Sweet, Sweet Summer!
Swimsuit season is here, and the summer months are filled with BBQ’s, fireworks and sweet treats! As a former sugar addict, I’m pretty proud of myself for learning to make my lifestyle healthy and balanced with just a few sweet moments from time to time.
When you love sugar, you fall into one of two levels:
Level 1 - You love sweets, but don’t necessarily crave it every day.
Level 2 - You crave something sweet each day, and you can’t control your temptations (i.e. you can’t stop yourself from eating the whole pan of brownies even if you meant to just have one).
Well, I used to be a Level 2 and couldn’t go a day without a dessert and/or sweet snacks during the day. However, today I keep my intake of processed and refined sugar to a bare minimum. I’m going to share some tips of how I did this, but first I want to tell you WHY you should seriously think about doing this, too.
We have been hearing a lot about the dangers of sugar and the effects it has on body. According to Dr. Mercola, “Sugar, in my opinion, is one of the most damaging substances that you can ingest – and what's terrifying about it is that it's just so abundant in our everyday diet. This intense addiction to sugar is becoming rampant, not just among adults, but in children as well”.
Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology in the University of California and a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism, says that your body can safely metabolize at least six teaspoons of added sugar per day (25 grams), but the problem is that many people average around 77 grams of added sugar per day.
Here are some of the effects that consuming too much sugar has on your health:
It overloads and damages your liver. The effects of too much sugar or fructose can be likened to the effects of alcohol. All the fructose you eat gets shuttled to the only organ that has the transporter for it: your liver. This severely taxes and overloads the organ, leading to potential liver damage.
It tricks your body into gaining weight and affects your insulin and leptin signaling. Fructose fools your metabolism by turning off your body's appetite-control system. It fails to stimulate insulin, which in turn fails to suppress ghrelin, or "the hunger hormone," which then fails to stimulate leptin or "the satiety hormone." This causes you to eat more and develop insulin resistance
It causes metabolic dysfunction. Eating too much sugar causes a barrage of symptoms known as classic metabolic syndrome. These include weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL and increased LDL, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure.
It increases your uric acid levels. High uric acid levels are a risk factor for heart and kidney disease. In fact, the connection between fructose, metabolic syndrome, and your uric acid is now so clear that your uric acid level can now be used as a marker for fructose toxicity.
And even more scary is that recent studies are showing both direct and indirect links between sugar and cancer. The point is… sugar tastes good, but it’s not really worth it!
So, what did I do to cut down sugar and what can you try this summer? Here are a few ideas:
1. Be the Chef. Even when you are focusing on your health, that doesn’t mean that you need avoid all the fun at BBQ’s, graduations, pool parties, etc. Instead, be the chef. Bring your own healthy dish, so you know exactly how the dish was prepared and control the ingredients.
2. Read Your Labels. Sugar is hidden in more things than you can imagine. But to simplify it, I even teach my kids to follow two general rules in our house. We limit sugars available at home by 1) not buying anything that has more than 10 grams of sugar, per serving and 2) we don’t buy anything that contains High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). No ifs, ands or butts about it. It’s an easy way to start limiting sugar in your house.
3. Change Out Your Processed Carbs for Healthy Fats. Seven years ago, my go to snacks were Rice Krispy treats, fruit snacks and Ritz crackers (that BTW contain HFCS). Today paired with the next idea on the list, I go for a serving of nuts or seeds and also include olive oil or avocado in most days.
4. Increase Protein. When your body is adjusting to the reduced sugar, it is essential to make sure you are getting enough protein. This is also key for your weight-loss goals, because not only does it keep away those sugar cravings, it helps keep you feeling full for longer periods of time. Aim for a serving of protein at each meal and snack.
5. Treat Yourself to Dark Chocolate. If you are a Level 1 sugar lover, make one square of 70%+ dark chocolate be your new best friend. A great way to get your "fix" without hurting your health since cocoa helps curb sweet tooth cravings. Level 2’s can try this after implementing the above steps for a couple weeks, just be careful to stick with only one serving – not the whole bar!
I want you all to enjoy your summer, so I wanted to include a fun little recipe to help get you through while you are cutting sugar. Even the kids will love this one.
Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Pops
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 lemon juiced
½ cup water
Popsicle molds or 5 oz. Dixie cups + Craft sticks
Combine the ingredients in a blender. Blend until there are no chunks in the mixture. The consistency should resemble thin pancake batter or a puree.
Pour the mixture into popsicle molds or 5 oz. Dixie cups. If using Dixie cups, cover with saran wrap and poke a hole in the middle to place a craft stick in. Freeze for 4-6 hours or overnight.
Optional – add pieces of whole fruit, like blueberries to add a little more fun.
Let’s get Fired UPP,