The class made about two dozen bialys during the bagels and bialys class on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, at the Kitchen Conservatory in Clayton, Mo. (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
Photo: Laurie Skrivan/TNS
Photo: Laurie Skrivan/TNS

Oh, those hidden sugars

The average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day without knowing it, according to research by Atkins Inc. The company has a campaign to help consumers and school children learn about hidden sugars in foods by using a virtual reality experience. Using "sugar goggles," students are taken through an abstract of a tunnel in the body to show how the body responds to low-sugar and high sugar foods. 

I tried the goggles at the recent Food and Nutrition Conference of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Chicago. 

"We're looking at beyond soda, cake and candies," said Victoria Cox, Atkins Communications manager. "You don't think about the sugar in a bagel or even oatmeal, but they can both have hidden sugars and a high glycemic load." 

The virtual experience has students choose lower sugar foods over higher (cucumbers vs raisins, for example). Right choices give the student a higher score. The choices are displayed on a large tv screen for the entire class to see and urge on whoever is behind the goggles. 

"We want students to think before they eat," said Cox. 

The goggles are being used at several schools throughout the country as a teaching tool in health curriculums. 

"We hope to teach students and others how to make better choices themselves. Our focus is a low carb, lower sugar lifestyle where small changes can equal big results." 

Expect more companies to incorporate virtual reality learning experiences. The trade show at FNCE also included a virtual reality stop at the Fair Oaks Farm in Indiana where Fair life Milk is produced. Fair Life milk is higher protein, lower sugar milk due to how it's processed (similar to making Greek yogurt and it's higher protein content). The tour showed the cattle at the farm, how the milk is cold-chilled the minute it leaves the cows, how the manure is collected and made into natural gas to run all the company's trucks. 

"In less than 5 years, social media will be driven by artificial intelligence (like virtual reality). We will experience places differently, being able to be in multiple places at once," said Kristie Sigler with Fleishman Hillard. "Video is going to be the new currency on Facebook - why read when you can watch?" 

She predicts surfaces, such as your refrigerator, will be the new screens - to order products or learn how to cook something. 

Both Cox and Sigler agree the convergence of technology and health will be important in educating consumers to better understand nutrition and, thanks to "sugar goggles", how hidden sugars affect health. 

 Q and A 

Q: Is it true that most of a carrot's nutrients are in or just below the skin, so it shouldn't be peeled? 

 A: Carrots consist of three major layers: -- the peel/skin (outermost layer), the phloem (intermediate layer) and the xylem (inner core). Generally, all of the peel and a very small portion of the phloem are removed when a carrot is peeled. Vitamin C and niacin are most concentrated in the peel but can be found in appreciable amounts in the phloem. As for beta-carotene (an orange pigment and plant form of vitamin A), the peel and phloem have approximately equal amounts. That is why both peeled and unpeeled carrots have the same orange color. The xylem contains the lowest amount (about 10 percent of the toal0 of beta-carotene. But the xylem contains the majority of the calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus present in carrots. And, both peeled and unpeeled carrots are good sources of fiber. As for carrots' phytonutrients (compounds with potential, but uncertain health benefits), a little more than half are found in the peel. However, about 40 percent of the phytonutrients are found in the phloem and about 10 percent in the xylem. Overall, while removing the peel reduces some phytonutrients and small amounts of the vitamins and minerals in carrots, there is plenty of nutritional value left behind. Remember, the peel is only a small portion of the total vegetable. If you prefer the taste, texture or look of peeled carrots (or the convenience of baby carrots), you can certainly incorporate the in to a healthy dietary pattern. But this root vegetable is perfectly safe to eat unpeeled, as long as it is adequately washed. - Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 

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