This week I want to rant about alkaline and acidic diets, and what this means for our health. Many of you will likely know what I mean when I use the terms ‘alkaline diet’ or ‘acidic diet’, but for those who are yet to come across this celebrity diet fad, often called ‘the alkaline diet’ or ‘the acid alkaline diet’, then I’ll break it down for you:
- An acidic diet is one mainly composed of foods and drinks which supposedly increase the acidity of our bodily fluids, by decreasing our bodies natural pH levels. Acidic foods include meats, grains, and dairy.
- An alkaline diet is one mainly composed of foods and drink which supposedly increase the alkalinity of our bodily fluids, by increasing our bodies natural pH levels. Alkaline foods tend to be leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits.
It is the end product produced after digestion that determines whether or not a food or drink is acidic or alkaline. For examples, lemons are highly acidic but create alkaline products after digestion. Not all fruits and vegetables are alkaline, and likewise not all animal products are acidic. (Google alkaline foods and .you’ll surely find a comprehensive list).
It is a common belief that a diet high in alkaline foods will prevent disease and ill health. I don’t believe that is true. Although it is a fact that many alkaline foods are extremely good for you, but so are many acidic foods. So why do many people believe that alkaline diets are literally saving them from disease? In my opinion, it is because they are simply a victim of yet another great marketing ploy. But wait! Alkaline diets are heavily endorsed by celebrities! And celebrities look fantastic! Hmmmm….could it not be that celebrities are endorsing something in which they are getting paid to endorse by those clever brands?
Anyway, I’ll let you form your own opinion on that, but here is my reasoning for having an opinion that an alkaline diet will not prevent disease.
Our bodies are very sensitive to pH (pH being a level of acidity and alkalinity on a measure from 1 to 14, with 1 being very acidic and 14 being highly alkaline). Our bodies are highly effective and efficient at maintaining a pH level between 7.38 and 7.42 (part of a process called homeostasis). Anything above or below this can have serious side effects on our health.
Given that our bodies maintain bodily pH at an optimum of 7.4 through homeostasis, and it being true that food can leave its (albeit very minor) mark on our bodies pH levels, this means there is one thing that health food and supplement marketers have completely overplayed, and no doubt suckered you into believing. That is the belief that you can alter your blood pH through your diet. I am yet to read any compelling evidence that our diets can alter our bodies pH levels, but if you do know of any journals or clinical trials which conclude that eating certain foods regularly can alter our pH then do let me know!
For our bodies pH to dramatically change then we would need to either speed up or slow down the rate of respiration (in other words, the rate at which we remove carbon dioxide from the blood, which is done through breathing). Our Kidneys would also need to be inhibited from producing the buffering agents that also help regulate our pH. If either of these happened then we would become seriously ill.
This leads on to another marketing ploy, in that it is believed that an acidic diet causes bone demineralisation (and some believe an acidic diet can cause osteoporosis), and other diseases. The belief that an acidic diet causes osteoporosis or bone demineralisation comes from the fact that bones store calcium, and the belief that bones will release their calcium (an alkaline metal) to buffer out our blood if it is too acidic. This is highly flawed because it makes the assumption that both our respiration and a major function of the kidneys has been heavily inhibited. If you want to know more about this side of the scientific argument then check out this published journal: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24094472
3. Marketing Ploys and Self Medication
Where the marketers successfully achieve their goal is in the selling of products (alkaline products and supplements) that claim to counteract an increase in acidity due to our poor diets. Just to clarify, I am not referring to any clinical conditions such as acidosis or alkalosis (which does cause serious health problems). I am solely referring to the belief that a diet which contains more alkaline foods than acidic foods will prevent serious health problems.
One problem here is that many people are spending over £20 for a bottle of 90 capsules which apparently alkalise the body, believing that an alkaline diet will prevent disease. To put this straight, neither a diet that is highly acidic or highly alkaline will prevent disease. Why waste your money on this stuff? If you’re that determined to have an alkaline diet then why wouldn’t you spend that money on great alkaline food, which is rich in nutrients and minerals?
