The last post I did on why sugar is not good for your body elicited a lot of interest and questions from people on whether there are ways to manage sugar cravings in a healthy manner.
Before I explore ways of how to manage sugar cravings I thought I should mention a hard and cold truth about sugar .
Sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever,yes it does sweeten some foods and drinks the craving for sugar is derived from the pleasure it triggers through the release of dopamine into our brain.
Sugar has no proteins,vitamins or minerals that the human being would need in order to be healthy .
The danger with the added sugar we take in is that it plays havoc with our metabolism and it also contributes to a lot of the lifestyle diseases we see on the rise.Everything from obesity,heart disease,tooth decay are related to consuming more sugar than our body needs.
Sugar gives you nothing but empty calories and consuming foods high in sugar and fats leads to nutritional deficiencies as well as it affects the consumption of other healthy foods.This deficiency on certain nutrients then leads to deficiencies that compromise our health and leave our immunity exposed.
The way to stave your sugar craving is to look for healthy alternatives to sugar that give you more than the sugar high and are high in nutritional value.
1.Take a fruit and leave out the sugar in your hot beverages.
Instead of having your tea with sugar,leave it out and instead have a fruit with your breakfast.Not a fruit smoothie because fruits have sugar in them in the form of fructose and over consumption of sugar in the form of fructose is unhealthy as all excess fructose will get turned by your body into fat.
2.Make your snack choices healthy ones.
To stave off the hunger pangs when you are feeling low on sugar at 3 pm Monday afternoon,take a fruit instead of the afternoon mug of tea.
Note:Intake of fruits should be limited to about 2-3 in a day.
Nuts and seeds also make very healthy snack choices nuts provide essential vitamins from the B group,Vitamin E and minerals like potassium,calcium and magnesium and they will leave you fuller for longer as they slowly get broken down and sugar gets released into your body in amounts your body can use.
3.Take note of your calories
Take your calories from whole grains,starchy root vegetables like sweet potatoes,grains,cereals and not from baked foods .When you make healthier choices about where you will get your calories from,these sources of carbohydrates as highlighted are also sources of other micro nutrients that your body needs.
As you grow older your body needs less calories and what your body needed when you were 20 will change as you head towards your 30’s and 40’s when you become less active and your body’s metabolism slows down.
Sometimes the hunger pangs we think we have that force us to reach out for something sweet may actually be a sign from our body that we a dehydrated.Pick up that glass of water instead of a doughnut ,a cookie or a fruit drink.
5.Make your food choices healthy choices.
Instead of eating three large meals during the day,stagger your meals through out the day in small portions and make sure they are made up of foods from all the major food groups,cereals/grains,milk and dairy,fruits and vegetables,nuts and seeds.By taking your foods from the natural sources you are ensuring your body is able to metabolize the food in such a manner that stabilizes your blood sugars through out the day rather than experiencing the highs and the dramatic falls that come with consumption of processed foods which are high in sugar and fat.
6.Get to exercise
If you are struggling with your sugar craving,getting physically active will help you mange those cravings as it forces you make more healthier food choices,take in more water and you will definitely have to take in more than sugar for your muscles to get working and to be physically fit.
Exercising will force you to be more conscious of your food choices and it will lead you to healthier ones.
By now you know that sugar is not good for you,yet every time you seem to try to go cold turkey and stay off it you keep coming back unable to let go off what can only be described as an addiction.You cannot have tea or coffee without it and you prefer calling your addiction a sweet tooth.
But do you have a sweet tooth or what exactly is it about sugar that makes life so much sweeter (pun intended) ?
Yet everywhere we look there is something sugary and sweet calling out to us and tea,coffee does not really taste the same without a teaspoon or two or maybe three of sugar.
We cannot tell exactly why tea in our sugar or tea hits such a sweet spot and many people swear that they cannot take tea without sugar .If you have a cup in the morning another at 10 am and another at 4 pm and with each cup you take about 2 teaspoons of sugar that equals to about 6-9 teaspoons of sugar,depending on how much you put in per cup/mug.
If you are a woman a total of 6 teaspoons of sugar daily is recommended.
