Friday, July 22, 2011

Did I Find the Holy Grail of Chocolate Bars??

Well I thought I did...but alas it wasn't...maybe...

I was in Trader Joe's yesterday picking up a few items.  I only had chicken, egg whites and vegetables in my shopping cart, all and all a successful trip, but then I got to the register.  The registers at Traders Joe's are always filled with sweets. I really feel like Trader Joe's should be considered a high end snack store not a health foods store...I don't mean that in a bad way it's just that they have a lot of snack foods there and let's face it... they're delicious.  Anyway,  I know a little dark chocolate every once in a while isn't a bad thing so I decided what the hell, why not grab a little treat for myself?  I was drawn to this Simply Lite dark chocolate bar because the label claimed it to be sugar free, low calorie and low carb.

Sugar free and the words chocolate usually don't go hand in hand, unless it's bakers chocolate, so I was a little leery of that claim.  The bar uses Malitol as a sweetener.  I had never heard of that sweetener before, but I assumed it was similar to xylitol which is a natural sweetener not artificial like aspartame or sucralose.

Their label also claimed it was "Fine Chocolate for the Health and Calorie Conscious". Hey that's me!  The nutrition label seemed to verify that it was indeed low sugar and low calorie, their packaging claimed the sweetener they used was low on the glycemic index so that it was a diabetic friendly product as well.   So I bought the bar, and I ate a square...and OMG it was delicious!  It totally satisfied my chocolate craving.  I ended up eating two more squares because it was so good, then I put the bar away.

I looked all over the label wondering how in the world this could taste so good and be considered a diet friendly product.  I wasn't finding the answers on the label so I started digging around on the internet.

The ingredients of the bar are as follows: Maltitol, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Inulin (natural vegetable fiber), Soy Lecithin, Natural Vanilla, Cinnamon.

There are three ingredients on that list that are a little bit of a red flag for me, so I wanted to learn more about them. 

1. Maltitol: is it good for me?  It is a better alternative to sugar?

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol (a polyol) used as a sugar substitute. It has 75-90% of the sweetness of sucrose (table sugar) and nearly identical properties, except for browning. It is used to replace table sugar because it has fewer calories, does not promote tooth decay, and has a somewhat lesser effect on blood glucose.

ok, so far so good...slightly better for me than sugar, but let's not be fooled it's still sugar and my body will process it as such.   Let's read on...
Maltitol is a disaccharide produced by Corn Products Specialty Ingredients (formerly SPI Polyols), Cargill, Roquette, and Mitsubishi Shoji Foodtech, among other companies. Maltitol is made by hydrogenation of maltose obtained from starch. Its high sweetness allows it to be used without being mixed with other sweeteners, and exhibits negligible cooling effect (positive heat of solution) in comparison with other sugar alcohols, and is very similar to the subtle cooling effect of sucrose. It is used especially in production of sweets: sugarless hard candies, chewing gum, chocolates, baked goods, and ice cream. The pharmaceutical industry uses maltitol as an excipient, where it is used as a low-calorie sweetening agent. Its similarity to sucrose allows it to be used in syrups with the advantage that crystallization (which may cause bottle caps to stick) is less likely. Maltitol may also be used as a plasticizer in gelatin capsules, as an emollient, and as a humectant.

Not unlike other sugar alcohols (with the exception of erythritol), maltitol (when consumed in large quantities or at a particularly high concentration) can have a laxative effect. (wikipedia)
 Ok, so maybe not??  To be fair the packaging on the chocolate bar does warn you that excess consumption can have a laxative effect. Seems to me that it's doubtful that one bar can cause that though.

2. Inulin??  What the heck is Inulin??
Inulins are a group of naturally occurring polysaccharides produced by many types of plants. They belong to a class of fibers known as fructans. Inulin is used by some plants as a means of storing energy and is typically found in roots or rhizomes. Most plants that synthesize and store inulin do not store other materials such as starch.

