Category: Sugar

Is Honey a Safe(r) Sweetener?

I pride myself on making the Primal Blueprint an easy-to-follow lifestyle. If you were just starting out, I could give you a one-page handout with the 10 Primal Blueprint Laws, the PB Food Pyramid, and the PB Fitness Pyramid, and it would be pretty easy for you to get the gist of everything we’re trying to do here. 

That said, once you get past the basics, sometimes things get a little murky. Like with honey.

See, as a general rule, I am against the consumption of refined sugars, especially sucrose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Check out my definitive post on the subject to understand why. But what about the preeminent unrefined natural sweetener, the rich amber nectar that’s been available to humans from the very start (albeit protected by barbed, flying suicide stingers)? 

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How to Get Back into Ketosis After a Carb Binge

A little planning and motivation will help you start a low-carb, keto, or Primal lifestyle, and under normal circumstances, keeping your carbs on the low side is easy. But let’s not create the illusion that it is easy all the time. From time to time, you may get stressed and eat mindlessly. Or, your aunt drops off her blue-ribbon cake that you’ve loved since you were in preschool, and you give in, just this once. Or, you had a jam-packed day and all you can muster to make for dinner is that package of gluten-free noodles in the back of your pantry. The next thing you know, you’ve eaten enough carbs for a week, and you wonder how you’ll get back into ketosis after a carb binge.

The short answer is, yes you will recover from a carb binge. Yes, you will get back into ketosis. As far as how long it will take to get back into ketosis – that depends on numerous factors, that we’ll dive into here. The important thing to remember is, you did not obliterate your goals with one misstep. Especially after you’ve spent some amount of time in ketosis, your body will allow for fluctuations in carb consumption here and there. That’s called metabolic flexibility, which we’ll go into shortly.

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Is Stevia Safe, or Bad for You? Everything You Need to Know

After cutting back on sugar and carbs for a while, you understandably start to miss sweets. A common misconception is that you have to skip sweets to meet your goals, which isn’t the case at all. There are plenty of sugar alternatives that fit within the Primal and keto lifestyles, and stevia is one of them.

Stevia is widely used in the low carb community to satisfy sugar cravings or simply add a touch of sweetness to a hot beverage or dessert, but should it be? What is stevia? Is it safe? What is its effect on insulin, if any, and does it have a place in a Primal Blueprint eating strategy? Let’s investigate.
What Is Stevia?
A lot of people categorize stevia as an artificial sweetener, but it’s important to note that stevia is not an artificial sweetener at all – it’s a plant-derived natural alternative to sugar.

Stevia is an herbaceous family of plants, 240 species strong, that grows in sub-tropical and tropical America (mostly South and Central, but some North). Stevia the sweetener refers to stevia rebaudiana, the plant and its leaves, which you can grow and use as or with tea (it was traditionally paired with yerba mate in South America) or, dried and powdered, as a sugar substitute that you sprinkle on. It’s apparently quite easy to grow, according to the stevia seller who tries to get me to buy a plant or two whenever I’m at the Santa Monica farmers’ market, and the raw leaf is very sweet.

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5 Reasons You Can’t Quit Sugar

Let me guess. You’ve been on keto for 5-6 months and enthusiastically thinking this is how you’ll finally wrangle your sugar cravings into submission! You’re loading up on healthy fats, avoiding grains, and ditching highly processed, high-carb foods. Yet there’s that incessant nagging. You know, the one that tells you that life is too short not to indulge in that giant Costco muffin or the more paleo-friendly version, another square (or three) of dark chocolate. For a lot of people, including my own clients, moving toward a fat- or protein-dominant diet does the trick. You may have seen this article that Mark wrote earlier this year where he says “it takes two to three days of very-low-carb eating for the liver to start pumping out ketones” and that cravings will “decrease noticeably within three to ten days.” Research backs it up too, concluding that cravings are significantly reduced almost immediately as people get into ketosis. Things like sleep deprivation, chronic stress, and gut dysbiosis are also shown to cause cravings for a variety of physiological reasons. But let’s say you’re getting a solid 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, your stress levels are under control, your gut microbiome is balanced — and you’re still struggling with cravings. Then what? Why Can’t I Quit Sugar? Cravings are often more psychological than they are physiological. Maybe you’ve noticed that too. Maybe you’ve noticed that you start to have cravings any time you have a stressful day or feel anxious or deprived or smell something that reminds you of your favorite snickerdoodle cookie from childhood. In my experience, these are the top 5 emotionally driven reasons you might still be struggling with sugar cravings: 1. Your Diet is Too Restrictive Eliminating certain foods and food-like items like grains, sugar, and refined carbohydrates is a good thing in general. But being too restrictive — or perceiving how you’re eating as a diet can end up backfiring. In fact, this study shows a direct correlation between food restriction and cravings. Researchers looked at food cravings records of 52 women dieting to lose weight and 37 non-dieters and found that the dieters experienced significantly more food cravings, especially for sugary foods like chocolate. 2. Emotional Association Cravings are tied to the brain’s memory center. From celebrating birthdays and holidays with sugary desserts to being rewarded with a treat for good grades, sugar has always been along for the ride. So, it’s no surprise that when you go to a party or achieve a goal, or even feel down, your sugar cravings might feel irresistible. Not to mention the fact that your hippocampus, caudate, and insula (areas of the brain activated by cravings) are also in charge of housing your memories and experiences. 3. State of Mental Health Australian researchers conducted a study on pandemic-related depression, stress, anxiety, and well-being and found that 79% of the participants were struggling with mental health issues due to COVID-19. If you’ve been dealing with a new routine, financial uncertainty, isolation, or … Continue reading “5 Reasons You Can’t Quit Sugar”

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What Is Monk Fruit Sweetener, and Is It Keto?

When you give up sugar, that doesn’t mean you have to give up sweet treats. You can find natural ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without spiking your blood sugar, and that doesn’t mean you have to resort to dangerous artificial sweeteners. Monk fruit is a keto community favorite ingredient to sweeten recipes, but what exactly is it, and where does it come from? Is there any research behind monk fruit? And how do we compare the various formulations next to each other in the supermarket aisle? Let’s break this down. What Is Monk Fruit? We’ve covered stevia, yacon syrup, allulose, and Swerve, but what about another popular choice in the growing selection of natural sweeteners — monk fruit? Known as Luo Han Guo in its native southern China, monk fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii) first found acclaim in the records of 13th century Luo Han Buddhist monks. The monks valued the natural sweetness of the fruit and made it their mission to cultivate the vines through the centuries. Today, most monk fruit cultivation still occurs in the misty mountains of China’s Guangxi province and a few surrounding areas, where the conditions are just right to grow and harvest the small, orange-sized fruits. Monk fruit belongs to the cucurbit family alongside squash, cucumber, and watermelon. Fresh off the vine, the mini melons have a bitter outer rind encasing a sweet edible pulp and seeds. But unless you know someone who’s managed to cultivate monk fruit in their garden, you’re unlikely to eat a fresh monk fruit. The flesh degrades quickly, meaning most manufacturers dry monk fruit or process it so that it will make it to market. Most monk fruit finds its way to American shelves as a concentrated natural sweetener. As always, the nature of that sweetener can vary markedly depending on how it was processed. Instantly download your Keto Reset Diet Recipe Sampler Is Monk Fruit Keto? An average serving of pure monk fruit extract contains virtually no carbs, calories or sugars, which makes it a great choice to sweeten keto desserts and drinks. It derives almost all of its sweetness from a group of antioxidants called mogrosides, with mogroside V having a sweetness 250 times that of table sugar. To put that sweetness in perspective, most people consider just 1/64 of a teaspoon of monk fruit extract to taste as sweet as a full teaspoon of table sugar. But to get this natural “zero calorie” sweetener, much of the natural compounds in the fruit are lost. Most producers treat “pure” monk fruit sweeteners  to remove off-flavors, then they dry it to remove other sulfurous volatiles. Finally, it gets homogenized and pasteurized. The resulting extract is very different from its original state, slightly undermining its purported status as a natural sweetener. Other less processed natural monk fruit sweeteners provide a more wholesome version of the original fruit, but with the arguable downside of containing a small amount of glucose and fructose. More carbs also tend to mean fewer mogrosides, and … Continue reading “What Is Monk Fruit Sweetener, and Is It Keto?”

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Yacon Syrup: A Healthy Sweetener Option?

As the research continues to pile up against artificial sweeteners, it’s a race to take the lion’s share of the growing alternative sweetener market. While natural sweeteners like stevia and erythritol have become more popular in recent years, it’s still a wide field. One lesser known option is yacon syrup—a natural sweetener with a low calorie count and prebiotic abilities.

Yacon syrup is derived from the large tuberous roots of Smallanthus sonchifolius, a species of daisy that is cultivated in the Andes at altitudes of between 880 and 3500 metres. According to archaeological evidence, yacon was an important cultivated crop in Andean societies even before the rise of the Incas. The roots themselves can be eaten just like any other tuber. They look something like a a sweet potato, with a taste somewhere between that of an apple, a watermelon and a pear…and with a texture likened to that of a water chestnut. But it’s when the liquid is extracted from the flesh and evaporated, similar to the process used to make maple syrup, that things start to get really interesting. It’s at this point that yacon becomes a true natural sweetener, taking on a flavor similar to that of molasses or caramel. Delicious to most, slightly off-putting to others.

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