Now imagine you take a soda during the day,it is hot ,then you decide to take with you a fruit smoothie of about 4 different fruits as you drive to work,meet a friend for coffee after work and you each order for a slice of the moist carrot cake you were told is fresh from the oven,how many teaspoons of sugar do you think that will total to
It will equal to a lot of teaspoons of sugar.
Sugar occurring naturally in food are an energy source for the body’s cells .When we consume carbohydrates they get broken down by the enzyme carbohydrase which breaks down the starch in foods into sugars.
It is not just carbohydrates that contain sugar ,fruits also contain sugar made up of two simple sugars sucrose and fructose.It is why making a habit of drinking fruit smoothies made up of 3-4 fruits daily is not a good idea while trying to mange your wait is not a good idea as in the final end it will get converted to sugar and any extra sugar you do not use your body stores it in the form of fat.
“It is better to eat your fruit rather than drink it.”
When sugars are added to food it is because they play an important role ,they add texture taste and color to baked food products .Sugar is added to yoghurt,to tomato paste and sauce for added as well to balance flavor, and to o dried fruits as a preservative,to bread act as an energy source for yeast as well as in tea coffee to add taste to these drinks.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends not more than 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and not more than 9 teaspoons for men daily.That is about 100 calories and 150 calories respectively for women and men respectively.
Sugar does play a role in a healthy diet ,it is the the source of sugar and the over consumption of sugars from other sources that pose a problem to your health.When you over consume a lot of sugary foods and drinks your body experiences rapid spikes and falls in blood sugar levels.The rapid rises and falls of your blood sugars drives your pancreas crazy!
Blood sugar levels are regulated by insulin which is released from your pancreas.Insulin is a hormone that prompts your body cells to absorb sugar that the cells need to use for their cell functions and the excess then gets stored as fat.When your blood sugar falls the pancreas prompts the release of the hormone glucagon that has the liver releasing the stored sugar for use by the body cells.
We live at a time when there has been an increase in the number of people living with Type 2 Diabetes and the onset of diabetes in Type 2 keeps going lower.A major cause of these could be the foods we are taking in,especially foods high in added sugars.Type 2 develops over a period of time when the body is unable to use the insulin it producees in the correct way.The body then becomes unable to respond to the insulin it produces and this prompts the pancreas to release more insulin.This over production of insulin wears the insulin producing cells out and eventually the body stops responding to the insulin it produces and that is when Type 2 Diabetes is diagonised.
Type 2 diabetes at the outset can be managed with a healthy diet and physical activity but with time one will need to take tablets and maybe have insulin injections as well.
The reason why the over consumption of sugary foods is discouraged is mainly because sugar plays havoc with your body’s metabolism. Occasional indulgence in a cookie or a slice of cake is okay but it should not become a daily habit.Management of your weight is important as excess weight makes your body unresponsive to insulin which will lead to over production of insulin and eventually your pancreas will lose its insulin producing cells which will lead to pre diabetes,then diabetes type 2 as your body loses the capacity to be able to produce and respond to insulin which is needed to regulate your blood sugar levels.
While it is very easy to avoid soda,cake,cookies,ice cream and other foods where it is obvious sugar has been added,there are other places where we have hidden sugars.
A good habit to start practicing is reading food labels ,as sugar gets hidden in commercially produced foods and the names used may confuse most people .Sugar in the food you buy from the store will be hiding with names like corn syrup,fructose,dextrose,maple syrup,fruit concentrate,caramel,molasses and many other titles.
Having struggled with kicking off sugar in my teens,I finally did so in my early twenties and I know how hard it can be to keep off sugar . Sugar is actually a “drug” and its consumption from other sources other than the naturally occurring ones releases the feel good hormone dopamine into your brain making you cry out more,more ,more.It is why it is so hard to give up sugar because we have already created neural pathways for this pleasure habit and the reason why it becomes hard to give up. Just like learning a new skill is hard,we have to create new neural pathways in place of the old ones by replacing our cravings for sugar with healthy ones like eating more fruits,nuts,drinking more water and taking pleasure from these healthier habits.
It can be done,and you can take your tea without sugar and enjoy it,have your coffee without sugar and thoroughly enjoy it and yes even your cereals do not need the sugar as well and the plain yoghurt actually tastes better when you add fruits real fruits to it.
If you found this article useful or helpful,please let us know in the comments section .
