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The Art of Reduction: Sugar, Dairy, and Grains

You know how sometimes you read a book or an article that gives you a list of things you should be avoiding in your diet, and you get that guilty feeling because you know you just ate at least half of that list in this morning’s breakfast alone? This is not that article.

Or maybe you have one of those friends who’s been trying out this new diet and they’re telling you about how amazing they feel, and when they move about, you can see the lost inches and the leaner muscle, and they’re all smiling and laughing and all you can think about is what’s the best way to kill her and get away with it? Don’t worry. I’m not here for that, either.

What I’m sharing with you is not about making you feel guilty. Everyone has their  parameters on how and what they eat. What works for me, may not work for you. Or just because one particular diet is in a bestselling book, doesn’t make it law. You have to absorb the information and make adjustments according to what your body needs.

So… sugar, dairy, and grain. We consume a ton of it. And we really don’t need to. For some people eliminating these completely would be easy. (I’m not one of those people) But lowering the amount you eat could go a long way to helping you look and feel a lot better.

Refined Sugar

As it turns out, refined sugar has no nutritional benefit at all. (Remember, just about everything, with the exception of vegetables and meat or fish, has sugar and carbs). However, refined sugar is not required for our bodies to function and it does not contribute anything to our physiology. So, eating it everyday, in every meal just doesn’t make much sense. Sugar has a plethora of negative side effects including things like obesity, insulin resistance, and premature aging (gasp!) are just off the top of my head. Sugar suppresses the immune system making you more susceptible to diseases and even affects your moods. But all of this unfortunately doesn’t make it any less tasty, so you have to try to find a way to fight the craving. For starters, find something you love that doesn’t have a lot of sugar.

I love peanut butter. So, when I have a craving for snacks, I’ll try to go for the spoonful of peanut butter first. Maybe smear it on a few pretzels or on a slice of wheat toast. For you that may be a Greek yogurt or spicy humus. Some people really dig nuts or a nice juicy apple. Find your thing and make sure you keep it around. And always be on the lookout for new things. You may find out you really like hard-boiled eggs. Also, try to set aside days for the dessert you want. Don’t eat chocolate cake everyday. Treat yourself to chocolate cake on Sunday.  Then look forward to Sunday until it comes. Stick to your plan and avoid it. And when Sunday finally turns up, not only will you be immensely proud of yourself, (trust me, you’ll feel like a badass) but you’ll be smiling the whole time you eat it. (Take that, world!) Fun fact: The less sugar you eat, the less you crave it. You’ll be surprised that you were eating it so often in the first place.

Dairy

Now, dairy has a lot of benefits. Potassium, Vitamin D, and calcium are just a few. But there are some drawback as well.Dairy Cow And not just because of the dairy product itself. Many are due to the way milk is processed in the U.S. I won’t get into all of it, because it’s a very long discussion, but I do encourage you to Google it one day, and see what you discover. Regardless, dairy products do have other negative effects too, such as contributing to things like arthritis, menstrual cramps, diabetes, and even fertility problems. There are also a lot of chemicals in milk, many out doing the positive factors of consuming milk. How to fight this? Stick to the organic stuff and less fat (for those who don’t like fat-free, try 1% or 2%). And even then, do your homework about how the milk is processed. You have to educate yourself about everything you eat. There are also some great alternatives. Almond milk, rice milk, and coconut milk are some of the most common. Soy milk is also a great alternative, but beware some of the more popular brands. They tend to be packed with sugar. There are even yogurts made with coconut or soy milk. So, the recap? Try buying organic milk, as least amount of fat possible that you still enjoy, and try different alternatives to milk. I promise you’ll see the difference.

Grain

This one can be a tough one because so many popular foods have grain. Rice, pasta, bread, crackers, flour, cereal, and the list goes on. Grain is similar to dairy, in that while it is good for you, it is extremely easy to overdo it. And you don’t want those negative effects. Prime example: Grains are loaded with carbs. All those foods I mentioned above? Loaded. Stuffed. Filled to the brim. All those carbs aren’t going to any good for your blood sugar. Or your figure. Grains also contain a lot of gluten. Gluten is harder for our bodies to digest and too much of it can damage your gut lining, even if you don’t have a gastrointestinal problems. And damage to your gut lining can eventually lead to several different digestive diseases. Grains also contain phytic acids which prevent your body from absorbing valuable minerals such as, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

There are other important negative effects of grains, and again I encourage you to take a couple of minutes to do some research and check it out. It’s very eye-opening. One way to decrease grain in your diet, is to eat more of the other stuff. Eat a larger portion of vegetables, or another piece of chicken or fish. Add a side salad or a baked sweet potato. Snack on some fruit after dinner or some light popcorn. Try eating a sandwich or gluten-free tortilla wraps instead of bread. Explore your options and try new alternatives.

Again, this article was not written to tell you what and how to eat, or to judge you based on what you are eating now. This is just to give you some information and share what I’ve learned over the past few years. In the world we live in, the motto seems to be ‘eat until you can’t,’ and that’s not the key to living healthily and happily. What you put it, is what you get out. Take the time to put in good stuff. I guarantee that you will feel better. Start with small changes and work your way up to where you feel you need to be. Feed your body. Not anyone else’s.

You’ll feel better, you’ll look better, (because who doesn’t want a smoking, fit body?) and once you see the results physically, mentally, and emotionally, you’ll want to go harder. Make the effort to do better for yourself. And if you fall off the horse, don’t worry about it. Wipe it off, get up, and keep moving.

You’re a queen. You have to treat your body as such.

photo credit: peddhapati and  haglundc 

 

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