Your brain is an amazing organ, you know that! It is made up of 75% water, is the fattiest organ in your body (@60% fat), it weighs about 3 pounds, and your 3 year old's brain is more active than your own. So, how is sugar fogging your brain and interrupting your life? What can you do to improve your blood sugar levels?
As you may have experienced, sugar can hypnotize you and create an unhealthy, debilitating cycle of craving more of it. This happens very easily because your brain recognizes sugar as a reward, leading you to find your next fix. This spell has people fixated on when they are going to eat next, what they are going to eat next and worst of all, as they are eating their “cookie,” they may already be thinking of what they will eat next.
Sugar may not control your day-to-day and leave you fixating on what you are going to eat next, but it does have this power over individuals. Sugar can be a slippery slope but the good news is that keeping your caloric sugar intake down to 5% of your total diet is considered a healthy dose from the World Health Organization. So, you have a little wiggle room just be mindful of the tricks sugar wants to play on your brain.
I believe the best part of this no sugar added challenge, aside from the community support, is this program is creating awareness of how much sugar we are consuming and causing participants to be more mindful when making food choices. We are reading labels beyond the nutrition facts and looking at the ingredient lists. This is such a positive because there are so many “hidden” sugars in many products. Many of you were not even aware of this added sugar. You thought sugar was only added to obvious sweets like a snickers bar or a cookie. Let me be the first to say I too have fell for the “healthy” advertisements for a product, only to find it had added sugar. To be honest a product should not have to have added processed sugar to be palatable. Real whole food has been, since the beginning of time, leaving us feeling satisfied, but with the development of cane sugar in 1880 (thanks western Europeans) our diets started to shift to more and more table sugar. Table sugar is not the worse thing for your health if eaten sporadically, in small doses, but it is like poison to the body when you consume high doses.
Sugar impacts your overall well-being. Remember, table sugar is considered to be empty calories. Meaning there is no nutritious value eating table, no vitamins, minerals, fiber, or protein just weight gain and shifts in our hormones.
You can also have sugar lows, more often, if you consume high doses of table sugar. We all need sugar in the form of glucose to feed our cells and keep a steady stream of energy throughout the body. A steady blood sugar level in your body is vital and is supported by eating complex carbohydrates and fruit. You see when you eat healthy whole foods that contain natural sugars these sugars get digested slowly (due to the fiber and protein) and as this sugar hits your bloodstream your pancreas makes insulin, a hormone that regulates the saturation of sugar in the bloodstream. This process is on turbo charge when you eat table sugar because table sugar saturates the blood stream faster, so your pancreas works overtime to kick out lots of insulin, once this sugar is taken care of (usually stored as fat) you can have a sudden drop in blood sugar which leaves you with head fog and feeling tired, sometimes even shaky. When you feel like this what do you think you reach for? Yup, more sugar. You can see how this can be a vicious cycle. This is why maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is good for your mind and waistline.
3 tricks to ensure better maintenance of blood sugar levels:
Let protein, fiber, and getting outside to move help! I like plant based proteins and lean proteins to pair with my complex carbohydrates and whole fruit. The combination of protein and fiber together really helps maintain that blood sugar. Also add 30-60 minutes of exercise to your day and your blood sugar levels will be more forgiving to your body.
Protein...Eating protein can help curb sugar cravings and do not cause your blood sugar to spike. I like proteins like lean chicken, eggs, nuts, and beans.
Fill Up on fiber..Fiber in the antidote to sugar! Think about an 8 oz glass of orange juice. I bet you could drink that 8 oz with no problem and then eat some pancakes and maybe some sausage to go along with it. If you think about it that one 8 oz glass of orange juice is equal to about 4 oranges. When is the last time you ate 4 oranges for breakfast with some pancakes and sausage? Never right? It is the fiber in the oranges that will leave you feeling full and satisfied after about 1.5 oranges. Fiber helps fight sugar cravings in a lot of ways. First, it keeps you full. Second, High-fiber foods also give you more energy because you don't have the sugar crash after you eat. High fiber foods also have more nutritional properties, such as, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. Whole fiber food is a whole lot of goodness for your body.
Get outside & move...We have to move our bodies to help our cells open up to receive the glucose that is floating around in our bloodstream. This gives our body a helping hand in controlling high blood sugar levels. Also exercise helps burn off any extra sugars we might other wise store as fat. Exercise can also help limit sugar craving. When you are moving your body you will naturally feel better and when we feel better-healthier we tend to choose healthier options. Plus if you exercise outside your body is getting fresh air and the sun provides your body with vitamin D. Try walking, riding your bike, or swimming. Try getting at least 30-60 minutes of movement, most days of the week.
Be consistent with those three things!
No Sugar Added Recipe:
If you are in the mood for a sweet treat or need to make a sweet treat for a party try this recipe below. I believe I found this recipe through Sparkrecipes and I only changed one ingredient. I am making these tonight. I love that they are easy and quick and a good recipe for my kids to help me with.
Gluten Free Date Bars (No sugar Added)
15 min Prep Time
18 min Cook Time
33 min Total Time
1. 1 1/2 cup oats (divided)
2. 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
3. 5 Medjool dates (4 ounces of pitted dates)
4. 1/2 cup cashews
5. 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
6. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
7. 1 egg
8. 2 tablespoons ground flax
9. 1/4 cup coconut oil
10. 18 Medjool dates (8 ounces of dates)
11. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
12. 1/4-1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I like 1/2, but begin with 1/4 and add to taste)
1. Preheat oven to 325º F.
2. Add 1 cup oatmeal to a food processor bowl, and process until a flour forms.
3. Add coconut, dates, sea salt and baking soda, and process until the dates are fully broken up. I find it easiest to process if I break the dates into quarters (if using large medjools) as I am tossing them into the processor.
4. Add the other 1/2 cup oatmeal and walnuts, and pulse 8-10 times, until the cashews are chopped, but still a bit chunky.
5. To the food processor bowl, add the egg, flax and coconut oil, and pulse until combined.
6. Reserve 1/2 cup of oatmeal mixture to use as a topping.
7. Line an 8 x 8 pan with baking paper. Add the rest of the oatmeal cookie mixture to the pan, and press down into an even layer. I use a pastry roller to pack down the bottom layer.
8. Rinse out the food processor, and add date layer ingredients. Pulse 10-15 times, until the dates are broken up. Then, process for another 3-4 minutes, until the dates take on a light, whipped caramel color. If you soaked the dates, this process should be very easy. If your dates were soft, so you opted not to soak them, and they are not whipping up nicely, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of hot water to help them process smoother.
9. Carefully, using wet hands to press it down and smooth it, add the date later on top of the cookie layer. Using wet hands will keep the layer from sticking and pulling up the cookie layer.
10. Crumble the reserved 1/2 cup of oatmeal mixture over the top.-Bake for 18 minutes.*For best results, completely cool before slicing. I like to freeze them before slicing for nicer bars.
*These bars are best stored (and enjoyed!) from the freezer, but also hold up well as a travel snack.Notes*1 cup of packed Medjool dates is about 5 1/2 ounces. To sub a smaller date variety, please weigh instead of relying on the measurements for Medjools. Depending on what variety you use, it might take 2 1/2 cups of dates to equal the weight of 5 1/2 ounces.
For additional information about sugar, your brain, and health check out these articles: