5 Amazing Reasons to Cut Down on Sugar

Sugar, in its many forms, is everywhere and letting it creep back into your diet can be an easy thing for even the staunchest anti-sugar peeps.

Also winter is around the corner and the change of season often means that we spend more time indoors and, as a result, are less active. And being less active can lead to, well, putting on our “winter coat”.

A great way to reduce the chance of this happening is by drastically reducing your sugar intake. Reducing refined sugar intake isn’t necessarily easy as it’s found in virtually all packaged foods, drinks and food at fast food restaurants are laden with it (a large Big Mac meal deal has 85 grams of sugar–236% of your daily allowance). Although it takes a little effort and planning to avoid sugar, it is very worth it in health and wellness rewards.

Here are 5 pretty amazing benefits of eating less sugar:

1. Improved sleep

Insulin levels are regulated when our blood sugar is balanced and one of the benefits of this is deep, restful sleep. Regulated insulin also has a balancing effect on the rest of our hormones as they all work together. This balance helps to improve our energy levels, brain function and, again, the quality of our sleep. A restful sleep gives us consistent and lasting energy throughout the day, increases our ability to focus and makes us less susceptible to sugary afternoon treats to get through the day, helping us to naturally cut down our sugar consumption.

2. Weight Loss 

Did you know that you can lose weight by cutting down on sugar without even reducing calories? This often happens because sugar spikes our blood sugar levels and insulin levels, as well as disrupting neurotransmitters in our brain. All of this increases fat storage. Eating more protein, fiber, fruit, and vegetables increases our metabolism, which then helps our bodies burn calories more efficiently. Losing or maintaining weight isn’t just about the daily calories consumed, but about the quality of foods we eat and the way our bodies process them.

3. Mental Clarity

Expect to feel more focused and clear-headed when giving up or cutting down on sugar. When our blood-sugar levels are consistent and healthy, our brain is more alert and we don’t feel as sleepy throughout the day. Also, too much fructose from foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (many processed, packaged foods) taxes our liver and pancreas. When this happens, these two organs have to work harder to manage all of the low quality sugar in our systems and remove it from our blood stream. While doing this, they exhaust energy reserves which otherwise should have been used for breaking down fat and converting it to usable energy. This can result in an unpleasant cocktail of moodiness, anxiety and even exhaustion.

4. Anti- Aging

Sugar is a primary contributor to the aging process, says Dr. Robert Lustig, a physician who has extensively researched sugar’s effect on the human body. He says fructose, the sweet molecule in sugar, is seven times more potent than the glucose portion of sugar. Fructose (ie. high fructose corn syrup) forms free radicals in our bodies, leading to higher rates of cell damage and death.

In a way, we “rust” as we age, he says. Oxidative stress turns our tissues brown. Overindulging in excess added sugar will speed up this browning process and speeds along the aging process in general.

5. Heart Health

It’s easy to imagine how having excess fat in our blood stream and arteries can lead to heart problems, but less people know about the role sugar plays in cardiac issues. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars (6 teaspoons) for women, and 150 calories (9 teaspoons) for men for optimal heart health. Unfortunately people now consume 22 teaspoons per day, on average.

A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association has also shown that people who ate between 17 and 21 percent of their calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with people who consumed 8 percent or less of their calories from added sugar. So less sugar, along with moderate exercise equals a healthy, happy heart.

So, there you have it, some excellent reasons to think about dialing back your sugar habit.

Next post will have a delicious, sugar free dessert to help make living without refined sugar easy and delicious.

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Farm Fresh Greens

One of the basic philosophies of the raw food movement is that since humans evolved from primates, our most natural and health giving diet consists mainly of fruit. I love that philosophy…in theory.

Fruit is sweet and luscious and so delicious that I wholeheartedly embraced this way of eating  for the past few months. I embraced it until I noticed that I began severely lacking in energy and I kept getting sick (three times this winter compared to my usual one), and my skin wasn’t looking better, as all the raw food lessons, books and articles said it would. In fact it was looking a little worse. And I was craving protein. Even as I was studying my “Peak Performance” lesson which stated that protein was over-rated, I was severely craving protein. Something had to give. And so it did.

