A Guide to Sugar

You may have heard the phase ‘but sugar is still sugar’, especially in the low carb and paleo communities. You may have also stumbled across evangelical fruitarians who eat nothing but fruit and claim amazing health benefits from doing so. As with most things related to nutrition, a balanced approach is what makes most sense.

What type of sugar is in fruit? 

The sugar in fruit is made up of a combination of sucrose, glucose and fructose. Each fruit contains slightly different combinations of these sugars. Although these sugars may sound ‘bad’, there are some critical points that make them different to how they appear in isolated forms:

  • The fibre and water in fruit increases satiety. This makes us much less likely to over consume fruit compared to say, cookies and chocolate. Fibre also feeds our healthy gut bacteria, helps to reduce inflammation, slow the absorption of simple sugars that will spike our insulin and even binds to toxins in the digestive tract.
  • Fruit is full of vitamins and is also a good source of minerals. Grapefruit, for example, contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Folate (folic acid).
  • Fruits contain a wide range of phytochemicals that play many roles in keeping us healthy. These phytochemicals give fruit it’s distinctive colour and scent but also help to reduce inflammation, decrease DNA damage in white blood cells, help maintain elasticity of blood vessels and provide antioxidants.

Aside from consuming sugar in fruits, raw honey and maple syrup are also nutritious and delicious! Raw honey contains small amounts of vitamins A, B1, B6, B9, B12, C, D, and E, as well as calcium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, silicon, iron, manganese, and copper. Maple syrup contains small amounts of manganese and zinc.

The closer a sugar is to being in it’s natural form, the more likely it is to be nutritious. The more processed a sugar is, the more stripped of nutrients and the more likely your body will react to it negatively. Many of the processed foods we consume in the modern day are totally foreign to our body as they don’t appear anywhere in nature.

Examples of sugars that aren’t healthful:

  • White tables sugar, brown sugar and turbinado sugar contain almost no micronutrients and no fibre or water to slow down the inflammatory insulin response. This is why eating a cookie or chocolate bar is totally different to eating a piece of fruit, even though the sugar itself is also made from glucose and fructose.
  • High fructose corn syrup also contains no micronutrients, however, the way it affects our body’s is far more sinister than white table sugar. HFCS has been associated with a myriad of health problems such as fatty liver disease, increased LDL cholesterol and arterial damage. It has even been show to be contaminated with mercury. HFCS is often the sugar used in sodas which is dangerous because drinking sugar is far more harmful that eating it. Again, this relates to the lack of fibre and the fact that people don’t compensate by eating less despite drinking an extremely calorific and sweet drink. In fact, studies have shown that people are driven to consume even more food than they would if the sugary drink wasn’t consumed.
  • Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, xylitol and sorbitol are often used by diabetic people because they are low on the glycemic index so have less affect on your insulin response. Many people report gastro distress upon consuming these sweeteners and studies show a negative affect on our microbiota. These sweeteners can (ironically) cause glucose intolerance, alter the hormones associated with appetite control, impair neurological function and cause metabolic changes in the baby of a pregnant mother. They have not even been proven to help weight loss (assumedly why many people consume them), so really have no upsides at all.

As with all nutrition advice, there’s no one size fits all answer. If you are someone suffering from diabetes or blood sugar dysregulation, even fruit may negatively impact you. In this case it’s best to choose low glycemic fruits such as blueberries and cranberries, rather than mangoes or peaches. There is actually a study on how blueberries can help increase insulin sensitivity! Click here to access the study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5187542/

People with candida may also want to limit fruit intake as sugar will only feed the yeast. The same goes for those suffering from dysbiosis. However, it’s clear that not all sugar is created equal and fruit is by far the most healthful way to consume sugar!

Five Points on Improving Digestion

Nobody wants to talk about it, but let’s be honest heartburn, bloating and gas are all symptoms of indigestion that plague everyone at one point or another!

It can be uncomfortable and even painful in some circumstances, but with these 5 simple tips from Fruitful Day’s Nutritional therapist, Michelle, you can improve your digestion drastically. Incorporating these easy points every day will allow you to go from grumpy and gassy to happy and healthy 🙂

1. Chew your food

Digestion is a north to south process which means that any compromises made higher up in the chain will have negative effects later on. Chewing your food whilst in a parasympathetic/relaxed state is important, as discussed in last month’s article. However, I wanted to discuss the simple act of chewing. The teeth physically break down food, however, saliva (99.5% water + 0.5% solutes) actually begins to break the food down enzymatically. This is why it’s really important to chew enough before swallowing – ideally for 30 seconds per mouthful.

For example: if salivary amylase doesn’t get a chance to begin the breakdown of starches, the pancreatic enzyme cannot complete the breakdown and undigested starch enters the colon feeding candida. If you’re prone to candida outbreaks, just the simple act of chewing your food can make a difference in keeping it under control.

3. Stomach acid is key

The stomach is designed to be at a pH of 1.5 – 3.0. Hydrochloric acid is excreted at a pH of 0.8 and has many roles:

  • It baths and disinfects the stomach
  • It kills parasites and bacteria
  • It activates pepsin – an enzyme that begins the breakdown of proteins
  • It stimulates gastrin – a hormone that stimulates the release of gastric acid

It’s estimated that 90% of people produce too little stomach acid due to factors such as:

  • Stress
  • Excess carbohydrate consumption
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Allergies
  • Excess alcohol consumption

Without adequate stomach acid, we are prone to infections by yeast, bacteria, viruses and parasites. We are also unable to properly digest our food. Instead of nourishing us, it rots in our gut causing damage to the intestinal lining (leaky gut) and overwhelming our body with undigested particles that can, later on, trigger autoimmune disease.

There are several ways to test for stomach acid both with a physician or at home. However, drinking 1tsbp of apple cider vinegar in half a glass of water before a meal will help trigger digestive juices. Eating a small number of bitter foods before a meal such as lemon, grapefruit, kale, turmeric, parsley, coriander, rocket or dandelion greens will also have the same effect. A digestive herbal bitters formula can also be used pre and post a meal to aid with this process.

3. Absorb good fats   

Fats play a big role in a healthy diet because they provide us with energy, create the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones, aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, serve as a protective lining for the organs of the body, increase satiety and most importantly make food taste amazing!

Luckily the ‘low fat fad’ seems to have dissipated and most people embrace the need for healthy fat. However, if you were on a very low-fat diet in the past or consumed a diet with a lot of hydrogenated fat (in fast food), then it could be the case that your gallbladder has been compromised and is not releasing bile in the right quality or quantity. Since bile is used to digest fats, all the processes that use fat (as previously described) will be compromised. This is why quality fats such as avocado, coconut oil, grass-fed butter and flax oil are so important as part of the digestive process.

4. Feed your microbiome

Trillions of bacteria inhabit our gastrointestinal tract and play an intricate role in our health. Many factors such as lack of sleep, stress, pesticides, smoking, alcohol, diet and antibiotic use can affect our microbiome. Researchers are becoming more and more aware of how these bacteria support our health. Anything from skin allergies, thyroid, autoimmune issues, brain fog and cravings could be the result of a damaged microbiome.

Consuming probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir can help rebuild your gut microbiome.

5. Eliminate food irritants

There are many reasons your body finds certain foods irritable or stressful. For example, gluten intolerance could actually be an immune response to mould on old or improperly stored flour, rather than the flour itself. You can even form ‘intolerances’ to foods you consume at emotionally stressful times, repeatedly through your life. It’s mostly the case that when digestion is compromised in any of the ways we discussed in this article, you will likely also have intolerances as your body doesn’t have the capability to properly digest certain foods.

If this is the case, it’s best to cut that food out entirely, then go about the process of healing your gut and then finally, reintroduce the food once you’ve healed. It’s really hard for any healing work to be done if you’re constantly being irritated by a certain food every day.



6 Ways to Live a Healthier February

Last month we introduced you to Michelle (click here if you missed it!) who works as a Nutritional Therapist. This month Michelle shares with us her 6 tips for living a healthier February. Our hope is that even if you weren’t able to stick to your New Years Resolutions, these are some simple tips that will help you to slow down and think about what you’re eating, when you’re eating it, and why you’re eating it. When mind and gut work together, you will feel the difference in your health and well-being.

1. Start the day with a glass of water with apple cider vinegar 

We often wake up dehydrated due to the lack of fluids overnight. However, the morning is a time when people stereotypically drink diuretics such as tea and coffee (diuretic beverages cause your kidneys to flush extra water through urination). Hypothetically, if we drink 1 cup of coffee, we would need to drink 1.5 cups of water to counter the diuretic affects of that. 

It is estimated that up to 90% of people have low stomach acid due to factors like stress, excess carbohydrate consumption, nutrient deficiencies, allergies and excess alcohol. Since the stomach is a naturally acidic environment, (pH 1.5 – 3), a lack of acid can compromise our digestive function greatly, leading to all sorts of digestive issues. Apple cider vinegar does wonders to help our stomach reach the environment pH it needs to properly digest. 

Starting the day with a large glass of water and two teaspoons of ACV will set you off well in regards to both hydration and getting the stomach ready to digest food.

