Different sugars – are natural sugars better than table sugar?

Sugar….. that white crystal powder that makes food sweet. The majority of people have heard that sugar isn’t good for you, that it can lead to negative health consequences. Some people talking about sugar addiction. A debate between sugar and sweeteners, many believing sugar is better because it is “natural”….. but forget that there are plenty of “natural” foods that would be incredibly dangerous or toxic to consume, so natural doesn’t mean healthy.

So I thought I would do a little break down of sugar and different types of sugar.

Are dates and dried fruit better than white sugar? What about agave syrup compared to high fructose corn syrup? Is fruit sugar actually bad?

I have a previous post about sugar vs sweetener, which you can read HERE. There are a lot of different sweeteners, so to get into all of those I would have to dedicate a post just to them. So instead I will just mention them a little in this post and compare them to sugar.

So let’s start off with…. What is sugar and what other names/types of sugar are there?

So white sugar which we all know as caster sugar or cane sugar, or in other terms: Sucrose which consists of two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. [Glucose is typically found in some fruits, vegetables and honey. Fructose is found mainly in fruit. And there is also galactose which is a single sugar molecule and is found in milk and dairy products]

In the body, sugar (Which I will now refer to as sucrose or table sugar) breaks down into glucose and fructose. The enzyme sucrase has to break down glucose and fructose which have two different absorption methods in the body. Glucose is absorbed directly and used as energy, both for your brain and muscles while fructose goes to the liver first where it is either then converted into energy or stored as fat (if there is an excess of calories).

There are other forms/names of sugars:

Lactose: This is the sugar found in milk and is built up from galactose and glucose. This is why dairy products usually have some sugar in them because of this natural sugar content.

Fructose: This is the sugar found in fruits, vegetables and honey. It is a single molecule/simple sugar.

Glucose: Typically found in starchy vegetables, such as potatoes. Dextrose is also comprised of only glucose, and this is because glucose is the main source of energy for the body as well as the only energy source the brain uses. It is the quickest energy source and also spikes the blood sugar.

Corn syrup, or high fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup is usually 100% glucose, whereas high fructose cornsyup is a mixture of glucose and fructose, just like table sugar.

Other types of sugars: Icing sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, maple sugar, dextrose.

Sweeteners:

Sugar alcohol: So sugar isn’t really sugar, but it is a carbohydrate and consists of a chemical structure that is similar to sugar and alcohol. It is also called polyols, and they are considered sweeteners. They aren’t fully absorbed or metabolized in the body meaning that they contribute with less calories than sugar. These sugar alcohols are also called, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol. Because the structure of these polyls can resemble alcohol structure, some people can get digestive issues from these sweeteners.

With this in mind, you realise that it is not just white table sugar or syrup that has sugar… but many other foods, including vegetables, fruits, dairy. But this isn’t a bad thing, as mentioned above glucose, fructose and lactose (a disaccharide) are infact natural sugars. They provide energy and your body needs glucose found in example starch vegetables and also in fruit.

However, just like with table sugar too much sugar whether it is from potatoes, dates or mangoes isn’t good either. They also spike your blood sugar, insulin is released and too much energy does get stored in the body. However, glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver which is important as the body closely regulates blood so if haven’t eaten for several hours and your blood sugar begins to dip, glycogen will be broken down from your muscles and used to increase your blood sugar.

“In the process of breaking down carbohydrates into glucose, the body is unable to distinguish between sugars that are added to foods and sugars that occur naturally in foods, since they are chemically the same.”

The difference between glucose and fructose is that glucose is absorbed rather instantly in the intestines and goes straight into the blood and can be used as energy for your muscles and your brain. Whereas fructose first has to go through the liver and then be absorbed by the blood, so it doesn’t have the same quick response and release of energy as glucose.

So, what about table sugar or high fructose corn syrup that consists of both glucose and fructose…. This is where sugar/HFCS stands out compared to just fruit or vegetables that consist of single sugar molecules. Table sugar and syrups have to first be broken down by the enzyme sucrase, then the glucose is absorbed in the intestines and then the fructose has to go to the liver where it is metabolised before being released into the blood stream as energy or converted into triglycerides or stored as fat.

The difference between fruit and white sugar, example candy or soda:

Well first off, fruit contains a lot more fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than candy or soda. You have to chew fruit (well, you chew candy as well), there is fiber that is important for your gut bacteria, and of course you get vitamin C which is also an antioxidant. The fructose does of course have to go to the liver to be released into the bloodstream, but the amount of fructose you get via 1-2 fruits is very little compared to the amount of fructose/glucose you get via 1-2 handfuls of candy or chocolate. Not to mention, when it is dairy chocolate you are getting lactose sugar as well as fructose and glucose.

Candy or soda basically only have sugar and very little nutrients.