Another problem is that this is all yet another marketing ploy to fuel our innate fears of becoming ill by providing us with another way to self medicate. We are naturally afraid of an undesirable self perceived future self, whether that be a fear in becoming ill, poor, lonely, overweight, or in some way unable to live up to societies heavy and outrageous demands for us to be as near perfect and desirable as possible. Not that there is anything wrong in wanting to be the best and strongest version of yourself, but there is a problem when you are spending money on something which you believe is helping when it’s not. There is a problem when you buy into a product which is sold through capitalising on your anxiety, rather than a product which is genuinely good for you.
I’m not saying that all supplementation is bad either. I like raw vegan-friendly supplements (mainly protein) because they have so few chemicals, preservatives or additives.
4. Finally, your Body is not this Fragile!
Finally, the other main problem is really believing an alkaline diet will prevent disease. Could it not be that a diet which is rich in nutrients and minerals is the cause for improved health and increased vitality? Alkaline foods are highly nutritious, they’re great for you! But does that mean that eating a steak will be detrimental to your health? Or that if you eat wholemeal pasta, or even go as far as eating a pizza or a burger, that you then need to quickly supplement it with alkaline rich foods or you will surely suffer the consequences? Is any of this sounding a little too…drastic? Is your body so fragile that it cannot handle the odd croissant here and there? No it’s not!
As always, if you are aiming for a healthy lifestyle or even an athletic level of health, then I always always always recommend a balanced diet and keeping well hydrated. Increase your greens by all means if you want to increase the amount of nutrients and minerals in your diet. But don’t buy into diet fads without really digging deep into where they came from (and as always, go and speak with your local GP!)
Don’t waste your money on something which has not been proven to work and is currently being pushed and promoted as if it were made of unicorn horns. Go for healthy foods and recipes that taste great and make your health routines enjoyable! Who ever enjoyed or looked forward to swallowing supplement pills anyway???
So what about toxins? free radicals? oxidative stress? antioxidants? detox? and all these terms which are thrown around every day? What are these about? Check out next weeks blog for more on these! Are they also fads? or do we genuinely need to detox once in a while?
I’m not in any way a psychologist, nor do I have any skills in re-wiring peoples behavioural patterns, but I do read a lot about food and marketing. The scary fact is that brands create food to make us addicted to more cheap and low quality food. Brands will literally go as far as put specific chemicals in their products which they know will cause you to become addicted to it, and your body will enhance that addiction through a build up of tolerance to that chemical, so your brain will tell you to find more of that chemical and interpret it as a reward.
For example, have you ever heard of the chemical Monosodium Glutamate? Better known by its more common name, MSG (look for the E number E621). As well as being a major additive in many foods, it is also used in laboratories to fatten up rats for experimentation. MSG causes high levels excitation and is often referred to as an excitotoxin. It is found in so many foods, and is purposefully added to foods such as soups, seasonings, snacks, fast foods, ready meals, and many more, in order to trigger your sense of craving for other foods which provide excessive stimulation (such as those high in sugar, or caffeine, or salt)
This is scary stuff! I highly recommend you read the book ‘Brandwashed’ which also covers this point.
So how can we fight back against brand and supermarket marketers (who are equally as bad with their own in store own brand products)? We know what we are craving, and why we are craving it (to literally get our fix of such substances), but what else is influencing us to buy these foods in the first place (other than knowing they taste good).
Many of the foods we crave are often described as rewards, treats, celebrations (literally!), or as something we deserve. You will frequently see marketing that describes certain food in such ways as “go on, treat yourself” or “you deserve a reward”. Coincidently, when we reward ourselves, our brains release a powerful neurotransmitter called Dopamine. In our brains, dopamine is translated as pleasure, creating a powerful feeling of satisfaction which we crave and become addicted to. During periods of the day when we have not received a reward for some time, we begin to crave a dopamine hit and start searching for ways to obtain this satisfaction associated with rewards. The more frequently we reward ourselves, the greater the need for a greater reward.
