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Posts Tagged ‘diet’

How (and Why) To Cut Out Sugar

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already aware of just how toxic sugar is in the human body. But if you’re not yet convinced, let’s review some convincing reasons to eliminate sugar from our diets.


Disease. We know that sugar causes Type 2 Diabetes and drastically affects blood glucose levels. Sugar also causes inflammation in the body, which plays a main role in nearly all chronic conditions. It depletes the immune system and makes you the victim of every cold and flu going around. And because your immune system is down, your allergies are likely to be worse. (I’m not talking about a fatal allergy to peanuts, but more like seasonal allergies.)

Daily Life. The alarm goes off. You’re tired. You have coffee, maybe breakfast if you’re lucky. An hour or so goes by, and you’re tired. You eat lunch. You’re tired, and still hungry. Tiredness and hunger are almost always a result of drops in blood sugar. Provided we got adequate sleep the night before, we should not be tired all day long. This only happens when our bodies are not running on appropriate fuel. Sugar, and foods that act like sugar in the body, constantly send our blood sugar plummeting leaving us starving and exhausted. Imagine a weekday where you’re alert, satiated, and a nap doesn’t even sound that appealing. It is possible! And what about stomach upsets? Bloating and gas are just a few of the stomach symptoms that are affected by sugar. Our digestive system is filled with bacteria, both “good” and “bad” organisms, that keep things running properly. When the “bad” bacteria takes control, it causes digestive distress. It should come as no surprise at this point that bad bacteria feed on sugar. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are a sure way to sustain these harmful organisms and make your digestive system weak and vulnerable.

The Addiction. Sugar is addictive. It sends our brains and bodies the same signals as heroin, cocaine, and nicotine. The more we have, the more our body craves it, and the more we feel that we can’t get by without it. Luckily, addictions can be broken. It’s not easy, but a sugar addiction can be beat much quicker than one to nicotine, and the rewards are endless.

A few more thoughts before we start. Don’t cry over over the fact that you’ll never be able to have your mom’s Christmas cookies again. Don’t mourn the loss of your favorite blueberry muffin from that cute bakery. Once you break the addiction, you can treat yourself now and then. That means once a week or every other week, you can have one poisonous item that you love. You’ll probably feel terrible afterwards, and it will be a sweet reminder of how nice it is to live without sugar.

Define “sugar.” Sugar is a carbohydrate, arguably the worst kind. All carbohydrates behave similarly in the body; they’re burned quickly and cause a blood sugar drop. How fast and severe the drop is depends on the kind of carbohydrate. Pure sugar is the worst offender. Refined carbs, like white bread (or any bread with white flour), pasta, and white rice, are the next worst. I would also put fruit in this category. While fruit is healthy, it is still sugar, and it is counterproductive to be consuming any of the addictive substance when you’re trying to break the addiction. Lastly, complex carbohydrates like whole grains and sweet potatoes spike your blood sugar the least. However, these are still carbohydrates and still spike your blood sugar. They should be kept in moderation. I am an advocate for a low carb diet overall for this reason, but I understand that everyone is coming from a different place on the journey to health. If sugar and refined carbs (which behave like sugar in the body) are all you can manage to eliminate, start there.

Week One: Withdrawal.
Your first week will be difficult. If you’re lucky (and not too addicted), the difficulty will end after that. You will experience withdrawal in the form of intense cravings. Don’t worry. It’s normal, and when it passes, the energy and vitality you will feel is priceless. The most important thing is to stick to your guns. Remind yourself that it is only one week until the cravings stop and you can survive one week.

Things to Avoid:
Anything that is obviously sugary. Candy, desserts, soda, pastries. These ones should be no-brainers. Also alcohol, which is pure sugar in the body. This means all beer, wine, and liquor.
Highly Refined carbs. These foods behave like sugar in the body. Pasta, bread that contains any white flour, white rice, bagels, pretzels, crackers, most cereals, etc. It’s easier to just avoid processed foods, but if you’re eating something with an ingredient list, avoid any kind of “wheat flour.” If it doesn’t have the word “whole” in front of it, it’s refined white flour.
“Health” food. Most things we consider “healthy” are laden with sugar. Fruit, while healthy in theory, is best avoided for the first week. You can have 1 serving a day of berries (which are low in sugar) if you’d like. Fruit juices and juice drinks are full of sugar; the fact that the sugar is natural is irrelevant. Granola bars and dried fruit are full of sugar. If you’re eating something with a label, aim for less than 5 grams of sugar. Natural sweeteners are out for now, too—that means honey, agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, etc.