What about fruit or vegetables compared to example buns or cakes? Cakes, buns, cookies all have a lot of sugar… but they also have other ingredients such as butter and flour. So the butter, which is a fat will also slow down the emptying of the stomach and therefore the digestion of nutrients as well as flour containing gluten which is a protein. So yes, you get a lot of sugar but you also get fat (mostly saturated) and white flour (which of course is processed), but you could look at it like cakes/buns/cookies etc would be better than straight up sugared candy or sugared soda. The same goes with chocolate, you could look at it like you are infact getting some dairy which contains calcium (if you consume dairy chocolate), or if you eat dark chocolate you will be getting some antioxidants and iron as well… even if it is miniscule amounts it still contains a little more nutrition rather than just syrup/sugar.

So how does example baking syrup compare to agave syrup or honey?

Agave syrup or honey, just like baking syrup is straight up sugar. There isn’t so much difference aside from agave syrup and honey maybe having 5% more nutrients than regular baking syrup.

What about dates as sweetener compared to white sugar or syrup?

Being objective and sticking to the facts… then dates and dried fruit as sweeteners is rather similar to white sugar or syrup. Granted, it is mostly fructose and not fructose and glucose. But 100ml of dates/date syrup compared to 100ml sugar or syrup, it is similar in sugar content. Of course, if you are using whole dates they will have a little fiber… but they are mostly just fructose i.e sugar, and the same goes for white sugar. But dates and date syrup is a lot more expensive.

Of course, I do believe that using dried fruits as sweeteners is better than white sugar or syrup which consists of 2 sugar molecules. But you can’t forget that dried fruit or agave syrup or date syrup consist of a lot of sugar which will spike your blood sugar and be stored as excess energy. So using those isn’t necessarily that much better, but if you enjoy using them… use them. Just don’t drown your oatmeal, pancakes or toast with them and thinking it is healthier. (Of course, healthier is a relative term as for some that might infact be healthy).

It’s all about marketing:

Date syrup, coconut sugar and any other fancy sugar substitutes have all been marketed as healthy and better than sugar, but nutritionally they are pretty much the same as sugar. Just that some may have a difference in what sugar molecules they are made up of. The best would be to go for sugars made up mostly of glucose. The “healthy” marketed sugar alternatives are just pricy and not always worth the money.

Of course… if you prefer using them and can afford them… then go for it. They do give a different texture and taste which you may prefer in your baking. Just don’t begin pouring agave syrup over your oats or adding coconut sugar to your fruit smoothies or eating 15 dates a day (unless you have a reason for it such as low blood sugar, athlete or need to gain weight). Sugar is still sugar and will break down into the same molecules and have the same effect in the body whether it comes from syrup, honey or raisins.

So how much sugar should we consume? How much is too much sugar?

The recommendation for sugar is c.a 25-35g per day, or about 5-6 tsp. Or nutritionally, only 5-10% of your total calories should come from sugar. Meaning, if you have a requirement of 2000kcal, only about 100-200kcal of those should come from sugar. I.e 1 330ml coke is 35g sugar and your total sugar for the day (according to recommendations). However the majority of people consume double or triple this amount daily.

In the future I might make a post about “Hidden sugar” in certain foods which many aren’t aware of. That is of course not to scare you or make you avoid those foods completely, just to become aware of certain foods that may need to be limited and not eaten on a daily.

To be noted, is that you could also see the sugar recommendation as c.a 210g sugar per week… meaning that you may have one day a week where you eat a bunch of candy and chocolate and drink some wine, but the other 6 days you keep your sugar intake minimal (not including fruits). Or maybe you are someone like me, who likes to have a little bit of chocolate a few times a week and instead of having one day you eat a lot of sugar I keep it minimal/moderate each day. So find what works for you in regards to your sugar intake.

**Important to remember that consuming sugared soda or candy with lots of sugar isn’t the same as eating fruit or if you eat a meal and then some fruit. Because of the fiber and chewing involved when eating the majority of fruits – not all of them, it will give you more satiety as well as vitamins and minerals. If you eat a full meal consisting of protein, carbs and fats, the fat in your meal will actually slow down the emptying of your stomach and your digestion (this isn’t a bad thing… unless maybe you are going to run a half marathon and want quick energy, then eating primarily glucose may be beneficial) and the release of sugars won’t be as quick compared to if you just drink soda or eat candy, where the break down and release of sugar into the blood stream will happen rather quickly.

Which also leads me to: Carbohydrates, i.e which include sugar molecules, begin to break down in your mouth when you chew as you have enzymes in your saliva which begin to break down the sugar molecules. So when you drink sugared soda or eat candy where 50% is glucose, some of the sugar will be broken down and absorbed rather instantly… which can be a good thing if you are feeling faint, need quick energy or have low blood sugar.

Juices and smoothies? Not as much fiber, a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but there will also be a lot of sugar that will spike your blood sugar rather quickly because so much of the fiber – and chewing – is gone when you drink juice and smoothies. Of course you do still get lots of nutrients and vitamins, so it is better to give your child – or yourself – a fruit smoothie than a McDonalds milkshake, but don’t underestimate the amount of sugar in a fruit smoothie.

