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Posts Tagged ‘sugar’

Beat the Sugar Blues

In Nutrition, Recipe on January 7, 2016 at 4:35 am

sugar cookie

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~Marcel Proust

It’s the new year and everyone is suddenly “cleaning up” their act. The list of restrictions and no-no’s add up and SUGAR might be on 2016’s list of banned foods. Taking a hard look at your sugar consumption is always a good idea. Merely shining the light of awareness on an issue automatically changes the situation.

Eliminating sugar cold-turkey is quite difficult; however, making a real attempt at reduction is a worthy use of your intention and effort. If you are one of the few who still aren’t convinced that sugar is harmful, check out this and this and then get back to me when you’ve left the land of denial.

Here are some suggestions for scaling back your intake and reducing sugar cravings as well as a recipe to help you ease into healthier options that include a bit of sugar  along with a bunch of healthy other stuff like fiber and healthy fats to balance out your blood sugar.

Get honest about your relationship to sugar. Decide what level of importance you will give to this topic. Maybe it’s just not a priority for you. Maybe other issues in your life require more attention at this time. That’s OK, just demonstrate consistency with whatever approach and focus you choose.

hot chocolateMake sure you are getting enough carbohydrates as well as enough calories. Calorie deficits create cravings for fast energy sources (sugar!). It is very common to under-nourish yourself just enough to NOT lose significant weight but instead instigate late evening carb cravings due to lack of sufficient calories. Fueling yourself with plenty of HEALTHY carb calories from whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans will keep sugar cravings at bay.

Natural consequences. Maybe you are a bit of a masochist or need to be smacked upside the head before you make a change? If that sounds familiar, then allow yourself an opportunity to OD on sugar and suffer the consequences. Dehydration, headache, fatigue, need for more sugar – sound like an addict yet? The only permanent damage is the vivid memory of your choices.

Treat sugar as an actual “treat”. It’s become such a staple in our diets that we eat it daily instead of occasionally. Know which seemingly healthy foods have added sugars (yogurt, muffins, energy bars, cereal) and which are too high in natural sugars without the benefit of fiber (fruit juice, refined grains & flours). Combine protein and fat with all carbohydrates to curb the sugar spike & crash. Fiber helps with this issue as well.

If you feel unqualified to make decisions regarding this topic, The Nutrition Source by Harvard School of Public Health is great website with very accessible information for making healthy food choices based on science.

You can feel good about these muffins and so will your family. My kids declared these to be “delicious” and asked “when are you going to make these again?”

Winter Weather Muffinsmuffins - dry ingredients

1.5 cups white flour

3/4 cup ground flaxseed

3/4 oat bran

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon muffins - fruits and seeds

1 1/2 cups grated carrots

2 apples, peeled and diced

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup milk (cow, almond or soy)

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

Hemp or sunflower seeds (for muffin tops)

Combine dry ingredients. Combine milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Pour liquid into dry. Mix until moistened (don’t over-mix). Fold in carrots, fruits, and nuts.muffins - winter weather

Fill greased muffin tins to about 3/4 of the way then sprinkle with 1/2 tsp hemp or sunflower seeds. Bake at 350 for 12-15 mins. Smother with butter and enjoy! 

If nutrition is your thing then read this: good source of fiber, vitamin A, thiamin, manganese, and omega-3s.

1 muffin = 203 kcals, 9g fat, 8g sugar, 5g fiber, 6g protein.

Moroccan Carrot & Garbanzo Bean Salad

In Nutrition, Recipe on May 7, 2015 at 10:03 pm

“Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.” ~William Butler Yeats

peeled carrots

Carrots ready for the mandolin

Scientific inquiry has finally figured out why we consume sugar in response to stress. Apparently sugar reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. For the general public, this big reveal was kind of a “so what?” or “duh!” moment. Any super stressed-out human being has known that they feel soothed after eating sugar. However, scientists and nutritionists are excited because perhaps understanding metabolic pathways sensitive to sugar will lead to answers for treating stress-related conditions.

moroccan salad

Carrots, mint, dried fruit.

