I'm sure you have heard this a lot recently- avoid added sugars. There is good reason for it! We, as Americans, consume 22 teaspoons of sugar a day on average. That is the equivalent to almost 30 packets of sugar- A DAY! (there is 1.33 teaspoons per packet). Imagine putting 30 packets of sugar in your drinks and food throughout the day. Sounds insane, right?
Then we wonder why diseases like diabetes and cancer are on the rise. Diabetes 2 is a direct result of over burdening the body with excess sugars. There is also proof that "sugar feeds cancer." For more on this subject please read Dr Mercola's article on the correlation between sugar and cancer. Not to mention sugar can alter the metabolism, causes weight-gain, and can cause damage to the liver.
So what do "added sugars" entail? When I say added sugar I am not talking about fruit, I am talking about sugar that does not naturally occur in something already. For example, oatmeal. If your oatmeal has sugar in it then that means sugar has been added in. Fruit when eaten whole is great for you and should not be avoided! I eat an organic apple almost every single day.
The food industry likes to trick us and have many different names for sugar on labels now. Don't be fooled. Sugar is sugar. Always read your labels! (or make yourself from scratch)
Here is a list of what you might see and want to avoid:
- Cane sugar
- Evaporated cane juice
- Brown rice syrup
- Corn syrup
- High fructose corn syrup (you definitely want to avoid this one at all costs! Most likely made of GMOs & wreaks havoc on your body )
- Agave Nectar
- Glucose, Dextrose, Fructose, Sucrose
- Brown Sugar
- Raw Sugar
- Beet sugar
- Fruit Juice Concentrates- sounds healthier, right? think again. It goes through a processing much like corn syrup where its stripped of all the healthy nutrients fruit offers and you are left with little more than glucose syrup- sugar water.
- Pick and choose where you want your sugar each day. What do I mean by that? Well, I make sure when I eat stuff that generally doesn't need sugar, that it doesn't have sugar! For example, when I buy pasta sauce or salad dressing I always make sure it does not contain sugar. It doesn't need it and will just add to your sugar intake! You would be shocked how much sugar is thrown into food that simply does not need it. Soups, salad dressings, crackers, pasta sauce, ketchup, bread, etc. On an average day I get through the entire day without having any added sugar except in the few pieces of 70% dark chocolate I eat (this is my vice! and also healthful in small quantities). Obviously there are days where I have more sugar than just chocolate but its rare for me. Pick your one vice, maybe its honey in your coffee in the morning, or that mid afternoon cookie and have that be your added sugar intake for the day! I personally love to have my dark chocolate so I use stevia to sweeten my coffee in the morning.
- Buy unsweetened products and sweeten them yourself! I buy unsweetened vanilla almond milk to make my oatmeal and put in my coffee in the morning. You don't need sugar in your milk! and if you prefer it a little sweet, you can sweeten it yourself with honey or stevia and you will still be consuming less than whats in the sweetened alternative. Another perfect example is oatmeal. Don't buy the pre-sweetened packs of oatmeal, buy 100% real oats and sweeten them yourself (or use my banana trick down below!)
- Stick to water and avoid drinking sodas and fruit juices. Even if a juice is 100% fruit juice it is still just empty calories full of sugar. You are better off eating a whole apple that has retained all of its nutrients and has fiber to fill you up! Looking for an alternative to your soda? I highly enjoy GT's Synergy Kombuchas on occasion. They have no added sugar (most kombuchas contain evaporated cane juice/sugar).
The less sugar you start to consume, the less you will crave it! I promise. I have been through the withdrawals myself, but now I hardly crave sugar besides my precious dark chocolate.
Sugar alternatives (still to be used in moderation, but these are better alternatives)
- Coconut palm sugar- low glycemic load
- Organic, pure Maple Syrup
- 100% pure Stevia (not Truvia- see here why you should avoid Truvia)
- Raw, local honey- here's why its important you buy local & raw honey
- Xylitol (make sure its pure and made from birch)
Never, ever eat artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, Splenda, Sucrose, Nutri-sweet and Equal. There is strong evidence linking them to cancer and these artificial sweeteners actually cause you to gain more weight than just regular sugar! Here's a great article on the risks of Aspartame.
Bananas are my favorite way to sweeten smoothies and oatmeal! If you need more reasons to eat bananas besides them being natural and absolutely delicious here is 25 powerful reasons to eat bananas. Banana sweetened oatmeal is one of my favorites and probably the breakfast I eat most. The trick is to make your oatmeal over the stove and add the banana in right away so it "melts" in with the oats.
What you need (please use organic ingredients if you can):
- Oats (I use 1/4 cup when I make mine)
- Milk of choice (I usually use Whole Foods Organic Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk)
- 1 Banana
- Choice of toppings (chia seeds, peanut/almond butter, berries, hemp seeds, walnuts, pecans, etc)
Measure out your oats and pour them in with your milk in a pot over the stove. I always just eyeball the amount of milk, use less at first cause you can always add in more later. Cut up half of your banana (save the other half for topping the oatmeal!) and put in with the oats and milk. Put on medium heat and cook until you reach your desired oatmeal consistency. The banana will "melt" in the milk giving it a delicious almost vanilla pudding-like sweetness to your oatmeal.
Sometimes I like to add in a tiny amount (about a teaspoon worth) of this coconut butter, it gives the oatmeal a delicious buttery flavor to it! Don't worry if you don't like the coconut flavor- when melted in oatmeal with bananas it doesn't even taste coconutty.
Note: if you use steel cut oats, I recommend soaking them in the fridge overnight in your milk otherwise they will take forever to cook in the morning. Or you can just use 100% quick oats if you prefer.
The best part about this oatmeal is that its flavor possibilities are almost endless. (all the following pics of my oatmeal are made the same way with the banana trick, then I added various toppings)
This morning I added in chia seeds, blackberries, blueberries and topped it off with a tablespoon of almond butter (all organic).
Topped with raspberries and bananas
Topped with dark chocolate & bananas
Raspberry Oatmeal. I added raspberries in the same time as the banana to give it a tart raspberry flavor.