Self Development & Wellness

 

Drinking a green smoothie in white kitchen with flowers on table. Photography by Alexandra Rodi, Honestly Alexandra

Guys….I am SO excited about this blog post, and I’m pretty darn lucky to have Holistic Nutritionist Jass Stupak in my amazing circle. She is so incredibly knowledgeable in the areas of wellness and nutrition (as I’ve said a hundred times before), and I wanted to bring her on the blog again to discuss all things SUGAR. Side note: Jass just released her new ebook on Digestive Nourishment – click here for more info!

Who else has been consuming WAY too much sugar this summer? I’m a big believer in balance (we don’t restrict, we just practice moderation). But now that Summer is nearing the end (cue water works), I think it’s time to cut back a little bit on all of those refined sugars.

Truth is, I always feel SO much better when I limit the amount of refined sugars in my diet. I personally think sugar is a major problem in our world (it’s hidden in so many foods and it’s incredibly addicting). I wanted to share Jass’ thoughts on this subject because it’s just so important. Jass has also shared one of her favourite low sugar Vegan Cookies and Cream Bars recipe at the bottom of this post that I know you all will LOVE! So….read on to get some advice on how you can curb your sweet tooth!

 

Many of us can relate to having a MAJOR sweet tooth. Can a sweet tooth be a cause of an underlying deficiency or problem? Why do some people struggle with sugar so much more than others?

Simply put, unfortunately yes. When we are constantly craving sugar, it’s a sign from our body telling us that there is an imbalance in the body. This could be caused by candida (an overgrowth of yeast in the body, which is typically caused by overconsumption of sugar, antibiotics, or dairy). This could also, most likely be an issue with blood sugar management. It’s so important for us to make sure we are eating balanced meals in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which will eliminate those cravings. When we eat more sugar or refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, cake), our bodies crave more. One way to keep theses cravings away is to make sure that all meals and snacks throughout the day contain a protein source, healthy fat and fibre. These three components will help keep us feeling full and satisfied.

For those who have a real sugar ‘problem’, can yo provide 3 simple steps on ways they can begin eliminating bad sugar from their diet?

There are tons of things that we can do to reduce our sugar cravings. Something that I always tell my clients (and myself, when needed), is that we are in total control of our own health. We are the ones who choose to either make the transition miserable or exciting.

One of my most important steps would be to increase bitter foods into the diet! These include foods like: Radish, kale, arugula, dandelion, radicchio. Adding at least one bitter food into your meals each day will really help to alter your taste buds and even aid in better digestion. Since I began adding bitter foods into my diet, I can truly say that my sugar cravings are at an all time low.

Another tip that I would suggest would be to reduce or eliminate the sugar and dairy you add into your drinks. Black coffee has a really bitter taste (which is great for reducing those cravings), but as soon as we add in any kind of sweetness, we automatically make our bodies crave more sweetness throughout the day. Try sticking to water, black coffee and tea as your main liquids. The less sugar you consume in your drinks, the less sugar you will crave!

My last tip is probably my favourite: meal prep! Make sure you always have healthy food on hand. This is seriously a life savior. Whenever I am in the kitchen making dinner, I always prepare more for at least two other meals. This saves time and also helps me to make better choices. If you have a sweet tooth, make a batch of my refined sugar free freezer fudge to keep in sight if those cravings get too crazy!

Break it down for us… What do refined sugars actually do to our bodies? 

Refined sugars have a bad rep because they can become truly toxic to our bodies. Refined sugars are manmade sugars that are produced in a lab. These sugars aren’t something that the body recognizes very easily, unlike something like honey, a natural sweetener. Overtime, the consumption of refined sugars will create an acidic environment in the body. Having an acidic environment allows sickness and disease to manifest within. Sugar essentially will increase our bad bacteria and it all goes down hill from here. With an increased amount of bad bacteria, the immune system begins to shut down and so does the digestive system.

Refined sugars can be a contributing factor to diabetes, depression, weight gain, IBS, leaky gut, autoimmune diseases and so much more.

I’m a big advocate for READING LABELS while at the grocery store. What ingredients should we be looking out for that indicate hidden refined sugars?

Hidden Names for Sugar:

 Ending with –ase and -ose, ending in –sugar, dextran, diastatic malt powder, ethyl maltol, fruit juice concentrates, syrup, maltodextrin, panela, corn fibre, sorghum, treacle and more. Keep in mind that the ingredient “natural” can mean up to 150 different ingredients and refined sugars are included in this list.

It is also important to remember that any kind of white flour will turn into sugar in the body! So if you are trying to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, I would recommend staying away from white bread, pasta, rice.

Some of us just need a little sweetness in our coffee or tea. Are there better substitutes that can be used? If so, what are they?

If you aren’t used to having black coffee and cannot enjoy it without some sweetness, try adding a little bit of stevia! Just one drop should be more than enough. Stevia is a natural sugar that does not spike our blood sugar levels as much as white sugar. You can also use stevia in your baking instead of sugar! Just be cautious with the amount that you use as it is over 500 times sweeter than regular sugar so you really only need a tiny amount. 

For those who are really motivated to try and eliminate all (or most) refined sugars in their diet, how would you instruct them on going about this?

For those of us who are ready to get rid of almost all refined sugars in our diet, there are a few things that we can start incorporating. I would first suggest going through your fridge and cupboards, making sure that you get rid of anything that has refined sugars in there. If its not in sight, it becomes way easier to resist!