It seems the human condition is forever chasing the solution to reducing stress levels because, well, stress will kill you (recommended reading: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers). And, unfortunately, so will our most easily abused response to stress, sugar. When you are listening to Pink Floyd on a gloomy May Gray day (as I will admit to now), the inclination is to reach for something comforting. I recommend backing away from the dessert items (even if it is Chia Pudding) and embracing soothing sugars in the form of complex carbohydrates and fiber such as a salad of beans, root veggies, and dried fruit.

Yes, I am being serious. This approach is just as effective without the dreaded sugar hangover along with guilt. Luckily, this comfort food salad gets better with time so make a batch, store in the fridge and break it out for emergencies. All the sweet carbs – garbanzo beans, dried apricots & plums, and carrots – break down getting all mushy and marinated in the cumin, oil, lemon juice, and honey – yum!

Serve tossed with arugula and chopped almonds as a salad or layer it on a romaine leaf (a ala Salmonberry Spread) with avocado and more cayenne. Drink hot mint tea while consuming. Perfection. Here it is…

Dressing: 1 TBSP cumin seeds

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 TBSP fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

cumin and oil

Toasted and ground cumin seeds with olive oil.

Salad: 2 cups carrots, sliced whisper thin on a mandolin (shredded works too)

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or one 15- ounce can, drained and rinsed)

1/3 cup dried plums, chopped

1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/3 cup fresh mint, torn or chopped

To make the dressing, first toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly browned, a minute or two. Let cool, and grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle. Yes, this is more work but totally worth it.

In a bowl or jar, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, ground cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the carrots, garbanzo beans, dried fruit, mint. Gently toss with dressing until everything is evenly coated and refrigerate. Store for up to 3 days in the fridge.

moroccan carrot salad

Serve on a romaine leaf topped with avocado and cayenne.

Sweet Breakfasts

In Nutrition on January 13, 2015 at 9:10 pm
cinnamon sugar grinder

Pretty Little Grinders

It all started with an impulse buy at Whole Foods. That place makes me buy the craziest things that I sooo don’t need but kinda add a bit of joy to my life. I was totally drawn to these grinders of helpful spices combined with “unhealthy” things – aka sugar. I had a major cinnamon-toast addiction as a kid so I was instantly drawn to the cinnamon-brown sugar grinder. Growing up, my parents were so strictly No-Sugar that we didn’t even have ketchup in the house. The famous one-gram-of-sugar Cheerios were acceptable; however, Rice Krispies were banned because they had the nerve to have 2 whole grams of sugar!

fruity breakie

High sugar but also high fiber.

When my parents would sleep in on Saturday mornings, my sisters and I would turn the kitchen upside down looking for that sugar bowl reserved for guests who liked it in their coffee and tea. Upon finding the holy grail we would make cinnamon toast with an entire loaf of bread. First we would spread out all the bread on the counter and meticulously pick out all the walnuts and sunflower seeds – delicious bread for an adult but not when you’re in elementary school. Then we would generously spread Country Crock on each slice – this was the early 80s when butter was still evil and trans fats were celebrated.

The next step was somewhat delicate b/c although we were specifically looking for the sugar high you didn’t want it to taste all grainy and overly sugary. Shaking the cinnamon was tricky too…it didn’t come out evenly and getting a glob of cinnamon in a bite kinda dries your mouth out and ruins the experience. Clearly, we could have used the helpful cinnamon-sugar grinder from Whole Foods. I am pretty sure we arranged the entire loaf of bread on a baking sheet and put it under the oven broiler which is kind of dicey considering I was the oldest and still in elementary school. We were very serious – and efficient – about our cinnamon toast making.

