What You Didn’t Know About Sugar

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As you’ve probably heard, sugar in its unnatural form, which is found in nearly everything our society consumes, can cause serious harm to your body. Although we seemingly hear this all the time, why are so few people listening? “Sugar is bad for you” *gets large bowl of ice cream. “Sugar can make you fat” *orders sweet tea at lunch. We hear it, but we don’t change. Similar to the smoking epidemic, you would think if there was enough compelling data to convince us that we should not consume the astronomical amounts of sugar that we do, we would stop. Right? But as we learned with tobacco, maybe it’s not that easy….

Sugar is addicting. Not just because it tastes amazing, but it is physically and chemically addicting. This is a topic I’m hugely passionate about, and I’ve seen it’s affects first hand. But, unfortunately, we’ve all seen these effects in our own lives, whether we know it or not, and it may even be in the mirror.

I often hear and read “sugar causes diabetes, high blood pressure and can be addicting”, but those reasonings don’t really hit home for me. I don’t have diabetes, I have regular blood pressure and I have no history of addiction, so I don’t really know what it’s like. I’m fine, right?

Did you know:

Sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Let me say that again, sugar is MORE addictive than COCAINE. Not just a little bit more addictive, SEVERAL TIMES more addictive. That is TERRIFYING. We are putting a substance in our bodies several times a day that we are entirely reliant on. But we don’t even know that because we’ve never gone long enough to feel the withdrawal effect. If you went long enough without any sugar, which is about 3 days, you would start to feel tired, maybe get a headache, and feel real withdrawals as if it was a drug.

With some research and a little determination, we as adults can figure out what food isn’t the best and even how to replace it. The saddest part about this disgusting sugar epidemic which is the root cause of deadly diseases we are suffering from every single day, is that we are feeding this drug to our innocent kids. They are addicted. And they will have problems and difficulties with their health until they are presumably old enough to research and educate themselves on how to avoid this awful, awful addictive substance.  And we hope at that point the damage is not too far gone and can be reversed with a clean lifestyle. Would you ever give your child a different addicting substance, like cocaine?

Some seriously alarming facts:

  1. Sugar is the leading cause of obesity. Not just severe obesity, but even just the “stubborn” fat you can’t seem to shake.  All these kids who are way bigger than they ever should be? Check their diets before you check their exercise.

  2. What’s this epidemic of kids (and adults) who can’t focus in school/work?  Children and adults alike have shown difficulty focusing and sleeping when consuming high sugar and fat diets. Hint: that IS the western diet. This isn’t just a sugar before bed thing or that granola bar for a snack, this is a chronic dietary problem that can be so easily fixed without medication.

  3. There have been links to sugar and the rise in/ and lack of a cure for cancer. In fact, people have reversed their fatal stages of cancer by eliminating processed foods and drinks from their diet and loaded up on greens and organic produce. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards and sprouts help repair cancer cells. But that’s never a treatment. Why?

  4. Sugar-Free means CHEMICALS. How do those foods taste exactly the same if they remove the top ingredient? Chemicals. Newsflash: chemicals are also not good for you nor are they better than sugar! Sugar-free is not a substitute. See also: Fat-Free.

  5. You can’t out work your diet. Meaning, you could go to the gym for two hours every single day and never be “healthy”. Wellness starts with your diet. In fact, I’d argue you could spend way less time at the gym if your diet was clean. If you’re looking to look better, start in the kitchen.

  6. Just because you are skinny does not mean your body is well. You may not be adding fat like others who eat the same sugary food, but your organs and systems are just as sick.98aae2e43744028c3066648dadc663d5

In many households, the very first thing we put in our bodies upon waking up every morning is sugar. The first thing we do is give our bodies poison. And then we carry on with our day groggy, tired, and unable to be present. Breakfast literally means to break a fast, as in finally letting your body get nutrients again after a night’s sleep. So give it something it wants, something it can actually consume.

You CAN survive without processed sugar. In fact, there are an abundance of food sources that don’t contain added sugar and are not addicting. Foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, and some grains. Check the nutrition label on your next snack or meal. Notice something missing? It’s not the astronomical amount of sugar the snuck in there, it’s the percent of daily value. It’s not there. Why? Because a daily percent of sugar in your diet is nearly zero. And no food in our grocery store fits the criteria.

