Archives for January 2011
The SECOND WEEK'S CHALLENGE
Continue eliminating sugar from the diet, being sure to minimize fruit intake and the use of natural sweeteners. Also, if you have continued to allow yourself to consume artificial sweeteners through your food and/or beverages, it’s time to get that in check as well.
Nutrition Challenge info from Triangle CrossFit
But It’s Natural!
There have been quite a few questions since last week’s challenge of eliminating sugar from the diet. We’d like to elaborate on these topics and how they play into your quest for consuming little or no sugar. We hope the information shared will help empower your decisions.
To begin, it may seem logical that instead of a Snickers, you should eat an apple, or instead of adding sugar to your coffee, you might want to add some honey. This IS better, but better doesn’t always mean good. Let’s discuss two broad categories of “nature’s candy”: fruits and naturally derived sweeteners like stevia, agave nectar, etc. First, here’s a quick summary, albeit not all inclusive, about fructose, the kind of sugar that’s in fruit. Fructose can interfere with copper metabolism which in turn, can lead to a myriad of problems from bone fragility to an inability to control blood sugar levels. Fructose must be metabolized by the liver, whereas glucose (the kind of sugar other carbs are broken down into) is metabolized by every cell in the body. High fructose intake can have the same effect on the liver as high alcohol intake, including cirrhosis. Pure, isolated fructose (high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, etc.) has no vitamins, minerals or enzymes and in order to assimilate itself, may rob the body of these nutrients. Though fructose causes a minimal insulin spike, it can still affect the sensitivity of insulin receptors, which can contribute to diabetic conditions. Fructose consumption increases blood lactic acid. Fructose is metabolized in the liver making it more readily converted to fat than any other sugar. It’s easy to see why HIGH fructose intake can be detrimental to your health. Moderation is key, here.
Fruit. We don’t want to come off as “anti-fruit”. We are not. But it’s easy to get too much of anything, even water (it’s true, it takes a lot, but it’s true). The upside of eating fruit instead of “sweets” is that fruit also contains vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Those are important and necessary things. Besides, you can pick and eat fruit, right? That’s part of the Paleo justification for a food. Keep in mind though, as Dr. Kurt G. Harris argues, the fruit we have today is much different than the fruit Adam and Eve dined on. Our fruit has been bred to be very sweet because it sells better. Dr. Harris calls modern fruit “bags of sugar”, nothing like the fruit of even a hundred years ago. Another unintended consequence of subbing fruit every time you get a craving is that it’s easy to over eat it. Some of you know our friend Dave M. from TCF. He was doing just this. When he hit a plateau in his weight loss, he found out about these “sugar bags”. He cut fruit out of his diet completely, and lost 10 pounds in about a week (I recently spoke with him to verify this). He thought he was doing the right thing before. The consumption of fructose does not stimulate the hormones that make you feel full therefore it’s easy to overeat. Again, we are not anti-fruit, and eat it ourselves. You just have to be careful. From the research we’ve done, the best fruits to eat are berries for the higher ratio of nutrients to fructose. Again, moderation.
Natural Sweeteners. Most natural sweeteners are fruit-related. A few are not. Many know of the issues with High Fructose Corn Syrup which is about 55% fructose. If you don’t know, there is plenty of information online to explore. The commercial that tells you your body treats it like ordinary sugar is misleading based on the fact mentioned above that fructose is metabolized in the liver only, which can cause problems. Agave Nectar which is about 90% fructose can have some of these same issues, so use caution as well. Fruit juice is sometimes used as a sweetener. With much of the nutrition processed out, this is almost pure fructose. Moderation is advised. Honey, which is about 39% fructose, is another popular sweetener. It has many beneficial properties, including enzymes, vitamins and minerals, although in very small amounts.
Stevia. There is only one sweetener we’ve found that researchers and nutritionists only tepidly approved of, and that was Stevia. Since it is so new, there hasn’t been a ton of research on it. A few things to note: Stevia comes from the leaves of a plant indigenous to South America, and those people have been using it to sweeten foods for over 100 years. It has little effect on blood sugar, and is around 30 times sweeter than sugar. Using leaves and unprocessed powders is preferred to using processed, bleached versions.
These seem to be the most popular non-sugar sweeteners out there besides chemically produced ones, which we aren’t addressing. (If it’s chemically produced, it’s not paleo.) It is up to each person to decide what his or her serving amount will be. Remember, there’s not a single thing that is sweet that does anything truly good for the body. I know, some of you are saying your mental well-being is improved. That’s your call. We just wanted to put forth some things to ponder to help you make your decisions. A little honey in your coffee, or a smoothie made with strawberries is still preferable to a sugar laden coffee or milkshake.
Now, are you ready for week two?
Be aware that if you are used to a lot of sugar in your diet, which most of us are, then you are most likely going to experience some withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and intense cravings. The fact that you know this is a plus but it will not make the experience any easier. Be aware and be prepared. Drink lots of water. Don't go hungry – have protein snacks on hand like nuts, seeds, and boiled eggs. Brush your teeth. Take a quick walk. Do whatever it takes to not cave in. Keep in mind that your physical addiction to sugar will be short-lived. You will, however, still have to give thought to how you are going to deal with your long-term relationship with nature's candy. Ask yourself these questions to help you discern whether or not it's worth considering. And you can always ponder this as you begin to experience the benefits of a sugar-free life.
In conclusion, we'll wrap it up by looping back to the "cheats." Now some of you may decide to go full force with this entire process and never cheat. If so, that's great and we commend you. Many, however, will benefit from a less rigid approach and enjoy a few times during each week where they can back off a bit. The key to keeping this under control though is setting limits. How many cheat meals will you have throughout a full week? How many cheat snacks? We don't advise allowing yourself to cheat everyday – what's really changing if you do? Instead, limit your cheats to somewhere between two and four.