Although I’m a sucker for pretty bottles at Whole Foods, I’m also known to be the sugar police so I shocked myself in bringing home the sugary grinders. Swearing I wouldn’t know what to do with them, it was just an impulse buy, etc., I immediately found two great uses for them at breakfast – ha! I’m not a fan of a sugary breakfast; however, these two recipes don’t actually have much sugar and are balanced with plenty of fat and/or protein to maintain steady blood sugar.

coconut rice porridge

Creamy, crunchy, sweet, salty.

Coconut-Rice Porridge

Cooked white rice (short-grain, white rice works best)

Coconut milk (not canned, try coconut/almond blend)

Chopped almonds – roasted & salted

Sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili

Simmer rice in milk. Add more or less depending on desired consistency. Top with chopped almonds and cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili and anything else really!

Eggy (Grain-Free) Pancakes (makes 8 smallish pancakes)

2 eggseggy pancakes2

1 TBSP almond butter

1 very ripe banana

Sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili

Mash and beat and whip all the ingredients together (except cinnamon sugar). Fry in coconut oil and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon-sugar or cocoa/sugar/chili on one side before you flip over! You won’t need maple syrup.

Fiber, Fermented Foods, & Your Gut

In Nutrition on July 11, 2013 at 1:30 am
kale, onions, strawberries, peaches

Kale with onions & garlic. Strawberries and peaches.

OK, so this topic is not super sexy but a healthy gut – gastrointestinal (GI) tract – is essential for our overall health and wellness. First a little primer on your large intestine – exciting! – and then we will discuss what to eat and why.

photo (11)

Mangoes – a high fiber fruit.

We all know the large intestine is in charge of eliminating “that which is of no use to our bodies” aka waste or non-digestible food products. During this process of elimination, the large intestine reabsorbs water and sodium back into our bloodstream, a very important function, and, also very important, the large intestine is the site for synthesis of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), B-vitamins and vitamin K. The aforementioned nutrients primarily feed the cells of the GI tract. You want to keep those GI cells happy because it turns out the cells lining our GI tract serve as the largest immune tissue in our bodies! Even more amazing is recent understanding that the cells of our GI tract secrete enough regulatory hormones to be considered the largest endocrine organ in our body!

cauliflower

Huge head of homegrown cauliflower.

How do we love our GI cells so they function properly?

Eat plenty of fiber and fermented foods (also, avoid sugar but that’s another discussion).

Fiber is considered a prebiotic while fermented foods are considered a probiotic. Both are essential to gut health.

Found in WHOLE plant foods (fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, and seeds), fiber is used by the large intestine to feed the “gut flora”. Our gut flora is composed of healthy bacteria who use fiber as a medium to synthesize those nutrients (SCFAs, vitamin K, and B-vitamins) that are so essential for properly functioning GI cells.

kombucha bottles

Cactus fruit kombucha from Robin’s Nest.

Fermented foods, such as miso, tempeh, cultured dairy (kefir, yogurt), kombucha tea, kimchi, sauerkraut, chutneys and any fruit/vegetable fermented using lactic acid, support a healthy gut flora by providing a source of healthy bacteria – Lactobacillus acidophilus – for that fiber that the GI cells needs to synthesize SCFAs, B-vitamins, and vitamin K…you see the relationship?

So, please, please, please…eat MORE fiber and fermented foods and LESS sugar and refined foods. Your gut will love you for it and your ability to fight the common cold and chronic disease depends on it.

Happy Gut, Happy You

In Mindfulness, Nutrition on July 11, 2013 at 12:27 am
gooey chocolate cookie

Gooey, chocolatey, sugar bomb.

Gloomy weather, stressful relationships, lack of sleep, can all affect our sense of well-being and kick sugar cravings into high gear. Mindlessly giving in on just a few occasions only intensifies our cravings and the vicious cycle begins. Why do we turn to sugar when we are feeling anxious and stressed? Perhaps conditioning – for some, sweets are associated with reward or comfort. Or perhaps it’s physiology – adequate amounts of carbohydrates allow for increased seratonin production, aka the “feel-good hormone”.

