About a month back, we organised a 30 DAYS NO SUGAR CHALLENGE. The idea was to give up all forms of sugar but also take up more and more leafy greens and vegetables at the same time. A LOT of people took the challenge and were amazed at the results. You can see some of the results here.
I felt after witnessing the mind blowing success stories, I should put up a blog on how to go after finishing the challenge OR even after quitting sugar for prolonged periods (3 months, 6 months or an year). Moreover, after continuing on a regime, you should always elevate your health game to get better results and to keep the body, mind and brain challenged and engaged. This also makes the process fun, as you try new foods, lifestyle (all healthy ones), and learn much more about the challenges of being healthy. As a result, you improve your holistic health-simple! This blog will serve as a guideline to such people.
For people gone off sugar, here are some of the things you will start realizing if you listen closely to your body: You don’t crave for sugar anymore or need puny quantities to feel satisfied, that too occasionally, your energy levels are better, you felt slightly weaker in week 1 but now you feel more energetic, your pulse might have improved, so might have your breathing patterns, your anxiety/calmness balance, your stress levels, even sweating levels if you used to sweat a lot, sleep might have been disturbed at first or still is because of new found energies, but gets better eventually, and skin definitely feels radiant without applying any skin products. You might have experienced some of these, or all, or even experienced other improvements – improved gut health, easier digestion, better absorption of nutrients, eased bathroom patterns, even improved libidos.
So the question comes, how to make this goodness sustain for longer periods, or for life?
Here are some answers:
- So first, you can’t go back to your old ways for good. A day off or even a week off is fine, but please do try to make this a lifestyle and not just a 30 days thing. You live with your body and mind for life, and sugar negatively impacts both. Hence health is a continuous pursuit and should not just be a 30 day thing.
- Second, even though I personally do not recommend any sugar, realistically there are few better options but ONLY if you want to use sparingly AND OCCASIONALLY: Coconut sugar, molasses, dates, date syrup, natural honey and jaggery. How much? For all, I would say about 20g a week but only restricted to 1 day a week. It’s critical to limit the frequency of intake in addition to the quantity (reasons to follow later in this blog)
- Third, the insulin index. You have heard of glycemic index which is the load of glucose in your bloodstream when you consume a particular carbohydrate source (only carbs). This is called glycemic index, so obviously sugar, all purpose flour, potatoes top this list. But GI has it’s limitations, it only factors in carbs. Foods other than carbs ALSO affect insulin. Insulin is the fat storage hormone and the one causing insulin resistance and pre-diabetics. So insulin index is the response of ALL FOODS (and not just carbohydrates) on pancreatic secretion (or blood levels) of insulin. And even though foods like chicken, eggs, and cottage cheese have zero carbs, they do have an insulin index which is considerable. And what has the most insulin index? Of course carbs. Which also includes fruits.
- Considering the above, I address the fruit conundrum. Ideally there are two things-quantity and frequency. I do not like the five meals a day concept because it secretes your insulin five times a day. So ideally quantity of sugar is NOT the prime factor (but still second most important) as much as the frequency of sugar is. Hence I do not really worry about fruit even if you consume a big bowl-ONCE A WEEK. But if you consume a slice of apple every meal as a reward or thinking “this much has to be okay”, then that will spike the insulin more times which is difficult for the body to bring down. Moreover, it will enhance the FAT STORAGE phenomenon and stop fat burning.
- Which foods has zero or minimal effects on insulin levels? Fats! Fats have very little effects on insulin and you can consume fats and still not spike insulin levels. So you wanna keep eating fats as a buffer for when you are consuming fruits. Which mean fruits go well occasionally with a nutritious meal, serving as a perfect dessert for that day. Which also means, no snacking on fruit. And this is critical.
- Fifth, about 50g to 100g of healthy grains is okay. They include amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, jowar and bajra. Ideally I’d suggest 50g but you can do 50g on a day and 100 next and repeat. Ideally you want to keep this low or close to zero and enjoy once every two weeks. When you do, try to consume no sugar on that day or as little as possible.
- Sixth, keep consuming about 400g to 500g of leafy greens and other vegetables, what I recommended on a no sugar diet. You need POTASSIUM RESERVOIR inside you. That takes about six months of daily overload of vegetables. We need the liver detoxed to flush burnt out fat. That needs greens. We need bile to digest fats, needs greens. Hence greens are not to be ignored. Fun fact: sugar depletes potassium (as potassium is responsible for heart health, diabetics have high sugar, low potassium and more chances of heart attacks), you want to consume even more greens the day you make a dessert
- Seventh, no snacking, just three meals a day WITHIN a span of eight hours or nine. If you can’t do three, do four. If you can’t do it in nine, begin with 11. But eventually you want get at two meals a day within six or seven hours. Realistically, if you achieve the level of eating three meals within eight hours, AMAZING!
- Drinking, again, moderation and frequency principle. A drink each four days is far worse than seven drinks (yikes!) a day in a month. Weird math of consuming seven drinks a day (not recommended, obviously!), but you get the idea. Keep it narrowed down in terms of the time. If you’re in a party, drink within 30 mins and network for 3 and a half. Again, keep the whiplash on insulin and liver to a minimum in terms of time.
So these were the guidelines for how to go about eating after giving up sugar. Please leave a comment if you want to discuss further about this or getting healthier, fitter and lose weight the right way. You can also reach me on Facebook on https://www.facebook.com/udit.gupta.395669 or on Instagram on @uditgupta1988 or contact me on +91 7045 647 489.