Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Biology of Sugar Addiction

Knowing what's going on in my body has been an enormous tool for helping me choose what I want to eat. When you don't know... well, then it's a big and pretty overwhelming guessing game. It's hard to know what signals and cues to look for from your body.

My guess is that you've experienced a sugar high before. And so you've probably experienced a sugar crash too. It's might feel fun at first, but there's some serious and not-so-funny chemistry going on inside you...

Here's an over-simplified, but effective snapshot of what happens when we eat sugars or simple carbs:
  • Digestive processes break carbs down into basic sugars, including glucose, which goes into our blood for transportation and use around the body. Sugars require very little breakdown and enter the bloodstream very rapidly.
  • Your pancreas releases insulin to escort blood sugar (glucose) and other nutrients into your muscle cells, where they are used for fuel, repair and revitalization.
You've maybe heard of insulin before. Insulin acts as a “nutrient taxi” hormone.

Processed foods (like white flour and sugar) deliver a massive amount of simple carbs into the digestive system all at once, which means a . This triggers a drastic release of insulin all at once to deal with the consequent spike in blood sugar, setting a metabolic nightmare in motion.

Here's the nightmare. A large influx of insulin in the blood stream signals your body to go into fat storing mode - it has plenty of sugar available for fuel! Having frequent blood sugar (and consequently insulin) spikes leads to stubborn weight gain and type-2 diabetes, where your body becomes resistant to insulin (it isn't as effective) and you begin to run out (because we only have so much). I hope there are alarms going off when you read this: 1 in 3 children born today are expected to develop type-2 diabetes in their lifetime.

Here's why sugar is addicting: Spiking your blood sugar on a regular basis knocks your metabolism upside the head. Your blood sugar and insulin levels spike (sugar high) and then as the insulin rushes to do its job, your blood sugar drops dramatically (crash). Since your body has also been signaled to use up the sugar and store away all the fat that comes in (which it would normally use for energy purposes as well), but now your blood sugar has crashed, your body screams for more sugar - the quick fix - to meet its energy needs. And so a craving and binge cycle begins.

More truth to swallow, loves - though knowledge is power, and a great motivator. Excess insulin also disrupts other hormonal system that regulate our muscle growth, sex drive, appetite, mood, energy and fertility. I know, it's hard to hear. It certainly didn't make me happy. But not many people are talking about sugar in this way, and it has dramatic drug-like effects on our body and brain.

In fact, this stuff makes me angry when I think about the way sugar is added to processed foods just so that they'll "taste better" and because of "consumer demand". The truth is, they hook us when we don't even know we're getting it. Number one reason to read labels.
bread, baby
 Read the label for everything that passes your lips. Here are some of the most commonly used names of sugar to look out for on:
  • Corn syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Dextrose, or Glucose
  • Honey (whole other story, often cut with corn syrup without labeling - buy raw/local/organic)
  • Invert sugar (it's not opposite sugar, unfortunately)
  • Lactose (milk sugar)
  • Levulose, or Fructose
  • Sucrose
  • Sorbitol, Mannitol, Malitol, Xylitol (processed low-calorie sugar alcohols)

What to do?
Hang tight, I've got glorious news coming your way. Until then, here's your first inspired action step: Go through your kitchen, fridge and pantry and read your labels - especially any baked goods and salad dressings. In addition to sugar, look for any chemical names you can't identify as a food. Throw it out, those are preservatives and "conditioners." Mmm, maybe taste ok, but they're toxic to your body. Clean our your kitchen and get ready!

What to eat?
If you want a *delicious* head start, join me at Whole Foods in Oakland this Friday for my Satisfied Sweet Tooth class and tasting! It's filling up so RSVP to Jesse to reserve your spot.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Raw Fudge Brownie Bites

When I'm going to a potluck, I like to impress ;) AND I like to know there will be a dessert I can savor guilt-free, knowing it's all clean ingredients, and not loaded with sugar that's going to throw me off my game.

This kind of dessert makes you CRAVE clean food over the sugar and chemical-heavy cookies and brownies available in grocery stores or out of box mixes.

These treats are actually a *superfood* bomb that won't rock your blood sugar! With omega-3 rich walnuts, anti-oxidant and mineral booming raw cacao, and all-natural sugar from dates. Dates and nuts are all high in fiber, which slows down the release of sugar into your blood stream, making this a low glycemic load dessert :) It's nice to be nice to your blood sugar, especially when it can't taste the difference.

