Are You Eating Dessert for Breakfast?

By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac, MSOM, Dipl. OM

Do you eat breakfast? Are you one of those people that like to roll out of bed and run out the door with a sugary snack? Or are you the one to wait for sugary snacks like donuts or cupcakes to be brought into work by your coworkers?

Many of us have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but many of us may not fully understand the true importance of making that first meal nutrition packed. A lack of time and a lack of hunger in the AM hours seem to be the two main excuses for skipping this important meal.

Processed and added sugars are the biggest culprits in the standard American breakfast; pancakes with syrup, waffles with fruit jams, muffins, donuts, French toast, cereals with artificial colors and flavors, and even granola bars are what Americans consider to be breakfast foods. By eating those types of meals and then adding multiple cups of coffee we are seeking a short-term energy boost that is artificial in nature just like the processed sugars being consumed. Then lunch time approaches and you are probably experiencing extreme hunger, a sugar crash, or are ready for a nap. Not only do you experience energy fluctuations throughout the day with this method of eating, but research shows that sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive recreational drugs.

Let's discuss how much sugar is actually in typical foods that are being consumed for breakfast. A Yoplait original strawberry yogurt contains 18 grams of sugar which is the equivalent of eating a vanilla ice cream cone with sprinkles. A Dunkin’ Donuts blueberry muffin has 43 grams of sugar which is the same as one 2.17 ounce bag of skittles. Are you feeling disgusted by this yet? The USDA reports that the average American consumes between 150 to 170 pounds of refined sugars in one year! We have become a sugar driven society. The food industry is fully aware of this and continue to pack more and more sugar into their products so that consumers become addicted and in the end buy the product again.

Not all sugars are the same. There are naturally occurring sugars in foods such as fruits and grains that also contain vitamins and other nutrients including fiber that we all need for optimal gut health. Although fruits should be consumed in moderation, it is the added sugars and sneaky ingredients the food industry uses (like high fructose corn syrup and aspartame) that we need to look out for.

Sugar is a major life force and our bodies need it as fuel to feed the ongoing fire of life’s process. The sugars in whole foods are balanced with the proper minerals. When natural sugar is refined and concentrated, the life force is dispersed and the natural balance is upset. Refined sugar passes quickly into the bloodstream in large amounts giving the stomach and pancreas a shock. An acid condition forms which consumes the body’s minerals quickly. Thus calcium is lost from the system causing bone problems. The digestive system is weakened and food cannot be digested or assimilated properly. This leads to a blood-sugar imbalance and to further craving sugar.

Satisfying the sweet tooth can be a challenge. Begin by reducing the intake of sugar slowly and use some discipline and self-reflection to take you smoothly through the withdrawal symptoms of tiredness, anxiety, and depression. Suddenly dropping sugar usually results in a desire to binge. People who stop eating sugar nearly always experience higher spirits, emotional stability, improved memory and speech, restful sleep and dreams, fewer colds and dental problems, more endurance and concentration, and better health in general. Raw carrots are especially helpful for sugar cravings or eating something sour, pungent or spicy like warm lemon water can also diminish those cravings.

What if you changed your morning habits by either giving yourself an extra 15 minutes in the kitchen or by meal prepping the night before? Liquids like smoothies, green juices, and soups or bone broths are the easiest and quickest way to get a nutritional breakfast in. If eating three meals per day, optimal meal times are breakfast 7-9am, lunch 11-1pm, and dinner 4-7pm. Also, make sure to keep cold beverages to a minimum. The ideal time to drink cold liquids is in the afternoon when our body’s energy is at its peak. Drinking room temperature or warm drinks 30 minutes before a meal aids in the digestion process instead of slowing it down like cold liquids do or drinking during meals.

Refined sugar delivers high energy and enables one to keep working, but unfortunately it is addicting and contributes greatly to disease and unhappiness. While in very small amounts it can be used as medicine, in large amounts sugar leads to obesity, hypoglycemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, anemia, immune deficiency, tooth decay, and bone loss. Choose whole fruits and vegetables, decrease the intake of processed sugars slowly to avoid intense withdrawals symptoms, and make sure to eat a nutrition packed breakfast every day to give you the long-term energy you need.

 

Blooming in Spring with Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, springtime is correlated to the liver and the gallbladder as these organs carry energy to store and detox the blood. In spring, we look forward to longer days, the frost thawing and new growth surrounding us.

‘Spring cleaning’ is a great energetic way to express the change of the season, not only for your home, but for your body too.