Recipes you find here do not contain any sugar. There are plenty of ways to cook and bake without sugar, and several natural substitutes for sweet, such as honey. What are you willing to change? Would you do it for a child battling serious disease?

www.beatcancer.org
http://www.actiononsugar.org/
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1945637

Chocolate Nut Raw Bars

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No sugar. No baking. No cheating.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with these gooey healthy, raw bars that are essentially brownies. SO GOOD. My good friend who is vegan passed along this recipe and I am so thankful she did because I take them everywhere I go. As with all healthy treats, why not eat them at any time of day? Sometimes I grab one of these before a workout or breakfast as I’m running out the door, for a snack during the day, or an after dinner indulgence.

I’m not much for measuring, so make these your own like I did and use whatever you have available. You can’t go wrong!

Ingredients:
2 cups Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw almonds
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 raw walnuts
3 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp group flax seed (optional)
2 Tbsp hemp seed (optional)
1/2 cup cacao nibs
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (to taste)

Directions:
In a food processor or high power blender, blend all nuts and oats until dusty. The nuts may begin to make a butter, and that’s totally normal. Pour in mixing bowl. Add your seeds to mixture, wholely. With your hands (because it’s fun), squish dates until they become a smooth, sticky ball (this should be very easy to do with fresh Medjool dates). Place ball in mixing bowl. Knead the dry ingredients with dates until evenly combined. Press ‘dough’ into an ungreased 8×8 pan. Set in fridge.

In a small pot, heat coconut oil over medium/low heat. Add cocoa powder and stir with a spatula. Add cocoa powder until texture thickens and will make a frosting-type top layer. It will thicken more when it cools. Add honey to taste (unsweetened cocoa powder is not sweet). Let sauce cool slightly, for about 30 seconds, then pour over the bars that were in the refrigerator. Spread evenly. Sprinkle cacao nibs for an extra crunch. Let bars cool in the fridge for at least 30 min before cutting. Store in an airtight refrigerated space.

Tip: Coconut oil will melt at room temp and when touching the bars. Keep cool!

Yields: About 16 barsdsc_0926

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Living with Intent

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Intent Noun
intention or purpose.
      “with alarm she realized his intent”
syn: aim, intention, purpose, objective, object, goal, target

“Be careful about what you think, your thoughts run your life” -Proverbs 4:23

 

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I am not a yogi. I am not a psychiatrist. I am not a dietician. I am happy. I am whole. I am living with intent. In an ever evolving journey to near a holistic lifestyle, I find it comforting that little things make a big impact on how I feel. Brussels sprouts make me feel satisfied. Sunlight brings me joy. Peppermint soothes my stomach. But what about your mind? I am constantly telling myself “it’s okay”. We always hear “our mind is powerful thing”, but what exactly can it do? Just like mastering a sport or instrument takes a lot of practice, so does training your mind. And in order to train your mind, you must live with intent.

What is living with intent?

In my little world, it’s the act of being present. Being here, not there. Being open, engaged and grounded. It’s not an easy thing to do and it doesn’t happen all the time. Some ways you can practice this are by putting your phone away when you’re out to dinner, pausing what you’re doing to listen to a coworker, or by eating your food slowly.

I should probably stop here and master these seemingly simple tasks because I haven’t yet (cue eating an entire bag of popcorn in three handfuls). In my yoga class, we practice noticing things. Noticing how my body feels in a certain pose, noticing how the room sounds, noticing where my mind goes in savasana. I’ve started noticing things outside of class, too. Like how I’m constantly on my phone, how I ‘multitask’ while talking to people, how I finish my food before I even know what I ate. Certainly not engaging acts, but the fact that I am aware makes me able to be more intentional in fixing them.

 

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How else can you live with intent?

There are a million ways to live intentionally. Some people chose to practice yoga several times a day. Some people chose to eat only organic foods. Some people only check their phone at the end of the day. I chose to cultivate my relationships by checking in with my friends regularly. I try to eat wholesome foods to fuel my body, not my mind (because my mind wants to eat everything under the sun). I **try to react slowly to things that easily cause anger (i.e. someone cuts me in traffic, “was that really a big deal? No. Am I fine? Yes. Does it actually matter? No.”). This is a big one for me. I am typically wired Type A, which causes me unwarranted and unwanted stress. Over what? I don’t know. And that’s exactly the point. I am proud to be competitive, driven and proactive. But controlling, worried and impatient are traits I’m working on mending. How? By living with intent 🙂

Take what you can get and be grateful for what it is.
Pass small stuff with ease.
Seek happiness and own it.
Clear your conscious.
Be here.

