Maybe this is not the time of year for me to be telling you to cut back on the sugar…but learning more about the issue may make this decision a bit easier?! Did you know that we actually need sugar in our diets? It is our body’s preferred source of fuel. However, we eat waaaaaaay too much of it. Sugar can be found in REFINED carbohydrates or UNREFINED carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates will turn to energy in the body asap after eating. Think cookies, candy, baked goods, white rice, white bread, pretzels, etc. These foods are processed in a way that strips them of their vitamins and minerals. They spike your blood sugar and make fat burning incredibly difficult. Unrefined carbs contain their natural nutrients, stabilize blood sugar more efficiently, and can improve your health. A few examples include: oats, brown rice, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, beans, legumes, bananas, apples, berries, pears, tomatoes, garlic, limes, lemons, brussel sprouts, dark leafy greens, asparagus, beets, broccoli, green beans, celery, cherries, zucchini, and oranges. What a beautifully colorful list of foods!
Sugar can wreck your health and wellness. It comes in all different shapes and sizes. It is packaged and processed. “Sugar is white poison. We have been assaulted by this “anti”-food as it has steadily crept into everything that touches our lips, from cigarettes to salt, processed meats, medicine and more.” (Reno, 82)
We know being addicted to sugar is bad, but here are some specific side effects:
1. Stresses the Liver: “When we eat fructose, it goes to the liver. If liver glycogen is low, such as after a run, the fructose will be used to replenish it (3).However, most people aren’t consuming fructose after a long workout and their livers are already full of glycogen. When this happens, the liver turns the fructose into fat (2). Some of the fat gets shipped out, but part of it remains in the liver. The fat can build up over time and ultimately lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (4, 5, 6).”
2. Increases Bad Cholesterol and Triglycerides (source).
3. Can contribute to Leptin Resistance (and then weight gain, cravings, sleep trouble, etc) – (source).
4. Creates an addictive sugar response in the brain (source).
5. Doesn’t fill you up and instead encourages you to eat more.
So how do we cut the added sugars and what do we focus on for a balanced healthy diet?If you are still drinking diet soda, fruit juice, having a Snickers every afternoon, or consuming products with added sugars (BBQ sauce, ketchup, applesauce, cereal bars, instant oatmeal, spaghetti sauce, bottled teas…), begin to slowly cut some of these habits back. Cold turkey may work for some people, but I believe a gradual approach is a lasting approach. Give yourself some time and make a change each week that you can stick to until you are eating more natural sugars in your diet rather than added ones!
Whether you are meat-eater, vegetarian, pescetarian, or vegan, it is important to get a substantial amount of protein in your diet. Protein will keep you satisfied and ward off hunger. It will also keep hormones in check unlike the physiological effects of consuming too many sugars. Have you ever eaten sugar and then wanted more…more…MORE?! That’s the chemical reaction happening in your body, not just a lack of willpower that you think is the problem! Fortunately, there are many sources available! Even many of your colorful vegetables supply a good amount of protein. They are, but not limited to:
Asparagus (6 g per 2 cup)
Cauliflower (4 g per 2 cup serving)
Broccoli, brussel sprouts, artichoke (6 g per 2 cup serving)
Kale (4 g per 2 cup serving)
Some other good protein sources include: chicken breast, turkey breast, canned tuna, tilapia and other fish varieties, soy/edamame, tofu, bison (all gluten-free), all nuts and seeds, milk, and eggs.
Thank sweet Baby Jesus the low-fat craze is long gone! Eating a balanced diet that includes an appropriate amount of proper fats will make you feel more energized and give you a tenacious metabolism! Go after those omega 3 fats, omega 6 fats, and try some monounsaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, and avocados). Be sure to stay away from the unhealthy trans fats and saturated fats.
If you still want to bake, have some treats, and enjoy life’s sweet gifts, there is a way to replace sugar with natural ingredients that are not stripped of their nutrients and given time your tastes buds will adjust. Next week I am hosting a Healthy Holiday Cookie Exchange at my house. I cannot wait to see the delicious treats that my friends come up with!
If you eat what’s right for you, what works for you, and makes you feel good-including lean proteins, fats, veggies and natural sugars in fruits and unrefined carbs, you will have less of a desire to consume added sugars. You will experience satisfaction and will be able to indulge in a treat every once in a while without going sugar crazy!
Please don’t get me wrong, I love to bake for my family and friends, and M&Ms are my arch nemesis. (If they find a way into my home or my line of vision, they are a goner.) However, when I cut the abundance of refined and fake sugar out of my diet I saw major changes in my health. Weight loss was a bonus too. I used to be the queen of replacing sugar with its evil stepsister, high fructose corn syrup. I also had a fridge loaded with their cousins aspartame, saccharine, and Splenda. I was always on a diet, always working out, and always overweight. One day, I threw a garbage bag full of fake food out and never looked back…
Reno, Tosca. “Chapter 5.” The Eat-clean Diet Stripped: Peel off Those Last 10 Pounds.Mississauga, Ont.: R. Kennedy Pub., 2011. 80. Print.
Reno, Tosca. “Chapter 5.” The Eat-clean Diet Stripped: Peel off Those Last 10 Pounds.Mississauga, Ont.: R. Kennedy Pub., 2011. 82. Print.