Sugar: More Addictive Than Drugs?

Food and Drink, Front Page, Health

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     It’s certainly no secret that most of us LOVE sugar! It’s a comfort food with very strong ties to our emotions. Think about it. How do we console ourselves when stressed? Or celebrate our successes? Ever bribe a child with cookies? Cheer up a sad friend with ice cream?

     But is this a good thing? I would argue, no.

Let’s test your sugar knowledge with a fun, short quiz. Don’t fret! It’s only five questions.

#1 How many teaspoons of “added” sugar does the average American consume daily?

     According to Alice G. Walton, the average adult consumes at least 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, over 130 pounds in one year (and this is a conservative     estimate).  The average child ingests 32 teaspoons per day, an even scarier fact.

#2 What is the recommended daily amount for sugar, according to the American Heart Association?

24 grams (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men

One teaspoon = 4 grams of sugar = 16 calories

     Side note: a typical twelve-ounce soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. One drink = 40 grams of sugar!

#3 What percentage of food items on our grocery store shelves have added sugar?

     75-80%. Shocking, right?! You’ll find sugar in spaghetti sauce, ketchup, breads, barbecue sauce, canned soups, salad dressings, baked beans, canned and dried fruit, cereals, granola bars, sports drinks, instant oatmeal, yogurt, jelly and jam.

     Sugar is everywhere! Read your food labels and be an educated consumer.

#4 The food industry is quite tricky. How many different sugar ingredient names are used?

     I’ve compiled a non-exhaustive list of over 50 names used to label sugar, including (but not limited to) high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), brown rice syrup, malt syrup, fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, beet sugar (likely genetically-modified), palm sugar, fructose, maltose, sucrose (table sugar), glucose, and dextrose. Not to mention all of the artificial sugars (sorbitol, aspartame, erythritol, lacititol, maltitol, mannitol, saccharin, sucralose).

     Pack a detective hat on your next grocery run!

#5 Sugar is as addictive as cocaine. True or false?

     False. Sugar is actually MORE addictive than cocaine (some say eight times more). Current research shows that sugar is the #1 food or drug that we are addicted to. The same brain pathways that are activated when we consume cocaine are activated when we ingest the sweet stuff!

     Nicely done! You all passed with flying colors.

     We know that sugar (a “legal drug”) is extremely addictive, but did you know that the food industry spends BIG research money to create products that hack your brain chemistry and keep you addicted? Their methods are very effective, too.

     Breaking the sugar habit can be quite tough and goes beyond self-control and willpower. Maybe you can relate to the difficulty of resisting certain foods that we know are bad for us? You can do anything you put your mind to, but your taste buds and your brain have literally been hijacked by the added sugars in processed foods (even the ones you think are “healthy”).

     Sugar gives us an instant boost because it triggers the “feel-good” brain chemical serotonin, which is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. Our bodies then crave this substance’s influence on our brain cells. But guess what? Many healthy foods and habits can boost your serotonin levels, like eating bananas, leafy greens, walnuts, oats, and green smoothies. Soak up some sunshine, laugh more, take a walk, enjoy some yoga, and get outside in nature.

     So, what’s the good news? With a little awareness and dedication to raising our standard for health, we can take back the reigns and make better choices with what we buy, what we consume, and how we bake.

“Now, more than ever, it is time to take control and actively pursue the health, energy and vitality we all deserve and desire.” ~ Tony Robbins

     For more information, check out my eBook “Simple, Gluten Free Dessert Recipes” featuring many of my best (and nourishing) sweets recipes, handy baking tips, and savvy info to help you take control of your sugar intake NOW! You can also find low-sugar recipes at mindfuldine.com. Sending out good vibes from my kitchen to yours. Let’s go bake!

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Blend Baby Blend: Why Green Smoothies?

Food and Drink, Front Page, Health

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Smoothies (especially green ones) are a hot topic in the health world right now. Honestly, I cannot say enough about these creamy, satisfying concoctions. Why all the hype? Should you consider adding them to your menu? Are smoothies just a trend or are there real health benefits involved?

