Sugar Cleanse :: What’s the deal with fruit?

fruit-2305192_640.jpgOk, so we all know we are supposed to be eating our fruits and veggies. But, I’m constantly asked about fruit consumption. People have gotten afraid to eat fruit because of the popularity of low carb diets, like Atkins. Some so-called health experts warn that fruit as just as bad as sugar when it comes to overall health and weight maintenance.

Why the stigma? Most of the calories in fruit come from carbohydrates, and most of those carbs are sugar, and most of that sugar is fructose. Recent studies suggest that fructose, in the large quantities most Americans consume, can have adverse effects on blood sugar levels and promote weight gain along with many other health risks.

But, it’s more complicated than that. First, fresh fruit really only account for a very small amount of the fructose most Americans consume. You’d have to eat several servings of fresh fruit to equal the equivalent amount in a soda. And, fruits are also high in fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar in the blood stream.

So what’s the verdict? Fruit is naturally sweet, healthy and delicious. The more you eat, the less you’ll crave sugar. Fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals (like potassium) and antioxidants. Thanks to their fiber and high water content, eating fruit is very satiating. And, it’s the ultimate travel and fast food snack.

Your homework: You guessed it – eat more fruit!

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Sugar Cleanse :: Social Media Detox

twitter-292994_640You’re probably wondering – what does social media have to do with sugar? Well, I think eating a lot of sugar and social media are actually pretty related. With social media, we are constantly checking our phones, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and whatever else the kids are using these days. I recently took a flight across the country, and the wifi on the airplane was not working. People were freaking out! Sugar, with its energetic and anxiety producing properties, feeds into this obsession in my opinion.

Well, it’s not really an opinion, it’s fact.  A Canadian study took a look at almost 9,000 teenagers and found that increased use of social media correlated with a decrease in nutrition. Researchers discovered this by surveying the students and controlling for other possible factors. Students who reported using social networking sites (that’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat,etc.) for less than one hour had a 67% chance of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, for two hours it was almost 1.5 times that, and for five or more hours a day the odds were almost 3.3 times greater.

Our society is go – go – go. We are all time-crunched. But what about all of that time spent obsessively checking our social media accounts? Those moments add up. And, how many times have you done a “quick five minute check,” just to have that turn into an hour without realizing it? Just imagine what you could do with an extra hour or two every day!

Your challenge:

Take a 48 hour social media detox. Turn off any social media alerts. For most of us, this might make the most sense to plan to do this over a weekend. What did you learn about your relationship with social media over these 48 hours?


Sugar Cleanse :: Food Energy

IMG_0069.jpgToday we’re going to go deeper into nutrition and learn about the energetics of food. All of the foods we ingest has a certain type of energy associated with it (see chart below). Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on using foods to prevent and treat disease. Knowledge of food energetics can help one build a stronger sense of health and well-being by eating different foods that impose different effects. Like the saying, “you are what you eat.”

Eating from your own garden or buying your produce from the local farmers’ market will leave you feeling more connected to your home or local community. When you eat seasonal, locally grown produce, the body is more able to maintain balance from the inside out.

Take advantage of cooling fruits and lighter greens in the summertime, when they are at their peak in harvest. At the same time, heartier vegetables, such as deeply rooted carrots and squashes, grow more abundantly in the wintertime, and are going to add warmth to the body. It’s good to maintain a balance of eating seasonally as well as locally, as much as possible, to stay in harmony with the natural order of things.

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Healthy homework:

Journal exercise: What quality would you like to bring more of into your life? What foods would you eat?


Sugar Cleanse :: Move your bod

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Exercise may be the closest thing to the fountain of youth. Not only does regular activity strengthen your muscles and improve heart and lung function, but it can also reduce your risk of major diseases, stimulate the growth of new brain cells, and even add years to your life. Regular aerobic exercise lowers levels of stress hormones. For many people, exercise helps relieve depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.

Exercise also helps maintain a healthy blood-sugar level by increasing the cells’ sensitivity to insulin and by controlling weight. Regular brisk walking can significantly cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Studies show just 30 minutes of physical activity on most days is all that’s required to reap big benefits. What’s most important is consistency. Here are some of my tips to get moving!