What does this have to do with your gut? Well, it turns out the GI tract produces 95% of our body’s seratonin! Taking care of our gut allows GI cells to produce all the seratonin we need. In turn, we will be less likely to turn to sugar when we’re sad, lonely, anxious, and stressed.chocolate bars

In a another post, I discussed beneficial foods for our gut – fiber and fermented foods. The question begs: “Are there foods that are harmful to gut health?” Yup, and I’m sure you’ve guessed it…Sugar! Sugar provides fuel for certain gut bacteria to proliferate far beyond what is healthy leading to a bacterial imbalance. So, even if we consume adequate fiber, we won’t have enough beneficial bacteria to fuel our GI cells. They’ve been outcompeted by other, less-helpful bacteria due to sugar-induced overgrowth.

What are the consequences of GI cells not getting the fuel they need? At the very least, you will have gas and bloating or, worse, suffer from anxiety and depression.

packaged veggies

Pre-washed and chopped veggies. High in fiber. The fuel our GI cells need.

Our gut is often referred to as the “second brain” because it has its own complex nervous system and is highly influenced by our thoughts and psychological stress. Most of us know this on an intuitive (and experiential) level and certainly Traditional Chinese Medicine and other healing traditions have recognized this for generations. Finally, western medicine has acknowledged the huge role our gut plays in our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. Recent research has shown that tweaking the balance between beneficial and disease-causing bacteria in an animal’s gut alters brain chemistry leading it to become more bold or more anxious. Alternately, even mild stress can tip the microbial balance in the gut, making us more vulnerable to infectious disease.

What is sugar? It is a carbohydrate of which there are 2 general categories: indigestible (fiber) and digestible (everything else). Your body does not absorb fiber but your colon uses it for many healthy functions (as discussed here). Digestible carbs are those used by your body for energy – or, if you are taking in more energy than you are expending, they are stored (in your fat cells).

To balance your mood, regulate your blood sugar, and keep your gut bacteria in balance, remember these 3 things when consuming carbs/sugars:

dates

Deglet dates. Often used to sweeten desserts but loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Limit added sugars. Most added sugars are refined carbohydrates meaning it has been stripped of other nutrients and comes in a potent package that is a shock to our bodies. Added sugars include the “natural” sugars, too. Remember, “its not the vehicle, its the payload.” Use sweeteners sparingly – even honey and dates.

Eat carbohydrates higher up on the “whole foods” chain.

What does this look like?

Brown rice -> brown rice pasta/bread -> energy bar w/ brown rice syrup

Apples -> applesauce  -> apple juice

Steel cut oats -> rolled oats -> quick oats -> instant oatmeal packet

peppers, goat cheese, bread

Red peppers with goat cheese and honey on toast. Balanced protein, fat, and carbs.

Combine carbs with fat and protein at each meal. Toss sunflower seeds and unsweetened coconut on that fruit salad. Mash avocado on whole-grain toast. Add flax oil and walnuts to your banana-berry oatmeal.

Curb your sugar cravings: easy on the salt and animal products, eat sweet vegetables (tubers and roots), choose sprouted products, eat more sour or spicy flavors, and, finally, fully chew all carbs b/c those grains, legumes, and veggies will become sweeter the longer you chew.

Perfect Parfait

In Nutrition, Recipe on July 10, 2013 at 11:00 pm
fruit, yogurt, go raw

Fruit, yogurt, Go Raw Original Granola

Please step away from the acai bowls! They are loaded with added sugars. Sugar is added to those little, frozen packets of smashed berries and to the nut milk that is blended with it and, finally, the granola that gets tossed on top. No wonder they are a big hit – you might as well be eating dessert!