One day the image of a succulent, savoury piece of salmon wouldn’t leave my mind. No matter what I did or how I tried to lead my thoughts down another path, a path filled with raw carrots and bananas and mangoes, I couldn’t stop thinking about salmon. So, after much deliberation, I did what I had to do. I had to admit that the 80 -100% raw vegan life is not for me. Then I went out a bought the biggest wild salmon steak I could find. I jogged home with it, ripped my coat off, raced to the kitchen and covered my fish in lemon and capers and a thin layer of mayo. Then I proceeded to slow cook it at 180 degrees. The aroma was heavenly.

I really loved eating all of the recipes filled with sweet tropical fruit, honey and maple syrup but clearly I was consuming a bit more sugar, even if it was natural sugar, than my body could handle. So, as much as I like the ‘gorilla food’ theory there is also a theory that you should be eating food that is natural to your environment. So, if you’re living in the Yukon it would not be natural for you to be chowing down on kiwis and pineapple and if you’re living in Vancouver, eating wild salmon and greens and fruit that is indigenous to your environment would be the healthiest fare. Makes sense to me.

So, after a visit to the local farmer’s market, where I found the freshest greens and spouts I’ve tasted in a while, I have a farm fresh salad to share with you.  Enjoy.

Farm Fresh Greens

  • 1 cup fresh organic spinach or greens of your choice
  • 1 heirloom tomato
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions
  • 1/4 cup various sprouts
  • sprinkle of Manitoba Harvest hemp seeds
  • Dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mixed herbs and fresh apple (all ingredients to taste, blended together)

Nothing beats the taste of home.

Berry Mandarin Smoothie Bowl 

This week, in my Raw Food Educator course, I’ve been learning how to transition healthfully and gently to a raw food diet. Im currently doing ‘Raw til 4’ which means you get to feast on Smoothies, juices, fruit, chia pudding, veggies and raw nuts until dinner, when you eat a ‘normal’ meal.

This is working out incredibly well and doesn’t shock the system the way going fully raw all at once might…As in ‘too much of a good thing’. In fact this might be the perfect ‘raw ratio’ for me. I completely believe in the health giving qualities of raw foods but I also believe in moderation..and the soul satifying qualities of some cooked food. 

Anyway, back to the recipe. Here’s a recipe for one of my breakfast bowls. It’s easy, delicious and pretty lovely to look at too.

Berry Mandarin Smoothie Bowl

  • 3 bananas
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries

Blend ingredients together and top with your favourite fresh fruit. Bon appetite.

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I Like it Raw

 

So, I’ve been thinking quite a bit again about how much our society dreads the aging process and I’m doing everything I can to avoid joining that club.

We stick needles full of purified botulism in our faces to get rid of our life lines/wrinkles. I know it’s purified but, hello, it’s still botulism. We get laser treatment, face lifts, mini lifts, tummy tucks, lipo and fillers, all to try to turn back the proverbial clock. But why? Why are we so afraid to show, accept and even celebrate our age?

Looking back at my life in my 20’s & 30’s, um, it really wasn’t that great. I struggled with depression and anxiety and had a shaky sense of self at best. I wouldn’t go back there for the world and don’t particularly want to look that age again either. What I do want, however, is to look like the best 52 year old I possibly can.

Maybe a big part of our collective fear of aging is the thought that we’re going to fall apart as we get older. Less energy, more weight gain, less muscle tone, dull complexion etc. So what would happen if we could take those fears out of the aging equation? What if we knew we could stay fit and healthy and glowing as we got a little older? Sound good? Yes. How to achieve that? An easy-peasy 80% raw food eating plan.

I can’t say enough good things about eating this way. Whenever I drift away from it I sleep less soundly, my skin breaks out in annoying red bumps, my little tummy roll expands, and my energy drains away. And then, when I hop back on the raw food wagon, I feel and look better almost immediately. There are so many health and beauty benefits of raw food. Here are a few, taken from Mind, Body, Green:

1. Going raw got me back in the kitchen.

Eating out or ordering in every night was the first habit I had to break. Raw food restaurants in Jakarta (where I now live) are nonexistent, and the closest menu item I could find that was suitable to eat at most places was a very unsatisfying garden salad (which just doesn’t cut it for an evening meal!).

