Why Sugar (and sugar substitutes) are Killing You

I never eat corn syrup. Strong word, right? NEVER. It is absolute. No coming back from. I rarely use it, especially when it comes to food and eating. But this is one of the worst things you can put in your body. It will cause you to eat more than you need while at the same time storing what you eat as fat, and even worse it is super prevalent. The one thing that really struck me in one of my nutrition classes while getting my BS was that corn syrup interferes with the hormone that tells you are full. The human body is a super intricate but so well running machine that it blows my mind. We have fucked with this machine by introducing so much shit into our food that this blows my mind in a different way. But let me not get on a soapbox and instead try to help and inform instead of rant and vent!

When I say to people to take sugar out of their diet they inevitably ask: "What about fruit?" and then I ask: "What are your goals?" because I have a different answer depending on if you want to lose weight or not. Why? Because while there is a difference between eating fruit and adding sugar to foods, fruit will not help you towards losing weight. "What?? No fruit??" Nope. No fruit. "But what about....." Nope. No fruit. 3 months. And then 1-2 pieces a day. Tops two. But not alone- with either a protein or fat to slow down the sugar into the bloodstream.

Because that is really where the problem lies- a fast hit of sugar rushing into the bloodstream, leaving the body scrambling to remove it.Why? Why not just leave it there? Well, added sugar in the blood stream increases the pH level, causing it to be caustic....has anybody ever poured gasoline in Styrofoam? Ok, that might be a little extreme, but you get the idea. High sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels. This is why diabetics who don't control their sugar levels lose their eyesight, lose their toes, even their entire feet, cannot heal well, and lose feeling in their extremities.

Ok, that might be a little extreme, but you get the idea. High sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels. This is why diabetics who don't control their sugar levels lose their eyesight, lose their toes, even their entire feet, cannot heal well, and lose feeling in their extremities.

So, in order to prevent high sugar levels, your body releases insulin to take care of it. Very simply put, insulin is a hormone that regulates your blood sugar levels. It either tells your cells to take insulin into them OR it tells your liver to convert the sugar and store it as fat. The issue with added sugar is that it goes almost directly to your bloodstream—this high sugar level causes the body to produce a high amount of insulin which then quickly (too quickly) takes care of the sugar. Now you are left with insulin in your bloodstream and no sugar, so your body thinks it is starving and YOU think you are hungry. You eat, and the same cycle repeats itself. Along with the crash of your blood sugar you also have a crash of energy.

sugar crash.jpg

The cycle is hard to break and is what contributes to obesity and the myriad of diseases that go along with that. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US and cancer is second. Strokes are fifth and diabetes seventh. These are MORTALITY rates, as in this shit will KILL YOU. Studies show the link between high fat/high sugar diets (think processed foods) and muscle damage/systemic inflammation. Sugar sweetened beverages are proven to increase vascular risk (increasing risk of congestive heart disease and stroke). Tumor cells are known to use a higher amount of glucose than normal cells- recent studies arefocusing on the ketogenic diet to help treat cancer patients.

Ok, you get it. Sugar is bad, you'll just stop eating it. No more candy or pastries. Well....it might not be that easy.

  1. Sugar is the second ingredient in some very common foods- think pasta sauce and peanut butter.
  2. Sugar is highly addictive.
sugar.jpeg

Let's start with one: In order to eliminate sugar from your diet you need to start reading labels. I get it, its annoying, trust me my partner tells me every time we go shopping. Drives him up a wall. But the food industry has figured out that they can engineer food to hit all the pleasure points in your brain by adding the right amounts of sugar and fat. Which brings us to point two. Studies have shown sugar—and sugar substitutes—to be more addicting than cocaine and heroin. Yes. Cocaine AND heroin. Drug addicted rats will choose sugar water over drugs. Frightening. Terrifying, really. And how about the study that concluded Oreos are just as addicting as morphine?

So is it just a waste of time to try and not eat sugar if it is so addciting and prevelant? No—as you can see, sugar is a contributor in the majority of top causes of death. It is worth the effort to stop eating sugar and sugar substitutes since the health benefits, and increase in healthy life span, cannot be surpassed. If it is so addicting how do you stop?? Will power and cold turkey. Studies on smoking (also highly addicting) have shown that cold turkey works twice as well as "cutting down" does. Positive goal planning can also help, as well as recruiting the help of friends and family. (some tips about goal planning here.)

