Sunday, March 29, 2015

All About Sugar

Making delicious food is a huge part of our culture. We do eat 3-6 times a day, depending on who you are and what kind of schedule you keep. That's a lot of eating. We are talking over 1,000 meals/snacks a year for each person, on the conservative end. Most likely around 2,000 times a year you're putting food in your mouth. This is also a big opportunity. Throughout each day you are forming what kind of body you want and how you plan for it to function, whether intentional or not.

We love food a lot. I am a healthy food obsesser, but I do have a sweet tooth. So much that we help open pie shops and I spend time preparing pies with other people. (: 

With how much we eat, the food industry is logically quite large. One basic defining factor of what you'll eat, the taste. Is it edible enough to chew multiple times and swallow? What about variety? We don't want to eat the exact same food over and over, each day. We also strive for convenience. Nowadays you could have a kitchen without ever using it, or you can be stuck in it for hours, making from scratch meals for your family. 

Pizza night at home is always yummy. Takes some time in the kitchen, but so worth it. Yes, this deep dish was quite amazing.

If you're on the end of hardly using your kitchen, this most likely means things come in packages, boxes or from restaurants (which typically means you're still eating from a bag or box). This also means you have no idea what you are ingesting. You can't see what ingredients they are putting in their food, which goes in your body. We know there are bound to be lots of things that aren't good, and one item in particular is sugar. This sweet and tasty substance ends up everywhere and in almost everything. We rely on it to tantilize our taste buds and our body starts to rely on it in many ways. From your brain becoming addicted to it like any drug, or bacteria and yeast growing rampant causing havoc on your organs, your hormones being thrown off course, your body metabolising it into fat, and not to mention killing your pancreas, sugar tastes good and goes down all wrong (read HERE). We also drink massive amounts of sugar. One soda can having 48 grams of HFCS, that's a problem. Read more about sugar and drinks HERE

We as a nation, consume more than 4 times more sugar in a year than less than a hundred years ago. It used to be about 25 pounds a person per year, and now it's over 100 pounds/person/year. I think this is something worth looking at and investigating. We know that regular consumption of sugar causes bad bacteria and yeast overgrowth in our bodies, which is linked to diseases, cancer, obesity, infections, and not to mention mood swings, depression, and diabetes. It's time to start really looking at what we are consuming. 

I believe there are 2 folds to sugar consumption. The first is what type, and the second is how often. Is it realistic that you would NEVER consume refined sugar? No. Ok, so the quality of the entire food you are consuming will have a dramatic effect on your body, whether it contains sugar or not. A Little Debbie cake is going to impact your body differently than a from-scratch cupcake. Why? The ingredients and preservatives that work together with the sugar in the boxed item have many more compenents to cause damage than something fresh made without the preservatives and more quality chosen ingredients. 

cupcakes made from scratch by yours truly- yes I make desserts sometimes (and they rock).

Sugar comes in many forms when you eat out of packages. Let's name a few to lookout for when you read the labels. These forms can wreak havoc on your body....
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), fructose, glucose, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, barley malt, cane juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, Carob syrup, caster sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystalline fructose, dextran, diastase, ethyl maltol, invert sugar, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, muscovado sugar, panela, panocha, confectioners sugar, yellow sugar

These are still forms of sugar but would be seen as "better sugars" which I can agree with a little bit. I would choose these over the first set of sugar ingredients but remember that they are still sugar.
evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrates, galactose, golden sugar, brown sugar, oat syrup, rice bran syrup, sorghum, sucrose, tapioca syrup, turbinado sugar, organic raw sugar, coconut sugar, and sugar. 

Yup, that peanut butter pie was as good as it looks. 

What's the lesson here? Don't be deceived when looking at packages because obviously there are many forms of sugar and they like to hide it from us. Also, again, just go for the real stuff. If you're going to eat a piece of cake, or pie, know that you're eating sugar in there. But if it's been made in a kitchen, and you can talk to the person who made (not a factory) it and find out the ingredients, then your body will be able to at least metabolism the food properly. If we want to avoid sugary foods, then don't go for "sugar free" items, those are riddled with chemicals that destroy the metabolism, endocrine system, and deposit fat, more so than regular sugar. They are foreign invaders. If you want a cookie, just whip out a batch yourself instead of heading to the store for a package.

What are some better alternatives in recipes? 
I recommend honey, maple syrup, applesauce, unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, pureed fruit or fruit juices (like pineapple juice)

Muffins made with zucchini, banana, honey, applesauce, cinnamon, and ancient grains. Winner.

