Smart Nutrition Notes – July 2014
Happy Belated 4th of July. The high season of summer is upon us and fresh local produce abounds here in northern New England. Locally grown strawberries are still available and the blueberries are starting to ripen with cherry tomatoes not too far behind.
This is such an amazing time of year. It’s easier to eat healthier because there are so many great local produce choices and the sun doesn’t set until around 8:30 right now so it’s a cinch to squeeze in some form of exercise into busy days.
The season doesn’t last long so we are inspired to take a day off here and there to enjoy some hiking, kayaking or just sitting out in the back yard reading a good book. All great ways to manage stress which always improves your health!
Enjoy your summer!
Kicking the Sugar habit
In March the World Health Organization drafted new guidelines on sugar intake. The new guideline is sugar should make up only 5% of daily calories which is half of their previous recommendation of 10%. This means that for a 2000 calorie diet, 100 calories or 6 tsp of sugar (24 gm) is the daily limit.
Why restrict sugar? Obesity is an epidemic in our country and tooth decay can have a major impact on your health. Both are linked to sugar intake. But even more importantly, a rigorously done new study showed that those with the highest sugar intake had a four-fold increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes. In other words, your risk for heart attack is 400% higher if you consume a lot of sugar.
It seems like reducing sugar should be easy but not so if you consider all of the different products that are hiding sugar and the fact that sugar has become an overwhelming daily temptation that we feel powerless to resist.
According to recent research there is good reason to feel defenseless when it comes to sugar. In a Harvard study, scientists found that a high-sugar milkshake (compared to a low-sugar one) not only spiked blood sugar and insulin and led to sugar cravings, but it caused huge changes in the brain. The sugar lit up the addiction center in the brain like a Christmas tree.
In another study, mice were allowed free range in a maze which housed both Oreo®cookies as well as cocaine and heroin. Guess where the mice spent most of their time? That’s right! With the Oreo cookies.
Being addicted to sugar is not a weakness. It’s biologically driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that fuel sugar and CHO cravings. If you want to kick the sugar habit, it’s really important to work with your biology and not against it. The guidelines offered here were developed with this approach in mind.
10 Strategies to Beat the Sugar Blues
1. Go cold turkey. The best approach is to stop all forms of sugar and white foods including artificial sweeteners. White foods like white flour, white rice and highly processed cereals is just like eating directly out of the sugar bowl when it comes to the effect on your blood sugar. It will take about 7 to 10 days to regain your power to resist sugar. You will notice that the longer you avoid sugar and sugar in all its forms, the easier it is to keep it out of your diet.
2. Avoid sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are not helpful. In fact, some studies suggest they leave you craving more sugar. It could be that your body expects the surge in energy sugar usually creates and when it doesn’t get it your body is left wanting more.
3. Start the day with a protein-packed breakfast to help quell cravings later on in the day. According to a University of Missouri study, MRI scans of high-protein breakfast eaters showed reduced activity in areas of the brain associated with cravings. Good sources of protein include plain Greek yogurt which is a great choice with twice the protein of regular yogurt and none of the added sugar. Nut butters, reduced fat cheese, protein smoothies and eggs are also great choices.
4. Stick to real whole fresh food — avoid packaged and processed foods which are loaded with sugar. This will help to get your neurotransmitters and hormones on your side.
5. Eat protein at every meal to balance insulin, blood sugar and cut cravings. Protein leaves the stomach more slowly and helps you feel full longer. Good sources of protein include fish, chicken and turkey as well as yogurt, dried peas and beans, tofu, nuts and seeds.
6. Balance protein with some good fats. Fats don’t make you fat, sugar does. Good sources of fat include unrefined oils, seeds, nuts, nut butter, avocados and omega 3 fats from fish. Fat helps you to feel full and more satisfied.
7. Become a sugar detective because sugar is everywhere in processed foods. Read labels carefully looking for words that end in “ose” like sucrose and dextrose. These are just different names for sugar as in, high fructose corn syrup.
• Salad dressings, particularly light and low fat versions, can contain as much as 9 gms (2+ tsp of sugar) per serving. Food manufacturers use added sugar to make up for the flavor that is lost when fat is reduced in their products.
• “Healthy” cereal sounds like a good choice but be careful here. Check the label. Some cereals can contain as much as 15 gms (almost 4 tsp of sugar) per serving.
• Flavored yogurt can contain more sugar than a Twinkie weighing in with as much as 29 gms of (7+ tsp of sugar) per serving.
• Sauces and marinades for the grill contain up to 12 gm (3 tsp of sugar) per 2 Tbsp.
• Granola bars. Often considered a healthful snack, some brands are tricky. A 1-ounce serving of a granola bar with oats, fruit, and nuts has as many as 11 grams (almost 3 tsp) of added sugar.
• Dried, sweetened cranberries. Without the sweetener, this fruit can be incredibly tart. A ¼ cup serving contains 29 gms, or approx. 7 tsp, of sugar.
8. Getting adequate sleep and managing stress levels can help to reduce hormones – like cortisol and ghrelin – that can make you crave carbs and sugar. It is a well-researched fact that people eat more after a night of poor sleep. Following good sleep hygiene and considering yoga, meditation, or other forms of stress management will help you get a handle on cravings.
9. Fill up on fiber. Fiber helps you feel full and gives you energy without raising your blood sugar excessively. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dried peas and beans, ground flax, seeds, and nuts.
10. Get outside and exercise. Exercise can help you with those sugar cravings. Once you have spent some time hiking, walking, or biking, you feel so good about yourself you won’t give in to the sugar craving.
Does this mean you can never have Strawberry Shortcake or Blueberry Crisp ever again? Of course not! Delicious desserts made from locally grown produce can often be one of the high points of summer. Just plan it wisely and when you do have it the goal is to be fully present and enjoy each bite guilt-free knowing that you will return to the 10 Strategies so YOU are the one in control of your sugar cravings.
The Smart Nutrition recipe of the month, Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Avocado incorporates a number of these strategies to help you on your way to controlling those sweet pleasures! Click here to download the recipe (PDF)
So You Know…
Smart Nutrition has offices in Peterborough and Amherst, NH, but our services include phone and online counseling.This is a great way for you to access our services if you live outside of Southern NH or if you prefer to receive services in the comfort of your own home. If you have friends or family who can use our services – anywhere in the country – we can help and always appreciate referrals.
Not sure if working with a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist is right for you? No worries. Just call me at 603-924-9505 to set up a free ½ hour screening appointment.