New year, new resolutions – it can be hard to know where to start with your health, and I know I feel a little on the back foot after Christmas indulgences. The New Year is a great time to make a new start and no, it’s not too late! There’s no point in starving yourself or going on a mad diet, as we all know that won’t last and it puts your body under an unhealthy stress. The simplest way we can boost our health is to get a little more active and to cut the harmful foods we are eating out of our diet. This gives our body a chance to do what it does best – get us back on the road to good health.
I personally think the best place to start is to take a hard look at what you are eating and make a commitment to yourself to cut out refined sugar. I committed to staying off sugar in August, for a period of 40 days, and kept off it all the way to Christmas, and I’m starting again now because I felt so good, once I got over the initial cravings. I ate the occasional raw desert (working in Organico is pretty handy that way – healthy treats are much easier to come by!) and ate an apple a day; they taste so much better when you aren’t eating cake. The main thing I learned was that when I felt a strong inclination to treat myself, instead of acting on it, I waited a minute or two; the inclination went away, and instead of guilt at giving in, I felt heroic for staying strong, which is a much nicer feeling. The more that happened, the better and more hero-like I felt! Telling friends and family also helped, as it was harder to forget once I had told other people.
Cutting out sugar also means also cutting out alcohol, and of course also means cutting out on all sweet cakes and biscuits and sweets, as well as drinking water instead of fruit juices or sweetened coffee.
If you need convincing of the reasons for cutting out sugar, a recent book by called The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes argues that sugar is not only the root cause of today’s diabetes and obesity epidemics (had these been infectious diseases, our health services would have long ago declared an emergency), but also is probably related to heart disease, hypertension, many common cancers and Alzheimer’s.
On top of that, science now shows that sugar and other junk foods, due to their powerful effect on the reward centres of the brain, function similarly to drugs like cocaine and nicotine.
When we treat alcoholics or cocaine addicts, we don’t say ‘Practice moderation’ and advise them to cut down to just one drink or one line of cocaine a day. We know they must clear the brain and body of these powerful drugs completely, ideally through a well-designed program that supports the detox process and helps us to change our habits in a sustainable way.
Luckily Veridian (one of my favourite nutrition companies) have come up with a simple programme to help you through the first week of coming off sugar. It was designed with the help of Irish food writer and nutritionist Oliver McCabe. It’s called the Seven Day Sugar Detox Kit and contains a daily Chromium based supplement to help reduce the cravings, and an App, which helps you break free of the addiction and clean up your diet. It is available in most Health food shops for only €9.50. That gives you a week’s supply of chromium but it’s perfectly safe to stay on it for longer if you find it supportive.
The bottom line is that we are all eating too much food with sugars and hidden sugars and not eating enough vegetables to actually keep ourselves healthy. Interestingly, I read this Christmas that though we all know the recommended ‘five a day’, in fact many of us in the UK and Ireland are not even managing one a day; and on top of that, for really good health the advice is that we should be aiming at nine a day! And potatoes don’t count by the way.
Some tips to help you enjoy food without sugar and to reeducate your palate:
1. Sauté or roast your veggies to bring out their natural sweetness.
2. Play with herbs like coriander, parsley, dill, basil, and oregano to add flavor and phytonutrients! Finish a meal by adding fresh herbs before plating or serving. This last-minute addition kicks the flavor up a notch!
3. Healthy fats found in avocado, coconut, and tahini not only increase the flavor of your meal – they also add that creamy, luscious texture found in many rich foods.
4. Try creating a savoury, umami (Japanese for ‘delicious’) flavor. Add moderate amounts of tamari, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, dried mushrooms, or seaweeds to your next stew, soup, sauce, or stir-fry.
5. Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and even cayenne pepper powder are all extremely flavourful additions to a meal. Spices like these excite your taste buds and grab your attention. This is helpful, because, as studies show, when we are focused on actually tasting our food rather than mindlessly gobbling it up, we actually need less food to feel satisfied.
To shop online with us or to look at our blog go to www.organico.ie, and if you have any questions call in or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great January folks.