Week 7 – No refined or artificial sweeteners. No refined or hydrogenated oils.
This post may be a bit long because we are tackling two food items this week: sweeteners and trans fats. Let’s tackle sugar first and then we will move on to oils.
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Sugar is sugar. Even the most wholesome sweetener can affect blood sugar and compromise the immune system, so it ultimately quantity matters. The good news is that the less refined the sweetener, the easier it is to be satisfied with smaller amounts. Natural sweeteners also put less of a burden on the body.
What to Avoid
Artificial sweeteners are a no-brainer. Artificial means not real. If it’s not a real food, don’t eat it. Artificial sweeteners are known to cause headaches, heart palpitations and insomnia. Some research draws connections between consumption of artificial sweeteners and certain types of cancer. Modern Alternative Health has a great article about the dangers of artificial sweeteners.
Examples: aspartame, saccharin, Sweet-n-Low, Equal, NutriSweet, Splenda, Sunett, Sweet One. I include sugar alcohols in the category because they are a heavily refined and processed food. Sorbitol and xylitol are two examples of sugar alcohols.
Refined sweeteners are different from artificial sweeteners in that they are derived from a natural sugar source. They are processed so much that they contain little, if any, of the minerals naturally found in them. These sugars burden the body and deplete it of vital minerals like artificial sweeteners. They decrease immunity as well.
Examples: white table sugar, organic white sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup
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Natural Sweetener Options
Natural and unrefined sweeteners are foods which are close to their most original state. They retain their nutrients and are more easily absorbed and utilized by the body. Natural sweeteners, on average, have a lower glycemic profile and don’t cause spikes in blood sugar the ways refined and artificial sugars can.
Examples: raw honey*, maple syrup, maple sugar, coconut sugar, date sugar, stevia, muscovado, molasses
* Raw honey, or honey as it comes off the comb, is full of beneficial enzymes and contains healing properties. It is not a transparent golden color like what you find in supermarkets. Instead raw honey is thicker, more opaque, and will crystalize over time. Most store-bought honey has been heated and filtered so much that there are no longer any beneficial enzymes remaining. What you are left with is a bottle of liquid, refined sugar. Always opt for raw honey.
I’ve created this list because I consistently find conflicting information on certain sweeteners. Some label them unrefined sweeteners because they aren’t processed and bleached the way white table sugar is. Others label them as refined because the molasses naturally found in the sugar is removed during minimal processing, then added back in. I suggest that you research these sweeteners on your own and decide which, if any, you will feel comfortable using.
Examples: raw sugar, turbinado, demerara, radadura, sucanat/organic whole cane sugar, agave
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Fats & Oils
Healthy fats and oils are vital for proper brain function. Two-thirds of the brain is made of fats. If we do not consume enough healthy fats our cognitive abilities suffer. Memory loss, depression and bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s are each influenced by intake of unhealthy fats/oils. Development in the areas of reading, spelling, speech and overall intelligence are also affected by unhealthy fat consumption.
Hydrogenated / Processed Fats 101
Hydrogenated or trans fats are bad for the body and brain. Hydrogenation is a process in which the natural structure of a fat is chemically altered to make it more solid. Hydrogenated oils (aka “trans fats”) are one molecule away from being plastic! Companies use this process mainly for the purpose of preventing refined foods from going rancid.
Hydrogenated oils have the ability to cross into the brain. Once in the brain they camp out on the receptor sites of cells. Receptors are found on the surface of every cell in our body, and are responsible for instructing the cell on what to do (die, divide, or allow substances to enter/exit the cell). A healthy receptor cell can absorb healthy fats and use them. A receptor site clogged with trans fats prevents from these healthy fats being absorbed and used in the brain.
Here is another explanation. It’s longer, but it might be easier to wrap your head around.
Effects of Consuming Hydrogenated Oils (aka Trans Fats)
- heart disease
- unhealthy cholesterol levels
- high blood pressure
- low blood supply to brain
- hormone imbalance
- memory problems
- difficulty concentrating and learning
- increased risk of dementia, Alzheimers, and ADD/ADHD
Trans fats can also cross into the placenta and travel into an unborn baby’s brain. Trans fats can also cross through breastmilk. But perhaps the most alarming fact about trans fats is that it takes up to 102 days for them to completely leave your system! Trans fats and hydrogenated oils offer nothing helpful to the body and should be avoided. You may be surprised at how many foods contain trans fats (see below).
Examples: margarine, vegetable shortening, non-dairy whipped cream, cake frostings, white bread, prepared mixes (cake, muffin, cornbread, etc), non-dairy coffee creamer, tortillas, fast food, donuts, bakery goods (cakes, cookies, pies, etc), boxed crackers, peanut butter (except fresh ground or organic), frozen dinners, prepared frozen meants (fish sticks, etc), ice cream, instant mashed potatoes, popcorn, taco shells, cocoa mix, potato chips, breakfast cereals, pasta and sauce mixes.
Is there anything left to eat?! Sure there is! Foods that are closest to their original state (“whole” or “real” foods) are trans fat free. This means that fresh produce, fresh eggs, meat and dairy … beans, nuts, seeds … all of these things are free of hydrogenated oils. When in doubt read the label. If you see any of the words below on a label, return the item to the shelf and move on.
Common names for hydrogenated oils / trans fats: Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Trans Fats, Trans Fatty Acids, Partially Hydrogenated Canola Oil
How To Help Get Trans Fats Out of Your System
- Stop eating them. Don’t buy them. Ever.
- Eat foods high in fiber and rich in enzymes.
- Eat lots of produce (opt for organic produce).
- Eat your produce raw or steamed.
- Don’t worry about fats in plant-based foods. These fats are healthy fats and are good for you!
- Drink lots of water (add lemon to help cleanse the body).
This week may be the toughest week yet, but you can do it!!
On a scale of 1-10 (1 = easy, 10 = hardest things I’ve ever had to do), how difficult is this week for you?
How did it go this week? Read about it here.