If you follow the Organic Farmers Market in Nairobi which I have for a couple of years,you may have noticed that there are now more places where they have organized for Kenyans to buy organic food as well as more vendors, which means there has been an increase in the demand for organic food from the Kenyan market.
You must have wondered about what all the noise is about Organic farming and why suddenly there has been a surge in the demand as well as consumption of organic produce. I thought this post would be helpful in helping us appreciate organic farming as well as see why the demand for organic food has grown.
Organic farming is a system of agricultural production that involves the cultivation of crops and the rearing of animals using natural ways.
Conserve Energy defines it as a process that involves the use of biological materials,avoiding synthetic substances to maintain soil fertility and ecological balance thereby minimizing pollution and wastage.With a world population that is more than 7 billion and a land size that remains the same yet it is fighting with encroachment from human settlement,the demand for arable land is on the rise and people are looking for all manner of ways to make the most of the available land and animal resources.
One of the ways unscrupulous people have found to get more from their land and animals in order to make a few quick dollars is to pump it with chemicals,pesticides as well as speed up the maturity of farm animals like chicken by injecting them with growth hormones.
The bottom line in all of these endeavors is not a concern for the people who will eventually buy these foods from the supermarkets,it is profit greed that is the only driver for such practices that puts the lives of other human lives at risk.
It is true organic food costs more , because of the work involved as it is a very labor intensive exercise.It is also true that you expose yourself to less risk if you choose to go organic.
About 4 years back,I lived on a farm in Nakuru where we grew vegetables and other crops I also took up some organic farming on the side as an experiment project as well as to keep me busy.
My crops of choice were potatoes,zucchinis,carrots , to prepare I read widely and found that potatoes do very well especially if you mix dried manure into the soil and so I went about asking for dung from the farmers that owned cows around where we lived.I got a lot of it as well as a lot of curious looks as to what I needed cow dung it for.
But the venture came with a lot of challenges as well.The area where we lived was infested with moles ,how to get rid of them without using chemicals?
And we set about looking for a mole catcher,they do not exist anymore by the way and before we found we had a village of molehills on the farm as well as lost a lot of potatoes.
Up until the time we harvested the potatoes and carrots I never used a single drop of pesticide on them and they did fairly well.They potatoes and carrots came in all manner of sizes and we lost some as well to pests,but I had done it ,grown something without use of a single pesticide or chemical.
The need for organic farming is driven by the need for more sustainable methods of farming that ensure we will still be able to produce enough food 50 years from now on when the world population is estimated will be at more than 10 billion.
For those that have tasted organically grown fruits and vegetables you agree with me that they taste better than what you get from the supermarket shelves.Eggs from free range chicken are also more tastier ,have a yolk with the must delicious yellow color and just a bit smaller than the eggs that you get at the supermarket.
We consume a variety of pesticides and chemicals from foods like chicken,beef and other dairy products as well as from fruits and vegetables .The chemicals from pesticides and other drugs like antibiotics used to treat these animals have found their way into our food and we have started seeing resistance to the most widely available antibiotics used to treat very common infections.
Scientists are having to work very hard to keep up with the microbial mutations are now resisting the currently available antibiotics.
These resistance is leaving scientists and researchers worried as it means the increased resistance by disease causing bacteria to these drugs will expose us to infections which currently available antibiotics will not be able to treat.
The discovery of the latest antibiotic was reported this April and it was done by Canadian scientists,it was the first in antibiotic discovery in 3 decades 30 years and the drug is still years away from being available to the public.
The increasing public awareness on what is going on,increasing incidences of disease and the effects of environmentally unsustainable decades of farming methods have pushed organic farming front and centre.
If you are in Nairobi, follow the Organic Farmers Market on Facebook to see where the market will be next and get to interact with the farmers working hard to ensure we produce food in a more sustainable ad environmentally friendly manner than we are d right now.
Why is organic farming important and why should you care,I have a few reasons to think about why organic matters and who knows maybe you may take it up or talk to someone about it then we have a new generation of organic farmers.We may even meet at the Organic market.
1.Buying organic foods creates a demand in the market and will push farmers to be more responsible especially over the use of pesticides and other chemicals as they grow crops or rear their animals.This is already happening in some countries where consumers are demanding more responsibility over the use of drugs and pesticides.