It seems like nothing is left, right? Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what to eat without sugar in the picture. Focus on protein and fat to keep you from feeling ravenous and deprived.

Breakfast:
Skip cereal, toast, bagels, and pastries, and avoid sweetened yogurt (which is nearly all yogurt). Instead try: eggs, plain unsweetened greek yogurt with stevia (more on stevia in a bit), a piece of sprouted grain toast (I recommend Ezekiel bread, available in the refrigerated section at health food stores and many grocery stores) with almond butter or peanut butter. Or skip “breakfast” foods altogether and eat lunch foods for breakfast.

Lunch:
Avoid sandwiches on white bread. Look for 100% whole wheat, or even better, try sprouted Ezekiel bread. Salads (avoid sugary dressings), nuts, meat, avocado, fresh veggies, high-quality cheese.

Dinner:
Swap out white pasta for 100% whole wheat pasta or an alternative pasta like soba noodles (made from buckwheat) or brown rice pasta. Instead of white rice have brown rice or try a grain like quinoa. Be sure to include fat and protein (and plenty of veggies while you’re at it).

If you are desperate for sweetness, try stevia, a natural sweetener containing no sugar. It also has no effect on blood sugar and no known side effects. Steer clear of aspartame and sucralose (Splenda) which are poisonous and only increase cravings. Stevia is available at health food stores as a powder or a liquid. It works great in coffee, tea, yogurt, and pretty much anything else.

Need Relief? There are some things that can help you when you’re really desperate for something sweet.
– A cup of herbal, black, or green tea sweetened with stevia
– Dark chocolate, over 80%, a small piece
– Nut butters like almond butter, cashew butter, and sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds)
– A small serving of berries with cinnamon
– Plain, unsweetened greek yogurt with stevia, cinnamon, and berries

Be realistic. I am passionate about healthy eating and nutrition, so it’s hard for me to advocate certain foods. My recommendations may seem drastic depending on what your lifestyle is like. If you don’t consider yourself to be much of a health nut, remember that your main concern is cutting out sugar. If you make eliminating sugar/refined carbs your priority, you will be successful in beating the addiction. I wouldn’t encourage a diet of deli ham and string cheese, but it will theoretically be cutting out the sugar. You decide what you think you can handle.

Give it a week, then assess. I think most addictions can be beat in about a week’s time. You’ll know when you’ve done it because the cravings and lethargy will stop. If you suddenly feel great after about a week’s time, you can choose to slowly reintroduce some carbs depending on how much you’ve cut back. However, you might find that you feel so great with your new diet that you don’t want to add them back… and that’s the goal! If you are still having cravings and feeling awful after a week, unfortunately that means you’ll have to keep at it a bit longer. But it will end, I promise.

Disclaimer: As I mentioned, I am in favor of a low carb diet overall. I don’t like to condone the consumption of wheat (as well as many other grains) as it is highly inflammatory and irritating to most people’s digestive system. However, I suggest the whole wheat products in this post to encourage those who are not ready to give up bread to at least avoid white flour. This post is about giving up sugar and I wanted to keep the focus on that. If you are successful, there are many ways to go deeper and reach superior health, and I’m always here to answer your questions.

Sweetly,
Emily

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My philosophy is that diet is the single most important factor in reaching good health. I believe food has the power to affect all aspects of physical as well as mental and emotional wellness. I am often asked about my take on exercise and fitness and where that fits in a healthy lifestyle. Some people claim that with enough exercise, the proper diet is not necessary. Many athletes consume a wealth of processed, chemically-ridden sports drinks and supplements to “improve performance,” or insist on a high protein, meat-based diet for muscle recovery. I’d like to address a few of these issues and also talk about what I believe is an adequate amount of physical activity to maintain good health.

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How Much Exercise is Enough?
I think it’s very important to emphasize an active lifestyle. This doesn’t necessarily mean setting aside hours to spend at the gym each day. Making time to use your body on daily basis has enormous immediate benefits. It invigorates you, it keeps your metabolism happily spinning, and it undoubtedly improves your mood. If you’re looking to lose weight, you’ll certainly benefit from a setting a clear routine (more on that below). If you’re simply looking to maintain your weight or improve your physical health, start by finding easy ways to be active each day. Opt to walk or bike to any destination that’s close enough. If nice out, enjoy the weather and go for a leisurely jog. Find some simple home exercises that don’t require equipment (push-ups, crunches, lunges, and stretching) and make time to do them each day. Even a shopping trip will get you on your feet for a few hours!

