Sugar-Free Green Smoothie

Sugar has quickly become the single worst ingredient in the modern Western diet. Science has now shown that sugar, in all its myriad of forms, is taking a devastating toll on the health of the population and is leading to wide spread obesity, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and a host of other closely related illnesses.

The single largest source of calories in the standard western diet comes from sugar—specifically high fructose corn syrup. In 1700, the average person consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year. By 1900, individual consumption had risen to 90 pounds of sugar per year. In 2009 that figure rose to 180 pounds of sugar per year which is equivalent to half a pound of sugar per day.

Sugar is loaded into soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks, and hidden in almost all processed foods on the supermarket shelves.  Anything labeled low fat or zero fat is generally loaded with sugar and even things labeled sugar free, are instead filled with artificial sweeteners that can be equally as detrimental to the body as sugar itself.

Dr. David Reuben has stated that “white refined sugar is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways. Its true name is sucrose and its chemical formula is C12H22O11. It has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, 11 oxygen atoms, and absolutely nothing else to offer…The chemical formula for cocaine is C17H21NO4. Sugar’s formula again is C12H22O11. For all practical purposes, the difference is that sugar is missing the “N”, or nitrogen atom.”

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The very concept that sugar can be compared to cocaine is frightening, but on an everyday level, here a few more reasons why sugar should be avoided-

Empty of Nutrition-

Added sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) contain a great deal of calories with NO essential nutrients. For this reason, they are called “empty” calories. There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar- just pure energy. These empty and quickly digested calories actually pull minerals from the body during digestion and contribute to major nutrient deficiencies in the body.

Liver Disease-

Before sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract, it is broken down into two simple sugars- glucose and fructose. Glucose is found in every living cell on the planet. If we don’t get it from the diet, our bodies produce it. Fructose is different. Our bodies do not produce it in any significant amount and there is no physiological need for it.

Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amounts. This is not a problem if we eat a little bit (such as from fruit) or we just finished an exercise session. In this case, the fructose will be turned into glycogen and stored in the liver until we need it. However, if the liver is full of glycogen (which is much more common), eating a lot of fructose overloads the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat..

When fructose gets turned into fat in the liver, this can lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

Insulin Resistance and Diabetes-

Insulin is a very important hormone in the body. It allows glucose to enter cells from the bloodstream and triggers the cells to start burning glucose instead of fat. Having too much glucose in the blood is highly toxic and one of the reasons for complications of diabetes, like blindness.

When sugar is consumed in large amounts the insulin stops working as it should and can lead to insulin resistance in the body. When our cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, the pancreas makes more of it, yet when the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand of producing enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels down, these levels skyrocket and a diagnosis of type II diabetes is made.

It is not surprising that research has shown that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages have up to an 83% higher risk of Type II diabetes.

Increase risk of Cancer-

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and is characterized by uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells. Insulin is one of the key hormones in regulating this sort of growth. Thus having constantly elevated insulin levels (a consequence of sugar consumption) can contribute to cancer growth.

In addition, the metabolic problems associated with sugar consumption are a known driver of inflammation, another potential cause of cancer. Multiple studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar are at a much higher risk of getting cancer.

Dopamine and Sugar Addiction-

Like abusive drugs, sugar causes a release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. This creates a hormone that causes a positive feedback loop in the body to encourage more consumption. Research conducted at Princeton University showed that sugar can be as addictive to lab rats as heroin or crack cocaine. Thus even when the effects of sugar are well known, the challenge is for people for move away from the addictive cycle that sugar has reigned them into. For many, this task is simply too arduous.

Obesity and Heart Disease-

The way sugar affects hormones and the brain is directly linked to weight gain. The addictive nature of sugar also leads to a decreased satiety which triggers an over consumption and dependence on sugar for people to get through their day. Sugar both drives fat storage and makes the brain think it is hungry, setting up a vicious cycle that people tend to feel helpless against.

A high intake of sugar results in elevated levels of artery-clogging fats being made by the liver and deposited in the bloodstream.

For many decades, people have blamed saturated fat for heart disease yet the evidence is mounting that sugar, NOT fat, may be one of the leading drivers of heart disease via the harmful effects of fructose on metabolism.

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The well known fact that sugar is literally poisoning the general public and that it is strategically added to almost every food on the supermarket shelves from bread to canned tomatoes is devastating.

With education comes power. We do have the ability to take our health into our own hands, it simply takes a little more time, effort and mindfulness. Preparing our own food, shopping at health food stores, buying from local farmers markets, cooking from scratch, reading labels and becoming more acutely aware of what we are placing inside of our bodies, is the way around falling victim to the nasties of sugar.

One question that arises with the subject of sugar is what about fruit?

This information is from Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ website-

Fruit does contains a lot fructose. Yet whole fruit does also contain vitamins, minerals and fibre which slows down the absorption of the sugar. Nevertheless, fructose is still fructose.

We are designed to metabolise the amount of sugar contained in two small pieces of fruit a day. So if fruit is your only source of fructose in a day, then two pieces of fruit is fine. But if you are also having other sources of added sugar/fructose such as a few squares of chocolate, breads or sauces then you might want to consider upping your vegetable intake instead.

The best low-fructose fruits to choose from:

  • Kiwi fruit
  • Blueberries and raspberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Honeydew melon

And the high-fructose fruits to avoid:

  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Mangoes
  • Cherries
  • Bananas

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       Raw food diets can be quite dependent on fruit, especially at first when fruit seems like an easy option as a healthy snack or in smoothies. As you move along your journey with raw food and healthy living, you will get a feel for how much fruit your body can handle and the best ways to incorporate these sugars into your diet and the best ways to limit or avoid them.

Instead of filling your green smoothie up with two or three different fruits, try this simple fruit-free green smoothie recipe instead! You will be amazed at how delicious it is and how much more satiating it is than a fruit smoothie. Don’t let the list of ingredients throw you off! If you want to add some fruit though, sometimes I will add half a pear!

This recipe makes one serve-

Sugar Free Creamy Green Smoothie:

  •        2 cups of homemade almond milk
  •        ½ a ripe avocado
  •        4-5 green leaves (kale/spinach/lettuce)
  •        ¼ of a Lebanese cucumber (about 2 inches)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of sprouted brown rice vanilla protein powder (this does contain a small amount of stevia which will sweeten the smoothie a touch, stevia is a plant native to Paraguay that is as much as 300 times sweeter than sugar, but has barely any effect on blood glucose levels and contains no calories.)
  • 1 teaspoon of green powder
  • ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut oil
  • ½ a pear (optional)

Blend all the ingredients on high until smooth and creamy.  This recipe is very versatile and feel free to add chia seeds or even cacao if you want a chocolate kick without the sugar! You will find that the more you cut sweet foods out your diet, the less you will feel the need for them and the more that the natural sweetness in foods will really come through. It may take some time for your taste buds to adapt, but one trick is to use lots of nourishing spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, and I also like to sprinkle my smoothies with desiccated coconut and flax seeds for a bit of texture! You may also like to add some goji berries that add a touch of sweetness without the sugar hit. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine assert that goji berries have been used to prevent diabetes by properly regulating blood sugar levels due to their  low glycemic index.

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