If you have read anything online in the past 4 years you will probably believe that sugar is evil and honey, maple syrup, rice malt syrup and dates are the god send. They are the healthy alternative. Look I don’t blame you for believing this. I believed it before I actually studied nutrition and found out exactly how our body digests it all.
I spent a good year ignoring the caster sugar and brown sugar in my cupboard and replaced it with coconut sugar, medjool dates and honey (you name the replacement, I tried it!) to make the perfect ‘healthy baked treats’.
But guess what. All of these ‘replacements’ are all still forms of sugar. We are told they are healthier because they are natural or unrefined.
This statement is completely flawed.
Caster sugar and brown sugar comes from a plant!!! – aka natural
Coconut sugar and rice malt syrup are also all refined and processed!!!
You don’t find them like that in nature. They have to have something done to them to allow them to sit on our shelf.
You could claim that honey, maple syrup and medjool dates are quite natural, they are all found as is in nature. But just like sugar they contain sucrose and fructose. While honey contains slightly less fructose and glucose than white sugar it is actually worse for weight loss. Why? Because honey actually contains more calories than white sugar.
It is true that white sugar has a higher glycaemic index than honey meaning it will increase your blood sugar levels faster. However, when have you ever eaten white sugar alone?
Generally, it is added to baking or a beverage which can reduced the glycaemic index and slow down the absorption.
All of these products contain either glucose or fructose or both.
So how is sugar (Sucrose, glucose and fructose) broken down by the body?
I am going to try and keep this as simple as possible.
Glucose and fructose bind together to form sucrose. So, the first thing the body does is break that bond to individually break down glucose and fructose. Once they are broken down into these single molecules, they are free to be absorbed across the intestinal lining into the blood stream to be taken to the liver for further processing (another reason you don’t need to detox).
Glucose is then moved to cells around the body where it is broken down through a process called glycolysis where glucose is broken down into two carbon molecules called pyruvate before then converting to ATP which can be used by our cells to power our muscles and organs.
The breakdown of fructose is similar to this, however can generally only occurs in the liver.
Any glucose that isn’t required immediately for energy use is converted to glycogen and stored for later use. Fructose on the other hand can’t be stored, so is instead converted to glucose like molecules and stored as glycogen.
When the body reaches it glycogen storing capacity that is when glucose is converted to fat. But don’t get confused by the use of glucose in the previous sentence, remembering that both fructose is also converted to glucose like molecules and treated by the body in the exact same way.
So when professionals say that all sugars are treated the same way by the body, that’s because they are.
Whether a product contains glucose or fructose they are both types of sugars and broken down by the body in near exact processes. Remembering again that all the ‘sugar’ replacements do still in fact contain at least one of either glucose or fructose.
The slight different that these alternatives or replacements contain are micronutrients, but that makes next to no difference to how the sugar is actually broken down.
Overall the best advice I can give when talking about sugar (and by sugar, I mean any form of it!) is to try and reduce your overall amount. If you currently like 2 tsp of sugar or honey in your coffee reduce it by ¼ tsp each week and within a month you will have halved your sugar intake. The small incremental changes are the best way to reduce sugar intake and slowly adapt your taste buds.
The facts in the article are the reason I still use brown and white sugar in so many of the recipes you will find on my website. Where I can I reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe, but if it’s still quite high, enjoy it for what it is. A TREAT. Because whether a recipe has 1 cup of sugar or 10 medjool dates it isn’t something that we should be eating in high quantities.
I do still use maple syrup and honey in baking, but I do this for the flavour profiles they lend to a recipe, not the ‘health benefits.
Myth: You need to follow food combining principles for optimal digestion
Fad diets are everywhere, I don’t need to tell you that again. But is food combining a fad diet? Or is there some truth to the rumours.
Advocates for the food combining principles claim that it is necessary for optimal digestion. They claim, as different enzymes in the body are used to digest different foods, eating protein and carbohydrates together for example will cause digestive issues.
They claim that eating foods together will leave you with partially digested food that sits in your gut, basically claiming the body is unable to digest two different things at once.
Fact: Your digestive system is more complex than this ‘diet’ suggests
While this ‘diet’ doesn’t lead to the elimination of any food, just focusing on eating one food group at a time. It is still a diet, leading to obsession over food and well I think we all know my opinion of diets….
But my bias aside, lets dig into the actual facts so you can determine what works for you.
Food Combining principles suggest that the digestion system is very black and white. While one type of food is being digested, nothing else can be digested because it requires different enzymes.
For example, the enzyme amylase works to digest carbohydrates meanwhile proteases are needed to break down proteins. And while carbohydrates are being digested it means that protein sits around in the digestive system waiting its turn, causing it to ferment and create issues for your body.
However, the digestion system is not a sack as this theory might suggest, it is a track or a process. Digestion happens over multiple hours after consuming a food, starting with enzymes and chewing in the mouth going down to the acid in the stomach and enzymes within the small and large intestines which continue the digestion process.
The body is an amazing thing, it runs multiple, even thousands of processes at once. It allows you to breathe, pump blood through your arteries, move muscles in your hands as you type, run messages allow neural pathways from your brain all around your body and digest the food you ate a few hours ago.
