Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quit Sugar and Thrive

Sometimes the reasons I go without sugar seem elusive, like during a full-blown craving. Other times I can't seem to find the time to list the reasons why refined sugar sucks.

Well, this morning I found some time and some novel reasons to reconsider eating any more of the white stuff. Although you'll mostly hear me demonize nutrition-less white refined cane/beet sugar, I also recognize and advocate keeping all sugars, even natural sugars, to a minimum. With that being said, I'd like to share bits and pieces of nutritional information and recipes from a book that I can't wait to share with you.

Ever heard of the Thrive Diet?

Written by a professional Ironman triathlete, author Brendan Brazier offers a plan to help you achieve top notch health and reduce all types of stress. He uses a whole foods plan and helps you understand how and why refined crap-food can be the source of stress. He provides super-easy recipes with wonderful, nutrient-rich ingredients.

Here's his take on the almighty sweet tooth:

"A sweet tooth also helps us maintain a positive outlook: The modern brain craves sugary or refined starchy foods (those foods whose fiber has been removed and therefore whose sugar component of the carbohydrate is relatively high) because they release serotonin, a chemical found in the brain's pituitary gland. The release of serotonin has a powerful elevating effect on our mood. Continually low levels of serotonin can lead to chronic fatigue and clinical depression. People who have a regular supply of serotonin being released into their bloodstream feel better, and are therefore more productive and feel less stressed, than those with low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is plentiful and free flowing when stress is low; however, as stress rises, serotonin production declines. Cravings for sugary or starchy food are most likely an attempt by the brain to make it "feel" better. This is why such foods are referred to as comfort foods--they are the foods that are craved after a particularly trying day. Ice cream and donuts, which are high in sugar required to produce the subconsciously desired serotonin hit, are common comfort foods. Giving in to these cravings will satisfy the brain, but this satisfaction is short-lived. And so you eat more serotonin-releasing foods, which eventually leads to more stress, since these refined carbohydrates offer very few nutrients--not having enough nutrients in our diet is a form of nutritional stress and therefore produces a stress response. Simply by having lower levels of cortisol (meaning less stress), the body will naturally produce more serotonin. Natural light and healthy food are the best ways to naturally raise serotonin." -The Thrive Diet, p. 18-19

He also states that the "common cause of nutritional stress [is] the overconsumption of refined food."

We've probably all faced the following situation: We are seated at a restaurant and we're ravished. We feel like we'll just drop unless we get some food in our body. The server brings a basket of bread and even though we don't want it, it's there and we're starving. We eat it anyway. Brazier describes what happens when we eat it: "I would wolf down the French bread typically served before the meal. My stomach would be physically full, yet I would still be hungry. Since white bread is void of any useful nutrients, my body wanted me to continue eating despite that I felt full. To digest, assimilate, and then eliminate the white bread requires a large energy expenditure. The net energy gain from it is very low." p.36-37

He goes on to describe how and why high net-gain nutrition is so important. He lists important staple foods, the role of exercise for life-long health, and meal plans for home and travel. His recipes include: pizza crusts (using beans and quinoa), energy bars, smoothies, pancakes (the chocolate banana pancake is made with hemp flour, buckwheat flour and dates), soups, salads, salad dressings, crackers, sauces, drinks and a banana coconut pie for dessert.

I'm eager to own this book (I'm borrowing the one I have now), and dirty the recipe pages while experimenting with hemp flour, ground sunflower seeds, hemp oil, miso, etc.


Caitlin said...

Just wanted to write in and let you know you inspired me with your blog to give up sugar myself. As of today it's been 3 months exactly. I can't believe how much better I feel energy wise, but I do still get a slight version of the afternoon slump, and was wondering if it's because of the coffee I drink every morning which I haven't been able to give up. Did you give up coffee as well?
Thanks, and thank you for your blog that led me on this path! :)

Leslie R. said...

There is an online recipe for Brendan Brazier's black-eyed pea salsa. I make that every time we have people over and it is delicious!

Amber Shea said...

Thrive is a good book. I've liked the recipes I've tried too, though many of the ingredients are mega-expensive.

My Year Without said...

Caitlin-Congratulations on your 3+ months without!!

To answer your question, I have given up coffee and then gone back to it after weeks without. I LOVE the flavor and having a warm mug of something in the morning.

A lot of people have that afternoon slump feeling. I've heard lots about it--even the healthiest of us seem to have that midday crash...many people in other countries nap. I also nap. I have to nap at least 15 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes, almost every afternoon. It is amazing how re-energizing it is for me. (I work from home, so it's not a problem for me) However, I recognize that it is not convenient for everyone to do this....I also have some long-term sleep cycle issues I'm working on. A nap is my favorite cure of the midday crash--I've tried more coffee but that doesn't do what a nap can do for me. I've often wondered what a napping room in the workplace would do for entire workforces......

Leslie-Yes! Here is the link for anyone who would like to try it, as well:

Amber-I'm about to find out...I have many ingredients on a grocery list, like hemp flour, but have no idea what to expect as far as expense. Thanks for the heads up!

Farty Girl said...

LOVE that blurb you posted! Thank you. It makes so much sense. Many of us have experienced those uplifting feelings post-sugar. And many of us have crashed. And many of us have wanted more sugar, thinking for some reason sweet stuff is how we love ourselves. We say, "I deserve this. I've been good." So not true! :)