What do they use instead of Sugar and is it really any ‘Healthier’?




By Rini Jablonski, Healthy Aggies Intern

You’re hungry as you walk past the protein bar aisle in the grocery store and think “this could be a healthy alternative to the delicious but sugary granola bars in the next aisle”. We’re all used to hearing that “sugar is bad”, so when you walk over and pick up a protein bar with only one gram of sugar, that’s great right?

One of the ingredients commonly listed on these protein bars is “sugar alcohol”. I have personally always thought that sugar alcohols are healthier than sugars because of this protein bar association. From a “cutting back on calories” standpoint, sugar alcohols accomplish the goal. But there are five main ideas to take away regarding sugar alcohols when trying to decide.

  • What are sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols are not to be confused with artificial sweeteners. They are natural substances and are extracted from plant products such as fruits and berries. Their chemical structure is different from that of regular sugar, and some of the most common sugar alcohols you’ll see listed in products include mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol, and Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates.
  • Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories: This is because they are similar to fiber in that their chemical structure is harder for our body to break down. Because of this, they are not as easily absorbed by the small intestine. In addition, they do not result in a high spike in blood sugar. This is why sugar alcohols are becoming increasingly popular with diabetic individuals.
  • Sugar alcohols are better for your teeth: Unlike sugar, sugar alcohols are beneficial for your teeth. Bacteria normally consume sugar on your teeth and secrete acid that wears away at your tooth enamel. These same bacteria will attempt to consume the sugar alcohols as well, but because sugar alcohols are harder to metabolize, their growth is inhibited. That’s why you see Xylitol commonly used in gum. 
  • Overconsumption can result in digestive problems: This is a big negative and the main reason why these ingredients are not used in greater quantity. Because sugar alcohols are harder to metabolize, overconsumption of them can result in digestive problems, sometimes severe, like cramping, gas, and diarrhea. For those with sensitive stomachs, it is probably better to avoid sugar alcohols all together.
  • We don’t know the long-term effects: The use of sugar alcohols has only recently become popular. Further research must be done to determine the long-term effects of sugar alcohol consumption.

The takeaway: From what we know now, sugar alcohols appear to be a decent alternative to high-calorie sweeteners and do not present any immediate major health concerns. As with any food however, it is always best to be mindful of portion control and be conscious of the products you are consuming. Something containing sugar alcohol sweeteners may distract from the fact that the product has a very high fat or carbohydrate content. And as mentioned, we do not currently know the long-term effects of consuming sugar alcohols, so use the information in this article to make an informed decision about your food!






Pre and Pro-biotics – What is the difference and how do I get them?


By Ruth Vodonos, Healthy Aggies Intern

Most people have heard of have been personally prescribed antibiotics at least once in their life.  Antibiotics are meant as either treatment for, or prevention of, infections and work by either killing or repressing the growth of bacteria. You may have also heard of probiotics, probably through clickbait type news articles throwing out words like microbiome, gut health, and writing about the need to consume fermented foods like kombucha or else face dire consequences.

The need to consume kombucha (especially if, like me, you don’t exactly enjoy the taste) is far from necessary. Your microbiome, the micro-ecosystem created by microbes lining your gut, contains an impressive number of bacteria, nearly 1,000 different species in the gut alone. Healthy gut microbiota may not be something most people think about every day, but maintaining a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria through diet is essential to maintaining overall health.

So, what’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Prebiotics are essentially a natural part of many plant foods that we can’t digest (non-digestible fibers), but the bacteria in our gut can digest it; prebiotics serve as “food” for the probiotic bacteria, helping them grow. This is beneficial to maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics on the other hand actually contain strains of living bacteria, possibly augmenting those that are naturally already found in your microbiome.

Sure, these are available as pills and other forms of dietary supplements, but be careful of dietary supplements. Supplements are completely unregulated and there is no guarantee that what the label says is actually in the bottle.  What are some dietary sources of prebiotics? Well, foods that are high in prebiotics include garlic, leeks, onion, asparagus, and Jerusalem artichokes as well as most fruits and vegetables. When searching for probiotics there are plenty of fermented dairy foods to consider, such as yogurt, kefir, and aged cheeses. There are also useful strains of bacteria found in non-dairy foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and cultured non-dairy yogurts. So there’s no need to force yourself to eat something you do not enjoy, when there are so many options out there for both prebiotics and probiotics!

