Monday, February 17, 2014

Math Should Come With A Warning Label

A while ago I heard this depressing story.  My shoulders slumped in discouragement because my attempt to eat a healthy breakfast apparently has all been for naught.

Ever since Dean retired, and I've been working four ten-hour days, I’ve been up at 5:25 a.m. and out the door somewhere between 5:31 a.m. and 5:34 a.m., depending upon whether or not I actually fix my hair – and by fixing I mean doing anything more than just wrapping a scrunchy around whatever bits of it I can grab as I walk out the door.  I don't fix (or eat) breakfast either.  It’s hard enough for me to make myself get up that early, leaving Dean and Angus snoring away in oblivion, but there is no way I am going to get up early enough to eat something before I leave – not that I could force anything down that early anyway.  Eventually I DO get hungry, though, so I’ve been bringing a container of honey yogurt and a small baggie of granola which I mix together and eat at my desk somewhere between 8:10 and 8:13 in the morning. 

I thought I was being healthy until I heard that news story.  Listening to that made me feel all my efforts have been in vain – just like after I’ve spent five hours vacuuming up dog fur and mopping the floors only to have Angus come in from outside and leave muddy paw prints throughout the whole house.  

I moped around for a few days and I even told Dean to never buy me honey yogurt again.  I’ll have to find something else “healthy” for breakfast.  I thought maybe I could have plain yogurt and granola…………….or ………….not.  I want to be healthy but plain yogurt?  That’s pretty dang tart.  The more I thought about it, the more it annoyed me.  Why shouldn’t I have sweet yogurt and granola for breakfast?  So I decided to conduct an experiment.   I’m not a scientist but I have a daughter and two sons-in-law who are scientists.  Oh, and Dean.  Are geologists scientists?  I guess licking rocks could be some type of scientific research.   Anyway, I’ve picked up a thing or two about experimental procedures.  I know you are required to have a control and whatever the opposite of control is.  And I know you need a hypothesis and you must keep detailed records of your data, analyze it, and determine a conclusion.  

My Yogurt Experiment

Hypothesis – I  can add less sugar to plain yogurt than is contained in my honey yogurt and still make it taste as sweet as the honey yogurt, thus saving calories.  That will allow me to eat other sugar-filled items (like the occasional doughnut or cake in the office) guilt-free with less guilt.

The Control – Honey Yogurt 

The Whatever The Opposite Of Control Is – Plain Yogurt 

The Scientific Word For Background (whatever that is)
I wasn’t sure how much yogurt I was eating every morning so I needed to determine that before I could calculate the amount of sugar I was eating.  So I scooped what I normally take into my container, then I scraped it out into a measuring cup and it turns out I am eating about ½ cup of yogurt every morning. 

The serving size listed on both yogurt containers is one cup.  One serving of honey yogurt contains 33 grams of sugar, which equals 8 ¼ teaspoons of sugar.  So I calculated my ½ cup of honey yogurt to find it contains approximately  16.5 grams – or  4 teaspoons of sugar.  

The plain yogurt container says one serving contains 3 grams of sugar, which is ¾ teaspoon of sugar.  If I gave up my honey yogurt and only ate plain yogurt with my granola I would be eating ¼ teaspoon of sugar every morning. 

The Research – Here’s what I did. 

On the kitchen counter I had one container with ½ cup of plain yogurt and sample of honey yogurt.   

Nearly sugar free plain on the left, life-threatening, sugar-packed honey on the right.

First I took one bite of the plain yogurt and after my mouth unpuckered I ate a small bite of the honey yogurt for comparison.   I then added 1 teaspoon of sugar to my container of plain yogurt and stirred the sugar until it was completely dissolved and tasted it.  And then I took a small taste of the honey yogurt for comparison.  After adding one teaspoon of sugar (which is really 1¼ teaspoons if you account for the sugar already in the yogurt) the plain yogurt had definitely lost the mouth pucker characteristic but was still much less sweet than honey yogurt and not something I was particularly excited about eating with granola.

I added another teaspoon of sugar (which is a total of 2 ¼ accounting for the sugar already in the yogurt) and decided I could definitely get by on that amount of sugar and probably get used to it, but it still had a bit of a tartness to it.

After the third teaspoon of sugar (or 3 ¼ total teaspoons) I decided it was pretty darn close to the same sweetness of the honey yogurt and would be perfectly acceptable with my granola.

And finally, after four teaspoons of sugar (or 4 ¼ teaspoons all together), it seemed too sweet, even sweeter than the honey yogurt.

The Data And Analysis
Of course there is a taste difference between yogurt sweetened with sugar and one sweetened with honey but as far as sweetness, 3 teaspoons was pretty close.  I think I could get by on adding two teaspoons of sugar into plain yogurt which would cut my morning sugar intake by 1 ¾ teaspoons of sugar per day.  Now that doesn’t seem like much but if you multiply that times four (since I work four ten-hour days) I would be eating seven fewer teaspoons of sugar per week.  Multiply that times four weeks and I would be eating 28 fewer teaspoons of sugar a month.  And if you multiply that times seven months I will have ingested 196 fewer teaspoons of sugar by the time I (hope to) retire.   

If I decide I need three teaspoons of sugar in plain yogurt to make my morning breakfast more enjoyable I would only cut my morning sugar intake by ¾ teaspoon per day.  But even that would cut my weekly intake by three teaspoons, my monthly by 12 teaspoons and I would have eaten 84 fewer teaspoons of sugar by the time I retire.  Which is I don’t know how many cups because I can’t find a website to tell me exactly and figuring it out would involve even more math and just thinking about that is making my hands sweat and my heart race. 

The Conclusion
Adding sugar to plain yogurt makes it sweeter.  Honey yogurt tastes better.  Eating honey yogurt is worth the risk of dying from heart disease.  However,  experiments involving math and converting teaspoons to tablespoons to cups and dividing grams and ounces and teaspoons by half or fourths are are unhealthy because the stress of all that math and calculating drives people to eat more sugar. Math is a serious health risk and should be avoided at all costs.



Al said...

Ok, this one got a serious smile out of me, mainly because I can just see you either (1) doing everything you could to keep Dean's nose out of your "experiment" and thus ruining it for you, or (2) throwing a full quart of plain yogurt at Dean because you failed to keep his nose out of it and he drove you two shades shy of batshit crazy trying to "help."

Leslie said...

Why would you do math for "fun"? Are you crazy? If you really feel like you need to do some adding/dividing and making hypothesis's please feel free to help me with my statistics class.

Abby said...

Yum cookies!

I agree, stick with the yogurt and throw away the math. Although I decided to get plain yogurt and add apple butter to it. Maybe I need to do my own experiment.

Art Elser said...

Gosh, Cathy, my head hurt after trying to follow you through all that math. And it made me realize I haven't done my taxes yet. And that made my head hurt even more. Durn you, Cathy, you've given me a headache. Perhaps a Coke or Pepsi with lots of sugar in it would help.