I wouldn't say I have a bad sugar addiction, but I do admit that once I get going on a batch of cookies it's hard for me to stop. I have done 10 day sugar detoxing before and I felt really good by the end. Although the detox made me much more aware of exactly where hidden processed sugar were lurking, I honestly haven't really changed my diet.
That's why I have come up with phase 1 of my plan to simply limit processed sugar in my diet. How am I going to do that? First I am going to start with another 10 day sugar detox. Then for remainder of the month, during the work week I am going to restrict processed sugar. On the weekend, if I feel the need to indulge, I will eat processed sugar in moderation. Just like with any diet, you have to lean into it and let yourself cheat at certain times in order for it to become a lifestyle change.
Let's talk about the "why" first—why should you limit processed sugar from your diet? I know what you are thinking, "wait, I thought cane sugar was natural." It is. I even go so far as to buy organic, vegan processed cane sugar. And now you might be thinking, "processed sugar isn't vegan already?" Nope. It's the processing of cane and beet sugar that makes it not vegan. Your beautifully bleached run-of-the-mill white (and brown) processed sugar that you just used to make that gorgeous red velvet cake most likely has been filtered through bone char, the bones from cows. Yuck. Sucanat and turbinado (think sugar in the raw style) are not filtered through bone char and neither are certified vegan processed sugars. Keep in mind, these are still processed sugars though.
Now let's talk about what health reasons make limiting your processed sugar intake important. A major study released in 2014 and published in the JAMA Internal Medicine periodical showed that individuals in the study who consumed 25% or more of their daily calories from processed sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease than those who consumed only 10% of their daily calories from sugar. Let's put that into perspective; assume a daily 2000 calorie diet (often recommended amount for a man), 25% would be 500 calories. A bag of M&Ms is 240 calories and a pepsi is 250 calories. You are now twice as likely to die from heart disease than someone on a low processed sugar diet. The why wasn't clear, but researchers saw an increase in blood pressure. Researchers also found that a high processed sugar diet may also cause the liver to become inflamed, as well as causing it to excrete harmful fats into your blood system.
The problem with processed sugar is that it is packaged in small amounts of yummy sugary food which contain large amounts of calories—meaning it doesn't take all that much sugary food to make the calories really add up. Our body breaks down processed sugars into glucose, which is used for energy. If you aren't exerting a lot of energy, then your body stores the glucose as fat and that increases triglyceride levels.
So first and foremost, your heart and your liver don't like processed sugar. Almost 30 million people in the US have type 2 diabetes. Eating too much refined sugar is a major cause of developing type 2 diabetes. This puts a strain on the pancreas, which can no longer keep up with your insulin production demands. Insulin is needed to control glucose levels in your blood; too much glucose causes kidney damage, as well as problems with your heart and nerves.
So now we know that your heart, your liver, your pancreas, and your kidneys don't like processed sugar. Processed sugar also contributes to candida, yeast overgrowth. Yeast overgrowth in your gut breaks down the walls of your intestines, releasing toxins into your body's bloodstream. Leaky-gut is a bit of a buzz word and trend right now, but the truth remains that processed sugar directly affects the health of your digestive system.
Add another to the list, now we know that your heart, your liver, your pancreas, your kidneys, and your digestive system don't like processed sugar. Processed sugar also interferes with the absorption of important vitamins and nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, and copper. It's possible it also affects numerous others as well, but from what I can tell, medical research has not confirmed others. Remember, your liver is a storage place and processor of many vitamins and if it is damaged, this inadvertently has negative effects on your body's ability to hold on to and process vitamins and nutrients. I have some malabsorption issues and so this is a concern for me personally.
And now you know why we should be limiting our processed sugar consumption. Let's discuss the how—what is the best way to overcome our addiction and keep it at a minimum. Here's what I'm proposing: I plan on starting with my 10-day processed sugar detox/cleanse (click here to read that blog). And then I will transition to what I am calling "The Weekend Limited Processed Sugar Method". During the week I plan on restricting my processed sugar intake by substituting processed for other non-cane natural sweeteners like coconut sugar and maple syrup. I will rely on these and fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth (more on the health difference between processed sugar and sugar from fruit and vegetables in next week's blog). And on the weekends I will allow myself to indulge in limited vegan processed sugars.
This four week series will look at different elements to limiting processed sugar and how doing so can positively impact your overall health.
The best way to keep a dietary change is to substitute what you are denying yourself with something else. That's why I have decided to provide you with four weeks of naturally sweetened raw bar recipes. Here's this weeks gem—a lemon pistachio goji berry raw bar with an optional teaspoon of spirulina for an added nutritional kick! Just whip it up in your food processor (I love my Cuisinart for this—find yours using the Amazon link below) in 5 minutes and let harden in your freezer for an hour. Why buy larabar-types at the grocery store when you can easily make them yourself?
These are great on the go or as a gift! Stay tuned for the rest of this four-week series on limiting your processed sugar intake and what next week's raw bar recipe will be. Enjoy! Xoxo
Time: 5 minutes to make, 1 hour in freezer
1/2 c. raw almonds
1/2 c. raw pistachios, shells removed
1/4 c. dried goji berries
1 c. dates
1 tbsp. lemon zest (zest from one lemon)
1 1/2 tbsp. responsibly sourced coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. ground spirulina
In your food processor, blend the nuts and dried goji berries for approx. 10-15 seconds until it forms a course meal. Add the rest of the ingredients and process another 10-15 seconds to combine.
Line a bread pan or small cake pan (depending on thickness desired) with parchment or wax paper. Dump contents into pan and spread evenly with clean hands. Press to mold.
Place pan into freezer for 1 hour to harden. Cut into desired dimensions. Store in freezer in airtight container.