Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sweet Summertime No Sugar Challenge

This is a challenge that you may HATE at the beginning, but grow to LOVE! In the spring of 2012, I was taking a biology class that was designed for non-science majors (because I originally went back to school for business). My professor, Dr. Fernandez-Nunez, seemed to be there on special assignment to convince non-science majors to become science majors. Well, I worked. He really flipped the switch on my nutrition education path. By that point, I had been running and watching my diet fairly closely for about 7 months. Weight loss had hit a plateau and I wondered if I would ever reach a normal BMI. Since that time, I have not only been able to blast pass the plateau, but have reached a healthy BMI, reduced fatigue, strengthened my immune system and I can attribute it to the 30 day no sugar challenge (that I loved so much I stuck with for over 6 months, and still work hard to limit added sugar)!

During one of his lectures, he began to describe the impact of sugar on our cells, and the inflammation that occurs when the body has to process large quantities of sugar. He also discussed the chemical effects of sugar alternatives in the biofeedback mechanism between the stomach and the brain. A good bit of what he discussed can be seen in this video:

While the video is lengthy, and some of the science may make your brain swim, the meat and bones is the fact that our human body was not meant to process the quantity of sugar nor chemical alternatives that we offer it on a daily basis. In areas of the world with low incidents of diabetes, cancer and heart disease, the people gain their nutrition from whole fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Fruit is used as the sweetener, with the occasional addition of natural sweeteners such as honey.

That is where the no sugar challenge comes in. There are several things that this "fast" does for us. It cleanses our system of additional sugar and toxic alternatives. During the time of the fast, there is a rejuvenation of the taste sensation that has becomes dull and desensitized to the sweetness in fruit and even in some vegetables. Somewhere around the second week, you may discover that foods have much more flavor and you will begin to enjoy good, whole foods.

As you shop, you will want to become an avid label reader. It would be easy to assume certain foods, such as canned beans would not have sugar in them, but don't be fooled! I have seen kidney beans packed in high fructose corn syrup (a chemically modified form of sugar), pasta sauce with huge amounts of added sugar and high fructose corn syrup, standard peanut butter has loads of sugar, and you would be astonished to realized that pretty much any loaf of bread on the shelf has sugar, honey or high fructose corn syrup.

During the challenge (and even afterwards), I recommend these whole wheat pitas (or something similar).

Carefully read the labels, folks! The ingredient list is your friend. Know what is in your food. This label indicates that there is less than 2% of a few ingredients, sugar being one of them. This is about as clean eating bread product as you can find. If you find something else, message me!

As I mentioned before, pasta sauce, peanut butter, and condiments will most likely contain sugar. If you live in "Publix" land, their deli peanut butter is just plain ol' peanuts and it is FANTASTIC! As far as sauces are concerned, Hunts Garlic and Herb contains no sugar or high fructose corn syrup (but it is a little thin), and there are some other varieties that do not add sugar, but you need to read your label. 
By and large, focus your meals around the veggies, lean protein, fruits and whole grains. Season with herbs, and dress your salads with different varieties of vinegar, mustards (check for sugar content), and some extra virgin olive oil. 

If you are weaning yourself from soda, consider seltzer water with orange, lemon or lime slices. Years ago, I was a diet Sprite lover, so when I was weaning myself off of artificial sweeteners, I began occasionally having this and it satisfied my desire for a fizzy drink. Another idea is to add fruit and mint to water.
My absolute favorite is pineapple and mint. This is a great use for those pineapple cores that tend to just be thrown in the trash! During Thanksgiving time, I bought several bags of fresh cranberries and threw them in the freezer. Other combinations to try are strawberry and kiwi, lemon & lime, cucumber and melon. You will benefit from the added water, and from the increased vitamins from the fruit!

Let's talk about something real important. Coffee. :-)

Without a doubt, I love my coffee. Prior to my "no sugar awakening," I took my coffee with half & half and Splenda or some sort of flavored creamer. During the fast, I knew this would be the toughest spot for me. While I always wanted to be one of those "I'll take it black" gals, I just could not hack it. Here was my strategy: flavored coffee (coffee that has flavored grounds, such as hazelnut, French Vanilla, etc.) with a splash of half & half. The first few days were a bit rough, but honestly, by the second week it was just fine, and to this day, I can easily take my coffee with a small splash of half & half, and be happy about it :-). 

So, here lies your June Summertime No Sugar Challenge! Tomorrow is the big day! I know that you are going to make it! Do this for your health, you have nothing to lose, and whole lot to gain! See some SWEET SUCCESS this SUMMERTIME! - Besides, I'm doing it with you... so message me if you have any questions or concerns...


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