In food terms, something as innocent as yoghurt can (and many do) contain chemicals and sugars, and literally feed your reward system, giving you that release of dopamine you’ve been waiting for. If you have a relatively healthy diet and then start to reward yourself with something as innocent (hint) as yoghurt, you’re going to release dopamine into your system as a result. This in turn is going to influence you to seek out and crave sweeter foods. Perhaps you have the same problem with salt and you seek out crisps as a reward too. The fun, rewarding, celebratory slogan “once you pop you just can’t stop” soon becomes a real problem. If you look back to where your addictions started, for many during times of stress or lack of stimulation, you may be able to identify what foods initially caused the problem, and what foods you began to go after from there on.
For me I recognised this problem in bread and other baked products. I also loved bread based meals such as pizza, burgers, sandwiches (hungry yet?), and sweet baked goods. Unfortunately, these very products were feeding my cravings, and helping me towards a diet which was entirely reactive to the cravings I had to fulfil. Even when I was not hungry I would impulsively buy Burger Kings (I used to live a few yards away from a Burger King at University), cakes, doughnuts, you get the idea. Crisps and chocolate then became the norm (notice how ‘meal deals’ are always a sandwich, packet of crisps, some sort of chocolate, and bottle of fruit juice from concentrate or a fruit smoothie…supermarkets know how to get you hooked!) But it wasn’t the bread itself I was addicted to…it was their unlabelled ingredients. Bakers of ‘fresh’ bread and baked goods in the UK do not have to fully label their products with the ingredients used. The Real Bread Campaign gives us an overview of what bakers and retailers are not required to do for us consumers (www.sustainweb.org/realbread/bread_labelling):
- Bakers and retailers are not required to provide customers with full lists of ingredients and any additives they use in making unwrapped loaves – e.g. those from supermarket in-store bakeries.
- The use of so-called processing aids can go completely undeclared, even on the ingredient and additive lists of wrapped loaves.
- There are no legal definitions for terms commonly used in loaf marketing, including ‘fresh’ (or ‘freshly baked’), ‘sourdough’, ‘wholegrain’, ‘artisan’ and ‘craft.’
Shocked? We literally live in a world where avoiding additives or addictive substances is near impossible! It’s no wonder we crave such bad foods or comfort eat, or even let these foods become a part of our everyday diet! Once these foods are in your everyday diet the supermarkets know you will literally be buying the sweeter, saltier, more appealing foods which are ridiculously high in these addictive substances.The messages throughout online food stores and in the supermarkets themselves are telling us it’s ok to buy and enjoy more, and more, and more.
How do we stop? If you really concerned then your first point of call should be a GP (I always recommend this) as they can help guide you towards resources and even dieticians. Never attempt to dramatically or suddenly change your diet without GP guidance. For me, I took steps to keep bad foods out of sight and out of mind. I avoided the baked goods aisle and I wouldn’t allow any bad foods into my kitchen. I made rules for myself such as eating those foods only at weekends, which I soon reduced to a new rule which is now ‘eating those foods only at birthdays and celebrations, and I’m on my way to reducing this even further’. By reducing my intake of bad foods I naturally reduce the cravings and my addictions slowly break down. They become less frequent and I haven’t caused myself any additional stress from drastically changing my diet. My approach to food is much less reactive.
I also started to explore fresh vegetables, fruits and healthy fats. I realised that my taste buds could only recognise severely strong flavours, and I would find vegetables to be bland, which they shouldn’t be! They have so much flavour but we can barely recognise it as it’s not what we’re used to.
Also, I looked for different ways to reward myself other than food, which is how I got into exercise and why I continued playing sports. I loved playing (and still do) rugby! I found Calisthenics to be challenging and rewarding, especially when I could perform the more complex movements due to my hard work paying off. Re-wiring your dopamine reward system to respond to a healthy stimulus is a key way to avoid comfort eating or treating yourself regularly with bad foods. It’s strange to say it but I now crave fresh raw foods like vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, nut and seeds because my body has got used to wanting the nutrients. I become more irritated when I am a bit dehydrated, as opposed to needing a cup of coffee. It may sound a bit mad or even ridiculous, but I want to encourage you to remove addictive foods and seek out a healthier diet. Find other foods, healthier foods to reward yourself with. Work out which healthy foods are your favourite and work from there (find recipes that use them for example). Reward yourself in a different way and fulfil your bodies cravings for a dopamine hit with a healthy reward, something you enjoy.