It is also important to note that there may be a benefit to consuming prebiotics and probiotics together, referred to as synbiotics, because they can work together synergistically. In the case of fermented vegetables, that happens naturally!

Eating half of each meal as fruits and veggies, also including a whole grain or starchy vegetable along with a serving of a protein rich food, will likely give you everything you need each day.








5 ways to remember to drink water.

water drop

By Joel Paniagua Soto, Nutrition Peer Counselor

 Being hydrated is very important as water plays a huge role in metabolism. Water is the most abundant and essential component of the human body. In fact, about 60% of total body weight is comprised of water.  During winter we may not think we need as much, but we can still get dehydrated! Not getting enough water will affect your energy level, may cause headaches, chapped lips, slowed metabolism, and dry skin. Staying hydrated throughout the day will benefit your body and you might even notice a slight increase in energy.

How much water should I drink? Many of you have heard that we need 8 glasses of water, right? Well everyone is different and depending on your activity level, climate, and digestion, the amount of water can vary.  According to the Food and Nutrition Board, for adults, it is recommended 1 ml of water per kilocalorie or 30 ml per kilogram body weight; drink a minimum of six glasses of water per day to be safe. If you need help or have questions with water recommendation, consult your physician and or dietician.

How can I drink more water? Here are five easy ways to remember to drink water. It is also important to keep in mind that foods can contain water and eating those water containing foods will certainly contribute to fluid intake.

1. Use a colorful reusable bottle. Invest some money on a reusable bottle so you always have it with you everywhere you go. You can always refill it when you are empty and this way you are saving money and the environment. Choose a bottle that you will enjoy carrying around and so it is easy to see. Many people tend to lose their bottles but if it is colorful, it will be easier to spot and remind you to take a sip of water.infused

2. Infuse your waterWho says you have to drink plain ol’ water? Spice it up and add sliced lemons, limes, mint, oranges, strawberries, and so on. This will make drinking water tastier and more exciting.

3. Set alarms. This one might sound weird, but it can be helpful when you are busy studying. Putting alarms or a reminder to drink water every 30-60 minutes will provide helpful encouragement to drink water.

4. Make a tea. tea bagsDuring winter it might not seem appealing to drink cold water, so instead make a tea! Hot tea does sound good when you are at home avoiding the cold rainy weather. Buy some tea bags and find your favorite mug because it is about to be tea-rrific!

5. Consume water containing foods. Eating foods with high water content will add to your total water intake. By eating fruits and vegetables (water constitutes about 90% for most fruits and vegetables) you will more easily achieve your water intake goals not to mention fruits and vegetables are health promoting for many reasons!


Cruel, J., & Tamarkin, S. (n.d.). 22 Easy Ways to Drink More Water Every Day. Retrieved from https://www.self.com/story/how-to-drink-more-water

12 Ways To Remember To Drink Water. (2019, January 03). Retrieved from https://nutritionstripped.com/12-ways-to-remember-to-drink-water/


What’s the deal with fiber?

fiber blog

By Rheanna Smith, Peer Nutrition Counselor

Dietary fiber is one of the most underrated nutrients. Other nutrients like Vitamin C and Iron tend to get a lot more attention in the media but no one seems to talk about fiber! Dietary fiber consists of all indigestible plant materials consumed in the diet, classified as either soluble or insoluble fiber. While it may not be digested by us fiber is still an essential nutrient that you need to consume every single day!

Let’s break down the top three reasons that dietary fiber is essential for overall health:

  • Fiber helps regulate cholesterol levels in the body.

Have you ever wondered why Cheerios says “heart healthy, lowers cholesterol” on every cereal box? That claim is made because Cheerios are a good source of dietary fiber! Here’s how it works: bile is produced by the liver to assist in breaking down food within the digestive tract, specifically emulsifying fats, and interestingly enough, bile happens to be very close to cholesterol in molecular structure. In fact the liver uses cholesterol as a building block for bile production! So where does fiber come in? Dietary fiber effectively decreases overall cholesterol levels because it binds to bile which is then excreted with your next bowel movement. This requires the liver to manufacture more bile and it does so by pulling cholesterol from the bloodstream in order to convert it into bile. Therefore the more dietary fiber you eat the more regulated your cholesterol levels will be!

