yet, the one question I continue to get asked (sometimes in round about ways) is what about another romantic love?

Well… someday.

Honestly, my heart is happy, content and full of love. I’m simply cherishing each day and feel triumphant that I’m able open my heart to love every day.  

I also believe if it’s meant to happen, it will. Until then, I’ll live my life with an open heart.

I pray your heart is open to accepting and sharing love with the most important people in your life.

Many blessings,