It’s not going to be easy but nothing worth having ever is! If you’re looking for a way to reward yourself with exercise then I urge you to try out Calisthenics, which can be done without any equipment and can be performed anywhere, anytime, by yourself or in groups. Yes, I’ll even plug my own classes but they are good fun and they could help you get started on your journey towards a stronger version of you.
If you have any questions then leave comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For next weeks blog article I’ll be writing about one of my biggest problems which is sleep and a feeling of constant tiredness. I really do struggle to get out of bed in the morning, and although I’m not as bad as I used to be, I still often feel constantly tired.
My title is a bit misleading as there has not been any research into the long term effects of low/no carb diets in humans (just rats, as far as I’m aware). It is my personal opinion and experience that a low/no carb diet is pretty horrible and certainly not enjoyable for both health, body and mind. I found it to make me quite ill to be honest.
I suffered headaches, nausea, severe tiredness and a real lack of energy, and it affected my mood and motivation. These are usually the symptoms of drastic diet changes, so any action to change your diet should be done slowly, and you should take thoroughly researched steps to plan for it (including speaking to a GP). We are also very much in a carb and sugar cutting phase in modern nutritional beliefs, where as before we were in a fat cutting phase, and of course the salt reduction phase and MSG cutting phase (and others). To be honest we should just stop listening to the clever marketers who trigger these phases and who work them to their advantage, selling us more low fat this and low sugar that. Let’s just have an ‘eat less bad food altogether’ phase!
Last week I wrote about how there is no “fat burning zone” but how we can use the ratios in which our bodies use fuel to our advantage. After about 20 minutes of exercise our bodies will start using fat as the primary source of fuel BUT our bodies will still use carbs (just less of them). Why doesn’t the body switch off the need for carbs altogether? Why does the body seemingly want to preserve our carb stores?
The simple answer is that our bodies use carbs to function. Our brains use glucose as a primary fuel, as do our other organs. Our bodies are naturally engineered to ensure the brain functions efficiently, and our bodies take drastic measures to protect the brain and ensure it has the fuel to function. For example, when our brains are not receiving enough oxygen and blood flow is restricted then we can become dizzy and even faint. Why? To lower the head and increase the blood flow back to what the brain needs it to be. This is a pretty drastic but entirely necessary survival function our bodies perform to protect our brains.
The brain does not use fats as a source of energy because fatty acids cannot cross the blood brain barrier. Therefore our brains need a supply of glucose to function effectively. If the brain is not receiving glucose then our bodies will begin to break down fat into ketones. Ketones are what is used as fuel when glucose is not available. Firstly, understand that using ketones as fuel is not bad. Low carb diets increase ketone levels in the blood and this is perfectly fine (our ketone levels increase when we sleep, and sleep doesn’t harm us). Ketones are not the primary fuel source though, and a high level of ketones in the blood causes an increase in acidity which causes a number of health problems (for the sake of preventing this blog from becoming a text book I won’t go into it, but if you’re interested then research the terms acidosis and Ketoacidosis).
Just quickly though, acidosis is not a good thing. It is an increase in blood acidity and therefore in other body tissues such as muscles, organs, and bones, impairs their function. For example, increased acidity in the blood can lead to weakened bones because your bones will release calcium carbonate to help buffer against the acidity levels in the blood. This happens because your body will always try to maintain a pH level of 7.4, and anything either side of this (acidosis or alkalosis) has side effects. This is why a balanced diet should be a priority over a high carb or low carb or no carb diet. Too much or too little carbs cause shifts in our bodies pH levels which is simply not good for us.
As I mentioned, ketones themselves are not bad for us. In fact there is plenty of research which suggests that a ketogenic diet is perfectly healthy (note that I wrote ketogenic diet NOT ketoacidosis – two very different things!) But to keep your pH levels neutral in a ketogenic diet, you would need to plan a more alkaline based diet and seek out foods which will help buffer against the increases in acidity. Leafy greens, edible algae (spirulina, chlorella), lemons, and other fruit and veg (Google Alkaline Foods) will increase your blood alkaline levels. Since many of the foods we eat (meat, dairy, eggs, chocolate, cakes, alcohol) and the by products of bodily processes causes increase in acidity, a diet plan which aims to balance out the pH levels can only be a good thing. Though you can go the other way and become too alkaline so amongst all this biomedical jargon, if you haven’t come to this conclusion already, it is always best to have a balanced highly nutritious diet!