Excessive sugar intake isn’t good, whether it comes from table sugar, date syrup or mangos. It does spike blood sugar, which in turn can increase risk of developing diabetes or metabolic damage. Not to mention the damage on teeth from consuming too much sugary products. But as previously mentioned, fruit is not the same as eating candy. And nutritionally dried fruit contains more nutrients than candy so it is better to opt for that for the majority of time, but at the end of the day too much sugar whether it is from sugared candy, sugared soda or 10 banana smoothies isn’t healthy or recommended.

I know some people may not agree with this post and may think that “Natural” sources of sugar are better and when it comes to agave syrup in comparison with high fructose corn syrup I will always recommend agave syrup in first hand. Just like I will tell people to opt for dates with peanut butter or go for a fruit instead of grabbing a handful of sugared candy. But at the end of the day, all of those need to be limited and whichever you choose to consume in moderation and limited amounts is up to you because they are all similar in the body anyway.

Final notes, try to avoid added sugars and the clearly obvious sugary products i.e cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy, soda, syrups etc

Dealing with stomach pain: Elimination method, FODMAP & tips to cope

Many people in todays society deal with stomach pain and discomfort, to certain degrees. Some people just get a little pain from time to time after overeating or maybe eating certain foods, while others can barely live a normal life due to their stomach issues.

In the past, I was the latter. I struggled with a lot of stomach issues and pain.

In this post I am giving you some tips on what you can do to figure out what causes your stomach issues via an elimination method. Though I do advise you to seek help from both a doctor and dietitian so that you don’t end up restricting your intake far too much and far too long so that you end up unhealthy or with nutrient deficiencies.

I have written a post about FODMAP and IBS, which you can read here.

Also a post about dealing with bloating HERE

As well as a post about eating a high fiber diet, which can often lead to cramps and digestive issues, HERE

When you are dealing with stomach pain or digestive issues it can easily lead to a very restrictive diet, either because you don’t want to eat something that triggers the pain, but you don’t know what causes the pain and therefore restrict everything you think might cause pain. Or you infact become scared of certain food because you don’t want the stomach pain and therefore cut it out and get scared to eat those foods.

FODMAP

When someone has IBS they are often recommended to try doing FODMAP with the help of a professional. FODMAP is not a longterm diet or way of eating, it is a way of eating for a (short) period of time to help figure out which foods that cause flareups and stomach issues and which foods you can tolerate.

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols”

Common FODMAPs include:

  • Fructose: A simple sugar found in many fruits and vegetables that also makes up the structure of table sugar and most added sugars.
  • Lactose: A carbohydrate found in dairy products like milk.
  • Fructans: Found in many foods, including grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley.
  • Galactans: Found in large amounts in legumes.
  • Polyols: Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol and mannitol. They are found in some fruits and vegetables and often used as sweeteners.

These carbohydrates/fibers don’t fully digest and some become nutrition for gut bacteria while others don’t digest at all and can therefore cause bloating, gas, cramps.

In some individuals, FODMAPs are poorly digested, so they end up reaching the colon. They draw water into the intestine and get fermented by hydrogen-producing gut bacteria.” (Healthline.com)

A low FODMAP diet means you eat very little or no foods which contain those carbohydrates/fibers. I.e limiting the amount of foods which can cause symptoms.

When following the FODMAP diet for a period of time you are very restricted in what you can eat, and even more so if you are vegan. (I had to try the FODMAP diet for 3 days during one of my university courses and I didn’t eat much those three days as I was so restricted in food choices.) But overtime you begin to reintroduce foods and eventually have a much more varied diet and will hopefully have figured out which foods you can tolerate and you may even figure out which foods you tolerate in smaller doses and which you can consume in larger doses. However along with FODMAP you also have to look over your lifestyle and the way you eat.

Sometimes the problem may not actually be the food, but it may be that you are very stressed, that you are anxious around food, that you don’t actually sit down to eat or you eat your food within 5 minutes while standing or on the go. All of these can cause stomach issues, but also foods such as gum, carbonated drinks, alcohol, certain sweeteners and caffeine can lead to gas, stomach issues and caffeine can heighten anxiety which can lead to stomach discomfort or pain.

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HOW YOU EAT:

So along with looking at what you eat, you also have to look at how you eat. Changing how you eat and even where you eat can make a big impact on your stomach issues. If you are eating in very stressful environments or you don’t have time to eat, then you can easily feel anxious and stressed or you don’t really enjoy or chew your food and all of that can lead to stomach discomfort. So making time to eat while resting and preferably sitting and in quiet environments can make a big difference.

As mentioned above, a FODMAP diet should be done with the help of a professional, otherwise it is easy that your diet becomes far too restrictive and that you don’t actually begin implementing certain foods again, instead you just stick to the “green” foods. It is also important to note, that everyone is different. Some people with IBS may be able to consume foods that are listed as red, while they get stomach pain while consuming certain foods that are green. So you do have to try

different foods and see what works for you.

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WRITE A FOOD DIARY

If you don’t have IBS, just stomach issues, the first thing you can do is to write a food diary for 2-3 weeks.

Write down what you eat, what time you eat, the environment/situation when you ate and even how you felt before/during/after, along with any symptoms you felt during or after the meal.