11 Purchases at Trader Joe’s You Won’t Be Mad About

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If you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s near you, then you probably know what I’m talking about when I say it’s the most fun place to shop. Grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do in the first place, but there’s just something special about TJ’s and all their fancy treats. Living in downtown Chicago, I walk to get my groceries. This means I can only buy what I can carry. Trader Joe’s is the closest to me, so I do most of my shopping there. So much self-control not to buy the entire store! (Unless I bring my boyfriend, then a million more items are added to my *our* baskets. I have some go-to items that I always pick, but you know you can’t go there and NOT sample the treat of the day! So I usually buy whatever that is too…. Don’t you?

If I had to narrow down my list of top picks:

Just Mango Slices (dried, chewy mango with no added sugar)

 

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Creamy, no salt.

 

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It’s the same price for the individual packs. Perfect for work or on-the-go.

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I dare you not to eat the entire bag.

 

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Strawberry Austrailian Licorice

 

 

 

2 Buck Chuck- but who am I kidding, any wine will do.

 

 

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Thai Peanut Dressing (Hint: perfect for homemade pad thai)

 

 

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Baby Beets- ready to slice into a salad

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Great with the savory crackers!

 

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A slighhht waste of money since they’re gone in 2 seconds but still worth it.

Veggie and flax tortilla chips– for all chips and guac needs.

I’m not really sure there’s something I don’t like at this store. But as all groceries go, I try to stick to the perimeter of the store where the fresh and healthiest items are. Okay, and the free samples and wine. Trader Joe’s has great options for all food needs and also the coolest treats ever. Am I right?!

Why I Stopped Counting Calories

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Do you obsess over calories? Do you not care at all? Either way, calories are very real. But they are also different from one another. 200 calories of broccoli is going to treat you body much better than a 200 calorie candy bar.

I used to count calories on MyFitnessPal. It’s an awesome app filled with recipes, blog posts, and every tool you need to start a healthier lifestyle. It really helped me realize what I was eating and what I thought was a great healthy day, actually had treats and snacks that I had completely forgotten about. Go figure. Writing down what I ate gave me a great sense of my overall health and what I was putting in my body. It helped me pass up a second helping, or second treat if I had already had something “bad” that day. But it also made me completely obsessed with counting calories. On all calorie counting apps and devices, it generalizes what your body needs and how much you burn on a personal level. I was constantly worried about going over my “recommended” amount of daily calories to stay “on track”. What does that even mean? I would reach my recommended number before the end of the day, and still need to eat dinner. This would always consume my thoughts and I would worry about being in the red on my app.

I stopped tracking what I ate and stopped focusing on calories. With a much clearer head, I now focus on what I’m eating, not how many calories I’m going over my limit. I focus on eating real food, made from real ingredients. You can’t really go wrong with that. By sticking to mostly veggies, proteins and whole grains, I don’t feel the need to rack up the calorie count. I still like to use my app, to continue getting the whole picture of what I consume in a day. I don’t look at calories, but at the foods I log. It helps me stay on track and see patterns in how I feel, what food make me crave others, and what times of day I eat. Which are all helpful things to keep in mind.

If you don’t write down what you eat, try it! Without focusing on the numbers, take a look at everything you eat in a day- maybe even record how you felt that day. Were you tired? Did your stomach ache? Did you feel energized and happy? These can all reflect what you ate.  It’s fun to see the patterns and how food affects you.

5 Swaps to a Healthier You

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Fortunately, there a million ways to get healthier and stay healthier. Some are harder than others, like putting down that ice cream. But most can be simple swaps that will go a long way in your healthy journey. Here are a few:

 

  1. Drink Water

This may be the most obvious swap of all, but it also makes the biggest difference. I make a point to stick to water and coffee, and an occasional sparkling water when I need some bubbly. Okay and an occasional* glass of wine. Sugar filled juices and teas are the easiest way to add additional calories and junk into your diet, and they come at a hefty unhealthy price. Stick to water only as your primary liquid, it is your friend. And makes a huge difference in your awareness, muscle performance, and overall wellbeing. I drink about 90oz of water per day, that’s about 5 plastic bottles worth. How much water do you drink a day?