It’s pretty clear that there isn’t actually a definitive answer as to whether having a glucose fueled diet is better than a ketone diet. Both have their benefits and both have their pitfalls.
What you have to ask yourself is this – do you want to live on a ketone based diet? Do you really want to take on a diet that, although may induce weight loss, can actually lead you down a slippery slope towards other health problems?
Also bear in mind that a ketone based diet will have very little grains, legumes, fruits and many vegetables, fibre, or dairy, and certainly no pasta or rice. So that means you are cutting out an awful lot of nutrients. Minerals and vitamins are very restricted in a ketogenic diet, as is fibre. You also get a lot of fluids from these foods so you are cutting down on your water intake by removing these foods. You’re pretty much left with foods that are predominantly fat and protein, which is a highly acidic diet. You’ll still have leafy greens of course too, and you can balance out the acidity with low/no carb alkaline foods. Personally, I go for a low sugar diet and keep the carbs because I do not believe that reducing my healthy sources of carbs (I LOVE fruit!) is of any benefit to me. I don’t over indulge and I don’t eat too much fruit either. I keep it balanced.
My blog this week may not have given you a definitive answer into which diet is better, carb or ketone, but I hope I have given you enough info to make your own choices and start you on a journey into researching what is right for you. One thing I do want you to take away is this. The ketone diet is often criticised as being a diet low in vitamins and minerals. Funny enough, all companies which sell multivitamins and similar supplements are fully aware of this. They will most likely blog about the benefits of ketogenic diets (in fact I challenge you to find me an article written by a supplement company, or by a company which endorses supplements, that writes about the pitfalls of Ketogenic Diets).
They’re also very aware that we have an innate fear of ill health which causes us to self-medicate our diets through supplementation. This is why we buy their products as we believe, due to their clever marketing, that we need them to be healthier. Now with the Ketogenic diet they have a real excuse to pump us with their marketing nonsense and convince us to buy their £10 bottle of 30 multivitamin pills, which coincides nicely with one pill for every day of the month, practically making us monthly subscribers. But no matter what we will always fall for this because, well hey, more vitamins and more nutrients taken quickly without the hassle of shopping or preparing vegetables is beneficial for us right?
The supplement companies are the same clever marketers who know how our brains work, and why we do things such as comfort eating, or create addictions for ourselves to foods high in sugar or salt or even coffee.
What can you do about it? Can you break away from comfort eating or daily food addictions? Find out in next weeks blog!
Firstly, my rant. I just had someone (no names mentioned) tell me about a widely known supplement company offering their supplements after classes, and claiming that one of the worlds best footballers (and the entire of one of the worlds best teams) all take this supplement. While I don’t doubt many professionals do use supplements, I would be surprised if the very best athletes and pro’s in the world are completely ok with putting certain chemicals, fillers, caking agents and all sorts into their bodies. I was more annoyed (though not surprised) when I asked what the ingredients were in these products that made them so naturally good, which I was told the answer ‘vitamins’. So, just vitamins?
It just made me wonder. Are supplement companies just feeding us these drinks and pills without informing us what is in them? Even worse, are we just taking them without questioning or researching into what these ingredients are? Last week I spoke about how artificial sweeteners can worsen our sugar cravings, and I recently wrote a blog post titled “All Killer, No Filler” where I rant on further about supplements and why I only take supplements suitable and acceptable for Raw Vegans.
Anyway, fat burning myths! Fat is an excellent energy source and good fats are incredibly healthy for you. Sugar (carbs) are good in moderation and like fats are also needed for fuel. But the main difference between sugar and fat is that sugar really has one purpose – to provide fuel for energy.
