Archive for November, 2009

Are You a Sugar Junkie?

photograph: jar filled with the amount of sugar the average American consumes in 1 month!

Americans on average consume 576 cans of sugar-based soda per year, causing multiple health conditions including diabetes and obesity. Increase of sugar consumption has risen to a staggering 142 pounds of sugar per person per year.

Many of us are addicted to sugar and we don’t even know it! Sugar addiction can create a spiral effect for your whole day that will cause you to have mood swings, crave carbohydrates and sugar-laden foods, reach for caffeine to give you a boost and overall make bad food choices.

Sugar is lurking where you would least expect to find it. Read the labels of foods in your kitchen cabinet or on the grocery aisles- it is in cereals, crackers, bread, and, of course, candy and junk food! Sugar is highly addictive, and manufactures know it so they add it to their products so you will buy more.

We are hard-wired at birth to crave sugar for our survival! According to a study led by Dr. Lucy Cook from the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, our children’s eating habits are 78% genetics, and only 22% environmental. Thousands of years ago we would forage for sweet fruits such as mangos and bananas and sweet root vegetables NOT load up on double whip lattes and sugar loaded produced snacks, though!

The kinds of sugars that we are now putting in our bodies are causing record levels of obesity and diabetes! The rate of childhood obesity has doubled in the past 20 years with a staggering 15% of children and adolescents considered obese. The percentage of just plain overweight children has grown to 1 out of every 3 children. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 246 million people with diabetes in the world consisting of approximately 23.6% of children and adults. Obesity and diabetes, in my opinion, are reaching epic proportions!

Sugar in its purest form is juice from a sugar cane plant. However, during the refining process where raw sugar is turned into white table sugar all the enzymes, vitamins and minerals are destroyed. Consumption of refined sugar has been linked to hypoglycemia, a weakened immune system, yeast infections, hyperactivity, ADHD, mental and emotional disorders and chemical imbalances in the brain.

In addition, refined sugars make you fat. Excess sugar is stored in the liver as glycogen and eventually excess amounts are returned to the bloodstream as fatty acids, which ultimately end up as fat! Not only is sugar calorie-laden but also most of the food having added sugar is highly-processed junk food! High fructose corn syrup is another one to avoid. Like refined sugar it has a negative impact on our blood sugar levels.

So, how do we reduce our sugar craving and eat sweet foods?

Read labels. If it includes white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, or sucrose, then don’t buy it! Many low-fat foods include sugar (and lots of salt) to make them appealing to you.

Replace sugar with natural sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, molasses or even raw sugar. Stevia is also a good choice for those who do not mind an artificial like taste. All of these natural sweeteners contain one or more enzymes, calcium, iron, potassium, protein, B-Vitamins, magnesium, chromium, fiber and folic acid.

Find food alternatives that you like for your favorite snacks and desserts. Late July and Paul Newman both make delicious “Oreo’s,” Kashi’s has beyond addictive “chocolate chip cookies,” Soy Delicious and Coconut Bliss have delicious “ice creams,” and there are many family-friendly cereals from Envirokids, Barbaras, Kashi and other brands.

Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in natural sugars such as carrots, beets and sweet potatoes. It may sound too good to be true but if you eat more of these foods, you will crave the others less.

Avoid low-fat foods- don’t buy into it. Fat does not make you fat! Fat, in fact, helps us metabolize sugar. When we eat fat along with carbohydrates and sugar, food enters our blood stream at a slower rate. Additionally, many of the low-fat foods are also high in sugar. A double whammy!

Use spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and cloves which naturally sweeten food and reduce cravings.

Drink water- sweet cravings can sometimes be a sign of dehydration. Drinking water also helps fill us up and reduces hunger.

Exercise- when we exercise our body lets go of endomorphins that make us feel good. Exercise will also help naturally regulate blood sugars.

Get more rest & sleep- tired, stressed-out bodies crave sugar (and caffeine!) to keep them going! Sugar cravings are often a result of being sleep-deprived. To read more about the importance of sleep, go to
http://www.be-n-balance.com/2008/sleep-is-not-a-luxury-adequate-sleep-is-essential-for-overall-health.

