Recently I have decided to eradicate refined sugar (and anything including this tasty ingredient) out of my diet, primarily because of how it correlates to my stress levels.
There are several things that seem to be consistent bodily reactions when my stress levels are heightened. First, my skin massively breaks out along my jaw line, which corresponds to unbalanced hormone levels. This makes sense, as when our bodies are in a state of stress the hormone cortisol is produced in higher quantities, and puts our bodies in an inflamed state. Secondly, stress causes me to be extremely low in energy and thus I end up craving caffeine and of course, sugar! Yet, this craving can be dangerous and can further intensify the effects of stress on our bodies.
Now, why do we crave sugar while stressed? Well, it makes us feel good. In short, refined sugar, made up of glucose and sucrose, is quickly broken down into glucose, our bodies’ immediate source of energy. Once this occurs, glucose is sent to our blood stream and provides our brain and body parts with an increase in energy. Upon consumption, sugar makes us immediately feel good. Yet, after sugar is quickly absorbed into our system, the “crash” comes into effect. Our blood sugar levels go from soaring high to suddenly remarkably low. The result is we then feel sluggish, tired and sometimes depressed.
Personally, I noticed this effect of sugar on the emotional level, while working in an extremely stressful job at an inner city school. Due to my co-workers and my stress levels, our consumption of chocolate and tasty home-baked goods was ridiculous. This high intake of sugar gave me an immediate source of energy and mood improvement. Yet, this feeling was momentary and I found my emotions would swing like the pendulum of a clock. I would feel good one moment and just a little later I would find myself really depressed, easily discouraged and constantly drained of energy.
In this process, I have noticed that when I decrease the level of sugar in my diet, my skin slowly starts to clear up. When I am stressed and I consume unnecessary refined sugar, not only is my body pumping a ridiculous amount of cortisol, it is also going through cycles of increased blood sugar, both putting my body into a state of inflammation. In addition, the release of cortisol prevents glucose from being stored and thus keeps blood sugar levels high. Basically, when my body is in a state of stress, the last thing I need is more sugar. Sugar keeps my body in a constant state of inflammation, harming my skin.
Yet, I realize we all crave chocolate and something that satisfies that sweet craving. So, I have come up with an alternative treat. I like to call them raw brownie balls. As these little treats are packed full of nutrient-dense uncooked foods, your body is able to receive the full benefit from each ingredient. They are also rich in fiber, which slows down the absorption of the glucose. They are also full of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and iron. Eating more raw foods not only helps strengthen your gut, but also helps your body absorb the nutrients in your food to the fullest. Over time, your body will start to feel more alert and energized.
Raw Brownie Balls
3/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw oats
1/2 cup pitted dates
1 tablespoon raw peanut butter
1 tablespoon raw sunflower seed butter
1 tablespoon flax seed oil
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons honey or liquid sweetener of your choice
1 tsp vanilla
dash of salt
1. First add the almonds and oats to a blender/food processor, or I like to use a magic bullet. Blend, until the result is flour like consistency. Then put into a separate bowl.
2. Add the dates (make sure they are chopped up), nut butters and flax seed oil to the blender. Blend until the result is a paste like consistency. Add to the flour mixture.
3. Add the honey, vanilla and salt to the mixture. Then mix all of the ingredients together until it is well mixed.
4. Roll the batter into little 1 1/2 inch diameter balls. Put balls into an airtight container and then refrigerate.
Enjoy these tasty little treats as an alternative to consuming sugar while stressed! 🙂
Also see: The Sugar Acne Connection
Sweet or Dangerous? The Verdict on the Sugar Question
The Best Black Bean Brownies (no added sugar)
Photo: Megan Grover