This will help you get a better overview of what and how you eat as well as tracking symptoms.

After 2-3 weeks it will give you better understanding and overview, compared to just a few days or one week of tracking. The important thing is to eat just as normal… don’t begin cutting out food or changing your diet. Write down everything, even the handful of nuts, the latte on the go or the piece of chocolate you eat standing in the kitchen waiting for dinner to cook.

The diary may just be for you to analyse and get a better understanding of how/what you eat, but may even be useful if you do go to a doctor or dietitian for help.

Once you have written the food diary, begin to look over it. Are there certain meals with certain ingredients that cause symptoms or flareups? Are there certain situations that cause pain and discomfort… such as the rushed lunch during school/work, or maybe the dinner straight after training or the lunch you ate while super stressed?

Once you have found out which meals or situations cause the most flare ups it can be easier to make adjustments.

However, now is when the long process begins. The important thing is to not cut out everything at once…. Instead, you do it one by one. If you think that maybe garlic, onion, chickpeas and gluten cause stomach pain… then begin by just omitting garlic from your meals and diet for a week… see what happens and how you feel. Then the next week omit onion and add in garlic (depending on how you felt the previous week i.e symptoms or no symptoms). It is a long process of finding out what works.

You could of course group certain foods together such as all beans, all sweeteners, all foods with gluten, onion and garlic, all dairy products etc and then one week remove all the foods in one certain group, and slowly reintroduce them one by one. Because it may be that you are sensitive to chickpeas but not to blackbeans, or it may be that you can’t tolerate aspartame but you are fine with stevia.

I would also recommend that you do infact limit your caffeine intake (coffee, black tea, energy drinks) as well as not chewing gum or sugar free pastilles, as they can all cause stomach discomfort.

I do also want to note that many believe they are gluten intolerant and cut out all products with gluten, however many products that include gluten also include certain fibers that are hard to break down. So it may not be the gluten you are sensitive too, but the fibers.

Which is an important thing to note, fibers can cause stomach discomfort and pain. There are certain fibers that are hard to break down and cause gas and bloating. So limiting fiber intake and drinking plenty of water can be one step if you don’t want to do the whole elimination process. Though then you won’t be able to tell which foods cause pain or symptoms if you eliminate them all at once.

I also recommend that you keep your meals very simple, just 2-4 different ingredients. The more ingredients and foods you eat in a meal the harder it can be to digest as well as figure out what causes your pain or discomfort.

FOODS THAT CAN CAUSE STOMACH PAIN

There are certain foods that are more likely to give stomach discomfort and they are:

Beans and peas – this is due to their fiber content and that the fibers are hard to break down

Sweeteners – Many sweeteners aren’t broken down or absorbed in the body and therefore lead to gas and bloating

Carbonated beverages, sugarfree pastilles, gum – the bubbles in carbonated drinsk along with both caffeine and sweeteners, basically a triple whammy. With gum, when you chew you are swallowing air which can lead to gas and bloating, as well as gum usually having sweeteners (even if it’s only very small doses)

High fat meals – including creamy and/or, oily dishes. Typically fast food, dairy full fat (specifically cream) or certain takeout meals such as Chinese. Fat leads to feeling full quicker and is also harder to break down compared to carbohydrates. It can also often lead to heartburn. Many find that eating fat sources from avocado, nuts, nut butters and seeds don’t cause the same stomach issues.

Food with lactose or gluten – many cut out lactose and gluten thinking they are intolerant to them. Some may be, but as already mentioned. Many foods with gluten also include hard to break down fibers which may be the issue and not the gluten. With lactose, many can’t handle a lot of lactose or they don’t have enough lactase enzyme which breaks down the dairy. Though this isn’t so strange considering that dairy is actually for baby cows, and not for humans… or well, not in the huge amounts that many consume dairy products now a days.

Too much fruit – Fruit has a lot of fiber but also fruit sugar which can cause certain individuals discomfort if they eat too much of it. And by that I mean eating maybe 4-6 fruits in one go.

Note, just because i mention these foods doesn’t mean that YOU are sensitive to them. Everyone is individual and everyone reacts differently to different foods. You may be able to digest those in small amounts, ,aybe not at all or maybe they don’t trigger you at all.

When you are dealing with stomach pain, it is easy to get scared of food because oyu don’t want to deal with the stomach pain. But you can not completely restrict yourself, the best is to get proffessional care, but if you can’t because of reasons- Then remember to not completely cut out food and if you do cut out food youshould try to reintroduce it. Otherwise your diet can become very restrictive. Also be reintroducing it into your diet after not eating the food(s) for a while you can better understand what is causing stomach pain.

Also remember, if you do think you are sensitive to gluten and want to get it checked. Youahve to eat gluten to do the tests… so don’t cut out gluten and then get checked because the results won’t show any intolerance/allergies then.

Stomach issues and pain is complex. Many get the diagnosis IBS because doctors can’t find any other diagnosis that causes the pain. But IBS is about more than just food, as previously mentioned. Stomach issues aren’t always due to food, but due to other factors which also makes it hard to treat. It often requires changes in diet, lifestyle and way of eating.