Sometimes a dash of cinnamon or mashed up banana can be the perfect sub to give food a yummy taste but keep sugar out. The more we can incorporate whole food options (substances that haven't been stripped and processed) the better for our health. Women should be consuming up to 35 grams of sugar a day and men 45 grams. This does not include fruit. Fruit does have sugar but when we compare whole foods with the fiber and vitamins, there's no comparison, really. It does not affect our blood sugar in the same way and doesn't wreak havoc on hormones or organs. 

double fisting carrots and red peppers

In all honesty, the best way to avoid hidden sugars, is the simplest and easiest way, to eat foods without labels.....whole foods. So much easier to discern and takes a lot of the work out of trying to figure it out. I know, I preach it from the mountain tops, but seriously there aren't substitutes to fuel our bodies. And seriously, when you want to have a dessert, just know that you're having sugar and keep it to once and while situations. It's not that you can't ever have it, but we need to be scaling it back from several times a week occassions, to more of a monthly occassion, your body will thank you. 

Yes we let our girls have donuts as a think they eat veggies 24/7? We're human.

Boxed items are made of mostly the same ingredients, and we've trained our taste buds to crave the same things. The great thing about eating whole foods is opening yourself up to a new world of tastes. I continue to really enjoy it. The balance of sugar and whole foods is to lean more on the whole foods end. You'll be surprised at how you start to crave foods filled with vitamins and minerals and not be tempted by snack cakes and store bought cookies. Maybe I'll have to post some new recipes of things I have been trying?? 

But seriously, nothing better. Reallly, nothing better than right there :)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Flavored Water: a Go or a No?

We all know the negative stats on drinking regular and especially diet sodas, but what about flavored water? Diet Coke used to be my go-to drink. I've always been light on the flavored drinks though. When I was a kid, I couldn't have milk products because I am lactose intolerant. So they switched me to juice boxes. That failed when I broke out in hives everytime I had one because of the citric acid. You can see my aversion to things? Diet Coke did find a place with me at dinner time though. Then I switched to Sprite and Mountain Dew when I found out how bad Diet Coke was for me, and I haven't had one since (Spring 2006). Then with HFCS coming out about how awful that was, I ditched my flavored fake sugar and went for a "healthy" alternative, flavored water. My choice was Crystal Light. 

What a great choice right? It comes in small packets for your water bottle or bigger ones to make 2 quart batches. Light on calories, no sugar, tastes good, it's a win-win-win? Well sadly, I left that train a few years ago. No more flavored water for me. Geesh right? I know. But have you ever looked at the ingredients on your flavored water? Most are riddled with the ingredients "potassium sorbate, red 40, polysorbate 60, citric acids, flavorings" etc. and it is compiled with another list of ingredients made up in a lab. 

I advertise it EVERYWHERE; eat whole foods. God created an abundant source of delicious flavors that we don't need to come up with in a lab. So do flavored waters get my stamp of approval? No. That's just the way it is. Have I looked at every single one out there? No. Could there be good sources at the stores? Possibly. If you love flavored drinks, feel free to shoot me a pic of the ingredients list and I can walk you through if it's a good choice or not. 

So I bet you're wondering, what do I drink? Anyone who knows me can attest that I drink water. I love the stuff! Did you know that water makes up about 75% of your body? Yup. It has massive amounts of benefits for your body. I know it's crazy! How simple and satisfying. Did you know that properly filtered water has no negative side effects on the body? Amazing. We need it to live, literally. So that's the scoop on what I 99.9% of the time drink throughout the day and with meals. Are there other things I drink that have flavor? Yes. Are they healthy? Yes. Let me explain....

Juiced drinks. I use a combination of fruits and vegetables to come up with a tasty and amazingly healthy drink. Smoothies. I also love smoothies and have these regularly. Juiced drinks are typically heavier on the vegetables side and smoothies are heavier on the fruit. I post very regulary drink ideas and have several on my blog as well. 

What are other alternatives if you don't have a juicer or high powered blender? Flavor water yourself. Woah. Yes. Slices of lemons, limes, cucumbers, fresh mint, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, the options are vast. Squeeze some into your drink or crush them in. Letting them sit will add flavor. Experiment with herbs, add some honey, and don't be afraid to try something new. Pinterest has a host of ideas that you can easily find. I make my own lemonade. Sometimes I use sugar, but it's at least real, and I have found that you can sweeten almost as well with honey. I have lemonade recipes you are welcome to try that taste really good (HERE, HERE, HERE). 

What's the take-away? Well now you know that I don't advise anyone to drink flavored waters, but I think there are plenty of alternatives that will not dissapoint. The more water we can ingest, the more healthy we will be. We know this is supported time and time again. Once again, God's provision is the winner :)