  • Fiber plays an important role in digestive health.

This reason may be a little more obvious to some, but nonetheless is still a very valuable reason to include dietary fiber in your daily diet. Fiber adds bulk to stools and keeps digestive motility up. The intestines use what is referred to as peristalsis, wavelike muscular contractions, in order to move food throughout the digestive tract. Without proper force applied to the intestinal wall these muscular contractions can be much harder on the body. Fiber adds bulkiness to stools which allows for smooth and effective peristaltic movement. Lack of fiber in the diet can also lead to digestive diseases such as Diverticulosis, in which inflamed bulging pouches referred to as diverticula form around the intestinal wall due to build up of waste on sensitive parts of the intestinal wall or due to pressure caused with constipation – both of which can be avoided with adequate fiber intake!

  • Fiber feeds beneficial microbes within the gut.

While fiber may be undigestible to us, that doesn’t mean it isn’t being broken down at all. Within our digestive tracts there are a plethora of microorganisms, many of which are beneficial to our health and recent research has found correlations between high fiber diets and higher levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut. So what’s the benefit to that? Fiber feeds bacteria in my gut? Not too sure how to feel about that, well here’s where it gets interesting! When these microbes break down the fiber they convert it into short chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as acetate and butyrate. These SCFA have shown to help nourish our colon cells and provide anti-inflammatory effects that protects the colon from disease onset. Some studies have even shown that SCFA help reduce glucose and cholesterol levels in the blood which can help protect against metabolic diseases such as obesity!

Now that you know the three main reasons why dietary fiber is important for your health here are some tips on how to increase your daily fiber intake!

  • Switch out white bread for whole grain bread
  • Have a bowl of oatmeal instead of cereal in the morning
  • Eat a whole piece of fruit instead of drinking juice
  • Snack on nuts and seeds
  • Add vegetables to canned soup or ramen noodles
  • Opt for brown rice instead of white rice
  • Don’t peel potatoes
  • Eat the skins of fruits
  • Incorporate more lentils and beans into meals
  • Add berries to yogurt


Brown, et al. “Cholesterol-Lowering Effects of Dietary Fiber: a Meta-Analysis.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Jan. 1999, academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/69/1/30/4694117.

Campbell, Kristina, et al. “Breaking It down: Short-Chain Fatty Acids and Your Health.” Gut Microbiota for Health, 3 Apr. 2017, http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/breaking-short-chain-fatty-acids-health/.

“Diverticulitis Diet: A List of Foods to Avoid.” Healthline, Healthline Media, http://www.healthline.com/health/diverticulitis-diet-list-of-foods-to-avoid.


Eat the Rainbow This Holiday Season!

winter veg

By Alana Olson, Nutrition Peer Counselor

No matter what you’re celebrating this festive season, food is sure to be a part of it. Though many of our favorite holiday meals are delicious and fun, they are often lacking in fruits and veggies. But fitting in extra greens (and oranges, and reds…) can be just as fun and festive as enjoying those cookies you look forward to all year. Believe it or not, winter is a time of bounty in the produce world. Here’s a list of seasonal fruits and veggies—and some ideas for how to use them:

  • Beets: Roast them in the oven and eat them as is, toss them into a salad, throw them in a smoothie for a boost of color and nutrition, or puree them in a soup!
  • Broccoli: Great sautéed, roasted, mixed into stir fries or pasta, pureed in soup, or added to casseroles
  • Brussels Sprouts: These versatile vegetables are excellent roasted with salt, pepper, olive oil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Cauliflower: Coat the florets in a light batter, bake, and toss with buffalo or barbecue sauce to make delicious plant-based “wings”
  • Kale: Great raw or cooked, try adding some to a smoothie or making easy baked kale chips!
  • Mandarins: These are great by themselves or added to a salad
  • Pomegranates: These make a beautiful garnish for salads and soups!
  • Root vegetables (turnips, rutabagas, parsnips…): Try these roasted, pureed into a creamy soup, mashed, or made into crunchy baked “fries”
  • Sweet potatoes: Bake them, roast them, shred them into latkes, mash them and add to baked goods (like biscuits and muffins!), or substitute them for regular potatoes in your favorite holiday recipes
  • Winter squash (delicata, butternut, spaghetti, and kabocha—just to name a few): These are also great roasted, added to curries and soups, or stuffed. You can also swap spaghetti squash for noodles and top with your favorite pasta sauce!