  • Find a kind of exercise you enjoy. If you like to walk, great, go for a walk everyday. If yoga is your thing, do that. If it’s something you like, you’re more likely to stick with it.
  • Get a workout buddy. This gives you both some accountability. You won’t skip a run if you know you are letting down your run buddy!
  • Challenge yourself. If you walk or run, sign up for a 5K, 10K, or longer race. If you disc golf, sign up for a tournament. This gives you a goal to work towards.
  • Listen to fun music or podcasts while you workout. My favorite podcasts are the Rich Roll podcast, From the Heart, and Divine Through Line.
  • Mix it up. If you get bored with one type of workout, do something else. For instance, I am a runner, but lately I’ve been adding hot yoga to my workout routine.

Homework time:
What’s your favorite type of exercise? Whatever it is, schedule time on your calendar and make it a priority.


Sugar Cleanse :: Spice it up!

One of my favorite spices is cinnamon. Cinnamon has been used as food and medicine since ancient times, and is a powerful herb for regulating blood sugar. It comes from the rust colored inner bark of the cinnamon tree. I love it in smoothies, oatmeal, granola, coffee and hot toddies. Luckily, cinnamon has some great health boosting properties.

In addition to being delicious, cinnamon:

  • Helps balance blood sugar, which is why it’s so great to add to smoothies and desserts
  • Is rich in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation*Reduces the risk of heart disease and also lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts brain health – 2 compounds found in cinnamon appear to inhibit the buildup of the protein that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Keeps your teeth pearly white and your breath smelling fresh with its anti-microbial effects

Keepin’ it healthy homework:
Try incorporating cinnamon into your diet more often. One of my favorite things to make with cinnamon is this refreshing tea:

grapefruit teaCinnamon Grapefruit Tea

1/2 grapefruit
1 stick of cinnamon

Put the grapefruit and cinnamon in a teapot (or a quart mason jar) and cover with boiling water. Let steep for 10 minutes, then enjoy! I love to drink this during the cold months, but you could make an iced version of it as well.


Sugar Cleanse :: Get sweet, naturally

honey-1772792_640We’ve now explored cravings, and strategies to deal with sugar cravings. The average American consumes well over 20 teaspoons of added sugar on a daily basis, which adds up to an average of 142 pounds of sugar per person, per year! That’s more than two times what the USDA recommends.

Below you will find information on natural sweeteners, all of which are less processed than refined white sugar, and create fewer fluctuations in blood sugar levels.  Although these sweeteners are generally safer alternatives to white sugar, they should only be used in moderation!

Stevia
This leafy herb also known as honey leaf has been used for centuries by native South Americans. The extract from stevia is approximately 100 to 300 times sweeter than white sugar. It can be used in cooking, baking and as a sugar substitute in most beverages. Stevia has been shown to have a positive effect on blood sugar levels by increasing insulin production, and decreasing insulin resistance. Stevia is available in a powder or liquid form, but be sure to get the green or brown liquids or powders, as the white and clear versions are highly refined.

Honey
One of the oldest natural sweeteners; honey is sweeter than sugar. Depending on the plant source, honey can have a range of flavors, from dark and strongly flavored, to light and mildly flavored. Raw honey contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals and vitamins.  It’s also said that consuming local honey can help build up your immunity to common allergens in your area – by introducing your body to the bee pollen.

Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is made from boiled-down maple tree sap and is a great source of manganese and zinc. Approximately 40 gallons of sap are needed to make one gallon of maple syrup. It adds a pleasant flavor to foods and is great for baking. Be sure to buy 100% pure maple syrup and not maple-flavored corn syrup. Grade B is stronger in flavor and said to have more minerals than Grade A.

Maple Sugar
Maple sugar is created when the sap of the sugar maple is boiled for longer than is needed to create maple syrup. Once most of the water has evaporated, all that is left is the solid sugar. Maple sugar is about twice as sweet as standard granulated sugar, but much less refined.

Molasses
Organic molasses is probably the most nutritious sweetener derived from sugar cane or sugar beet, and is made by a process of clarifying and blending the extracted juices. The longer the juice is boiled, the less sweet, more nutritious and darker the product is. Molasses imparts a very distinct flavor to food. Blackstrap molasses, the most nutritious variety, is a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Brown Rice Syrup
This product consists of brown rice that has been ground and cooked, converting the starches to maltose. Brown rice syrup tastes like moderately sweet butterscotch and is quite delicious. In recipes, replace each cup of white sugar with ¼ cup brown rice syrup, and reduce the amount of other liquids. Brown rice syrup is made of 50% complex carbohydrates, 45% maltose, and 3% glucose. The small amount of glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream immediately, but the complex carbohydrates and maltose are much more slowly absorbed, providing a steady supply of energy.