2. When eating out, focus on quality of food > macros

For example, if you’re following the paleo or keto diet, you might always be drawn to meat options on the menu when you’re eating out. However, bear in mind that unless advertised, restaurants will not be purchasing organic, grass-fed or pasture raised animal products. You might be cutting down on carbs by choosing a steak over a vegetable curry, but don’t forget to factor in the hormones, antibiotics and altered nutritional composition of a battery farm or feed lot animal. Grass fed beef, for example, contains up to fives times more omega 3 fatty acids than grain fed beef. 

Also consider the overall impact on the environment in choosing non sustainable animal products. Both your health goals and the environment can be jeopardised by a choice to dogmatically stick to what’s ‘paleo’ or ‘keto’ (as an example), rather than considering the complexity of these choices. 

3. Be connected to your food’s origins. 

Have you ever seen a cashew apple? 

Each apple gives rise to one cashew. Imagine a whole bag of cashews and what that would look like on a tree. Perhaps it would be a whole branch, or even an entire tree!? Would one ever eat the fruits of an entire tree? Unlikely. However, when it’s packaged in the grocery store in a bag, we are so disconnected from the reality of how things grow that we can easily over consume. Trying to reconnect to that can really give us great insight into how to live a healthier life. 

4. Eat in a parasympathetic/relaxed state. 

Did you know that we can only properly digest food in a parasympathetic/relaxed state versus a sympathetic/non relaxed state? Our enteric nervous system runs the entire length of our digestive system governing all manner of processes such as the production of digestive enzymes, to the movement of of food through our intestines. When we are in a sympathetic/non relaxed state our body will slow down digestion to favour the fight or flight stress response which takes priority in tense states. Eating in a sympathetic/non relaxed state, for example; driving, rushing before a school run or even at a ‘stressed out’ family dinner table can compromise your entire digestive cascade from the beginning leading to many issues relating to mal digestion. 

5. Ask yourself ‘am I making this choice out of fear or joy’? 

When I first had the realisation that many of my decisions were being made out of fear it was quite a shock! Choices out of fear come in many forms. For me it usually involves making a choice in the present to avoid something that might happen in the future. By doing so you’re totally living in your own internal narrative – one that actually has little to do with the real world. By being present in every moment and responding to actual stimuli, you’ll not only feel less stressed, but also more successful because you’re responding directly to the people and situations around you.  

6. Create a morning routine.

It’s very tempting to look at emails, what’s app and Instagram immediately upon waking up. When I do this, I find that the first few hours of my day become disjointed and inefficient. I also start the day seeing people on Instagram doing/eating/wearing ‘better’ things than me. This can lead to misguided thought patterns assuming other people’s lives are ‘more fun/inspiring’ than your own. 

Creating a morning routine that involves really simple things such as making tea or coffee, stretching for five minutes, watering your plants or doing five minutes of journaling can really make a difference in terms of clarity and assuredness. 

Who is Michelle?

I’m Michelle and I work as a Nutritional Therapist and Recipe Developer focusing on integrative solutions to healing. 

My ten year path to this point was never linear but always straddled the place where creativity and functionality collide. I did a BA in design at Central Saint Martins in London, however, my interests always gravitated towards health and wellness. I later went to culinary school and found that cooking bridges the between wellness and creativity; you create to nourish! This has always been exciting for me. 

After culinary school I apprenticed at a fine dining restaurant in San Francisco. Working there taught me a lot about discipline, however, I craved something more grounding. I moved to Argentina to work at a horse and cattle ranch that was also a boutique hotel. The focus for this year was on how our food comes into being. 

Since returning to Dubai, I worked as a pastry chef in two different health food cafes. I believe that people shouldn’t feel they are sacrificing taste to be healthy. Creating desserts from whole foods ingredients plays a part in that. 

Knowledge of how food interacts with our bodies is key when it comes to deciding what to eat. For this reason, I decided to train as a nutritional therapist, bringing my interest back to it’s origins. 

Michael Pollen’s quote “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” resonates with me because it insinuates a simplicity to nutrition and eating which I believe has been lost in the age of fad diets. If you’re aligned with your own body and mindful about where your food comes from, good health will naturally follow. 

Ramadan Nutrition: The Effect of Fasting on the Body

The body uses energy/calories from food to function. It takes approximately eight hours after the last meal for food to be digested, and for nutrients to be absorbed. After this, the body enters a fasting state until the next meal. During this period, the body uses its stores of carbohydrates (stored in the liver and muscle). Once the carbohydrate stores are used up, fat stores are used as a source of energy. Continue reading Ramadan Nutrition: The Effect of Fasting on the Body