For more recipes and ideas, check out recipes.latimes.com

Taming the holiday sweet tooth…


By Zona Jin, Nutrition Peer Counselor

It’s the holiday season again. All the pies, candies, ice cream, cakes, etc. can increase our simple sugar intake. Recipes for most of these desserts are high in energy, sugar, fat, and sodium. It is really hard to enjoy them without being concerned for our health. Today I’ll examine some ways to enjoy all the sweets without pumping the energy and simple carbohydrate intake quite as much.

One good way to accomplish this is to downsize the portion size, such as sharing a dessert with your significant other or friends. This way you still get to taste your favorite dessert, but only consume half the sugar and calories. If you are by yourself, you can simply save the other half for later and spread the calorie intake.

Another good substitution for high simple sugar desserts is fruit! Fruit tastes sweet but, unlike cakes and cookies, is high in vitamins and fiber. Make a fruit salad instead of baking a pie! Other options to consider include subbing fruit sorbet for ice cream or make a fruit- based dessert.

If you have sweets around the house, try to store them away from sight. When you decide to have some sweets, take out only a small serving. For instance, you can scoop out a serving of ice cream instead of having the whole container in front of you. Or you can take only one piece of chocolate out of the jar, and leave rest of it in the closet. This way you more likely avoid over eating.

Sometimes there is an opportunity to adjust the sugar level. For instance, when ordering a beverage, many places offer 50% and 30% sugar option. If you are preparing your own dessert, you can decrease the amount of sugar, fat, and sodium in the recipe in proportion. When shopping for ingredients, compare the nutrition label of similar products and choose the one lowest in sugar and sodium.

It is hard to avoid dessert, especially during the holiday season. Follow some of the tips above and enjoy dessert in moderation.  Try this Gingered Winter Fruit Medley (pictured above) as a healthy, sweet alternative.

Did you know that you can stay healthy and enjoy pie?


By: Haley Guadagni, Nutrition Peer Counselor

We’re in week 7 of the fall quarter, and the holidays are quickly approaching! Holidays can be a wonderful break from our jam-packed schedules as we spend quality time with loved ones and relax, but they can also be a source of stress. Since holidays typically involve all-day appetizers and large meals followed by a couple helpings of dessert, many people think they should just throw their healthy eating habits out the window for a couple days, weeks or even months. However, it isn’t necessary to abandon your goals! There are several steps you can take to prevent post-meal bloat and sluggishness, as well as overall weight gain, all while enjoying your time off.

The first way is portion control during meals. This doesn’t mean you can’t get seconds! This means that you’re starting with a reasonable portion of food each meal. Try to avoid using the biggest plate you can find to pile on the food. Instead, use a normal-sized plate, eat and wait about 20 minutes. Then, go back for more if you still aren’t satisfied. Drinking enough water with and between meals is also a great way to prevent you from overeating and improve your digestion of the food you do eat.

Another way is quality control. You don’t have to eat some of every dish. Some dishes are healthier than others, so choose at least one or two things that have high nutrient value, anything containing fruits or veggies! But don’t deprive yourself. Making sure that you’re enjoying the meal is important – so if you want to try everything, get small amounts. If you’ve got your eye on some pie but don’t want to feel totally sluggish after the meal, try going for the veggie appetizer rather than the garlic bread earlier in the day.

Lastly, a non-nutrition related way to maintain your healthy habits is to include exercise. Going for a walk or jog with family or friends can be a great way to get your heart rate up, burn some calories and strengthen your relationships. Walking after meals can also improve your digestion and help relieve some of that food-baby bloat.

What should you not do to prevent holiday weight gain?

On common, yet ineffective way, is starving yourself until mealtime, to avoid extra calories. You may even do this by accident if you’re busy cooking, getting things in order, etc. However, fasting like this can actually slow your metabolism, which means your body won’t be as ready to handle the high amount of calories it receives later in the day. Eating a balanced breakfast will get your body using food for energy and keep you full enough to prevent you from becoming ravenous and overeating later.

Since breaks from school may still be busy, it may be hard to implement all of these steps; utilizing even one of these suggestions can help improve how you feel throughout the holidays.  Focus on things that are most important to you.

How do you enjoy the holidays?  Let us know in the comments!