 

  1. Get your Chef on

For those of you who say you aren’t good at cooking, or don’t know where to start in the kitchen, try cooking your favorite restaurant meals at home. Is your restaurant go-to chicken fingers and fries? Try panko-crusting chicken and baking it in the oven with sweet potato fries. Maybe you’re like me and can always go for the fish tacos? Think up those ingredients (tortilla, fish, aioli mayo, cabbage) and construct your own masterpiece. Cooking at home not only saves a huge penny in your bank account, but it’s also much healthier- and fun! Obviously (well, hopefully) you won’t have that greasy goodness dripping down your chin from a giant burger, but there’s something satisfying about building your own concoction in your kitchen. What? No time to chat over sangria and artichoke dip?

 

  1. Stove top

How did people live without a microwave? I try to heat all my food on the stove instead of the microwave when I’m home. Not only do I think it tastes better, but it also gets what was crisp, crisp and keeps more nutrients in the food. Overheating/cooking food removes nutrients your body needs.

 

  1. Take a Lap

No, not a nap. Take a lap- around the grocery store. I’m sure you’ve heard that the healthiest food at grocery is around the perimeter- cue the beer drinkers confirming their cooler along the perimeter is healthy. This is not just a coincidence at some stores- it’s really a thing. Try shopping only around the edges, getting fresh produces, fresh meats, dairy and deli products, skipping the very middle where the hostess snacks live.

 

  1. Oil Up

 

Swap butter for olive oil. Olive oil has more health benefits than butter, and is a more versatile ingredient. If butter is your thing, make sure it’s real butter and not margarine. As with both yummy ingredients, use them in moderation. Or if you want to get serious, try not using them at all. They are high in calories, which is okay, but neither are something your body needs. You can avoid them by steaming veggies, cooking meats in their own juices, and eating toast dry.

Processed Sugar

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What a hot topic! Nearly every food we encounter, whether “healthy” or not, has added sugar. And that’s really a shame that the food industry has gone to such extremes to get us hooked on their products… emphasis on products, not food.

When I was in college, I was seeking ways to get lean and toned over the summer before heading into a new season of swimming. I knew that no “diet” was going to cut it for a college athlete heavily in training, so I wanted some simple ways to clean up my nutrition. Man, do I wish I learned what I know now sooner.

One of the simple rules of thumb is to be mindful of sugar and to try to stay under 10g per serving of whatever I was having. Sounds easy, right? EVERYTHING has sugar! And not just some sugar- tons of sugar. Although this is now how I prefer to eat, it was extremely hard to navigate at first. I now feel so much better overall and I don’t get those high-energy/ high-crash spikes anymore. I challenge all of you to try it.

Processed sugar= high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, starch syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, sorbitol, and 56 others names.

To much of my surprise:
Per Serving (which, by the way, who follows that?):
Chobani Flip PB&J- 20g
Chobani Black Cherry- 16g
Honest Green Tea- 19g
Pure Leaf Tea Sweetened- 42g
Nature Valley Oats & Honey Protein Granola- 12g
Nutella- 21g
Gatorade- 21g
Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness Smoothie- 26g
QuakerOats Instant Oatmeal Packet Maple Brown Sugar- 12g

~Fun Fact~
4g of sugar = 1 teaspoon

Starbucks lovers read no further….
In a Grande:
Starbucks Black Tea Lemonade (yum!)- 31g
Starbucks Iced Coffee Sweetened- 20g
Starbucks bottled Iced Coffee + Milk- 21g
Starbucks Caramel Macchiato- 32g
Starbucks Flat White- 17g
Starbucks Skinny Mocha- 17g
Starbucks Vanilla Latte- 35g
Starbucks Strawberry Granola Parfait- 20g

Healthier options:
Chobani Plain- 4g
Nature Valley Protein Bar Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate- 6g
Pure Leaf Tea Unsweetened- 0g
Starbucks coffee unsweetened- 0g
LaraBar Cashew Cookie- 18g*
Water- 0g
Fresh fruit
Fresh veggies
(Okay, I know this list is much shortened than the giant list of bad things, but practice checking for yourself and seeking more of these options).

*Larabars, are made from dates and cashews, so this high dose of sugar comes from a naturally sweet fruit, which is different than refined sugar.

Note: Don’t substitute sugar for “sugar-free” foods (spoiler alert: it’s chemicals).

