The Not So Skinny on Sugar – Why it makes you FAT

As I am sitting here, writing this post, I am enjoying an amazingly rich brownie and I don’t have an ounce of guilt about it!  This brownie is one that I just made…and it isn’t filled with anything bad for me like gluten, refined sugar, trans fats or preservatives.  No, this brownie is amazingly perfect!  Actually, it is even better than perfect (if that is possible)….because these brownies are healthy for me!

To start out my post on obesity and sugar, I am going to share with you a decadent recipe that you can feel  good about making for yourself and your family.   In order for a recipe to “make it” on my Pinterest board it has to be delicious, healthy & easy!  This brownie fit the bill perfectly.   This recipe uses healthy fats found in nuts and coconut oil.  Also, it is naturally sweetened with dates, raisins and maple syrup!   Keep this recipe handy when you are craving something for dessert yet still want to be good to your body!  It is important to know that to Ditch the SAD you don’t have to give up taste or pleasure from food.  In fact, quite the contrary!  You will have far more pleasure and enjoyment in eating real food because it is HOW WE WERE MADE TO EAT!

 

HEALTHY & EASY DECADENT BROWNIES

(Recipe below adapted from Going Raw, Quarry Books 2011)

Makes 12 to 16 servings

Prep time: 30 minutes

Chill time: 1 to 2 hours

 

 

INGREDIENTS (BROWNIE BASE)

4 cups walnuts*

2/3 cup raisins

2/3 cup Medjool dates (pits removed)

2/3 cup cacao powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt (optional)

2 tablespoons water

 

*preferably soaked 6-8 hours and dehydrated but not crucial

 

INGREDIENTS (FROSTING)

1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar

1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed to liquid

2/3 cup cacao powder

 

INSTRUCTIONS (BROWNIE BASE)

Place walnuts into a food processor and grind into the consistency of a meal. Don t over process or it will release too much oil.

Add the raisins and dates and process until the mixture is well combined.

Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, vanilla and sea salt and process again until mixture is sticky yet still crumbly. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Add the water and mix well using your hands. It should start to resemble a dough.

Press mixture into an 8 x 8 inch baking pan lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap.

 

INSTRUCTIONS (FROSTING)

Add maple syrup to the blender first followed by the coconut oil and cocoa powder. Blend well until smooth.

Spread topping over brownies and chill at least 1-2 hours.

Remove brownie by lifting up the parchment paper and slice into desired size pieces.

 

Store these in the refrigerator for up to one week.   Or, you can store it in the freezer for one month.  (I actually like to eat these frozen in the summer when I want a cool fudgy treat!)

 

As I take another bite of brownie, I can’t help but think about all of the people out there living the SAD and jumping from one diet to another.  I used to be one of those people.  I was lured in and enticed by new fads just like everyone else!    I can’t tell you how many different diets that I tried.   The psychology of the diet industry is both fascinating and saddening.  These fad diets prey on hopeless and desperate people.  Each glistening book offers up the hope of finally finding the true way – the way to all happiness in life through weight loss.  Each fad claims to have discovered the real secret key to weight loss that the other previous fads hadn’t yet uncovered.   Yet each fad comes and goes….another one bites the dust….and the scales in America keep on tipping up higher and higher….

Just about everyone out there is either trying to lose weight or trying to keep from gaining weight.   If you happen to not be in one of those two categories, you are a one rare lucky bird!  Currently, 66% of Americans are considered over weight, with 35% considered obese! * It is staggering to know that more than ½ of the American population has a weight issue.

 

Sugar & Obesity

Sugar & Obesity

What is most sad about this stat, is that people are not truly aware of just how damaging this extra weight is to their health.  They have no idea that they are slowly killing themselves by allowing their bodies to be in such an unhealthy state. They are on the path to serious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.  Even sadder is that often times these very people are actually TRYING to lose weight.  Unfortunately, they are getting bad information.

Most of the blame for such an unhealthy population can be directly pointed to the low fat craze.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, when food is made to be low fat or no fat, sugar is generally added to the food in order for it to still taste good and still sell at the grocery store.   These fat free and low fat foods are LOADED with extra sugar!  Yes, sugar is technically fat free, but truly this is a deceitful claim.

Our bodies take anything that we eat with sugar in it (including starches like bread, pasta, chips, cereals, crackers and potatoes) and convert that sugar into glucose to be used by our body.  Glucose can be used immediately for quick energy needs, stored in the liver and muscle as glycogen for emergency energy reserves, or stored as fat (when our energy reserves in the liver and muscles are already full).   Glucose is a great help to our brains and does serve a purpose for energy and brain function when eaten in moderation and derived from natural sources (such as veggies, fruit, honey and maple syrup).

However, most people get way too much glucose  because sugar is added to SO many things.   When we consume too much sugar, our energy reserves are already full so the glucose goes directly into storage mode as unhealthy fat.   In America, sugar is added to things that you wouldn’t even expect it to be added to such as ketchup, salad dressings and spaghetti sauces!  Food manufacturers and restaurants do this because they know that sugar makes food taste good and it is also addictive.  This is what continues to drive the sale of their products!