Fat on the other hand is different. Fats are used by our bodies for insulation, fuel, shock absorption, protection, and form many major cellular and biochemical structures in our body. Hormones are made of fat. If we remove fat from our diet completely then we are hindering of bodies natural signalling system. Nerve tissue (neurons, specifically axons) are covered in myelin sheath, a protective layer which is made of fat. Myelin sheath provides our nerves with the insulation it needs for electrical impulses to quickly reach their destinations (our muscles). I am sure you all know this, but the point I am getting at (before I go into fat myth busters) is this – fats are essential to a healthy life style. Source healthy fats (avocado, coconut, nuts, olive oil), avoid bad fats (trans fats, saturated fats, butters, most cooking oils such as vegetable or seed oils). Keep your hormones in check and give them the nutrients they need. Same goes for the nervous system – you’ll need both systems working as efficiently as possible to help improve your health, and get the most out of your training.
Just think about how much your hormonal and nervous system will benefit from a diet that regularly receives good healthy fats.
Here are my fat burning myths:
1. The body turns off one fuel system and then turns on another
The body uses both fat and carbs at the same time, just in different ratios. Why is this important? Because this is often explained poorly by many who sell fitness programmes. The claim is that there is a fat burning zone. Whilst our bodies do switch primary fuel sources from carbs to fat, both are always at work. Our bodies also need to preserve carbs as we only have a limited supply. When the body knows it needs to preserve carbs, the ratio will change in favour of fat for energy.
2. Low-intensity exercise will burn more fat than high-intensity exercise
Again, looking at the fat to carb fuel ratio, at a low intensity your body will use more fat than carbs, but not will solely burn fat alone. At low intensity our bodies will preserve our carb stores as carbs are required for everyday bodily function. However, the question is how do you define your low-intensity exercise? Would you regard a walk as low intensity? a jog? The important thing here is that low intensity workouts will not burn many calories, high-intensity workouts will. Therefore even though low intensity favours the use of fats in the fat to carb ratio, the overall amount of fat used for fuel will be pretty low (but still more than the carbs used in the low-intensity activity) – want to burn more fat? then burn more calories and perform high-intensity workouts.
3. Exercising for longer than 15-20 minutes burns more fat
This myth boils down to the calories you are actually burning. If you go for a jog for 30-40 minutes then I will surely burn fat (and carbs!). But if I go for a run for 15-20 minutes and perform sprints as part of that workout, I will burn more calories than a 30-40 minute jog (I will most likely have to do a few good sprints though). If I am planning to make fat burning effective for my workout then I need to make sure I am burning more calories during a 20-minute workout than I would for a 40-minute workout. Not easy, but with hard work and dedication it is more than do able. This is why HIIT training and Ta-Ba-Ta training is very effective because it focuses on the calories within a short time frame, not the fuel source.
I’m not saying that we must count calories – we all know when too much is too much. What I am saying is that when it comes to our food, go for the quality of the nutrition and keep the carbs in moderation. In other words make sure the calories you are taking in are high quality calories. When we exercise let’s aim to burn a high number of calories in a shorter amount of time.
Let’s get one thing straight. Sugar can only cause you to put on weight if you are eating more calories than you are burning. Fact. It doesn’t matter what form it comes in. If you eat more calories than you burn then you will put on weight.
My concern, which has been a personal concern for me for some time, is the addiction of sugar as this can get you into a bit of a cycle. It also doesn’t help that artificial sweeteners or “no calorie” sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose (for more info I highly recommend this site http://liveto110.com/complete-list-of-artificial-sweeteners) help stimulate our cravings even more so! They do this by tricking our bodies into thinking we are about to digest a high amount of calories, which causes our brains to tell us to eat more until that very expectation is met!
Then we have the effect that sugar has on our mood (and again, our brain chemistry). We get our sugar fix and all is calm for a moment. Then we crash when our blood sugar levels drop, and we become a bit irritated. Then we eat more. Once we start building up a bit of tolerance (just like with coffee or alcohol) we seem to require more sugar in higher doses with shorter time periods between crashes. We start to want more, more often, in higher amounts.
AND THEN there is the triglyceride problem! Triglycerides are what I call “Fat Sugars”. They are fatty acids bonded to a glycerol molecule. Triglycerides are a major energy store for us, called upon when we need energy (particularly during sustained high-intensity workouts). This makes them a stubborn form of energy as we will always burn available sugars in our system first when we exercise.