It is incredibly debilitating to live with stomach pain, I did for several years. Many plans that were cancelled, many evenings I lay curled in a ball on my bed with extreme pain, many tears due to the discomfort and a lot of constant bloating. What helped me was to go vegan and start eating plantbased, but of course that also meant letting my body adapt to a higher fiber diet. I can still get stomach pain from certain foods, but I have learnt to figure out which foods cause me pain and also know that too much of certain food will give me discomfort… and then it is up to me to make the decision whether I want to eat the food and deal with the discomfort afterwards or to just skip the food or choose something else.

For stomach pain and nausea ginger or peppermint tea can help, as well as having something warm on your stomach.

If you are dealing with a lot of stomach pain, I highly recommend you go to both a doctor and a dietitian. Be persistent with your doctor so that you get all tests done, just to rule out any serious conditions. However, I do also recommend that you keep a food diary for 2-3 weeks, get an overview of your symptoms, how and what you eat and see if your symptoms may just be due to anxiety and stress and certain foods such as caffeine, sweeteners and high fiber.

(From personal experience I can also add that when I am very stressed and anxious, then I can get stomach pain and bloating even if I am eating the same as usual. So it is important to look at your stress and anxiety levels).

Processed foods are unhealthy? – What are processed foods exactly?

In my life, I have both heard and read many people say processed foods are unhealthy. I understand what they mean, but their statement isn’t totally correct.

What the majority of people may mean when they say processed food, is the highly processed foods such as frozen pizzas, cakes and buns, meatballs, baconand soda which are often high in saturated fat, sugar and salt. But what people forget is that processed food entails anyfood that has been altered in some way from their natural state.

This meaning…. Prechopped frozen vegetables, canned beans, crushed tomatoes, tofu, oatmilk, bread are just some examples of processed foods which are not unhealthy or filled with saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt.

Why process food?

Processing food is actually a way to limit food waste and to help preserve food. Processing food can help keep them nutritious and can even make them more nutritious via fortification, example adding D vitamin and calcium to oatmilk, cereals and orange juice. Via pasterization it also makes dairy products safe to eat by removing harmful bacteria. Not everyone can cook their own beans, so buying precooked in a can is amazing. Now a days there are also usually salted and unsalted precooked beans you can buy. Not everyone can bake their own bread or not everyone has the money to buy fresh produce or food that hasn’t been altered in any way. Not to mention, just because a food hasn’t been processed doesn’t automatically mean it is healthier or more nutritious.

Also, you can’t forget that certain processed foods make it convenient and easier to eat and buy…. Example if you’re having a picnic then you might run into the store and grab some bread, tofu, premade hummus and some prewashed, ready to eat spinach. I.e a processed meal but also a highly nutritious meal.

Buying frozen vegetables is both cheaper and a way to limit food waste as many don’t manage to eat the fresh vegetables they buy before they go bad, so then frozen vegetables are a good alternative. Have written a post regarding the nutrition in frozen vegetables vs fresh vegetables, you can read it HERE, but to quickly summarize… they are still very nutritious and sometimes more nutritious than certain fresh vegetables as the deep freezing helps protect the vegetables and nutrients during transport and storing. But just like with all fruits and vegetables, the process of heating them up and preparing them can affect the nutritional value but in such a small way that it isn’t anything you need to think about.

Types of processing:

There are different ways of processing foods such as freezing, canning, drying, baking or for dairy products, pasteurizing the milk is a form of processing. And in the case of pasteurization, that is actually necessary to make the milk safe to consume as it removes harmful bacteria… so without that step of processing, it wouldn’t be as safe to consume.

So what counts as processed food?

Well as you have just read… there are a lot of foods that count as processed. But there are different degrees of processed, example frozen pizzas, different meat products such as sausage, meatballs, granola bars, certain cereals and even fake meats can all be classified as highly processed. These types of products often contain added sugar and salt and are typically high in saturated fat or cholesterol.

There is nothing wrong with eating these foods in moderation, but they shouldn’t make up the majority of your diet.

Processed food falls on a spectrum from minimally to heavily processed:

  • Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — often are simply pre-prepped for convenience.
  • Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.
  • Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.
  • Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, granola and deli meat — are more heavily processed.
  • The most heavily processed foods often are pre-made meals including frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners.

(Source: Eatright.org)

You don’t need to avoid processed food

But you should of course be aware of certain processed foods… such as the ones stated above where you can infact try to make your own version at home if you eat those foods a lot. Example, make your own pizza at home (Recipe, recipe), make your own snack bars (recipe,), you can even try making your own seitan instead of buying your own…. (recipe), however because of the marinade it will still contain a lot of sugar, salt and oil so making your own seitan will be similar to buying fake meat.

I have not got around to writing a post about fake meat vs. real meat (I began writing already in July!), but it is better to eat fake meats than red meat. However the best is to consume other protein sources such as legumes, tofu, tempeh, oats, quinoa, nuts as your majority of protein source and include fake meat as an extra/smaller part of your diet and protein source. And if you eat meat, then choosing white meat such as chicken, turkey and fish (also including salmon) is a lot better than red meat from a health perspective, but it is also recommended to consum plantbased protein sources as the ones mentioned above.

