I don’t know about all of you, but lately I’ve noticed so many articles in the media about the dangers of a high-sugar diet, including the recent news by JAMA Internal Medicine that states that people who get more than 25 percent of their total calories from sugar have three times the risk of dying of heart disease. Three times! Yikes!
My love for sugar started in my youth with fizzy sodas of every flavor, candy aplenty and, most of all — carbs. We’re talking bagels with cream cheese, pizza, mac and cheese, croissants, fresh bread offered in the middle of the table at a fancy restaurant. I want it. I really, REALLY want it.
However, after eating these foods (often for days at a time) I would feel sluggish, bloated, cranky and unable to focus properly, as if my mind were in a fog and my body was just not connected with it. I simply couldn’t understand how I could teach several Spin classes per week and yet not feel the energized “Ain’t life grand!” thing many of my colleagues enjoyed.
So, it made total sense to me last fall when top health and wellness researchers published findings that eating foods high in fats and sugars (like say, Oreos) can have the same effect on our brain as cocaine. Not only do they taste good and make our mouths do a happy dance, but they also help us to “feel” good in the moment — sort of like a “high.”
In fact, we feel so amazing that our brains ignore the aftereffects of weight gain and the comedown from the “sugar high” and keep coming back for more.
Knowing that I had a sugar/carb dependence but unsure what to actually do about it, I happened upon the Paleo diet that promotes eating “real food” — you know, “real” meaning gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free and no refined sugars. After a rough couple of weeks the “carb fog” lifted. Hooray!
Adapting to a new way of eating meant learning to cook and shop as well, which is when I became a fan of Diane Sanfilippo and her New York Times best-selling cookbook Practical Paleo. Sanfilippo is one of the top Paleo/Primal gurus out there, and she’s incredibly encouraging to both newbies and veterans of the lifestyle. I started to follow her obsessively on Facebook and Instagram (she is a fellow animal lover!) and her willingness to reach out, offer recipes, create detailed shopping lists and be a source of support really impressed me.
It probably won’t surprise you that I became quite excited when contacted by her publishing peeps to try out her newest title — The 21-Day Sugar Detox Cookbook. I immediately started trying out all sorts of new recipes (there are 100 here).
Quick caveat — if you are a vegan, Paleo/Primal eating might be quite a stretch as there is a focus on high-protein foods such as eggs, salmon and scallops. But, hey, no dairy!
However, for everyone else this cookbook will be a real lifesaver when it comes to making tasty meals that are satisfying and so good for you. There is no calorie counting with Sanfilippo. Just eat real food, prepare it well, and you are treating your body properly.
Some complaints I hear from people looking into this lifestyle is that food preparation is expensive and time-consuming. I can’t argue that it is challenging to find the time to cook all of your own meals, but I honestly feel I am saving money because I am not eating takeout nearly as often.
The 21-Day Sugar Detox is broken into three sections. “All levels exclude the following foods: gluten, soy, corn, most fruits (limited exceptions), all processed foods, alcohol and added sweeteners or artificial sweeteners,” Sanfilippo told us. “The food choices vary between levels, with Level 1 as the most inclusive (participants can have small portions of listed gluten-free whole grains or legumes, like rice, quinoa or black beans, and full-fat dairy); Level 2 as the middle ground (participants can include full-fat dairy but all grains are eliminated); and Level 3 as the most strict (participants exclude both grains and dairy — this is the Paleo option).
Whether you are a CrossFit junkie looking for new meal ideas or someone suffering from adrenal fatigue and need to change your diet to whole foods — you will find something to like here.
Did I mention the meals are flavorful and delicious? We are talking smoky spices mixed with your favorite proteins and yummy tarts and truffles. Yummo!
If you want to dive in a little deeper into the whole “reasons to get refined sugars out of your life,” you should also check out Sanfilippo’s companion piece, 21-Day Sugar Detox, which was released last November.
Have you tried to cut down on sugar in your diet? What are your favorite tips for cutting back on refined sugar and carbs? —Margo