So I started going grocery shopping again, began making green smoothies for breakfast, packing my own salad for lunch at my office, and then experimenting in the kitchen at night.

This habit alone was one of the best things I could have gained from my year on raw. Eating home cooked meals is not only better energetically, but it means consuming better ingredients. It saves heaps of money, too.

2. The raw food diet helped me discover food intolerances.

Following a raw food diet means the common allergens in food are completely avoided: eggs, soy, wheat (gluten), sugar and dairy. These get cut out completely. By not including those items in my diet anymore, I started to feel amazing.

3. Eating raw made me more intuitive.

I started to eat such a clean diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, cutting out all the processed crap and the above-mentioned allergens, that something changed inside me spiritually. My clean body seemed to open the passage for my intuition to soar.

It’s like my mind was no longer hazy from drinking too much booze the night before, or my brain fogged up from eating gluten, that I could see things with clarity. I could tap into my intuitive side, and I started to notice the beauty in the world around me. I became more focused and started to see the world differently, noticing the small and beautiful things around me.

4. Going raw changed my taste buds.

I stopped craving coffee every morning, and no longer needed alcohol to end my night. Sugar cravings got replaced by more savory ones, and if I did crave sugar I’d feed myself a super indulgent yet still healthy raw dessert, which did not have the same negative effect as eating a whole roll of Mentos or Skittles, my former vices. I now miss it when I don’t have a green smoothie for a few days if I’m traveling, and junk foods don’t even factor into any of my decisions around food anymore.

5. Following a raw lifestyle meant cleaning my act up.

The raw food lifestyle changed all my former party girl ways. The thought of sitting in a smoky bar while drinking all night seemed absurd when everything else in my life was now so clean. I much preferred to stay at home experimenting in the kitchen on a new recipe, learning about raw foods and healthy living, and practicing yoga and meditation than going out partying on a Friday or Saturday night. I had found a new passion, and that really fueled me more than any of more former bad habits had.

6. Eating raw foods taught me about diet and nutrition.

As I started to change my diet and lifestyle, I began fielding questions from curious friends and colleagues. So I started writing a blog to share recipes and other aspects of my experience.

This led me to begin learning even more about food, nutrition and health. My thirst for this new knowledge was almost insatiable. Reading novels got replaced by reading nonfiction books on nutrition and diet, and I became obsessed with healthy, raw and vegan cookbooks as I devoured all the information I could get my hands on.

7. Going raw led me on a new career path.

I then discovered a new career I could have: health coaching. I never knew that this job even existed, but as soon as I found out about it, I just knew that I had to become one.

So I did my diploma, trained as a raw food chef and started teaching classes in my home. Then I started seeing clients and decided to take my career in a whole new direction.

These days I eat a mostly raw diet, but it’s actually a plant-based diet mixed in with raw and cooked food. But if it hadn’t been for raw foods I don’t think my overall well-being would be the way it is now, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing this article. It really is amazing how things can change by making one decision. All it takes is the first step, and it can lead you to just about anywhere! – Simone Samuels

So, if you’re curious about the benefits raw, trying “raw until dinner” is a good way to check it out without throwing your system into complete shock. Most raw eating plans are vegan but mine is more of a raw paleo plan, including fish and a bit of organic meat and dairy. It’s important to follow whatever plan is best for you and to listen to your intuition regarding what nutrients your body needs.

Breakfast can be a green smoothie, a bowl of fruit and/or raw nut butter for breakfast, a huge salad, raw sashimi, a raw veggie salad and/or a chilled soup (gazpacho, cucumber) for lunch. Warning: you will eat a lot of fruit and veggies on this plan, so definitely stock up. Then, eat whatever you like at dinner.  That’s really all it takes to see awesome health benefits. And I pretty much guarantee as time goes by you will see your dinners naturally and effortlessly get cleaner and healthier as your tastebuds change.

Throw a little fun exercise into the mix and, voila, you have the best, most kick-ass anti-aging plan ever! No botox or lipo necessary.