Which Types of Exercise are the Most Beneficial?
I cannot stress enough the importance of variety. Our bodies are programmed to be as efficient as possible. When we work out the same way every day, like plugging along on the elliptical trainer for half an hour, our body learns to burn less calories in the process. By changing your work out every day, your body stays challenged. You also ensure that you’re working different muscle groups in different ways. If you always work out the same way, you are inevitably neglecting certain muscles or motions. If you have a gym membership, alternate between the elliptical trainer, stairmaster, treadmill, and stationary bike. Try interval training, an extremely effective way to burn more calories and improve your cardiovascular health. Simply alternate between going at an easy pace, a challenging pace, and your maximum pace. By switching between these “intervals,” your heart works much harder and your body stays challenged. Outdoor jogging is significantly different from running on a machine and is worth incorporating into your exercise routine for variety. Just be sure you have good, stable footwear and start slowly. Also, don’t neglect strength training. Strengthening your muscles improves your overall fitness level and speeds up your metabolism. Many muscles can be trained at home without any equipment. A quick google search can give you easy, at home exercises for your abs, arms, chest, glutes, and legs. Remember to always use proper form when doing strength training exercises. Without good form you drastically decrease the effectiveness of the exercise and risk injury.

How Does Diet Affect Exercise?
We all know someone who is very diligent about working out, yet they remain overweight and seemingly unhealthy. As I mentioned, I believe strongly that diet has a much greater affect on weight loss and health than exercise. That being said, the benefits of exercise should not be overlooked, and a healthy diet can make exercise yield better results and be executed with greater ease. Food is our fuel; without quality fuel in our bodies, they cannot perform. If your diet is rich in processed foods, sugar, and conventionally-raised meat, your body will not be nearly as energized as someone with a diet abundant in vegetables and natural, whole foods. If you keep processed foods and simple carbohydrates out of your diet, you will naturally have more energy, making your workouts more effective and less torturous. There is a misconception that we must load up on carbohydrates before exercise. If you’re choosing simple, refined carbohydrates like white bread, you are choosing a nutrient-deficient food. Even if simple carbs offer a quick burst of energy, they are not improving your overall health. The most important “food” to consume before and after a workout is not a food at all; it’s water. Keeping your body hydrated is of the utmost importance. Another misconception is the necessity of protein. Muscles are built from healthy blood. Healthy blood is made from alkalizing foods, namely green vegetables. Why do you think Popeye ate spinach?

Don’t I Need Protein and Sports Drinks and Supplements?
Let go of the conventional ideas about nutrition, even in regard to fitness. In order for your body to repair and rebuild your muscles after exercise, it needs a consistent supply of nutrients. If you’re eating a diet based around vegetables, you are meeting nearly all your nutritional requirements. You can make sure you’re taking in adequate healthy fat by including raw nuts, seeds, oils, and avocado in your diet regularly. Adequate protein can be obtained by incorporating organic eggs, organic grass-fed or raw/unpasteurized dairy, and organic grass-fed meat. With all of these as the foundation for your diet, there is no need for fitness supplements or sugar-laden sports drinks. These are just products covered in marketing and false claims. No chemical concoction can fuel your body like real, pure food. In the past year, I’ve taken to fitness as somewhat of a hobby. I work out, on average, one hour a day, six days a week. I incorporate both cardiovascular workouts and strength training. I eat a diet of mostly raw vegetables, nuts, and seeds. I don’t consume what most people would consider “enough” protein, and I certainly don’t look malnourished (that’s me in the picture at the top of this post).

I hope this gives you some things to remember when considering an exercise routine. If you are looking to add more fitness to your life, or you’re already an avid exerciser, I’d like to point you over to Stay Well, a health and fitness blog that gives great unconventional workout advice with a strong emphasis on natural health and well-being.

As always, thanks for reading. I’m always happy to take your questions and hear your comments.

-Emily

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If you’re reading this blog, you are most likely someone who cares about your health and nourishing your body through food. Chances are you’re also someone who watches your weight. The need for weight loss was what inspired me to become educated on healthy eating. When I needed to lose about 15 lbs, I immediately turned to calorie counting. I cut down to about 1,200 calories a day, wrote down everything I ate, and totaled up the calories as the day went on.

I understand that discussing this may cause a bit of conflict. Calorie counting is a very common weight loss method and many people swear by it. I’m here only to give my own personal feelings and experiences on the topic and hopefully offer some insight. Please don’t post malicious or argumentative comments without careful consideration and research first.