Sugar seems to be EVERYWHERE and in EVERYTHING that we eat – especially foods that are considered convenient.  When looking at the ingredients of a food, if sugar or a sugary ingredient is listed as one of the first 3 ingredients, it is likely that the product is high in sugar.  Here are some things to look for:

  • Names for Sugars:  brown sugar, powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, white sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, corn sugar, date sugar, maple sugar, turbinado sugar

 

  • Hidden names for Sugar:  high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, disaccharides, molasses, succanat, polysaccharides, sucrose, fructose, invert sugar, dextrose, sucrose, glucose, lactose, sorbitol, mannitol, honey, malt, malt extract, maltose, rice extract, xylitol and golden syrup

It should be noted that since high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)  has recently received a lot of attention for being so damaging to health, the industry has slyly changed their name for it!  High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is no longer called HFCS; instead, it is simply called CORN SUGAR.  Whenever you see Corn Sugar as an ingredient, it is actually HFCS.  (A quick side note on HFCS – it is should be known that HFCS is extra damaging to the body.  Not only is it damaging because of the refined sugar content, but also because it is really high in MERCURY!  High levels of mercury have been linked to the cause of  Autism and many other disorders.)

Did you know that our bodies technically don’t need us to consume sugar or starches/carbs?   Our bodies are amazing and they can make glucose directly from proteins and fats stored already in our bodies!  This concept is what spurred on the big Atkin’s diet fad.

Now, I should be very clear that I am not an advocate of the Atkin’s diet.  I believe that humans do need healthy forms of sugars and starches to keep a good balance of nutrients.   However, people on the Atkins diet do have great weight loss success due to their simple avoidance of sugars and starches. Ultimately, just by focusing on eating real food (not processed) and a balance of 40% unrefined complex carbs (think veggies, some fresh fruits, some gluten free grains, brown rice or potatoes), 30% healthy fats and 30% animal proteins, you can achieve very similar weight loss without compromising the balance of nutrients needed by your body.

The reason why sugar and excessive starch (breads, pastas, crackers, potatoes) consumption is so heavily linked to weight gain is because many of these calories are what are called empty calories.  We actually call these calories NEGATIVE calories in our nutritional community because they ROB & TAKE AWAY vital minerals and vitamins from our bodies in order to digest and process them!  These negative calories also don’t make you feel satisfied and full.  Since you don’t feel full, you continue to feel hungry and you continue to eat more than you should!

When people eat sugars and excessive starches, they are often times not balancing the other needed nutrients of animal proteins (30%) and healthy fats (40%).   The recommended ratio of 40% carb/30% fat/30% protein helps the body stay balanced and actually helps you feel fullWhen you eat a diet based heavily on empty sugar/starch calories you ALMOST NEVER FEEL FULL (remember it is FAT that makes you feel full) so you eat more of the sugar and starches then you normally would had you chosen to balance it well with good protein and fats.  This is a viscous cycle that results is an obese society!

Did you know that fat is actually a way for your body to protect itself?  Fat storage is the body’s way of protecting our bodies from toxins.  A good example is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  High fructose Corn Syrup, the preferred sweetener of soft drinks, candy bars, chips, sauces and most processed foods, has been shown to contain mercury.  The body will store this in your fat reserves in order to protect your muscles and tissues from the toxins.  Fat literally keeps  toxins away from your body’s vital components.   When you eat empty/negative calories that come from such tainted sources, you are inviting your body to add extra fat as a protective measure!

Right now you may be wondering what to eat in order to get your 40% ratio of carbs per meal!  Good carb choices are vegetables, fresh fruits, some gluten free whole grains (like gluten free oats or brown rice),and  potatoes/sweet potatoes .   Potatoes and sweet potatoes are considered starchy carbs.  Try to keep your consumption of starchy carbs down to 15% of the 40% ratio.  The body converts these starchy carbs into glucose and uses it very similarly as it does refined sugar.   A great substitution for potatoes is actually cauliflower!  Cooked cauliflower that is mashed like potatoes with the same type of toppings you would put on your mashed potatoes tastes almost exactly the same believe it or not!  Check out my Pinterest page for some recipe ideas under the FOOD – Sides category.

When choosing a sweetener for a sweet treat, only use natural organic sources such as raw honey, pure maple syrup (grade B is best), fruits such as dates and coconut sap/sugar.  These are pure natural sources and nature knows best in terms of what is healthiest for us!

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If you want a treat and can’t find one in the store using these sweeteners, learn to make some yourself!  This can be a fun date night activity or family bonding time.  Check out my Recipe section on my site and also my Pinterest page for some great recipe ideas.  Remember, real food tastes great!  You don’t have to compromise taste or treats in order to experience health through nutrition.  You just have to make better CHOICES.  As a bonus, your health, energy level and your waist line will be much improved in the process!

Blessings & health,

Jen

 

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