Why shouldn’t you eat sugar?

  1. Sugar intake can affect immunity against infectious diseases.
  2. Sugar is strongly linked to diabetes and obesity.
  3. Sugar causes intense swings in blood sugar and hunger, but also in moods as well, sometimes causing depression.
  4. Sugar is an empty calorie, meaning it has absolutely no nutritional value.

That may be the world’s shortest list of the negative effects of sugar. But the list of benefits in a low-sugar lifestyle is also endless. Check out 10 of them from MyFitnessPal: The Surprising Benefits of Cutting Back on Sugar.

In many ways, sugar is like a drug. It’s easily addicting, gets into your bloodstream quickly, and it is very hard to avoid. The American Heart Association recommends women eat no more than 24g of process sugar per day (what? That’s like one drink at Starbucks). For men it’s 36g.

In today’s world (jk, just America) it’s very hard to avoid sugar completely. But, it only takes about 3 days for your body to lose its “addiction” to sugar. Could you go 3 days with no processed sugar? It’s time to be mindful of what you’re putting in your body.

 

Maltodextrin-what?

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After researching and diving a little deeper into the reason I believe what I do, it’s clear that there are widely different opinions on all things health. I suppose you can’t take any as a rule of thumb, but rather a suggestion or piece of thought.

With that, one of my general rules of thumb: If you don’t know what is it, your body doesn’t either.

 Perhaps you’ve heard this before, or another similar message. And maybe you already do this- which is awesome. But if you’re not one to read ingredients or have never realized the junk that’s in our food (not including junk food), it’s time to do some digging. Let’s look at a few samples of common household foods you may not have thought twice about.

 

For example, check out this ingredient list for your favorite pastime snack. Warning- this is a sad one. If I had to choose what ingredients were in Goldfish it’d look something like MADE WITH SMILES AND AMAZINGNESS, DELICIOUSNESS, CRUNCHINESS AND MORE SMILES. With my utmost regret, I must tell you that these fishes, along with just about everything else in its class (Cheez-itz, Ritz, etc) is not on the “yay all these ingredients are natural” list. As stated in this article, Goldfish come from several sources of artificial and processed ingredients, such as folic acid, enriched flower, and GMO cheese. Are they the worst things ever? No. But they certainly don’t make the cut to feed your body with only things it likes.

Another childhood favorite? Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

GRANOLA (WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS, BROWNSUGAR, CRISP RICE [RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, SALT, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT],WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED WHEAT, SOYBEAN OIL, DRIED COCONUT, WHOLE WHEATFLOUR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SOY LECITHIN, CARAMEL COLOR, NONFAT DRYMILK), SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, COCOABUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA EXTRACT), CORN SYRUP, BROWN RICE CRISP(WHOLE GRAIN BROWN RICE, SUGAR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, SALT), INVERTSUGAR, SUGAR, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, GLYCERIN, SOYBEAN OIL. CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SORBITOL, CALCIUM CARBONATE, SALT, WATER, SOY LECITHIN, MOLASSES, NATURAL ANDARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), CITRIC ACID.

RED ALERT! This recipe says “sugar” 8 times. In that teeny little bar, there is all this junk. Don’t get me wrong, they are so tasty, but it’s a whole lot of things your body doesn’t need. And let’s be honest, whether these “bad ingredients” are worth is a different story. Ice cream? Worth it. A basically bite-sized granola bar that you need 3 entire boxes to actually make a dent in your hunger? Maybe not worth it.

Or the classic ingredients in Ketchup, which does not consist of any tomatoes (yes, really. Google it).

Consider checking the ingredients before putting these snacks in your cart and indulging in a little treat. It seems silly and time-consuming but it’s well worth the extra few minutes at the store to ensure you’re treating your body right. If you want other grocery store tips, check out my next article about the grocery store map. Try it out!

It’s a sad realization. I grew up on a bag of Goldfish a day, and it’s now one of those things that is hard to go back to, knowing my body doesn’t agree. But don’t let me fool you. As with all my thoughts and posts, they are just mindful tips and it is not to say I sneak a handful of crackers and fish occasionally (because they are in my office and I can’t walk by without sneaking some).

By the way, Maltodextin is a food additive commonly found in chips, pop, starch and many processed foods.

If you don’t read anything else: try sticking to food that has natural ingredients (it’s quite surprising what you’ll find).