Women are unknowingly eating refined sugar from foods masquerading as healthy options. This sneaky sugar, disguised by names like fructose, dextrose and lactose, just to name a few, causes many frustrating problems for women over age 40: brain fog, cravings, weight gain, and an inability to lose stubborn pounds.
What does refined sugar do to your health?
All this sugar causes inflammation in the body and brain, but it also delivers a dangerous “double whammy,” says neuroendocrinologist Robert H. Lustig, MD, creating a vicious cycle in which women simultaneously crave more sweets, while losing the ability to accept signals from hormones that tell them to stop eating.
Fortunately, it’s easy to break the cycle and jump-start a sugar-stalled metabolism to shed weight. Indeed, Tosca Reno, bestselling author of The Eat-Clean Diet (Buy from Amazon, $22.25), says, “Inflammation and blood-sugar issues can be reversed by methods that are staggeringly simple!” And Dr. Lustig adds, “When you take refined sugars out of people’s diets, their brain fog gets better.”
What happens when you stop eating sugar for a month?
On Tosca’s updated Strike Sugar plan, you’ll avoid eating refined sugar for four weeks, while enjoying five to six small meals per day (about every two to three hours, stopping by 7 pm) to keep blood sugar steady. Meals will focus on protein, fats, fiber, and brain-supporting antioxidants.
You’ll avoid processed and packaged foods, rife with hidden sugars, as well as super-starchy plants like white potatoes, bananas and pineapple, along with dried fruit and alcohol.
Reach for healthy natural fats, like coconut and olive oil, and avoid artificial and hydrogenated fats like margarine and canola oil. Last, limit dairy to small portions of full-fat, plain Greek yogurt.
Without sugar messing with your mind and metabolism, you’ll shed belly bloat and inches fast. And your health will also receive an upgrade. Sherry Sardi lost 40 pounds with Tosca’s help and reveals, “At 56, I’m stronger than I was in my 20s!” To optimize results, follow these tips…
Start each day with ginger water for what Tosca calls an “extra metabolic kick.” To do: Add a one inch piece of ginger root, sliced lengthwise into quarters, to hot water for a spicy tonic. The root contains natural anti-inflammatory properties to soothe an inf lamed brain. Then aim for 3 liters of water per day.
To eliminate cravings and reset your hormones, Tosca recommends avoiding all sugar, including artificial sweeteners, for 30 days. But if you need some sweetness in your tea or coffee, she allows a dash of Stevia or no more than one teaspoon of raw honey or maple syrup. (Limit to one cup of coffee and two cups of tea daily.)
Pile on protein.
“Protein is the ideal nutrient to help heal our damaged blood-sugar handling systems,” says Tosca, so you’ll want to eat at least 4 ounces of protein at each of your six meals. Good options: one chicken breast or salmon filet (about the size of the palm of your hand), one cup of lentils or 1⁄2 cup almonds. Also smart: Sprinkle protein-rich chia seeds on salads or mix into smoothies. These tiny gems have been shown to lower high blood sugar by 39 percent, and in one study, a daily dose helped folks shed 534 percent more weight than their nonseed-snacking counterparts.
Spice up meals.
When cooking, reach for blood-sugar controlling spices including cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, garlic, sage, and oregano. Cinnamon is so effective at balancing blood sugar it has been found to slash swings by 29 percent, and adding it to one meal a day can boost metabolism by 25 percent for three hours!
Eat fruit this way.
Reserve fruit for snacks and always combine it with a handful of nuts or 4 ounces of plain Greek yogurt. Tosca explains, “The healthy fat helps buffer the release of glucose into the blood, preventing dramatic swings in blood-glucose levels.” Aim to eat one to two small pieces of fruit each day. Your best bets include apples, pears, peaches and berries.
Reach for this ‘grain.’
Tosca calls for avoiding grains for four weeks, but quinoa, which is a seed, is allowed — and the fiber-rich food is a slimming superstar. For best results, rinse and soak quinoa for 4 hours before cooking. This removes phytic acid, which can hamper nutrient absorption. Plus, it starts what Tosca says is the “predigestion” process, softening quinoa’s rough fibers to be better broken down for optimal nutrition.
Keep slimming to your happy weight!
After four weeks, you can repeat the plan to reach more health goals or reintroduce some unrefined, healthy forms of sugar — up to 6 grams per day from plant sources — during the maintenance phase.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.