What this means is that when we are consuming more energy than we need through eating a diet high in sugar, even if we have a low-fat diet, we are still getting fat as we are literally giving our body no reason to burn fat as energy!
AND THEN when we start to burn fat as fuel, the triglycerides are broken down into their individual parts, which means sugar will enter our bloodstream and we will inevitably crash again, then crave more sugar, and if we already have a sugar addiction then we will most likely eat something sugary to cure the crash, which means consuming more energy, which means that no matter how much we exercise we cannot lose weight! Then to help self-medicate our sugar cravings we often turn to no calorie sugar alternatives to help us, but it turns out they’re just making it worse and are increasing our sugar addiction!
AND THEN we start to look at the ingredients in our food and realise that EVERYTHING has some form of sugar and sugar alternatives! White carbs or refined carbs (bread, pasta, rice, cereal), diet foods, soup, plain-ish crackers, soy or almond milks, yoghurts – the list could go on! Reading the ingredients on many of our daily foods only makes us give up hope that we could ever have a low sugar diet, let alone get release from our sugar addictions.
For me, fighting this addiction and coming up with a diet and lifestyle that can be low in sugar, has been a never ending battle.
But since I have become more and more conscious of the seriousness of sugar, and its effects both on my mood and my weight, I have been able to cut back and seen dramatic changes in my body and mind. I started this journey into fighting my sugar addiction about a year ago after meeting a Raw Vegan guy called James Painting, who I met on my PT course taught by Lara Painting. His passion for the Raw Vegan lifestyle inspired me to think about my own diet, and how everyday foods were really affecting me. I cannot say I have completely removed sugar from my diet (can anyone say that?) as carbs are sugar and not all carbs are bad. For example, fruit contains the sugar fructose, milk contains lactose, and some vegetables contain starch, and these are all healthy foods (some will debate whether or not milk is healthy). But what I have done is taken account of how sugar affects me.
Here are my tips for taking control of my sugar addictions:
1. Find out when you most likely crave sugar in the day
You’ll be surprised that you often crave sugar at similar times in the day every day. Find out when those times are and pre-plan a few healthy snacks to fill you up.
2. Source healthy carbs for your diet
When the cravings get really bad your will power will be tested. Sadly, sugar is so addictive that there is very little we can do against a bad craving. What we can do is fix our cravings with nutrient rich foods that contain sugars. Fruits are ideal, as are unrefined carbs (brown pasta).
3. Eat more protein, more fibre and drink more water!
When you need energy your sugar addicted brain will tell you to go and get sugar (or sugar like products). You can suppress this before it happens by including protein in your diet, increasing your water intake, and eating more leafy greens! Leafy greens are also incredibly good for you. I would urge anyone to increase their water intake and intake of leafy greens.
4. Get more sleep!
Sleep deprivation causes you to crave energy boosting foods and drinks such as caffeine and of course sugars. Get a good nights sleep to prevent this. Stress and exhaustion also have the same effect on your cravings, it will increase them.
5. Remove nutrient empty sugary foods from site
More often than not we are tempted by what we see. This is difficult when we shop for our food online or in the supermarket as those companies will play on our addictions to make a sale. Don’t let them beat you down this way. Keep the bad food out of sight, out of home and out of mind.
6. Don’t quit cold turkey!
Sugar is addictive. If you have an addiction then you need to find a way to consume less. Going cold turkey will cause major upsets to your system, so reduce your sugar intake gradually. Remember that your sugar addiction is caused by the sugar suppressing your natural pleasure producing chemicals by replacing them. It’s similar to self-medication, which any GP will recommend against. Gradually bring back your natural pleasure producing brain chemicals. Which leads on to my next point…
7. Exercise more!
Exercise stimulates a fulfilment to both body and mind, releasing those natural pleasure chemicals in our brains. Use exercise to suppress your sugar cravings by seeking out your brains natural reward system without using sugar
Sugar is an addiction, and the only way to get over that addiction is to not eat sugar. Sadly this is impossible as our bodies need carbs for energy. But we can cut down a lot of our sugar intake, take control of our lives, and not have our shopping or dietary habits, our moods, or our motivation affected by this everyday drug.