My brownie bites are inspired by Sarah B.'s recipe for The Raw Brownie, I just simple roll the ingredients into little bonbons in my palm to make little bites. Alternatively, you can press them into a pan and serve them like a full-on decadent, fudgy brownie. (I ADORE getting inspiration and extra feel-good nutrition tidbits from Sarah's site, so definitely check it out :)

1 cup whole raw walnuts
generous 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted

1/2 cup raw cacao
1/2 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
1/8 tsp. sea salt

1. Place walnuts in food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground.
2. Add the cacao and salt. Pulse to combine.
3. Add the dates a few at a time and pulse then run continuously to combine. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like cake crumbs, but that when pressed, will easily stick together (if the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates).
4. In a large bowl (or the pan you plan on putting the brownies in), combine the walnut-cacao mix with the chopped almonds. Press into a lined cake pan or mold, or roll into round bites in your hands. Place in freezer or fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are very cold). Store in an airtight container.

Makes about twenty little 1-inch bites.

If you're feeling extra fancy, sprinkle with cocoa before serving, or roll in finely shredded raw coconut!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Be Prepared: Travel & Plane Food Love

Choosing to be healthy is choosing to love yourself. Healthy is a lifestyle of self-love, it requires intention and planning.

Just as I wouldn't expect to feel clean without taking a shower, I can't expect to feel strong and sexy without feeding myself clean, whole foods.

Here's what I packed for myself out of self-love, out of a desire to feel good physically and mentally, out of an intention to have some control over my choices for eating while flying last month.
  • bags of carrots and radishes and sliced red peppers
  • whole cucumber
  • carton of cherry tomatoes
  • heart of romaine (peel off leaves and eat! I love the fresh crunch!)
  • apples and mandarins and other hard fruits
  • whole grain and seed crackers
  • avocado and sea salt packets (snagged from Whole Foods!)
  • nut butter packets (I love walnut and almond!)
  • dark chocolate
  • nuts and seeds and dried fruit
  • kale chips
I pack my snacks in easy to reach ziplocks, and bring my own plastic spoons and knife so I'm prepared.

I also always bring an empty water bottle through security with me (you can bring it through empty and then simply refill it on the other side). Or I make sure to buy myself the biggest bottle of water I can find.

Hydration is tantamount to your well-being, digestion and immune system when you travel... and staying hydrated gives you a good excuse to get up and stretch your legs and body more often ;)

What makes you feel good when you travel?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pleasure shopping

It's Tuesday evening.
I adventure to the Farmer's Market...
I am hungry, and know it is no way to shop, my belly empty, growling.
Head for the nectarines I bought last week, so full, so juicy, everything I craved.
Picked them up and selected myself the most fragrant yellow, tender nectarine I can find.
It smells like honey nectar.
First bite bursts open. Juice thick, sweet, just a hint of tang, messy, dripping.

Wandering, licking, I let myself be curious and open.
Stop to talk to the political word art man, generally shunned, just wanting to share his art.
"I'm not selling, I hate money," Frankie says and shows me his t-shirts and posters.
He's intelligent, well-spoken, creative and insightful, clever beyond my mind's bounds.
I'm stretched, slightly uncomfortable, but I breathe and I am centered, strong, me.
I allowed myself to be fascinated, to play with his ideas, to excuse myself when I was done.
I felt beautiful, he felt beautiful, we gave each other peace signs goodbye.

Smiling, sitting on the curb, slurping, reveling the last of my nectarine,
it drips on my shoes.
Roll and suck the sour pit in my mouth.
Then it is time to I look around, explore the season.
I shop. I follow my appetite and healthy desires.
I taste the fruits, the strawberries: Albion or Seascape today?

The kombucha woman offers me the last few bites of her chocolate chip cookie.
More savoring and delighting. Lucky day.

I buy as many vegetables as I can carry. 3 bunches of kale for $4.
And a basket of soft candy-sweet black Mission figs.
My arms heavy with produce and riches, my mind ignited in flow and creativity.

I bike home, wind on my face. My legs alive and pumping steadily.
This is how I feed myself.