So next time someone says that processed foods are unhealthy, link them to this post or tell them what processed food actually entails.

Just like with all foods, too much of anything isn’t good. Trying to choose the alternatives with no added sugar or salt and contain mono and polyunsaturated fat instead of transfat or saturated fat is best.

And lastly… not eating processed food will definitely limit and restrict your food choices. It will mean you have to do alot of cooking and preparation yourself. Also it has no health benefits avoiding all processed foods…. even if there are benefits in limiting or avoiding highly processed foods.

The importance of regular meal times

Many people like to focus on the small details of nutrition and food, but maybe forget the larger picture.  Often times people focus on amount of protein they eat, or how gmany rams of carbohydrates they eat, or how much salt is in their food…. But maybe forget about the bigger picture such as, eating enough fruit and vegetables each day, eating balanced meals and also eating regular meal times.

Before focusing on the smaller details of food and nutrition, you should look at your intake in total.

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And one of the best nutrition and health tips I can give is…. Eating regular meal times.

There are many benefits to this which I will mention down below.

Some people skip meals to “save” calories.

Others skip meals just because they aren’t hungry or don’t have time.

 

But skipping meals can lead to:

  •  Sweet cravings in the evenings.
  • Ending up snacking lots in the evenings or in the following days to “make up” for the lost energy.
  • Not having energy, concentration or focus because you have skipped a meal.
  • Feeling hangry, i.e hungry and angry… and that may just cause you to lash out or get angry or irritated at those around you.

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The best thing is to have a routine with your eating in general, even if somedays may vary from that routine. If you aren’t a huge breakfast person, that is ok…. You can eat brunch or a later breakfast instead. Or if you are someone who prefers an earlier dinner… or maybe someone who prefers a later dinner, that is ok as well. Just that you have some form of routine and regular meal times.

The best of course is to eat between 3-6 meals a day, just to keep yourself energized all day and avoid going far too long without food which can make you feel tired, rely on caffeine or lose concentration.

But some people prefer 3 bigger meals, and that is ok a well… just as long as it doesn’t go 10-12 hours between your meals each time.

Eating every 3-4 hours is recommended for the general population, even if there are some benefits to fasting for some people as well. It is not recommended for everyone. And what I can say is that it is better to just eat all your meals between example 6am and 9pm each day, and not constantly be eating from 6am to 12pm each day.

So why eat regular meal times?

  • It will give you energy throughout the day
  • It can minimize cravings because you will energize and fuel your body with your main meals and snacks
  • Typically your main meals and snacks will be composed of healthy foods, which also helps you get all your vitamins and minerals you need. Whereas spontaneous snacks chosen out of hanger or extreme hunger due to skipping meals are most often not the most nutritious…. Unless you are someone who naturally grabs a fruit or some nuts in those panic-hunger moments.
  • Better concentration and focus throughout the day. Also with a regular routine with your meal times your body will adapt to this and you will feel hungry at those times.
  • Your body feels “safer”/more balanced if you eat at similar times each day, compared to one day eating 3 meals, another day eating 6 meals. One day eating your first meal at 10 am the next day eating your first meal at 6am

If possible, mealprepping or packing snacks with you is a good idea. Then you will always have nutritious food with you for when you feel hungry and need some more energy.

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Often times, as mentioned above, people can skip meals to save calories or because of fear of weight gain… if this is how you think, then now is a good time to combat those fears and thoughts. Because regular meal times is actually one way to help maintain a healthy weight. Often those who skip meals end up overeating or binging, or snacking on less nutritious foods due to extreme hunger and that can lead to weightgain. Or lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and a binge-restrict cycle.

So for overall health, mental and physical, regular meal times is recommended.

As mentioned, when you eat regular meal times you are also more likely to plan your meals and have them prepared and therefore also eat more nutritious meals which is beneficial for overall health.

So… if you are someone who eats irregular meal times or has no routine with eating or mealtimes… then it may be time to structure up your eating and mealtimes and find your routine.

No, you don’t have to eat breakfast at 7am, no you don’t have to eat 6 meals a day. …. Maybe you are someone who wants to eat your first meal at 10am and only eats breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is ok… just try to stick to that routine everyday. (Of course… if you are on holiday or away from your regular routines, there may be a difference in how, what and how much you eat… that is ok. As mentioned in the beginning, focusing on the bigger picture and what you do the majority of times matters more than what you do/eat/how you eat from time to time!)

Of course, eating breakfast does set you up for the day and gives you the right fuel when you need it the most. But I will save that for another post, talking all about the pro’s of eating breakfast!

If you like this type of nutrition post, let me know in the comments down below or let me know if there are any other nutrition related posts you want me to write about or talk about on my Youtube Channel (follow me there ;))

 

 

 

 

Overeating, extreme hunger, binge eating |How they differ

Many people lightheartedly use the word, “Binged” when they actually mean overate.

