Natural vs Unnatural Sugars

iStock_000012651702XSmallLast Tuesday, I wrote a bit about sugar and the dangers of consuming too much. Many of us are eating sugar without even knowing it, with many condiments and processed foods smuggling sugar into our diets.

There is such a thing as too much sugar, but does that mean you can cut them from your diet altogether? Well, not exactly. Carbohydrates, necessary to keeping your body energized, is a sugar! Give up carbs altogether, and you won’t have any energy to get through the day.

Now, you might be thinking I’m contradicting myself. How can I tell you to cut sugar from you diet, but then tell you that sugars like carbs are a necessity of life? There is a distinction between necessary sugars and excessive sugars, and it’s as simple as looking at the source.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

The biggest culprit in excessive sugar consumption is high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS. HFCS is made primarily of corn, and is created when corn syrup undergoes a conversion process, changing some of its glucose to fructose. Because of the ease of processing, HFCS is used as a supplement in many processed foods for sweetness. You can find it in most sodas, processed desserts like Twinkies, and even in places you wouldn’t expect like energy bars or cereal.

There has recently been a lot of conflicting information regarding HFCS. Many sources will tell you that there are no dangers in HFCS, while others will tell you that its a poisonous bile you should avoid at all costs. As commonplace as it is, it’s hard to escape HFCS. But there are always alternatives to unnatural sources of sugar.

Natural Sugars 

Of course, sugar isn’t an unnatural product altogether. Many healthy foods, like fruits for example, naturally contain sugars. A single red delicious apple will naturally contain approximately 23 grams of sugar, and you will seldom hear a doctor telling you to stop eating fruits.

As I said before, carbohydrate sugars have a very important part in our lives, and it would be unhealthy to block out these energy sources completely. How can we get through our fitness regimen if our body doesn’t have the energy to do it?

I have a quick tip I tell some of my clients who are struggling with this: If you’re considering a food, look at the nutritional information on the back. If sugar comes up in the first few lines, put the box down and find something else to eat. If High Fructose Corn Syrup shows up, find something else to eat. If you see words that you have to sound out in your head, put the box down.

The ingredient sugar is not deadly, but sugar in high quantity is. As we make changes in our lives, especially in our diet, it is important to be aware of what we are fueling ourselves with. Trust me, I know that making the change from processed foods packed full of sugar will be difficult, but I also know it will be worth the change.

Be sure to ask any of the personal trainers at Boomer Fitness about how you can make a healthy change in your diet. And stay up to date on my blog for more details to come!

Superbowl Snack Aftermath: Part 2

TiStock_000009709487XSmallhis last Tuesday, I wrote about some of the less-than healthy food you might have been enjoying during the Superbowl. Like I wrote before, hindsight is always 20/20, but I feel it’s important to acknowledge the reasons why we are making changes. Especially when it’s a daily change, like our diet.

Today, I want to highlight healthy foods, things you can enjoy without worrying about empty calories, excessive carbs, or high levels of salt.

One misconception I hear a lot is healthy food is simply boring food. It can be bland, repetitive, and at the end of the day, simply doesn’t taste good. We all know these culprits of the bland food crime: Celery sticks, plain kale salad, white fish a la carte. Trust me, after a week of nothing but white fish for dinner, even those plain corn chips in the cupboard start to look really, really good.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can still enjoy healthy food without forcing yourself to endure tasteless, repetitive health foods we start to dread.

The Right Carbohydrates – Carbs are not the enemy! A lot of people who come to the gym tell me they’re trying to eliminate all carbohydrates from their diet. It’s important to remember that carbs are not the only enemy, and in fact give you the energy to hit the day. What we do want to do is reduce carbohydrates, and get them from the right sources.

I recommend adding Quinoa, Brown Rice, and Oatmeal to your diet. These are full of fiber and protein, getting us the nutrients we need to hit the day running.

Proteins: Not just for Bodybuilders  – Protein seems to be the big word that comes to mind when you think of weight training, bodybuilding, marathon running, and so forth. But it’s important to remember that proteins are also an important part of a healthy diet. Whether you’re an herbivore, a carnivore, or somewhere in between, it’s important to get yourself the right amount of protein in your diet.

I recommend unprocessed cheese, greek yogurt, beans, eggs, and lean meats, like chicken breast and lean beef. These get us high amounts of protein and other supplements our bodies need, while avoiding unhealthy levels of sodium or other unnecessary byproducts.

Fats are you Friend –  Fats usually get a bad rap in a lot of conventional diets, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Healthy fats, like those found in olive oil, give us healthy hormones and some structure in our body composition. Like everything else, the real culprit is the amount of fats that we consume.

I recommend almond butter, avocados, olive oil, and nuts to get your daily dose of fats. These give you the energy your body needs, while avoiding excessive saturated fats.

iStock_000018256851XSmallThe More Natural Color, the Better – It might sound ridiculous to judge foods on color, but it gives you a visual gauge of how healthy and unprocessed a meal is. And in the end, colorful food looks a lot more appetizing than the greys and tans of processed foods.

When I’m in the kitchen, I like to include as many colors as possible in each dish. This can include vegetables like bell peppers carrots, radishes, zucchini, and fruits like blueberries, strawberries, bananas, apples, and oranges.

So a lot of tips, right? You might be thinking it’s easier said than done, throwing all these suggestions into action. That’s why I’ve got a couple of recipes to show you that health food done right doesn’t have to be bland food.

Breakfast Burrito – To start the day, I like to throw together something quick and easy, so I can take it out the door if necessary. To start, I like to gather some eggs (high protein), red bell peppers (vitamin C) , kale (fiber), pesto (healthy fats), non processed cheese (more protein, and flavor!), and a corn tortilla (magnesium and fiber). Then, I crack some eggs on a medium powered skillet, add the ingredients, and then wrap it all up in the tortilla. Now I’ve got a healthy meal I can take on the road if need be.

Tuna Sandwich – Nothing hits the spot for lunch like a classic tuna sandwich. I like to use whole grain bread, spinach, hummus, sun dried tomatoes, and a can of tuna. This combination gives us a lot of fiber from the bread, iron from the spinach, chickpeas, olive oil, and carbs from the hummus, and lean, low fat protein from the tuna. And best of all, it’s quick, easy, and tastes better than celery sticks.

Chicken and Rice, with a side of Salad – Not ground breaking, but a good way to prove to yourself that healthy can be tasty! For dinner, I like to cook lean chicken breast (healthy protein) using olive oil (healthy fats) and combine it with peppers and squash (vitamins). I also cook up some brown rice to serve under the chicken (for healthy carbs) and add a side salad of kale mixed with cranberries, feta cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and a light dressing.

Getting hungry? I know I was when writing this. Next time you come in to the gym, talk to us about making some changes to your diet. We can give you some in-depth ideas of restructuring your meals.