Freshly steamed artichokes sparkling with sea salt, speckled with black pepper and glistening with olive oil; a crackling wasabi rice wafer slathered with pristinely white goat cheese and topped with a fleshy slab of salmon; a golden mango ripe with juices that trace lovingly down the chin with each bite.
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For me, food is not merely a life-sustaining necessity. It’s a love affair.
My passion for delicious and healthy eating started long ago. In my family, we always sat down to dinner together. As we ate we shared stories, problems, laughter and sometimes tears. I adored this time with my family and long after my parents stopped requiring that my brother and I attend the evening meal, both of us continued to show up.
Further, my mother and father never served a meal where a vegetable was not present. From the beginning, I was lucky. I loved vegetables and I loved the ones most kids hate: spinach, broccoli, snow peas. Even when I started hanging out with friends who gravitated more towards Airheads and Charleston Chews than asparagus and chard, my body couldn’t keep up with their binging. I would end up sick, tired, headachy and really, really crabby. It didn’t make me a popular companion. (But then, what did?)
My interest in good food intensified about ten years ago when I quit smoking (for the second but not the last time). I gained ten pounds and needed to take it off. I bought a book called The Food Bible, by Judith Wills, which explained calories, exercise and an overall approach to healthy eating, including weight loss. This book introduced me to terms like “superfoods” and “phytochemicals”. More importantly, it presented the idea of food as medicine. I started to realize that the single most important way you can affect your body’s health is to pay attention to what you are putting into it. Because, if you think about it, we have to eat with some frequency in order to survive. And in this culture, we eat a whole lot more often than that.
This idea was only reinforced once I started seeing my naturopathic doctor a few years ago. When I tested positive for a sensitivity to lactose, he suggested that I cut out dairy. I was raised on milk and brought up to think of it as an important part of a healthy diet, so it was difficult at first, but ultimately it was one of the most brilliant changes I could have made.
He also suggested that for thyroid health I cut out gluten, which I have since done. It may seem like these things would limit my choices severely, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. These eating styles have encouraged me to explore new options and foods I may otherwise never have tried or heard of: quinoa, rice pasta, millet flour and so many more.
Finally, I tested positive for a sensitivity to yeast. This was no surprise. I have always had problems with fungi and molds and basically anything fermented: I’m allergic to penicillin, I have had problems with eczema, and damp weather makes me feel like someone stuffed two elephants up my nose.
So, not only did I cut out yeast, I cut out sugar, too. At least for a while. Yeast feeds on sugar, so even if you aren’t eating yeast but are consuming mass amounts of the white stuff (like a literally large percentage of the American population), your yeast factories could still be going crazy.
Yeah, I’m not a doctor, so don’t ask me to explain it any further than that. Also, don’t take my word for it. Never take anyone’s word for it. Go look it up.
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The problem is that sugar is so accessible in this country. In fact, I don’t think “accessible” is even the right word. “Almost unavoidable” is probably closer to the truth. It’s in everything from salad dressings to spaghetti sauce. I talked about this more in detail in a previous post. I cut it out completely for a while, then added some back (*cough* husband *cough*), then researched and experimented with alternative sweeteners like agave nectar.
I still have hopes of someday cutting out sugar and sweeteners completely. I’m probably 99% of the way there. (Okay, that might be slightly optimistic – but not a gross exaggeration!) I never buy anything with added sugar. Unless I forget to check the label and it happens to be in there, which happens on occasion. I try to eat: cereals sweetened only with fruit juice (a spinach omelet is better, but we do what we can); desserts sweetened only with agave or brown rice syrup (chocolate chia pudding is my current favorite); and I’ve been putting pumpkin purée on my occasional frozen waffle instead of maple syrup (it’s good – really!).
I can honestly say that I love eating like this. Love it. As with going gluten free, it has opened me up to all sorts of new food ideas. I just need a little extra shove in the right direction to further reset the “sweet” button on my taste buds.
That’s where the amazing Alex comes in. Alex is the mastermind behind the blog Spoonful of Sugar Free, which has been a huge inspiration for me to get back on track. I am endlessly impressed with Alex’s recipes, her enthusiasm and her outlook.
And now, starting on June 1st, Alex is hosting the Sugar-Free Challenge. The challenge is this:
Don’t eat any sugar for 10 days. This includes honey, molasses, syrups, artificial sweeteners (like Splenda), sugar alcohols (like maltitol or xylitol), and no refined sugar.
Crazy, right? I think it’s a great idea. I’ve joined the challenge and I think I may have convinced T to try it with me, too! (Please note: I can’t make any promises on his behalf, especially if we have chocolate chips in the house starting on 01June).
How about you? Are you interested in joining the challenge with me? If you are, hop on over to Alex’s and leave a comment on the Challenge page. Please leave a comment here, too, so we can support each other! I have a few ideas for more sugar and food-related posts and would love to know your interest level on the topic. Thanks!