Your digestive system alone has the ability to digest carbohydrates, fats and protein all at the same time. It is true that the process of all of these takes different lengths of time, but eating them separately will not make this process faster.
So whilst the basis of why people food combine is important – to increase your optimal digestion, eating different foods at different times is not going to do this. Instead to look after your digestive system is it more beneficial to focus on mindful eating, allowing yourself to chew food properly, eating slowing and eating lots of fibre rich and prebiotic rich foods for a healthy digestive track.
Myth: Healthy Foods are expensive
Yes, I agree. ‘Healthy’ food is expensive. Or more specifically fad dieting super foods that are cleverly marketed are expensive.
But those foods are not what you really need. They make up an elitist form of health or nutrition.
This perception that following a diet made up of expensive food is the only way to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle has become a barrier for a lot of people.
However, a study run in 2015/2016 by the Queensland university of technology actually showed that a healthy diet is cheaper than an unhealthy diet, when following the Australian national dietary guidelines.
Fact: Eating well doesn’t have to break the bank.
In 2017 alone nearly 46% of Australians were actively trying to lose weight and half of them spent money on a particular program or specific diet. All of these diets are pushing costly ingredients, powders and supplements that are nutritionally similar or inferior to healthy everyday options.
Let’s look at my weekly shop for a start. I shop for my partner and myself. I do a lot of baking, cooking and can never pass up a good cheese platter. We spend between $150-$200 a week on our grocery bill. This includes everything from toilet paper to dog food and well Jackson eats a lot!!
$150-$200 might seem like a lot, but an average meal at a fast food joint for the two of us would cost $30. So that’s only 5-6 meals in total, however that grocery bill feeds us for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 6-7 days.
It is about stripping it back to what is actually healthy and keeping it simple, especially when on a tight budget! Some of the ways I do this is through batch cooking for my freezer, eating in season and stocking up when things are on sale.
Last night I made a big batch of Bolognese sauce – enough to freeze 8 meals worth and dinner last night. We had it with traditional pasta (aka white pasta) cheese and a little side salad. The ingredients for the whole thing cost me $31.50 and will cater for 9 meals between us so $3.50 a meal or in other terms 1.75 per serve.
That is nuts. $1.75 per serve for a balanced meal of good protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats that is loaded with vegetables and well absolutely delicious!
The trick to eating healthy, or starting to eat healthy when on a strict budget is to start to incorporate small changes. Try to focus on including more fresh or frozen vegetables in your meals.
Don’t stress it. Eating healthy, or following a healthy lifestyle should cause stress. If it is, check in with yourself and see where that pressure is coming from? It is from trying to fit into a certain diet program, or making sure you have the exact right about of calories and nutrients you need in the day?
There is nothing exact that you can follow, as everyone is different. Do what feels right to you, and fits within your budget. Ignoring the marketing out there that is trying to get you to spend your $$$ on supplements and that latest fad diet ingredients.
Reply to this email if you need cheap and delicious recipe suggestions or tips on navigating the grocery store to fit your budget!
Myth: You can eat as much as you want, as long as it’s healthy
Bliss balls are healthy right? Yes. But so is CHEESE, so is WATERMELON, and so is WATER. But too much of any of these can be dangerous. Yes, even too much water can be incredibly bad for you.
Fact: Too much of anything is bad for you.
An over consumption of water can lead to water intoxication or Hyponatremia. If you drink Litres of water in a very short time it can cause the level of sodium in your blood to drop way too low causing a whole host of problems.
Yes, this condition is very rare, but the point I am trying to make is that arguably the ‘healthiest’ thing for us can cause serious issues when we consume far too much.
This brings us back to the over used word (but one I will always use) …. MODERATION.
You have heard it before. But is there really validity behind it? Well yes, but let’s dig a bit deeper.
When we allow ourselves to eat all food in moderation, we take the stress out of eating. We can then enjoy the food that is around us. The problem with moderation is that it is now being taken and used from a place of restriction. But when we strip it back to the meaning of the word:
‘Moderation is about finding the balance between two extremes’ in the case of foods it is between deprivation and overindulgence.
I spoke on my Instagram stories about this last week. Achieving moderation around food can be difficult. I struggle with it myself sometimes. I often find myself saying I shouldn’t eat something or I find myself at the end of a chip packet I have just opened. BUT THAT IS OK!
No one is perfect, and no one is going to ‘get it right’ every single time.
So why do we feel the need to label foods as healthy and good/unhealthy and bad. Instead of restricting ourselves for so long that we give in and over indulge in something, ask yourself why you are restricting yourself from eating that slice of cake? Is it because society (or Instagram influencers) tell you it’s unhealthy and should opt for bliss balls instead?
Bliss balls are constantly referred to as healthy, giving people the permission to eat the whole bowl of them in one sitting. But they are often laden with dates and nuts which if you eat a lot of them are very high in calories and sugar!
No food is inherently BAD for us. We aren’t going to eat a certain food and keel over and die or clog our arteries with one bite of fried chicken. Instead it is how much we eat of it that causes the problem.
