Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free, Raw
Processed sugar is not a health enemy we often think about. At least not until recently.
Over the years we were pre-conditioned to think that it is the fat that causes multitude of weight-gain and health issues. Food industry obliged and rushed to produce low-fat products. But to make them palatable, the fat removed was replaced with sugar – causing much greater problems. Even though we are buying fewer bags of actual “visible” sugar, we have seen a huge increase in the intake of sugar – through invisible sugars the food industry has introduced into the products. It is not just candies and ice cream that are your obvious offenders. You can find added sugar (which is often disguised in food labelling under carbohydrates and myriad different names, from glucose to diastatic malt and dextrose) in yoghurts, bread, dried fruit, ham, seafood snacks, sausages, a whole range of drinks (a can of Coke has as much as seven sugar cubes in it!) etc – the list in endless.
It is no surprise then that there is a clear correlation between our increased sugar intake and the explosion in obesity, diabetes and other metabolic problems that we have observed over the past several decades.
There are two problems that high sugar intakes leads to – insulin resistance and leptin resistance. When you eat refined sugars (and processed carbohydrates which your digestive system breaks down into simple sugars), these sugars are released from your digestive system into the bloodstream in the form of glucose. However, while glucose is our main source of energy, when you eat refined sugars or high GI foods the glucose is released into your bloodstream in short bursts rather than over a longer period of time. As the glucose is released into your bloodstream, your pancreas releases insulin hormones. Insulin attaches to receptors on your muscle and fat cells and prompts them to open up and receive the sugar (and either burn it or store it for later). Glucose can not be cleared from your blood stream without an adequate amount of insulin. Hence, when you eat foods high in sugar which release a high quick burst of sugar into your system, you need an equally high release of insulin. The sugar we eat causes our bodies to produce too much insulin, resulting in blood-sugar crashes, which leads to us craving more sugar, and on and on. To make meters worse, leptin resistance kicks in and makes the situation even worse. Leptin is a hormone produced to tell us when we’re full. When we eat too much sugar, leptin is sometimes switched off – which means we don’t know when we’re full. We don’t have a proper satiety signal.
A scary fact that came from recent studies and may be hard to accept compares sugar addiction to drug addiction. Research suggests that high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do and may explain why some people can’t resist these foods. When MRI scans are done after high sugar intake, part of the brain that lights up is the very same part of the brain that’s triggered by cocaine or heroine, according to research by Dr. David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D. So just like illegal drugs, large amounts of sugar can be very bad for you and in addition to obesity and diabetes, can deeply affect your metabolism, impair brain function and make you more susceptible to heart disease and cancer.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to limit your sugar intake. I think a very good starting point, and an easy one to follow, is not eating anything artificial, anything that has an unrecognisable ingredient, anything highly processed. So start by looking at the ingredient list to find out what is in the food you are consuming and choose foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, those with real and recognisable ingredients. The next step can be to, where possible, replace packaged foods with homemade versions. But I know from personal experience that the second step takes time and effort. And that we cannot set ourselves targets that we know are impossible to achieve as the whole process may break down as a result. So tackle things step by step. And as you discover something new as you go along, it will motivate you to continue the gradual process of change in your relationship with food.
Even after having cut out majority of processed foods and refined sugars, we still all occasionally want a sweet treat. Luckily, there are plenty of raw deserts that can satisfy that craving. And the one I want to introduce to you today is this simple “key lime pie”.
(makes enough for 2)
1 ripe large avocado
2 small or 1 large limes, both zest and juice
3-4 Medjool dates, pitted (These are the most moist dates you can find. If you use a different variety, soak them for a little bit to soften)
pomegranate seeds to garnish
Scoop out the flesh from avocado into a food processor. Add pitted dates and juice and zest of the limes. Blend together until completely smooth. Place the mixture into two individual pots and refrigerate until chilled. Serve topped with generous amount of pomegranate seeds – they don’t just add a pop of beautiful colour, but also a nice juice burst when they pop in your mouth.
So quick and easy, yet so satisfying! A combination of sweetness from the dates with sourness of limes and reaches of avocado makes for a beautiful combination – both on the eye and for the stomach