If you are to focus on one thing for your overall health, this month focus on decreasing your sugar consumption and see how much better you feel!

Coconuts: Delicious and Loaded with Omega 3’s!

Last month I did my Healthy Treats Class and the recipe that is always everyones favorite are the chocolate coconut macaroons (see below.) Whenever I suggest to clients or friends that, “yes”, they can have a few in the afternoon as a pick me up or after dinner they look at me with disbelief. “Really,” they ask, “won’t I gain weight?”

Coconut, like chocolate, often gets a bad rap for all of the other additives that are often in treats such as sugar, butter and sometimes even corn syrup! We are taught to believe that coconut is “high in fat” so we should avoid it. But, while coconuts are high in saturated fat it is from a vegetable origin. The fat in coconut consists of medium-chain triglycerides that not only help reduce your risk of coronary artery disease and promote healthy circulation, but they also support optimal neurological functioning.

Coconut is also loaded with Omega- 3 fatty acids, which protect against heart disease, cancerous activity, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, PMS, allergies, water retention, rough or dry skin, and dull hair. Omega 3’s help improve brain function and have been known to ward off depression and improve ADHD in children.

Coconuts are now very easy to buy and can be purchased at many local health shops and at Whole Foods. While on appearance they may be intimidating to open, it is actually quite easy if done properly. Watch this video, How to Open a Coconut, to see how.

One of my favorite ways to use a coconut is to open it up and just usecoconut water inside! Coconut Water is high in electrolytes and is an ideal drink to have after strenuous workouts! So, just open the coconut and pour the coconut water through a strainer and enjoy! Any remaining portion can be either put aside to use in one of the following recipes, placed in the refrigerator for future use (it will last approximately 3 days) or frozen!

After you pour the water out, you are left with the meat. Scoop the meat out of the inside and it can be used in one of the following recipes such as the coconut milk, pudding, or smoothie! If you have a dehydrator, you can also cut it up and dehydrate it for a delicious snack!

My new favorite after dinner treat is Coconut Bliss “Ice Cream”, which is made with coconut milk instead of dairy and soy, uses all-natural ingredients and is sweetened with agave nectar! Coconut Bliss comes in many flavors that include Chocolate Peanut Butter, Naked Coconut, Dark Chocolate, Mint Galactica, and Cappacino.

Below are some of my favorite recipes:

Coconut Milk
1-2 Thai coconuts

Open the coconuts and pour the water into a blender. Scoop out the insides and place in the blender along with the water. Blend. That’s it!

Strawberry Coconut Delight Smoothie

Box of fresh strawberries (cut up and pre-freeze them)
Coconut meat from 1 Thai coconut (save the water to drink after a run or intense workout)
Almond or Brazil nut milk
Chocolate nibs (unsweetened)
Any supplements you want to add (optional):
- Maca
- Hemp or flax seed oil

Place the strawberries and coconut meat in your blender and pour in approximately 2-3 cups of almond or Brazil nut milk. Blend until smooth. Put the chocolate nibs into the blender and blend for just a second to chop them up a bit but not entirely so that they stay like little chocolate chips. This smoothie is pure delight!

“Double Trouble” Coconut Chocolate Macaroons

1 cup unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
½-¾ cup agave nectar
2 tbsp coconut butter (coconut oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt

Combine 1 cup of the chocolate powder and 2 cups of the coconut in a mixing bowl then add the coconut butter, agave nectar, vanilla and sea salt and mix well. Scoop balls of the mixture out with your hands and roll into balls. Place shredded coconut on a plate and roll balls in it to cover. These make a delicious and nutritious pick me up in the afternoon or an after-school treat for your children. If you do not like chocolate, these can also just be made plain by omitting the chocolate powder!

Chocolate Coconut Pudding

2 Thai coconuts
4 dried dates
1-1½ tbsps unsweetened chocolate powder
½ cup agave nectar

Place the dried dates in a cup of water and soak to soften them. Open the Thai coconuts and take the meat of both coconuts and the juice one other and blend until smooth. Add the chocolate powder and agave nectar and continue to blend. Run for approximately 2-5 minutes until smooth.