Also, throw out the mindset that you cannot have your favorite sweet ever again. Moderation is the key to life. Give yourself one month—just 30 days—of not eating sugar and then reintroduce it back to your diet in small bits and pieces here and there. Save King Cake for one or two special days during carnival season instead of every few days. Switch to protein based desserts such as a bowl of full fat Greek yogurt with a small amount of sliced fresh fruit or assorted berries.

how much billions is spent on advertising fast food

It sucks getting off the sugar bandwagon, especially if it means you are the only person of all your friends and family doing so. That's rough. Keep at it though. Sugar has invested billions into creating a normalcy around sugar consumption. One company alone spent 3.2 million on lobbying in 2016. Kellogg’s spent $32 million last year in advertising Pop Tarts (read this article). Just Pop Tarts. Nothing else. These companies have the money and influence to keep their products in your pantry. Do your body a favor, give it what it needs. Shop for whole foods, read labels, and cut down to quit eating sugar. If you are too busy, find a  local food prep service to supply you with healthy meals during the week.

Recruit a friend to help you on this journey. Or get a coach to report to. Trust me, in a moth, your outlook on food will completely change.

If you found this article useful or interesting, please share!

CDC 2016 Mortality RateThe money spent selling sugar to Americans is Staggering

Pub Med: High fat high sucrose diet rapidly alter muscle integrity, inflammation, and gut microbiota in ratsSugar sweetened beverages, vascular risk factors and eventsKetogenic diet and other intervention in the treatment of cancerIntense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine RewardDrug vs Sweet RewardOreos can be compared to drugs of abuse, Does how you quit affect success?

How much Cholesterol Should I Eat??

I was at  nutrition talk at a gym recently where I heard an RD (registered dietician) tell a younger, in shape-looking guy who was on a statin (cholesterol lowering medication) that he did not have to worry about what he ate at all. I was surprised because this is not the truth (plus I don’t think you should give health advice to people without knowing all their info), but perhaps I should not be because we have been given so much conflicting information on cholesterol, what causes it, what is good to eat, what isn’t, what to do, that it is hard to know what the truth is (eggs are the first thing that come to mind—they were vilified for a while and a lot of people are still confused about eating them).

Eggs are your friend, yolks and all!

Eggs are your friend, yolks and all!

So, lets start at the beginning! What IS cholesterol?? According to the NIH, it is a waxy, fat like substance that is found in all cells of your body and is used to build cells, make hormones, make Vit D, as well as help digest food. It travels through your bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins (so called b/c they are made of lipids (fat) and proteins!) There are three levels that your doctor will commonly look at: LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol. LDL (low-density lipoproteins) is called the “bad” cholesterol since it is the one that builds up in your blood vessels as plaque and leads to increased risk of heart disease. HDL (high-density lipoproteins) is called “good” cholesterol since it carries other cholesterol back to your liver where it is then eliminated from your body. I like to think of it as “h” equals “happy” to remember that it is the good cholesterol. (As a side note- triglycerides are also tested in your lipid panel but they are not cholesterol since they are a fatty acid and not a lipoprotein. They are the main ingredient in body fat, as well as in the fatty foods we eat; triglycerides are how our body stores excess calories. High levels can also contribute to heart disease)

Ok, so now we know what cholesterol is. How does it affect our bodies? Although we need cholesterol in our bodies, having too much cholesterol puts a person at health risk since it accumulates along the walls of our blood vessels as plaques and can cause heart attacks, strokes, and a myriad of other health issues. A common myth is that we can eat to much cholesterol and have it affect our serum levels—or the amount of lipoproteins in our blood stream. In fact, for 70% or more of the population the amount of cholesterol we eat does NOT affect our levels. However, there is a small percentage where it can affect levels (such as the young man in the beginning). Considering this, a recent committee ruled that “overconsumption of cholesterol is not a concern” and the RDA in America has changed to no longer cap cholesterol at 300mg.

So, this means I can eat anything?! Not so quick- although eating cholesterol does not affect levels WHAT you eat does! Recent studies have shown that a low-carb diet is more beneficial for losing weight than a low fat diet—and losing weight will automatically reduce your cholesterol. This means not just exercise (which in and of itself helps lower levels) but also eating better. While the Mayo Clinic needs to update their list to reflect the new dietary recommendations, they did get the other points right: avoid trans fats (these exist in processed foods— anything that says “hydrogenated” on the label—as well as in fried foods; truly trans fats should be avoided at all costs),  eat more Omega-3’s (occurring in herring, mackerel, and salmon as well as flaxseed, walnuts, and almonds), increase your fiber intake (this means veggies!), and increase intake of whey protein.

low carb diet is better for cholesterol than low fat diet

Another ingredient to avoid: sugar. Not just in the form of processed foods and simple carbs but sugar itself. A recent study showed that just drinking sugar sweetened beverages affects HDL regardless of weight or diet. So, even if you are eating well and exercising but having sugar in your diet you might be shooting yourself in the foot. Remember we skimmed over how triglycerides are how your body stores extra calories and sugar is nothing but empty calories. Plus, processed sugar is the devil** AND it is in EVERYTHING!! Exactly what is the reason for putting sugar in my canned tomato sauce?? Or my salsa?? I don’t need that shit. And no, I don’t always make everything from scratch and so do buy pre-made foods, although I prefer to make my own life does not always allow me the time.

Don't replace sugar with artifical sweeteners!!

Don't replace sugar with artifical sweeteners!!

So, to get back on track. You don’t have to worry about the amount of cholesterol in foods. Buy the full fat versions (also because fat is what causes satiety or the “feeling full” so without it you will want to eat more anyway and too many calories causes more issues than too much fat), eat eggs for breakfast every morning, add more veggies in (salads are your friends!), choose grilled instead of fried, eat more fish*, and lose some weight if needed. Get moving!

*Please check the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list of recommend fish before buying- they list fish to avoid and it might surprise you. Farmed fish done correctly is better than overfished wild- caught fish and they will guide you to the best choice. Download the app for quick reference in the store!

** I am referring to processed sugar and not the naturally occurring sugar in foods. Yes, I am aware that eating fresh fruit is eating fructose.

References:

Reducing Serum  Cholesterol Using a Diet High in Animal Fat

Carbohydrate Restriction Has a More Favorable Impact Than a Low Fat Diet

Dietary Fat Intake and Serum Cholesterol Levels

Dietary Cholesterol Provided by Eggs

NY Times Science Behind Better Eating

Nutrition 101

I get asked all the time “What should I eat?” And this isn’t just by people in the gym- I get asked at work by doctors, other nurses, pretty much everybody. I used to be surprised by it- I mean, come on, how can an MD, PhD not know what to eat to be healthy?? I think that part of it is people don’t want to know that what they are eating is not good for them, even though they kinda already do. Yes, I will tell you to stop eating carbs; yes, you already know this. Also, there is a lot of conflicting information that A) we are taught (the food pyramid is a lie) and B) is always trying to sell us a shortcut.

Trust me, I would love to lose 10 lbs of belly fat in 10 days…but it is not a reality. Weight loss is hard work, eating a well balanced diet is hard work. It takes planning and will power. There is no magic pill, no special herbal tea that is going to allow that to happen while I continue to eat like crap. A 7 day cayenne pepper, lemon juice, maple syrup diet is also not going to do anything in the long run. Why not? Because being healthy is about habits. It is about making choices every day. And about turning those daily choices into long term habits. A 7 day fast does not change how or what I eat. Crash diets are notorious for adding more weight than is lost. If I wake up late, run for the CalTrain and don’t make breakfast I have a choice- I can get to work and eat the donuts on the table (and this is definitely what I would prefer to eat), or I can march my butt to the cafeteria and get bacon, eggs, and a veg. And those donuts are there most of the day, so the choice to not eat them is a constant one.