In this way we are promoting a more sustainable model that ensures the earth is able to feed the future generations that come after us.
2.Buying organic foods means that you get the foods fresh,these foods have not been treated with any preservatives or had nay additives added to them to lengthen their shelf life.
The shelf life of organic foods is very short because of their very minimal journey from the farm to your plate which is what has encouraged the farm to fork movement globally and has had people support local farmers by buying local foods.
3.Buying organic has helped promoted the growth of agriculture as a means of livelihood especially among young people. Across the globe young adults are taking up agriculture and providing us with food.It has helped stem the increase in the number of the unemployed,helped increase food production as well as seen technology revolutionize farming.Europe has seen the number of its youthful population taking up farming,you may find this article from The Economist really interesting.
In Kenya as well we have several groups on social media platforms talking nothing but farming.See how dailies are falling over themselves to provide information on farming especially in the Saturday paper .
Young people are going back to the farms to ensure there is food for the more than 7 billion of us.
4.Buying organic and consuming organic ensures you know where your food comes from,how it gets produced and what goes into the production process.You are reducing your exposure to the chemical toxins that could put you at risk of developing certain life threatening conditions through the ingestion of chemicals that may have been used in their production ,processing or packing.
5.By buying organic you get to interact with the farmers that grow your food and there are benefits to that.There is nothing like meeting the person or people that put so much work to ensure you do not go hungry and appreciating the work they do.Human interaction especially in an age where technology is taking over how we socialize with each other,a conversation with another human being is always a great way to spend the weekend.I think one of the reasons people in big cities like Nairobi are always angry and stressed is because we speak so little to each to other,yet we know healthy relationships are part of living a fulfilled and healthy lifestyle.
6.Taking your children with you to the organic market for grocery shopping and let them feel,touch,sell and taste food.As I mentioned in an earlier post taking your children grocery shopping is a way of getting them involved in meal planning and ensuring they adopt healthy eating habits early in life.
They will get to know how to choose fresh ingredients,how fresh food looks like and most important they will learn to value the hard work of the people like farmers who work behind the scenes to make sure we get fed.
And just in case your children hardly ever get to travel upcountry,they will know food does not grow in the supermarket :-).
7.Buying organic is an opportunity to increase the awareness on more sustainable forms of agriculture and hopefully this will lead to legislation by governments as well as push them to develop policies that can protect as well as promote organic farming.
Do you buy or grown organic food?would you love to be featured on our blog,please get in touch with us.
As always your feedback,comments and suggestions are welcome.See you in the comments section.
Having listened to a lot of people share the challenges that come with losing weight or making a healthier choice of what they put into their bodies,I do find that a lot of them have the mistaken belief that to live healthy is somehow more expensive.
It is not.
It is also interesting to see that most people choose to eat out rather than carry lunch or a snack to work which I think is healthier because then you know exactly what has gone into preparing that meal.
Carrying lunch or a snack to work was something I did when was employed some time back and the greatest motivation for doing so was because I got to save some of the money I would have used for lunch on something else like shoes or a handbag.
And no,I really do not mean that you should not enjoy lunch with friends and colleagues every now and then, you can .
To live healthy and to lose weight is affordable because we live in a country blessed with an abundance of healthy food.
When writing down meal plans for people who either want to adopt a healthier lifestyle or lose weight or manage any condition my first rule of thumb is to always get to hear from them what it is that they like eating .
Some of the questions I ask is what foods they enjoy eating and how using those choices I can help them make more healthier choices.Getting to know other foods then enjoy eating helps me show them how they can incorporate healthier choices from the foods that are available to them and that they can afford.
That is how I come up with a meal plan.
The first thing in being able to lose weight or adopt a healthier lifestyle is to take stock of where you are and how you got there and a great tool that will tell you exactly how you ended up there is by keeping a food diary.
A food diary is a record of everything you eat through out the day,how often and in what amounts.It includes keeping track of what you ate for breakfast,lunch,dinner and any snacks in between.You need also to have an idea of how many tablespoons of oil you use in preparing your meals,how much margarine/butter and the number of teaspoons of sugar you are taking in.
A food diary can surprise you and just by looking at it you will be surprised at how much you really take in.With a detailed food diary a Nutritionist is able to calculate exactly how many calories you are taking in.