Agave Nectar
Agave nectar, or agave syrup, is a natural liquid sweetener made from the juice of the agave cactus. Many diabetics use agave nectar as an alternative to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners because of its relatively low effect on blood glucose levels. However, agave is high in fructose and has been under much scrutiny due to possible manufacturing processes which are similar to that of high fructose corn syrup. Some research suggests that fructose affects the hormone lepitin, which controls your appetite and satiety. Too much fructose may result in overeating and weight gain, so it’s important to consume agave nectar in reasonable moderation.

Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is the boiled and dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. Pure coconut palm sugar reportedly has a naturally low glycemic index, which has led some people to claim that it is a valuable sugar substitute for people with diabetes or those looking to control blood sugar (the low-carb camp). Indeed, a lower GI may be a good indication that a food is safer for diabetics, though it is not a guarantee. Pure certified organic coconut palm sugar is recommended type.

Personally, when I do choose to use a natural sweetener, I stick to raw honey, maple syrup, molasses, and organic coconut sugar.

Using Natural Sweeteners
Natural sweeteners can be used to replace sugar in any recipe. Here is a guide to substituting these products for sugar. The amount indicated is equivalent to 1 cup of sugar, and the third column details what it is best to use for.  

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Healthy homework: Treat yourself! Try making this delicious sweet treat with maple syrup or your favorite natural sweetener.

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

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1 ripe avocado
1-2 TBSP raw cacao powder
1 TBSP maple syrup
1 TBSP almond butter (optional)
Almond milk – about 1 TBSP – enough to get a mousse-like consistency
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of vanilla powder

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend. Add almond milk as needed toget a pudding-like consistency. Enjoy!


Sugar Cleanse :: Let’s talk caffeine

coffee-2714970_1280Let’s talk caffeine. These are dreaded words for the caffeine addict. Caffeine is a compound found especially in tea and coffee plants and is a stimulant of the central nervous system. The ups and downs of that caffeine causes on your body include dehydration, raising blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems and adrenal exhaustion. Many people feel that caffeine raises stress levels and anxiety.

Caffeine causes blood sugar swings and may cause sugar cravings to become more frequent. Type 2 diabetics should be aware that caffeine may potentially impair insulin’s action, causing a detectable rise in blood sugar levels.

Simply put, caffeine puts your body on a roller coaster much like sugar, and when you crash, your body wants more energy – usually in the form of more caffeine or sugar.

By the way, it’s not all bad news as far as caffeine is concerned, and more studies are showing that moderate consumption of caffeine has been shown to help prevent diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Caffeine can also help with alertness and concentration and contains antioxidants.

What is the answer? Is it ok to drink coffee and tea? For some people – it is, in moderation. Our bodies all handle caffeine differently. Take a look at how much caffeine you drink in a day. Is it one cup of coffee or tea? Or do you drink coffee and caffeinated tea throughout the day? Do you ever feel side effects like stomach cramps or anxiety?

Learn more on the pros and cons of coffee.

For most people, I recommend keeping it to one cup of coffee or caffeinated tea per day – OR eliminating it entirely.

Here are some replacements for coffee:
*Teeccino teas
*Decaf coffee (cold-processed, organic)
*Herbal teas
*Fruit infused water (my favorite combo is fresh mango with mint)
*Sparkling water with fresh lemon or lime
*Smoothie
*Fresh juice
*A glass of water

Health-time homework:

Take a look at how much coffee you drink every day. If you drink more than 1 serving of caffeine per day, start to wean yourself down to one cup. Doing this gradually will help you avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Also, a lot of people find drinking a large glass of water in the morning helpful to not crave caffeine. Sometimes when we crave coffee in the morning we are really just dehydrated.


Sugar Cleanse :: Eat More Fat

avocado-2115922_640Each more fat. That’s right, you read that correctly!

Here is the deal with fats.