Birthday dinner in Italy- homemade pasta, red wine, and garden picked tomato and basil with fresh Bufalo

Birthday dinner in Italy- homemade pasta, red wine, and garden picked tomato and basil with fresh Bufalo

I avoid legumes, grains, dairy (I do eat cheese on occasion since it makes my soul happy), sugar, salt, and most alcohol. Yes, that fad diet commonly (though really a misnomer) called Paleo. So what do I eat then? Real food. If I can find it outside growing on a tree or bush or out of the ground, I eat it. If it comes straight from an animal, I eat it (minus the milk part). There are no Oreo bushes (to my eternal dismay). This does not mean I never eat “bad” food (I prefer to call them non-nutritious foods since really food cannot be inherently bad or good, it can only be nutritious or not.) I just limit it. I find that what works for me is choosing one day a week where I can eat whatever I want. Some weeks I go all out, some weeks I don’t desire anything outside of my normal foods. This works for me since I have NO moderation- who are those people who eat one cookie and what is wrong with them?? I don’t keep non-foods in the house, whatever is not finished Sunday is tossed that night. Also, I never feel as though I am depriving myself. If I really, really want a donut I will wait until Sunday and go get a hot fresh perfect one from Bob’s, not eat that cardboard shittiness on the table. (A nurse goes on a diet by not eating “table food” which is the donuts, cookies, candy, sweets and other non food patients families drop off as thanks.)

I eat birthday cake! On my birthday, not always on other's birthdays :)

I eat birthday cake! On my birthday, not always on other's birthdays :)

I recently was targeted by facebook with a “6 proven tips to lose belly fat” and wanted to see what they were selling. I was pleasantly surprised- no gimmicks! And all the things I recommend: Don’t eat sugar, cut out carbs, eat more protein, eat more veggies (studies have shown that 3 cups of veggies a day will increase your metabolism!), exercise, and track your food.

The bottom line is that there is no quick fix for weight loss or being healthy. It takes time to cook, to exercise, and to take care of your body. But in a world where the top cause of death is preventable and cancer is a close second I think it is worth investing in your body. I happen to love crossfit but I don’t care if you prefer Zumba or walking around the mall. Do anything that gets you up and moving- our bodies were made to be mobile. Make them happy!

-Coach Kristen

References:

PubMed: Increased protein dietCruciferous veggies decrease inflammationHigh veg intake,

Quick Baked Squash

For those of you struggling with eating more veggies this is a quick side dish. Or main dish. I love zucchini and although my fav way is on the grill this is a close second! I find that soy sauce makes most things palatable for people, even if they are not a huge vegetable fan (Paul Schuler looking at you).

Ingredients:

  • 3 - 4 green or yellow squash, halved lengthwise
  • 1 TBs coconut oil
  • 2 TBs soy sauce

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees- place baking pan in oven to heat it up slightly
  • Cut zucchini/squash in half lengthwise
  • Remove baking pan from oven and melt coconut oil in the bottom. 
  • Add 2 TBs of soy sauce to pan, place halved squash cut side down in pan.
  • Bake for 20 min
 I may have already eaten some they are that good!

 I may have already eaten some they are that good!

Pan fried Pork Chop and Cabbage

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium or thick sliced pork chops (I prefer bone in)

  • 1/2 head green cabbage

  • 8oz container of mushrooms

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 tsp bacon fat

Instructions:

  • Season pork chops with pepper and a small amount of seasoned salt
  • Pan fry 1/2 of your pork chops in 1 tsp bacon fat over high heat for 2-3 min per side- for thicker cuts increase cook time. (I cook the first batch less since I know I will be reheating them and overcooking pork makes it super dry and chewy. Pork CAN be slightly pink in the middle. I also like to use tongs to hold them on their fatty sides to cook that fat before taking them out of the pan.)
  • Roughly chop 1/2 your cabbage and steam for about 12 min or desired degree of tenderness while pork chops are cooking.
  • Remove pork chops from heat and place in bowl or container to catch their juices
  • Place mushrooms in pan over medium heat. Drain juice from pork chops into pan. Cook until tender.
  • Plate cabbage, add pork chop or two, and then drown in the mushroom sauce.
  • Enjoy!