So, this week I urge you to question WHY when you find yourself labelling food a certain way or preventing yourself from eating it.
What do you struggle with the most? What foods do you always find yourself restricting or bingeing?
Let me know your thoughts below and let’s chat!
Myth: You need to cut out some food groups for a healthy diet
Diet culture encourages this behaviour. Every new ‘IT’ diet removes a food group or at least a large portion of a food group claiming that ‘this’ is your answer to being healthy.
While cutting out whole food groups can lead to quick weight loss, if these foods are ever reintroduced it can lead to weight returning. Alternatively, if it is a long-term change to cut out these foods, it can lead to a number of related deficiencies that can compromise your health.
Fact: you don’t need to cut anything to maintain a healthy diet
Gluten, dairy, carbs, fat, sugar, it’s all been demonised at some point by the media, and the fall out has been people giving it up. However, the only reason you need to cut these foods out to be healthy is if you have an allergy to them such as coeliac disease (not technically an allergy) and lactose intolerance. It might seem beneficial in the short term when you cut out these certain foods but it can be more harmful both to your physical self and mental health.
Why this behaviour does more harm than good?
Well if you aren’t fully informed when making your decision, it can lead to detrimental deficiencies of essential nutrients that your body needs and craves to function at its peak. Cutting out carbohydrates for example usually results in a significant drop in fibre and sometimes even B Vitamins. It can result in lower energy over time as glucose from carbohydrates is the bodies preferred ‘fuel’.
Similarly, with diary, once it is cut from the diet in claims of helping with acne, or weight gain (I will get into that with another #mondaymythbuster) it can lead to deficiencies in calcium. Dairy is also a great source of all your macronutrients, so while you can get these elsewhere it is beneficial to eat well balanced foods.
That brings me to the comment made earlier around mental health. When foods are cut out of your diet it can lead to very restrictive behaviours. It creates rules around food that are often quite unsustainable. If you do give in and eat the food you have told yourself you can’t it can often result to feelings of immense guilt.
With so much misleading information out there around nutrition is has led to a lot of confusion, so it is no wonder that people crave rules around food. Because how are we to know what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ where every source of information is telling us something different?
But eating chocolate, bread or cake is not going to make you fat or unhealthy. It can all be a part of a healthy diet. Without using the wishy-washy term moderation, it can only be understood that your health or what you eat is not a one size fits all. But because anecdotally cutting out dairy worked for someone doesn’t mean it will suit your body. You have to experiment and find what works for you. But don’t just listen to the physical signs of your body, check in with your mental health as well. If cutting something out comes at the cost of your feeling restricted in social settings, craving that food all the time then its not right for you.
You never need rules around food. I wanted to send out this #mythbuster, because in the lead up to Easter or any holiday I know that these feelings and cravings for rules can get so much stronger.
Enjoy Easter, eat the chocolate, eat the hot cross buns. One weekend of indulgence won’t ruin your overall health and fitness goals. But celebrating with family will do a lot for your mental health and happiness!
If you found this post insightful you may also like these…
– One diet fits all
– Chocolate Zucchini Loaf
– Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake
Myth: You can never have too much protein
Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein make up the macro-nutrients. In the last few years both carbs and fats have got a bad rap in the health and wellness world, but protein has long standed as one of the healthiest parts that make up our food. For good reason, as protein is an essential building block for the body, helping to repair muscle, organs and bone.
There is now protein in everything from sweets enriched with protein, protein smoothies, even high protein pasta. But how much protein do we actually need? And can we eat too much protein?
FACT: When eaten in excess it comes out in your pee
Protein is great as it increases satiety and muscle retention – aka helps to keep us full for longer and build muscle.
However, unlike carbohydrates and fats, protein cannot be stored by the body. When protein is consumed in excess the amino acids that are the building blocks of protein are usually excreted and the remaining is stored as fat.
This is one of the reasons that it is recommended to include a source – however small – of protein at every meal time. As we can’t store it, it is best to consume small amounts at a time to allow it to be used efficiently by the body.
Now that brings me back to the fact I stated above. The excess protein comes out in your pee. Or more specifically the surplus of amino acids is excreted through your kidneys to make up urea – or urine!
Ever wondered why lemon trees thrive from being urinated on? Well that’s because the nitrogen in urine from surplus amino acids is like a natural fertilizer.
If excessive protein is consumed over a long period of time it can lead to a range of negative health effects, in particular kidney damage and dehydration as your kidney’s need to work harder and use more water to get rid of the excess nitrogen and other waste products of protein.
Most women in Australia actually consume too much protein, so if you are considering paying the extra 50c-$1 at the smoothie store for added protein powder chances are it is a waste of money.
I do sometimes consume protein powder, but usually in a smaller dose that the packet recommends and only if I haven’t had protein in my last meal.
So instead on making expensive urine, try and keep it simple and consume a small amount of protein a day. Protein should only make up 10-30% of your diet.
If you liked this #mythbustermonday post you may like these
– Olive Oil isn’t healthy to cook with
– Tips to eat more vegetables