Heavily processed, hydrogenated “trans” fats used in prepared, packaged foods can be extremely damaging to the body. They can compromise the cardiovascular system, immune system, and contribute to behavior problems. They can also lead to weight gain, skin breakouts, high blood pressure, and liver strain.

That said, our bodies need fat for insulation, vitamin and mineral absorption, and to protect our organs. High-quality fats can steady our metabolism, keep hormone levels even, nourish our skin, hair, and nails, and provide lubrication to keep the body functioning fluidly. Eating good fats will help modulate cravings and stabilize blood sugar.

How do I eat more healthy fats?

Avocados (my favorite), olives, coconuts are great sources of healthy fats. Whole nuts and seeds, and their butters like almond butter or tahini.

Look for the highest-quality organic oils when shopping. Words to look for: organic, first-pressed, cold-pressed, extra-virgin, and unrefined. Avoid expeller-pressed, refined, and solvent extracted.

Let’s learn how to cook with fats:

  • For cooking at high temperatures (stir frying and baking), try  using coconut oil
  • When sautéing foods at low heat, try organic extra virgin olive oil.
  • Oils like flaxseed, sesame, toasted sesame, walnut, and pumpkin seed are best used unheated in sauces or dressings.

Healthy homework:

Incorporate good fats into your diet – focusing on your breakfast. Try this, make a bowl of plain oatmeal. Then stir in ground flaxseed, cinnamon and top with sliced banana and pecans. Notice how long this meal satiates you.

You’re over halfway through the sugar cleanse! How are you feeling? What is new and good?


Sugar Cleanse :: What to do when cravings hit?

Greetings!

Yesterday’s healthy homework assignment is one my favorites – you were to make a list of sugar free treats to call upon when your life gets unbalanced and out of whack. In case you had a hard time finding ideas, use these healthy treats as inspiration!

tea-1090672_1280*Have a cup of luxurious herbal tea
*Eat a piece of fruit
*Have a glass of kombucha tea (make sure it has no added sugars)
*Have a green juice
*Eat a snack that includes healthy fats, like hummus and carrot sticks or an avocado sprinkled with sea salt
*Go for a short walk outside
*Hug a tree or just be in nature
*Watch a funny movie
*Do something creative – draw, knit, or even draw in an adult coloring book
*Meditate
*Do a quick yoga routine (there are tons on YouTube or come yoga with me)
*Drink a delicious smoothie
*Cuddle with your dog or cat

Homework for you:

Make a list of what you’re going to do when cravings hit. Yours might be completely different from mine, and that’s completely okay. Write the list down and hang it on your refrigerator for reference.


Sugar Cleanse :: Decode your cravings

woman-2827304_1280I hope you’re feeling inspired to take on more healthy habits today!

What positive changes have you made so far? I’d love to hear about them.

Today, I’d like you to think about what drives your sugar cravings.

When I ask my clients this, top culprits include the hectic morning rush hour and looming afternoon deadlines, prompting sugary coffee drinks and spiraling blood sugar levels. Sugar has a temporary mood lifting effect on the brain, leading to a serious crash soon after. Not exactly the best situation when you’re stressed.

What else causes you to crave?

Aside from daily stress that spurs sugar cravings, I encourage you to consider how other components of your life may be affecting what you eat.

Think back to a time when you had just fell in love with someone. Your partner’s affection replaced sugar, making you feel satisfied and appreciated. Many people crave sweets when they are lacking supportive relationships. Take a look at the people you surround yourself with – is it time for a change?

I regularly tell my clients that while what is on their plate is important, healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career, and a spiritual practice can fill your soul and satisfy your real hunger for life. When these areas of your life – your primary foods – are balanced, your life feeds you, making what you eat secondary.

Healthy you homework:

The next time you find yourself with a craving for sweets, focus on the root of these urges.

Look at these primary foods:
*Relationships
*Career
*Physical Activity
*Spirituality

Give each one a rating from 1-10 as you see them in your life right now (10 being satisfied and 1 being dissatisfied).

Be honest with yourself. It’s okay to be dissatisfied some some or all of your primary foods – you are now one step closer to deconstructing your cravings once and for all.

Now that you’ve taken some steps toward achieving life balance, consider other ways you can reward yourself. Make a list of sugar-free treats to call upon when your primary foods get unbalanced. We’ll be discussing this more tomorrow.