With seasons, schedules, and school years all changing, why not add some positive health habits into the mix? According to recent research, swapping sugary snacks for starchy foods may lower your kid's diabetes risk, California researchers found. Scientists from Scientists at Touro University in Vallejo and UC San Francisco observed a significant shift in health once fructose — aka processed sugar — was no longer in the picture.
According to the research, eliminating fructose-full items like soda, candy, and juice yielded a "20 percent drop in liver fat in the children and adolescents studied." Liver fat has a significant impact on overall health, as an excess of it is commonly linked to Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, so lessening liver fat is key to keeping diabetes at bay. Even after just nine days of cutting out fructose, the benefits were observed.
"When you move away from fructose and add sugar you have less of conversion of sugar to fat, which comes along with a decrease in liver fat,” explained lead study author Jean-Marc Schwarz to MD Magazine. That slight decrease "is enough already to really improve the chances of preventing pre-diabetes and the development of diabetes," Schwarz stressed in the same interview.
"A large proportion of the participants went from pre-diabetic to a normalized blood glucose level," Schwarz told MD Magazine, adding that his main takeaway from all of this is that "it’s effective to move away from sugary drinks like soda, and any added sugar in your diet."
Lessening sugar isn't a health revelation in and of itself, but it's important to note what the formerly-known-as-fructose calories were replaced with. Instead of fructose, subjects consumed "glucose-rich, starchy foods," according to the study. The difference comes from how the respective substances are processed and stored or used. Whereas fructose turns to fat after being metabolized in the liver, glucose can be "turned into energy in all of our cells." Thus, glucose serves a necessary function — powering our bodies — whereas fructose does no good whatsoever.
The American Diabetes Association notes that starchy vegetables (like corn and potatoes), beans and lentils, and grains (including oats and rice) all make the cut for acceptable, unprocessed alternatives. Often carbohydrates are seen as an enemy to health but, realistically, the quality of the carbohydrates is what matters most of all.
While you begin brainstorming healthy back-to-school lunch ideas, it might be best to forgo the box of apple juice and fructose-packed gummies this year and try to incorporate corn, beans, and potato wedges instead. Sticking with whole, unprocessed foods is key, and starches are nothing to be scared of.