I would also recommend getting some coconut sugar, stevia, honey or maple syrup in the house so that if you do need some sweetness, you’ve got natural sweeteners around for that. Keep the fridge stocked with fresh fruit to help curb any sweet cravings.

Lastly, something that is super important when cutting out anything in your diet is to not let it control your life. If you stress too much about it, your body is actually going to go through way more harm than it would if you just had the sugar! Be dedicated, but let yourself enjoy food with good company as well. Its better to share good food with the people you love, than you relapse and emotionally indulge by yourself.

What do your clients experience when they begin to remove refined sugars from their diets?

I love seeing the results that my clients gain after removing sugar from their diets! Many of my clients have a hard time letting go of sugar, so I always make sure to hold them accountable and be there for every step.

Since transitioning, my clients notice a huge change in energy. Most of them have actually quit their morning coffee or tea, because they don’t feel the need to consume caffeine anymore. Along with energy, they find that they sleep better because they no longer experience those mid afternoon crashes.

Better digestion and weight loss have also been a plus for my clients as well. When we aren’t consuming so much sugar, our bodies don’t feel as stressed as normal. This aids in better digestion, better mental health (no ‘hangry’ feels), and inevitably, sustainable weight loss. Weight loss is always seen when sugar is cut out of the diet because your body stops craving the sweetness, and you stop reaching for it when you feeling low or tired. The digestive system also doesn’t have to work as hard, so it creates a less stressed and more alkalized environment for the digestive system.

What I love most about my clients’ success after cutting sugar is hearing them talk about how much happier and motivated they are in living a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their families. It truly is life changing.

Can refined sugars have a major impact on your digestive health? 

Sugars have a huge impact on our digestive systems. Sugar is seen as a MAJOR stressor on the body. When sugar is presented in the body, the digestive system has to work really hard to try and excrete it as quickly as possible. Too much sugar, leads to an acidic environment in the gut and the entire body. This can cause issues like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, diabetes, IBS, candida and so much more. If having a strong digestive system is important to you, sugar is the first thing that needs to go.

Fruit. Should we be mindful of how much fruit we eat? What about the popular ‘juicing’ method?

Although fruit contains sugar, it is not a refined sugar. It’s much easier for the body to digest and it is a carbohydrate that the body needs. Fruit is one of the best energy sources for the body. Some of the best sources of fibre come from fruit, as well! If you are looking to reduce the amount of sugar you eat overall, I would recommend eating less of the higher glycemic fruits like mango, bananas and papaya. Berries and apples contain the least amount of natural sugar and are always a staple in my diet!

My only issue with juicing is that this process takes out the fibre that was originally found in the fruit. This means we will most likely be taking in all of these sugars, which will cause the blood sugar levels to spike. I would recommend looking for juices that have more vegetables in them over fruits, or making a smoothie instead! As smoothies are blended in a less heavier process, most of the fibre will still be found in the fruit. Plus, a smoothie filled with fruits, vegetables and protein is a perfect meal on the go!

If I am craving a piece of chocolate cake, for example, what do you suggest I reach for that will still feel satisfying? 

Cravings can get the best out of us. If you feel like having something super sweet like chocolate cake, I would recommend getting yourself a dark chocolate bar that you can keep at home when those cravings hit. Try to aim for a bar that is 75% or higher, and its best if the chocolate bar is raw, as process chocolate usually means the nutrients have been denatured. A few pieces of dark chocolate and some almonds will really help to satisfy your sweet tooth. Dark chocolate and nuts are a great source of fibre and healthy fats to keep us feeling satiated for a longer period of time. If your cravings are still there, try drinking a large glass of water or two. When were dehydrated, our body confuses it for hunger. This is usually the most common cause of weight gain!

I’m always curious about how holistic nutritionists eat. Do you significantly limit the amount of sugar in your diet? 

As a Holistic Nutritionist, I personally eat a diet that is quite minimal in sugar as my body and digestive health do not function optimally with higher sugar in the picture. However, if I’m having a craving for sugar and have done everything I can to subside this craving, I’ll go and have the chocolate cake! My way of looking at it is 80% healthy, 20% treats. If I’m having a girl’s night, I will make sure to eat healthy during the day so that I can get all of my nutrients in and then have some fun at night! I am a true believer in balance. Don’t ever forget to listen to your body!


JASS’ RAW VEGAN LOW SUGAR COOKIES AND CREAM BARS RECIPE

 

For bottom layer:

1 cup almonds 

1 cup pecans 

1/2 cup cacao powder 

1/2 coconut flakes 

1/3 cup maple syrup or rice malt syrup 

8 dates 

2 tsp sea salt

For cream:

1 1/2 cups soaked cashews 

1 cup coconut butter

1/3 cup coconut milk

1/3 cup sweetener of choice

1/2 bar dark chocolate 

Instructions:

1. In a processor, process almonds and pecans until they are in little pieces. Mix together all other ingredients from the base. 

2. Pat down the mixture in a glass dish. Place in freezer for 1 hour. Use a baking sheet to line the dish. 

3. For the cream, process the cashews, butter and milk until creamy. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix. 

4. Place on top of the base, and add in your crushed chocolate. 

5. Transfer back into the freezer and wait at least one hour until serving


To connect with Jass, visit her website or instagram account. 

  

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