Inulin is increasingly used in processed foods because it has unusually adaptable characteristics. Its flavour ranges from bland to subtly sweet (approx. 10% sweetness of sugar/sucrose).It can be used to replace sugar, fat, and flour. This is particularly advantageous because inulin contains a quarter to a third of the food energy of sugar or other carbohydrates and a ninth to a sixth of the food energy of fat. While inulin is a versatile ingredient, it also has health benefits. Inulin increases calcium absorption and possibly magnesium absorption, while promoting the growth of intestinal bacteria. In terms of nutrition, it is considered a form of soluble fiber and is sometimes categorized as a prebiotic. Due to the body's limited ability to process polysaccharides, inulin has minimal increasing impact on blood sugar, and—unlike fructose—is not insulemic and does not raise triglycerides, making it considered suitable for diabetics and potentially helpful in managing blood sugar-related illnesses. The consumption of large quantities (in particular, by sensitive or unaccustomed individuals) can lead to gas and bloating, and products that contain inulin will sometimes include a warning to add it gradually to one's diet.  (wikipedia)

Ok, so from what I'm reading one of the products in this bar is going to cause me to poop a lot, another is going to make me gassy and bloated. 

3. Soy Lecithin.  I see this added to a TON of products. But what exactly is it? As a general rule I keep my soy consumption to a minimum because it's  not the best source of protein out there and because of research indicating that it can cause hormonal imbalances in women...but what is Lecithin?

Lecithin is a generic term to designate any group of yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in animal and plant tissues, and in egg yolk, composed of phosphoric acid, choline, fatty acids, glycerol, glycolipids, triglycerides, and phospholipids. 

Ok, so it's a fat derived from the soy bean.  Why does my chocolate bar need that?

The non-toxicity of lecithin leads to its use with food, as an additive or in food preparation. It is used commercially in foods requiring a natural emulsifier or lubricant. In the food industry it has multiple uses: In confectionery it reduces viscosity, replaces more expensive ingredients, controls sugar crystallization and the flow properties of chocolate, helps in the homogeneous mixing of ingredients, improves shelf life for some products, and can be used as a coating. In emulsions and fat spreads it stabilizes emulsions, reduces spattering during frying, improves texture of spreads and flavour release. In doughs and bakery it reduces fat and egg requirements, helps even distribution of ingredients in dough, stabilizes fermentation, increases volume, protects yeast cells in dough when frozen, and acts as a releasing agent to prevent sticking and simplify cleaning. It improves wetting properties of hydrophilic powders (e.g., low-fat proteins) and lipophilic powders (e.g., cocoa powder), controls dust, and helps complete dispersion in water. It can be used as a component of cooking sprays to prevent sticking and as a releasing agent.

For example, lecithin is the emulsifier that keeps cocoa and cocoa butter in a candy bar from separating. In margarines, especially those containing high levels of fat (>75%), lecithin is added as an 'anti-spattering' agent for shallow frying.

It is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for human consumption with the status "Generally Recognized As Safe." Lecithin is admitted by the EU as a food additive, designated by E number E322. There are studies that show soy-derived lecithin has significant effects on lowering cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing HDL ("good cholesterol") levels in the blood. However, studies on soy lecithin have been inconsistent and contradictory since the 1920s.

New study suggests gut bacteria metabolites of choline promote atherosclerosis in mice through TMAO production and "augmented macrophage cholesterol accumulation and foam cell formation". (wikipedia)

So really it's just an additive to make sure my chocolate bar maintains its shape.  But other than that I'm doubtful that it has any health benefits.

I learned that I obviously did not find the holy grail of chocolate bars, but overall was my chocolate bar really that good for me?  Well I guess it's a toss up.  If I were a diabetic and really needed to watch my sugar levels then maybe it would be a good alternative.  But for my purposes the use of inulin and matitol don't seem to have any added health benefits, and after reading about them I feel it would probably be safer to me to eat the real thing (sugar) instead of a "Lite" version with all these additives. 

The most important thing to remember when picking out a treat to satisfy your cravings is that these are treats.  Treats are special gifts for our enjoyment and gratification.  If we treated our selves all the time they wouldn't be treats, so use the sweets sparingly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hi, It's been a few months....

I know, I dropped off the face of the earth again. I had to do some thinking about whether or not to continue this blog. Long story short...I've decided to carry on, but the theme will no longer be the same. I'll keep all the old content. It's still going to be about fitness, exercising and nutrition but I'm not going to go off on starry eyed rants about twilight and Robert Pattinson because well... confession: I'm over it.

