The holiday season is all about family, fun and food, and let’s face it, stress. Here are some ideas on how to stay happy, healthy, and energized.
To finish the year, skew your diet towards foods that stave off sickness and stoke your metabolism.
There are many great ways to detox without food!
Go Red For Women is a movement of passionate women who are making heart health their No. 1 priority for themselves, their families and the women we love. Join the millions of women across the country who are using their voices to make a difference. It’s the right cause for your own health and for the women you love.
The 2015 Westchester-Fairfield Go Red For Women Luncheon is the first step towards making a change. You will meet other passionate and influential women in your community and learn how you can take a step towards making a change in your community.
By now I am sure you know that eating processed sugar isn’t good for you. When you eat foods that have a high sugar content, your blood glucose spikes and sets off a chain of reactions that can trigger inflammation, and also send your mood and energy on a roller coaster ride during the day. But this is only one part of the equation. Most people are confused about the different kinds of sugar, especially fructose, and whether there is a difference in how they are metabolized in the body. It turns out that, yes, there is a big difference.
I asked our Director of Nutrition, Mary Gocke, RDN, CDN, to take the lead in discussing this topic in this month’s newsletter. I am hoping this information will give you the tools to make better choices, and to take as much processed fructose out of your diet as possible.
Yikes, the holidays are here again and with it come the sweets – those addictive goodies that know no limits, when the balance of having a little for enjoyment is easily tipped into excess. My concern about the excess is the harm that sugar is doing to your body. Knowing the facts will, hopefully, help you manage your sweets this season and forevermore.
Sugar exists in nature as sugarcane, a very fibrous stalk belonging to the grass family. After harvesting, the sugarcane is processed and all the fiber is removed. What remains is sucrose, or table sugar. When ingested, sucrose breaks down into glucose and fructose.
While glucose provides energy to the tissues all over your body, fructose, on the other hand, heads straight to your liver, and only to your liver, for metabolism.
Why is this a problem?
For starters, after eating excessive amounts of sugar, fructose begins to wreak havoc in the liver by increasing:
- Uric acid
- Fatty acids
- …and by decreasing:
- Nitrous oxide (relaxes your artery walls)
- Insulin and leptin sensitivity
As a result, excessive amounts of fructose have been known to cause:
- Arterial disease
- Fatty liver
Any other substance that causes this many health issues – like cigarettes and alcohol, for example – requires regulation and warning labels. Shouldn’t sugar?
Of course, fructose is found naturally in fruits and vegetables. And since they still have their fiber intact, we prefer that you consume these whole foods since the fiber content will help decrease the rate of fructose into the liver.
Beware of choosing processed food that has fructose listed as a separate ingredient, whether as high fructose corn syrup, or as fructose alone. As I already pointed out, eating fruit is the only good way to eat fructose.
I know it’s impossible to eliminate sugar altogether, so I ask that you be mindful of your intake and limit it to not more than 15-25 grams of sugar a day from processed food. Get into the habit of reading Nutrition Facts Labels, which list the sugar in grams. Tally them for the day. Be wary of protein/cereal bars, dried fruit, yogurt, cakes, cookies, pastries, brandy, and liqueurs – they are the worst offenders.
A simple tip to remember: 4g of sugar = about 1 teaspoon. So, 15-25 grams of sugar is equivalent to … drum roll, please… 3.75 – 6.25 teaspoons of sugar!
Here’s a low-sugar, guilt-free dessert to make and enjoy with your family and friends this holiday season, or anytime you have a sweet craving:
Avocado gives this raw pudding a smooth and fluffy texture, not to mention healthy fats and the amino acid tyrosine, which is important for hormone regulation as well as metabolism and memory. Best of all, this is rich and filling, so you won’t have to eat much to satisfy your sweet tooth.
The Blues are only fun if you’re listening to them in a cool jazz club. The Sugar Blues, on the other hand, are not fun anywhere you happen to be!
You get that kind of Blues when you eat too much sugar: your blood sugar skyrockets from the spike of insulin that the body’s cortisol alarm system turned on in response. And about 30-minutes later comes crashing down. As you bottom out and feel woozy or light-headed, you turn to something else to eat for a quick energy hit. This does temporarily make you feel better as your blood sugar starts to rise, but then it’s followed by the same drastic fall once again. You can spend your day reeling from one sugar fix to the next, riding the peeks and valleys of blood sugar and insulin until you finally drop, exhausted, into bed.
So how do you get off the sugar roller coaster?
Go three days without any sugar; anything that tastes like sugar, including sugar-free substitutes; and anything that acts like sugar in your body, like pasta, potatoes, rice, and bread.
To get you through any withdrawal, try having protein snacks every 2-3 hours – things like nuts, avocados, flaked unsweetened coconut, bean dips with veggies. These foods will give you a more constant blood sugar level so your energy remains steadier while you wean your taste buds off the addictive flavor of “sweet”.
If you haven’t kicked the sugar habit in awhile, give it a try before the winter holidays. See if your energy improves, your mood becomes lighter, your waistline stops increasing. If you find that you feel better off sugar than on, it will make it easier to say no to all of the sugar-loaded holiday foods. You can still enjoy sharing the love of friends and family in this beautiful holiday season, and you may find you have more energy to do it!
Wishing you and your family a healthy, joyful, and sweet holiday season!
Lifestyle Medicine Summit: Simple Strategies that Translate to a Healthier Bottom (Line)!