Now,back to discussing living healthy is not expensive and I will show how you can do that in just 3 simple ways.
1.Know where to shop
In Kenya we are blessed with an abundance of food and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to what we can eat and are willing to spend.You just have to know where you need to be shopping.
Vegetables and fruits especially come cheap and we have no excuse to not eat more of them .Sources of carbohydrates like rice,maize flour,wheat flour,traditional grains like millet and sorghum are very readily available.You can get them at the supermarket,neighborhood kiosk or in the numerous open air markets scattered throughout Nairobi.
Toi market that is located on Ngong Road is a great place to buy vegetables cheaply and City Market gives you fairer prices on beef,chicken and fish fillets.Ngara Market and City Market just opposite the Aga Khan hospital will also give you a wide variety of fresh vegetables to pick from.
There are also the organic markets organized at various venues around Nairobi by the Organic Farmers Market as well as farmers around Nairobi who do deliveries of their produce every week.
It is the sources of protein that make mealtimes more expensive but you do not have to have beef,chicken,fish fillets to meet your nutritional requirements for protein.More affordable sources of protein are legumes like various varieties of beans,dried peas,omena(Lake Victoria sardines) offer youd the proteins your body needs without breaking the bank.
Omena can be bought for cheap at Toi Market.
“Yes,good food does not have to be eaten with a fork.It is all around us if we are willing to make the right choice.”
2.Carrying lunch or snacks to work
Which do you think is easier,carrying lunch to work or buying food 5 times a week from a restaurant ?
When you carry lunch to work then you have more choice over what exactly is in your plate and especially if you are losing weight then you need to know what it is you are putting into your body.
Having watched how our food habits have been changing over the years,I am happy to see the opening of more restaurants that are serving real food as well as the demand from Kenyans for healthier food rather than the choice of fries, deep fried chicken and soda that was available some years back.
This demand has seen restaurants that are serving traditional Kenyan foods as well as foods from other cultures find a home as well as enthusiastic foodies in Nairobi.
There has been an increase as well in the number of entrepreneurs setting up companies giving the Kenyan consumer more healthy food choices.
3.Learn how to cook
Maybe after reading the first two you thought how can I eat healthy when I cannot cook and I do not have time to learn?
If you cannot enroll for a class,but a cookery book from any of the bookshops,follow food bloggers or watch the food shows available on TV or YouTube as well.
A quick search of this blog will give you some recipes,easy ones I promise using local ingredients that you will enjoy.
When you cook for yourself you get to experiment and once you get cooking you will be surprised at what you can whip up with simple ingredients and a sense of creativity.
Eating healthy is only one side of the healthy living coin,physical exercise is the second side.
One of the most affordable ways of exercising available to anyone on planet earth is walking.Physical exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and every human being of whatever age will thrive with physical activity.
Physical activity also helps reduce the risk of developing certain conditions that may come with weight gain and it also helps improve physical as well as psychological well-being.
As always I love hearing feedback from readers,how are you living healthy or making more healthy choices,what has helped and what do you think I have left out from my list that has helped you and would help someone else?
Please share your feedback in the comments section.
As a childII had no idea what this fruit was called and every time I went to my grandma’s I would just eat the bloody red fruit as I called it then because it tasted really exotic and like no other fruit.
They fruit had my mum seeing red though because it stained everything I was wearing.
Tree tomatoes as we call the tamarillo in Kenya comes in all colors of the rainbow red,orange,purple or yellow but inside you find red tinged yellow flesh or an all yellow flesh when ripe with dark red seeds that give this fruit a rich red undertone when scooped out and blended as a juice.
The yellow fleshed variety is the sweetest of this sub- tropical fruit and it can be blended with other fruit juices to make a nutritious drink .
The juice oxidizes very easily so it is a good idea to blend it with something acidic to prevent it from developing a not so pleasant after taste. But its best taken fresh as a juice or fruit and not kept out for long.
The fruit is rich in carotenoids like lycopene and beta carotene which are anti oxidants that fight free radicals that are thought to be the cause of many cancers.Its also rich in Vitamin C,potassium,phosphorus,sodium and magnesium.
The fruit is best left to ripen at room temperature if it’s harvested while still raw.