However, some things never change...I'm still a dork I just won't be focused on forcing myself to make this blog about one particular subject, because to be honest it made it really hard to write a post and tie it in to something I wasn't particularly interested in any more.

Anyway, I have other nerdy obsessions... first up... have you been watching the new season of true blood?? I haven't caught up to the most recent episode yet, but I'm really liking season 4 a lot more than 3.

I don't know whats going on with Eric right now, but I love how he acts like a little kid.

Also... HAVE YOU SEEN GAME OF THRONES!???!?!?! Yes, I'm yelling that. Have you seen it??! OMG! I'm a total fan girl!  Say hello to my new eye candy...

Jon Snow!

Robb Stark!!

And I can't even talk about poor Boromir I mean Ned...I just can't talk about it.

(photos from

It's going to take me some time.  Maybe by the end of season 2 I might be ready, but season 2 is so far off at this point!!!  Seriously, you will watch this show and at the end of every episode shake your fist in the air and say 'damn you Game of Thrones!!' because it's just that addicting.

So I'm sure you're probably thinking well... with all this TV watching you've been doing I hope you haven't fallen off the badwagon.  Not to worry my friends.  HBO GO makes it very convenient for me to watch tv when I actually have the time to watch.  Take note cable companies...this needs to be your option now:  Online only content available on demand.  Aside from the fact that I don't own a TV... I can't follow a schedule, I've never been able to glue myself to the tv at a set time, but now I don't have to.  I can stay up til 2am on a Saturday night watching episode after episode of Game of Thrones on my lap top (I mean that's what normal people do on their Saturday nights, right?)

What ever don't judge me!!!

I think I might be moving on to Boardwalk Empire next.

Anyway, aside from my latest fantasy TV obsessions here's whats been going on the past few months...

Remember how I said I wanted to reach that 100lb weight loss goal last fall but then I blew it??  Well I did that back in April, then I went on vacation to Charleston, SC and ran a 10k.  The Cooper River Bridge Run is so much fun :)

Oh and then later that month I ran a 3 mile obstacle/mud race...


It was a blast!! And such a tough leg work out!  Running in sinking, sticky mud and muddy water for three miles (plus obstacles) is not easy!

Then in May, I decided to lead a Couch to 5k Group.  After almost two full months of training runs the group completely their First 5k!! I was a very proud running momma.

In June, we started a 6 week weight loss challenge at my bootcamp. I had my ups and downs but in the end I lost 5 more lbs.  So my total loss is now at 106lbs and I'm still working at it. Also in June, I got my braces I no longer resemble a teenager...but I still haven't been asked to prom!

So now we're into July.  I'm still working on my weight loss, but I've also decided to try and go back to school in the fall. I wavered for a long time, mostly because I wasn't sure if I personally had what it takes to be a good example of weight loss to others, but I want to become a Registered Dietitian.  I'm starting out small taking baby steps towards the degree since I've been out of school for so long and math and science were never my strong suits.  I have to take a college algebra class towards the degree, so I'm also studying review chapters a couple nights a week and going to a tutor to reteach myself a subject I hadn't studied in 11+ years. Yikes.

Actually, I think this mug is kind of awesome!

And, last but not least... I haven't left my true love out of my life either.  Did you watch the women's world cup?!  Please tell me you did??  Please tell me you supported these amazing athletes!?  Watching women's soccer reminds me of why I love the game so much.  The skill, the athleticism, and the sportsmanship that the men sometimes forget to display are just...I have no words.  It's an inspiration to so many.  In 1999 it was a huge inspiration to me.  The performance by our US women this year just confirms everything there is to love about this sport.  They are my idols.

I can't really talk about the results in the's too upsetting, it's still too soon for me.  Maybe one day.  I will say congratulations to Japan though.  And if I've taken anything from the game or the sport in general it's this.  Dreams can be made or crushed on that field, but at long as you're in the game you have the opportunity to make them.   Case in point, I played two games back to back yesterday. We're having perhaps the biggest heat wave of the summer right now with heat indexes over 100 degrees plus humidity of 52%.  It's brutal, it's the worst weather to play in.  To make matters worse we played a man down and had no subs, we were down on the score board, but at half time we said you know, what do we have to lose, lets play the best damn game we can.  And we did.  We lost but we walked away proud of our passing and our team work and all the effort we put in to the games.  It's a great feeling.