You can do a much better job by BUILDING YOUR OWN breakfast bowl with fresh fruit that hasn’t been processed, packaged, and flown in from Brazil. I eat a lot of fruity, nutty, yogurt-y concoctions. Some might call them parfaits, others might call them fruit salad. Either way, the hot summer months, with their abundance of fruit, call for cool, juicy breakfasts with enough fat and protein to keep you satisfied and nourished. On the outset it appears that the parfait is ‘healthy’ but there is much variance as to the value of each ingredient so I think it merits a discussion.

papya parfait

Papaya, yogurt, hemp seeds, coconut, & sunflower seeds.

There are usually 3 components to a parfait: (1) yogurt (dairy or vegan), (2) the fruit, and (3) the ‘toppings’ (hopefully nuts & seeds). What I find is that most parfaits resemble dessert in that they are much too high in sugar and other carbohydrates. Let’s leave the job of providing sugar and fiber to the fruit (choose a colorful variety) and do our best to eliminate it from the other two components.

Begin by choosing a sugar-free – yes, that means PLAIN – version of yogurt, whether it be a Greek dairy yogurt or coconut milk kefir or soy yogurt. This is not always easy, especially with the diary substitutes, but it can be done. Also, choosing a FULL-FAT version is essential for 2 reasons: (1) the balance of protein/fat/carbs is more supportive of health (nonfat yogurt is heavy on carbs) and (2) the plain flavor is not as sour b/c the fat is still included (hence less sugar needed to make it palatable). Even if you are trying to lose weight, a full-fat version is more supportive of satiation, smaller portions, and weight control (I promise!).

go raw simple

Go Raw brand granola – unsweetened or sweetened with dates & raisins

End by choosing toppings that include healthy fats and no added sugars. Sorry, folks, but ‘granola’ is not going to do it here. Yes, it’s delicious but it’s usually very high in added sugars. Low sugar varieties are available, such as those from Go Raw that are sweetened with dates and raisins, and, yet, this healthy choice is still adding unnecessary carbs to the balance. It’s much healthier to take a deconstructionist view of granola as a topping. Say what? Sprinkle on sunflower seeds or almonds or walnuts or hemp seeds or coconut flakes or chia seeds or pepitas or sesame seeds…you get the idea. These toppings add healthy fats and protein as opposed to more carbs.

Finally, add a little shake of cinnamon or cocoa or fresh mint to up the flavor factor without adding more volume or calories.

Building your own breakfast bowl ensures you get ‘good’ carbs, a healthy amount of (the good) fat, and plenty of fiber and antioxidants. Have fun and get creative!

Living a Sepia-Toned Life

In Mindfulness, Nutrition on April 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm
gratitude genius

From Danielle LaPorte’s book, The Fire Starter Sessions.

I’ve never been a black-and-white kind of thinker. You might say I am comfortable in the gray area but that evokes a kind of dullness. I prefer the gentle warmth of a sepia-toned life. My line of work, my physical appearance, or other observations of me by others prompt such assumptions as: I’m a vegan (I’m not), I never eat sugar (I do), or I sell salmonberries (I don’t!). I admit to having very healthy eating habits but I don’t follow a dogmatic approach to eating nor do I ever say ‘never’ (hmm, did I just say it?). I feel we can all learn to trust ourselves enough to live mindfully in the Sepia Zone. It’s the area between black-and-white-rule-following that is warmer and more inviting and nothing is out-of-bounds. I eat a plant-based, no-sugar diet like…80% of the time. I’m making that number up – it could be 90% or 75% – the number doesn’t matter! What does matter is that this is my diet the VAST majority of the time. It’s not painful or steeped in willpower. It’s just present moment awareness and mindful decisions that involve trusting myself and my body. This approach feels easy, joyful, and appreciative to me as opposed to strict, disciplined, and degrading. I am not the type to eat a daily dessert so when I want to treat myself, I go big. If you are the type that would rather have a treat more often but are concerned about the nutritional impact, then check out Chia Pudding and Choco-Chia Nut Spheres.