Let’s break it down, starting with a simple list of why smoothies can be a very nutritious option!

  • Simple and easy to prepare, with little cleanup time
  • Provide good fiber for digestion and sweeping away toxins
  • Balance your blood sugar and pH (alkalizing your body)
  • A great way to add good fats and quality protein in your diet
  • Super versatile (let your creative juices flow!)
  • Provide a nice break for your digestive system
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Wonderful post-workout, as a healthy travel food, a quick breakfast or afternoon snack
  • Natural support for cleansing and detoxification

Most of us awake quite dehydrated in the morning, and smoothies can provide an amazing blast of hydration after a night of sleep. They are also a fabulous way to ease your digestive system into motion for the day, supporting your body with consistent fuel and energy.

In my opinion, making a smoothie is the simplest way to include a diversity of whole food ingredients effortlessly into my diet, especially vegetables (and who doesn’t need that?)! The combinations are endless, using different fruits, leafy greens, herbs, healthy fats and various protein sources. You can flood your body with amazing nutrition and satisfy your taste buds simultaneously.

If your children won’t touch anything green, smoothies are a magical way to sneak veggies past their palates. Trust me, they won’t taste the spinach that you blended into that delicious raspberry smoothie.

Now, keep in mind, there are certainly ways to turn this healthy option into one that can cause inflammation and blood sugar imbalance in your body, like sugar-loading with too much fruit and not enough vegetables. For any new passengers on the green smoothie train, here is a simple 4-step “how to” to get you started.

#1 Choose a liquid base (1-2 cups depending on the size and desired thickness)

  • Purified water
  • Nut milk (i.e., almond, coconut, or cashew)
  • Coconut water (good source of electrolytes and very hydrating)

#2 Fruit and veggie time! Slowly increase the amount of vegetables over time, eventually aiming for a 3:1 ratio of veggies to fruit.

  • Low glycemic fruits are ideal (raising your blood sugar the least)
    • Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
    • Green apples
    • Pears
    • Grapefruit and oranges
    • Acai
    • Bananas add lovely creaminess but are higher in sugar
    • Lemon (cuts the flavor of stronger-tasting green leafies)
  • Sneak in plenty of veggies for vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, and antioxidants
    • Spinach, kale, romaine and green leaf lettuce, mixed greens, and Swiss chard
    • Cucumber, zucchini, carrots, and even broccoli
    • Avocado (for extra creaminess and good fats)

#3 The Extras… protein, superfoods, and fats!

  • Choosing a protein powder can be quite overwhelming, as there are so many available these days. Try to avoid genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), fillers, and heavily processed soy protein (like soy protein isolate). My preference is a plant-based protein with some dehydrated greens mixed in.
  • Nut butters, like almond, peanut, cashew, or walnut. Buy organic when possible and read the ingredients, avoiding any added oils and sugars.
  • Healthy fat options include chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, shredded coconut, and coconut oil.
  • Take your smoothie to the next level with super foods (cacao, greens powder, maca, spirulina, goji berries, cinnamon, aloe vera, Matcha green tea, turmeric, or ginger).

#4 Blend, and enjoy the goodness! Any quality blender will do, but a high-speed blender works wonders! The Vitamix is my go-to, but there are several quality blenders on the market now.

“Knowledge is only rumor until it lives in the bones.” ~The Asaro Tribe

Let’s put this knowledge into practice with a tasty, nutritious smoothie recipe. Be sure to scope out Mindful Dine for more smoothie inspiration!

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Creamy Dreamy Green Smoothie

1-2 frozen bananas (add a few ice cubes if not frozen)

2 tablespoons almond butter

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder

2-3 handfuls of spinach

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

½ teaspoon spirulina powder (optional)

Splash of vanilla

1 scoop protein powder of choice

1 cup nut milk

1 cup filtered water

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