**If you do not use a cast iron pan you made need more seasonings.

Cumin Cauliflower

For those of you who struggle with vegetables- this is an easy way to get some good cruciferous veggies in that taste amazing. If you like tacos you will like these! I cook mine in bacon fat but you can also use coconut oil. I generally recommend coconut oil- I happen to know my veggie intake and exercise and cholesterol levels can take the bacon fat.

Ingredients:

  • One head cauliflower or one bag pre-chopped
  • 1-2 TBs coconut oil 
  • 2 TBs Cumin
  • 1/2 TBs Garlic Powder

Instructions:

  1. Preheat over to 400.
  2. Chop cauliflower and place in pan
  3. Melt coconut oil in microwave safe glass and coat cauliflower.
  4. Sprinkle generously with cumin.
  5. Bake for 15 min. Take out and stir, adding more cumin if needed, replace in over and cook for another 10-15 min or until tender.

Left over cabbage?? Not with this recipe!

For any of you who still have cabbage sitting in your fridge from St Paddy's day or the Irish Italian parade here is a simple and delicious recipe for using it up quickly:

Ingredients:

  • One head cabbage, cored and roughly chopped into about 8ths
  • 1 - 2 TBS Sesame oil
  • 1 TBS Soy sauce (I use gluten free)
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder

Instructions:

  1. Heat pan over high heat- I prefer my cast iron pan for this. Dump in chopped cabbage and then add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.
  2. Let "steam" until tender, stirring occasionally. If you water boils off add a little more. The goal is to NOT have any water in the pan when the cabbage is done cooking. I like to brown my cabbage a tad.
  3. Once water has steamed off and cabbage is tender, add sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic powder. Turn heat to low and stir cabbage to evenly coat, then turn pan off and remove from heat.

If you have a very large head of cabbage you can cook in two batches. I had this dish approved by Paul, who doesn't like any veggies.

Celebration of St. Paddy's Day Recipe

Nothing better than corned beef and cabbage! Originally this was traditionally eaten Easter Sunday. I am Irish and have tried cooking it many ways- so far the best I recommend is boiled. I boil my cabbage separately because I looooove cabbage and prefer it still slightly crunchy with a little bit of butter and smattering of salt but it is easier to throw everything in the same pot. That being said:

Ingredients:

  • 4 lb corned brisket of beef
  • 3-4 large carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 1 small onion roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dry English mustard
  • 1 cabbage
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • throw away the spice packet and instead use peppercorns and 2-3 bay leaves
  • potatoes of choice (I like red or yukon)

Directions:

Put the brisket into a saucepan with the herbs and dry mustard. Cover with cold water and bring gently to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours (skim off the foam before adding veggies). Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, cut in quarters and add to the pot. Cook for a further 1 hour or until the meat, vegetables, and potatoes are soft and tender.

Serve the corned beef in slices, surrounded by the vegetables and cooking liquid. Serve with lots of freshly made mustard.

Leap Recipe! "Fried " Chicken

 I found this recipe when I was looking for a different and quick chicken dinner. Super tasty, slight work involved (breading the chicken) and not a long cook time. I fry it in my cast iron pan on the stove and then line a baking tray with tin foil and place browned chicken on that to bake.  Keep in mind that whole chicken breasts will take longer to cook than chicken strips so if you use breasts adjust baking time.

Ingredients

1 cup coconut oil, ghee, or 4-5 TBs bacon grease
3 large eggs
1 cup almond flour
1 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. chipotle powder (optional)
2 pounds chicken- thighs, drums, breasts. I cut breasts into strips when I make this. 

Directions

1. Heat oil in large frying pan to 350F (175C) and preheat oven to 400F (205C)
2. Whisk eggs in medium sized bowl
3. Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl and mix well.
4. Pat chicken dry, then dip chicken in whisked eggs.
5. Coat/cover chicken in dry mixture and place in HOT oil. (If you like to double dip you will have to double the coating!)  Allow both sides to brown (about 2 minutes each side).
6. Place drying rack on sheet pan and assemble check on the rack so there is space between all pieces.
7. Put chicken in oven for 10-15 minutes.  Remove and serve.

Adapted From: Paleo Comfort Foods