The Principle Behind Calorie Counting
Calorie counting is based on the idea that all weight gain/loss has to do with how many calories you consume. The theory is simple: in order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. If you consume more calories than you burn through your daily activities, you will gain weight. This has been proven by a number of scientific studies.

However… the issue of weight loss is not that simple. There are a number of psychological, emotional, and physiological things that contribute to weight gain/loss, and they all must be taken into account when trying to lose weight.

Calorie Counting and Nutrition
In order to have a healthy and fully functioning body, you must provide it with all the proper nutrients. This means [complex] carbohydrates, [lean] protein, and even [mostly mono- and poly-unsaturated] fat. In addition, you want to be getting all the necessary vitamins and nutrients like zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, and so on. By restricting your calories, you are restricting the availability of these nutrients to your body. It is possible to eat nutrient-dense foods that are not high in calories, but that decision is not always made by the calorie counter. In calorie counting, calories always come first. Doesn’t that seem a bit counterproductive? The priority should always be health and vitality; when you take this into account, you won’t be choosing foods that will make you gain weight. Considering calories first is not addressing the real problem with weight gain.

Calorie Counting and Processed Foods
A major problem with calorie counting diets is the plethora of packaged foods that are made to be significantly low in calories for what they are. Food corporations usually do this by taking out fat (higher in calories than carbohydrates) and replacing it with sugar, emulsifiers, thickeners, and toxic artificial ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils (trans fats) to make it taste like “the real thing.” What you have is an over-processed, chemically-ridden piece of junk food that is lower in calories than its original counterpart. Calorie counters flock to these types of foods, but they provide nothing nutritionally and pollute the body with unnatural substances. I have an issue with “100 Calorie Packs” as well. Although portion control is a good rule of thumb, you should be controlling your portions of healthy, nutritious foods. Portion controlled processed crackers or oreos is not my idea of healthy; it is simply a smaller amount of a food that’s not good for you.

Calorie Counting and Sugar
As mentioned above, manufacturers often replace fat content with sugar to lower the calorie count on a particular food. This is one of the most dangerous things in low calorie diets. Sugar is a major cause of weight gain in America. Sugar is NOT necessary for the human body in any capacity and only hinders the body’s natural functions. Those who have read my blog before know that I am very much an advocate for a low-sugar diet. Sugar is linked to countless diseases and health conditions. It is found in mass quantities in almost any type of food (even food disguised as “health food”). If this sparks your interest, I highly recommend checking out books like Get The Sugar Out, Sugar Blues, and Sugar Shock.

Calorie Counting and Healthy Choices
If calories are your first priority, you are likely to overlook the real reasons for eating right (to provide your body with fuel and nutrients). For example, a sugar-free jell-o may have 60 calories and a banana may have around 100, depending on the size. A jell-o is basically nothing but chemicals, and a sugar-free jell-o will also have a toxic artificial sweetener like aspartame. A banana is a natural food providing complex carbohydrates and nutrients. It is obviously the smarter choice; calories are irrelevant.

Calorie Counting and Hunger
One thing I remember vividly from the calorie counting days was how hungry I was all the time. I felt weak, tired, and miserably starved. Let me be clear that I wasn’t starving myself; I definitely ate three meals a day and an occasional snack. But for a somewhat active college student, I wasn’t providing my body with everything it needed. My friends would offer support and we would come up with ways to distract ourselves from the hunger. We’d drink lemon water or coffee, or if all else failed, we’d take a nap. This is no way to live! Dieters often feel that feeling starved is part of dieting. When you start to reduce your intake or take out your favorite indulgences (foods for which your body has developed an addiction), a little hunger is inevitable. But you shouldn’t feel as though you’re starving yourself. If you eat a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, you will feel satiated and satisfied.

I am not against being what I call “calorie conscious.” It’s okay to take into account how many calories a food has just as you would take into account the ingredients and the nutrients it provides. I simply believe calories should not serve as the final word in a food choice. Too many calorie counters look at a food and ask the question, “Will this food make me fat?” rather than, “Will this food make me healthy? Will it give me sustainable energy and improve my metabolic functions? Will it fuel my body with the proper nutrients and help my cells rebuild themselves? Will it strengthen my immune system and prevent me from getting sick?” Calories do not determine a food’s nutritional value so it is very important to look beyond calories when selecting what to eat. A 100-calorie pack of wheat thins and light yogurt will not do what a bowl of brown rice and asparagus can do. When you provide your body with real food, you can watch the pounds melt off. It is not just calories that is making America fat. If that were the case, all the fad diets would be successful simply by cutting calories. What our society needs is a healthy, balanced diet of real food. Not chemicals, additives, diet sodas, meal replacement bars, and low-fat varieties of our favorite junk.

Thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to subscribe if you find this information helpful.

Eat well,
Emily

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Eating right is of the utmost importance to me. I believe that good nutrition is the solution to almost any ailment and is the source of true well-being. I think eating right and fueling your body properly is essential to being a happy, balanced, and vibrant person. It is truly a tragedy that nutrition in America is lacking more than ever. The importance of a good diet can not be emphasized enough. Sadly, the standards for a “good” diet in America are very loose allow a great deal of unhealthy choices that can be counterproductive to your good efforts.

I have a plethora of reasons for eating consciously and thought I’d share some.

Weight Control
I mention this reason first not because it is necessarily the most important, but probably the most popular reason people start to eat healthy. I’ll admit that it is what initially got me interested in adapting a better diet. My first semester of college was filled with late-night pizza, pints of Ben & Jerry’s, and all-you-can-eat buffets for every meal. I gained about 15 lbs for the first time in my life and completely panicked. When I started fueling my body with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other healthy foods, I watched the weight disappear. As many of us know, being overweight can lead to a great deal of disease and health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential to good health. Plus, most of us feel better about ourselves when we are at our ideal weight and confidence is a beautiful thing.

Immune System Strength
Your body only functions properly when it is provided with all the necessary vitamins and nutrients. Besides making sure to get your daily recommended intake, it is also important to avoid foods high in sugar or chemical additives that weaken your body’s natural functions. When you eat a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, your immune system is strong. Even as a college student, I rarely get a cold or feel run-down nearly as much as my peers. Getting sick doesn’t just come from exposure to germs. If your body is running properly, germ exposure won’t cause you to catch a cold or get sick.

Energy
Another thing I notice with my [unhealthy] peers is that they always seem to be tired. They can sleep for 12 hours on the weekend and still walk around exhausted with dark circles under their eyes. Making sure to get the right balance of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein provides stable energy throughout the day. I also strongly recommend eating four to six small meals a day instead of three larger ones; this keeps blood sugar levels stable and makes for more reliable energy. When you consume high quantities of sugar, refined carbs, and caffeine, you are going to feel exhausted regardless of how much sleep you get. The pick-me-up one gets from eating junk food is only temporary and leaves you in a slump when it’s over.

Skin, Hair, Nails
When you provide your body with essential nutrients, especially the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, it truly shows. Your hair is shinier and thicker, your skin is clearer and more vibrant, and your nails are stronger. Diets high in sugar, additives, and grease make for break-outs, lackluster complexions, and brittle nails. What shows up on the outside is very much controlled by what’s going on inside. Before you splurge on an expensive new hair product or face cream, think about solving the problem at the source first.

Digestive Wellness
Digestive problems are far too common in America. It is directly related to our diet of chemically-ridden, over-processed foods that are devoid of nutritional value. Laxatives and antacids are among the highest selling over-the-counter remedies in the US. It is imperative not to look to drugs or pills but at the true source of these problems. A diet centered around vegetables and high in whole grains and fiber can alleviate digestive problems and keep your stomach and intestines running smoothly.

Mood
Many people equate their feelings or mood to specific things going on in their life. However, we all have those days where we feel unexplainably happy or sad. Emotions and moods are far more complicated than what is on the surface. Much of it is governed by brain chemicals like serotonin, which is a feel-good brain chemical, and cortisol, which is a stress chemical. Eating a diet that provides adequate nutrients and regulates blood sugar helps keep these chemicals in balance and regulate mood swings. Depression is actually a common symptom of a number of vitamin deficiencies. And remember, when you feel good about your weight, your energy levels are stable, your complexion is radiant, and you are feeling well, it is much easier to be a happy and pleasant person!

I think the best thing you can do for yourself and your body is develop healthy eating habits. “You are what you eat” is a very accurate statement. Your body is made up of cells. Your cells are created and reproduced by the nutrients that enter your body. Essentially, your body becomes the food you put into it. I urge each and every one of you not to turn to the medicine cabinet for every ailment. Take a look at what you’re eating (or what you’re not eating) and if you can regulate your body through making healthier choices. Everything we eat has some effect on our body. Determine if it is positive or negative and choose where to go from there. Do your own research, and gain the knowledge to empower yourself. Remember that health claims on products are for marketing purposes only. If you educate yourself on what a healthy food really is, you can make the best decisions.

You have the power to change and transform your life through what you eat!

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Eat healthy,
Emily

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