'Why?' I hear you ask.......
For quite sometime now I have wondered about the long term effects of a diet high in sugar.
I am indeed an adult raised during the 'low fat' craze of the 80's and 90's, fat causes heart disease right? Well not exactly. If you read the bumf out there it does actually suggest that an idea was born, a seed planted and then the concept literally flew with the wind and now the low fat market is massive and still growing. What has happened as a result is that food companies have replaced their products with fillers and often sugars to entice us to eat them and to make them palatable. It's scary stuff!
I suppose my worries started way back in 2011 when I recognised real highs and lows in my husband; who literally fuelled his body on a diet of high sugar cereals, coke, biscuits - you name it. His highs and lows were very evident with periods of elation followed by moments of despair which he dealt with in his own way. I did a little research back then but didn't act upon my findings until the end of last year when I began to question just why we are becoming a nation of overweight people and why in particular the rate of diabetes, cancer and degenerative brain diseases have become so rife?
When my own mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease I realised that I really had to look further into matters of health to help me understand the condition.
I had also got to the stage when my own sweet tooth was getting the better of me and I too was beginning to gain weight. Cake had moved beyond the realms of a treat and had become the norm, sometimes being consumed several times a day!
Mixed bulgar wheat and quinoa with warmed vegetables and cheese
A good friend recommended a book called 'Grain Brain' by David Perlmutter. Wow! Interesting stuff! It basically shuns the healthy lifestyle that I thought I was living stating that grains and carbs are responsible for so many of our current epidemic health troubles. It suggests that grains cause inflammation in the brain but also in other parts of the body. Sugar of course is high in carbs, in fact the more you read and look at our Western diets, the more you realise that actually out diets are mainly based on carbs. We've been told for years now that carbs should make up the largest part of our daily food intake. Remember that food pyramid with the picture of bread, pasta and grains at the bottom? Which group is at the top? The fats and oils. No wonder our brains have been suffering as a result of low fat diets, our brains need fats to survive and function properly.
I for one have always feasted on a relatively low fat diet, thinking it to be the healthy and sensible option. No wonder all my life I have suffered with poor memory and the inability to retain information. During my formative school years especially, I recall this being a problem.
'Grain brain' suggests a diet based on fat and protein with vegetables (although not the high carb starchy ones). That is all good and well but not so easy if you are vegetarian! It also goes onto say that our bodies are not meant to be fuelled by a diet of sugar. Our early ancestors would have primarily consumed meat with the odd plants and berries here and there (only in season).
Apparently when we eat carbs our brain doesn't register that it is full. How true this is! When I have eaten a plate of pasta and momentarily felt full, within no time at all I would have rooted through the cupboards to find something sweet to follow. If you eat protein and fat your brain does actually register that is is full.
Mashed sweet potatoes with Quorn fillets, beetroot, feta and salad
Intrigued, I felt I had to research these theories further and it seems that others have also adopted the same way of thinking. It makes sense. So before Christmas, I decided to give things a try. I cut sugar from the diets of myself and my children in a big way. We upped our fat intake (protein and good fats - coconut oil and olive oil) and ditched the carbs, big time!
The first week or so was really challenging but I was determined to give the theory a trying practice and see what effects it had on my body.
I wasn't prepared for the amazing results that became apparent.
As a vegetarian it was more of a challenge. I exchanged wheat flour for coconut flour and sugar for Stevia which is made from birch sap. We survived mainly on meatless alternatives, cheese, lentils and eggs; which are considered a super food.
Firstly I had more energy and I wasn't going through the highs and lows that prior to 'no sugar' I was clearly experiencing. My body plateaued in a way I find difficult to explain. I had a very constant flow of energy and it felt good! I didn't feel periods of tiredness following meals; you know, those 3pm dips; and my muscles felt different. They felt stronger and and more able to endure work. Amazing! The most brilliant aspect of no sugar was no pre menstrual cramps, pains, boob pain or symptoms; not that I suffer much anyway, but all symptoms were completely non existent :-)
The other bonus is that my body became toned, wobbly bits from my arms and the tops of my legs, shrunk and tightened :-)
Warmed mushrooms, peppers, salad and haloumi cheese
A combination of too much coconut flour and Christmas scuppered my plans. Much as I did try very hard around the festive period to resist the carb laden treats, it was extremely challenging. Firstly I was bought a huge box of Thornton's chocolates which were really tough to resist and then there were all the pies, cakes etc etc One thing that I did notice having cut out sugar was the fact that when I now eat sugar it actually tastes poisonous. Genuinely it does and it's not good. It also makes my mouth taste horrid. I guess that I had become resilient to it over the years.
So here I am mid Feb and although I have the odd bit of sugar and some carbs, I'm perfectly happy without it :-) :-), the children have cut back but do have treats :-) :-) It's about getting the balance right!
Words from the mouth of a self confessed sugar addict.
Asparagus, mixed salad and cauliflower cheese with a dressing