As the bulbs begin to push through the soil, we humans should be pushing ourselves to be more active, to engage in activities or thought provoking experiences in order to move stagnant winter energy and express our creativity.

When it comes to our nutrition, raw greens, herbs and vegetables are in abundance this season to enjoy-which stimulates liver energy flow.

A restful winter that may have led to more indulging in heavy foods, alcohol, coffee, and Netflix will lead to more feelings of tension and congestion symptoms.  This tense, sluggish energy is called liver stagnation.

Symptoms of stagnant or sluggish liver energy include: muscle tension, headaches, waking between 1-3am, difficult menses, increased allergies, waking feeling "hung-over", lethargic, depressed, impatient, irritable, or more constipated. 

Foods that decrease liver stagnation are those that taste pungent such as watercress, onions, mustard greens, turmeric, basil, fennel, rosemary and mints. Too many pungent foods can lead to excess heat in the body. If you find yourself experiencing excess heat turn to foods like beets, taro root, sweet rice, strawberries, cabbage, kohlrabi or broccoli. 

If this time of year you find yourself in depression or digestive indigestion, try drinking unrefined, high quality apple cider vinegar, brown rice vinegar or red wine vinegar. To drink, add one teaspoon vinegar of choice to one cup of warm water (raw and local honey an optional addition). If the vinegar causes excess heat try drinking warm water with lemon, lime or grapefruit instead. 

Decreasing your cups of coffee throughout the day will also keep our liver healthy. In order to curb this habit reach for herbal tea rather than the caffeine. We suggest milk thistle, chamomile, licorice root or dandelion root tea. Add a hint of brightness with a fresh slice of lemon or lime and a generous teaspoon of honey to sweeten your morning or afternoon.

Upping our dose of raw foods, adding pungent, bitter and sour foods and drink along with drinking less caffeine will make for a happy liver, a calmer mind and a more creative spirit this time of year. Combine these fresh new foods with hot tea to ensure strong digestion.

Back on Track: Detoxifying from Summer

With the joy, warmth, socialization, festivals and fun of summer~ comes more unhealthy eating, drinking, stress, fatigue, and skipping routines.  Our bodies LOVE routine, so the waning of summer also brings back the steadiness of structure.  As we get back to our roots and recover from the summer holiday, we can use this transitional time to prepare our bodies for a healthy autumn.

heal your gut: Before your body can handle a real effective detoxification, the digestive tract needs to be addressed. Are you feeling bloated after eating? Do you get cramping or see changes in your bowel patterns? For baseline indigestion, bloating, belching and flatulence a daily dose of fermented foods and probiotics may do the trick.  If you are struggling to get digestion under control- invest in your health! Our nutritionist will get to the root of the problem with you and help you find the right foods to heal your gut.

sweat it out : Studies have shown that perspiration contains trace amounts of heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic.  A well-hydrated work out or sauna session can activate your lymphatic system and help you sweat out some of that bad stuff.    

go green : Green vegetables have a high inventory of nutrients.  Many of the body’s detox processes are linked to having adequate levels of vitamins and minerals.  Start cooking with generous amounts of spinach and cruciferous vegetables to maximize your detox nutrients.

citrus boost : Vitamin C is an immune booster.  It helps the body produce an antioxidant that neutralizes toxins and also enhances digestive enzymes.  Because we cannot produce our own vitamin C in the body, eating adequate sources in whole foods or supplements is vital to better immune health. Start and end each day with a glass of warm lemon water!   (strawberry, acerola cherry, citrus fruits, papaya, black currant, kiwi, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, melons, and dark leafy greens are great food sources)

controlled breathing : Oxygen is a critical component of natural detoxification.  Controlled breathing: a deep, 5 second inhalation through the nose followed by a long exhalation through the mouth- you will achieve a full oxygen exchange, swapping incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide.  This supercharges your lymphatic system to ward of toxins, pathogens, and waste. Integrate this controlled breathing practice several times per day.

drink more tea : Green tea leaves are withered and steamed, rather than fermented, so it produces a beverage that is rich in compounds that eliminate free radicals.  Start your day with a cup of green tea and a squeeze of lemon. 

assess your water quality: It is not just about quantity! Ditch plastic bottles of commercially packaged water and invest in a stainless steel bottle.  Update your water filters or start using one for all of you water needs at home.  Tap water can be full of chemicals used to clean the water- but also add more to the chemical load in your body.  Drinking filtered, cleaner water will help your body flush out waste at the cellular level and also support the GI tract and kidneys as they flush out those toxins. How much water? At least 1/2 to 3/4 your body weight in ounces.