Many in eating disorder recovery – specially restrictive eating disorders – can go through periods of extreme hunger, but they think it is binging.

Extreme hunger and binging can seem very similar, but they are very different. One could be classified as consequences/symptoms of an eating disorder, whereas the other one is classified as an eating disorder.

This post has been a long time coming, and i thought i would try to define and describe the difference in these 3 terms as well as give some tips if you are dealing with extreme hunger or binge eating right now.

Overeating:

Starting off with the simplest definition, which is overeating. Over eating is basically what you may do at buffets or at Christmas or other special occasions where there is a lot of food. Or even at dinner parties where you may eat a large dinner and feel full but still eat some cake afterwards. Basically, eating more than maybe usual or maybe you are 95% full but still eat more just because it is delicious, because it is there or because it is offered to you and you want to be polite. Typically, you may feel very full for several hours, may feel like unbuttoning your trousers and laying down for a while and give your stomach time to digest the food.

Overeating is rather normal. Some people may do it more frequently, others may just do it during special occasions or events. Typically done just because the food is there or because it is delicious.

For some people when they have “cheat days” they may be overeating.

If you overeat, the best thing is to just rest for a while, drink some water or peppermint tea. That fullness will pass and as long as it is not a daily occurunce of overeating then it is no problem. (*Note, overeating can occur at more times than just special occasions i.e such as boredom eating, stress, always eating larger portions than necessary during mealtimes… which can result in weightgain. Which for some is a NECESSARY weight gain, and for others it may not.)

Extreme hunger:

And the next is extreme hunger. So many think that extreme hunger is the same as binging… but it is not. They are two different things.

Extreme hunger is often in response to a period of undereating… it may have been conscious or unconscious undereating. It is your bodies way of finding balance… craving for food and high energy food to feel “safe” again. Also, if you have lost weight, either by choice or by accident, it is your bodies way of getting you back to your set point. The extreme hunger doesn’t last forever, but it can last a while. How long it lasts varies from person to person and situation to situation. If you have been undereating for a long time you may feel extreme hunger for a longer period of time, compared to if it may just have been a short while that you under ate due to maybe stress, hormones or other reasons.

Extreme hunger can be described as a constant or very frequent hunger. You may eat a big meal, but 1 hour alter feel super hungry again, almost like you haven’t eaten in hours. If you have been undereating, or if you are underweight then it is more than likely that your hormones are out of balance, including your hunger hormones which can be why you feel constantly hungry or never feel full. It can of course be helpful to see a doctor who specializes in hormones if they are out of balance, but remember that eating enough, having a healthy body fat percent and not overstressing can help regulate hormones (to some extent).

Typically, you are just hungry… you want to eat, you want food. There may not be any extreme or strong or specific cravings. Just hunger. During extreme hunger you may overeat, i.e eat more than your daily calorie requirements. However, this is also necessary for the extreme hunger to settle and go away. You do need to eat more…. You need to allow yourself to eat the amount your body is craving., Even if that means eating every hour.

My best suggestion when it comes to extreme hunger is to one, actually eat. Listen to your body.

And two, try to eat 5-6 meals a day minimum. Don’t eat tiny meals “just in case you eat too much” or to compensate for being so hungry. Eat large meals. No diet or light foods – eat the full fat products. And if you have any specific cravings, allow yourself to eat them… even if you should also focus on eating main meals and mostly whole foods and unprocessed foods. If you want the chocolate or donuts or crisps, eat them.

Acceptance and allowance are key. It may be a mental battle, but the hunger won’t go away if you keep trying to restrict or deprive yourself… it will just make it worse and it could infact lead to binging and binge eating. Which is what I will describe next.

Binge eating

So, binge eating is classified as an eating disorder, whereas extreme hunger can be a consequence/symptom of an eating disorder. Or a result and part of recovery from an eating disorder. And overeating is just a “normal” thing… and I mean normal in the sense that the majority of people overeat certain times in their life… even if it definitely shouldn’t be a daily thing because that can lead to weight gain for the majority of people (who may not need to gain weight. It is different if you are dealing with extreme hunger and therefore overeat but also need to gain weight… or atleast, gaining weight will help you find balance with food and eating again.).

Binge eating isn’t really about food or hunger… the binges are mostly due to mental reasons. They are often in response to anxiety, stress, emotions. The binges are a form of coping mechanism. Often there is strong cravings for specific foods… often high in calorie, fat and sugar. Or it can be certain nostalgic food that can give you a sense of comfort which can be a way to cope when stressed, anxious or dealing with a lot of emotions.

Binging is not really about the food or feeling super hungry compared to extreme hunger…. But more the feeling of eating, the rush of the sugar and calories and the dopamine the food can give. Dopamine is one of the “feel good” neurotransmittors and often that gives the person a sense of happiness/comfort/takes away the anxiety while they binge eat… but then post binge the anxiety and guilt may kick in.

However, binge eating can also be a consequence and response of extreme and long restrictive eating. Where you have restricted and deprived your body for so long, and all that is on your mind are the “forbidden foods”, and once you do eat one of those “forbidden foods”, there is no stop. An all or nothing mindset kicks in. For some they compensate, which is then classified as bulimia, whereas if you don’t compensate it is just binge eating.

Binge eating is far more serious than the other two, hence why it is an eating disorder that can be diagnosed according to certain criteria. But also, for the majority of people does require professional help to recover.

Binge eating can often be described as a lack of control… even if extreme hunger can also be described as that at times, because you just feel so hungry that you can’t stop eating. (Even if YES… with extreme hunger, you will reach a point where you don’t feel that super hunger all the time. But it does take some time for your body and hormones to reach a safe and balanced place… but eventually it stops.) Whereas with binge eating… it can continue for many years until someone eventually reaches the point where they seek professional treatment in some form, whether inpatient care, day patient or therapy or CBT for help.

On the other side, binge eating can also be seen as something “controlled” as people can plan their binges (even if the binging also then becomes something uncontrolled and unstoppable)… which is something not many people are aware of. Even if binges can happen spontaneously in response to emotions, stress, anxiety, mental state… it can also be planned binges where food is bought and planned beforehand as the binging can give a sense of comfort, peace, happiness…. But the aftermath of the binges is quite the opposite with guilt, anxiety, self-hate and disgust.

With binge eating, it is recommended to try to eat regular mealtimes throughout a day. To not reach a point where you feel starving or hangry. To eat 5-6 times a day and give your body and mind constant energy. Because binges can stem from restriction or a restrictive mindset where you have set up food rules and forbidden foods, you need to work on finding balance with all foods… not having foods you can’t eat. However, in the beginning it can be helpful to avoid having trigger foods in your house and instead eating them when you feel that you can eat them in moderation, example maybe when you are around others.

And one of the most important things with binge eating/bulimia, is that you do seek proffessional help/treatment/support to overcome it. There can be many reasons as to why you binge, but if you don’t seek help it can be an eating disorder you live with. Binge eating and bulimia is actually alot more common than anorexia, even if it does not get as much attention or awareness. And there is nothing shameful in struggling, but it is important you seek help so that you can get better and not just resort to cutting out trigger foods and binge foods so that you eat a very restrictive diet. Because that will just lead to more binging. Unfortunatly food is everywhere and just like with anorexia recovery it is not just about eating and eating the right amount for you, but about finding ways to cope around food and finding ways to eat in balance, and lastly just letting food become a part of your life but not your whole life.

I do have other posts about binge eating and binge eating recovery, so I will not write so much about tips to recover and advice for recovery in this post, instead you can check out my previous posts.

My previous posts about binge eating:

Binge eating recovery: Tips, advice, my experience: Masterpost

Dealing with extreme hunger and binges? | Nutrition advice | Masterpost

Finding balance with food – Restrictive/binging/balanced – advice

How to find balance with food and eating. Overcoming fear foods.

Why diets don’t work

With binge eating, a person often eats far beyond their fullness and to the point of extreme fullness at times. There is most often not a physical hunger than drives the binges – even if at times it may begin with physical hunger but then results in a binge if a person feels triggered or an “all or nothing” mindset kicks in. With extreme hunger, you may overeat but it most often doesn’t reach a point of extreme fullness.

As mentioned earlier… the difference between bulimia and binge eating is that when you have bulimia you may restrict, binge, compensate and repeat. And the form of compensation can vary, whereas with binge eating it is often just binging without any form of compensation.

Lastly, what qualifies as a binge? Well, eating very large and abnormal quantities of food. Amounts of food you wouldn’t eat when around others or portions you know are far bigger than is necessary or normal. I.e such as eating whole packages of bread, cereal, whole boxes of food etc So eating an extra slice of cake for dessert or accidently eating a whole package (one of those roll form ones) of oreos isn’t the same as a binge, where the binge eating can continue for hours at a time and abnormal quantities of food eaten in a “short” period of time.

So, with this…. I hope I have helped bring some awareness to the three different terms. Many in anorexia recovery can find it hard to know whether they are going through extreme hunger or have developed binge eating. But typically, I would say it is just extreme hunger and the best thing you can do is ALLOW YOURSELF TO EAT with no compensation or restriction.

Of course, it is hard to define exactly extreme hunger vs binge eating, but i would say that the person knows themselves – after a while whether it is binge eating or just an extreme hunger.

However, it is important to note that binge eating is one of the most common eating disorders and many in anorexia recovery can end up with bulimia or binge eating if they continue to restrict and deprive themselves even in recovery. I.e continuing to have fearfoods and still eating the lowest amount possible, that strong restriction can kick over into binge eating as a response to the restriction and your body just wanting lots of calories and energy.

I hope you found this post helpful, and if you know anyone else who may benefit from reading this post… send it their way 😊

If you want me to write more about one of these topics or give advice regarding one of them, just comment and let me know.

Or if you have any other post suggestions for me, you are always welcome to let me know.

More posts/articles relevant to this subject:

Extreme hunger: part1 – what is it?

Extreme hunger: part 2 – the experience and science

Hormones and binge eating disorder