Thursday, September 17, 2015

Good and Bad forms of Sugar

After replacing nicotine with sugar to quit smoking, which works a treat by the way, I have now put on a little weight. Therefore it is time to come off the sugar. This post is a s little summary of how things have been going so far and what I have learned in the past couple of months about sugar.

Most alarmingly I learned that the cholesterol lowering drugs called statins may give you a 40% increased chance of diabetes. Search Google for exact stats, or start with this link from the Daily Express (not the most reputable new source but I don't have time to find the source now).

I learned this when  family member told me he is on the borderline of having diabetes. The next thing I looked at was Sweetex, which is takes a couple of times a day. It contains the artificial sweetener aspartame.

Aspartame
This is probably the most popular sweetener. Found in many diet drinks and foods, plus sweeteners. It has very controversial side effects according to some. Others don't take the accusations seriously. I have taken it as being OK once a day- everything in moderation.

Stevia
This was the next alternative to sugar that I tried. It is a herb which can also be bought as a white powder or sweetener tablets. It tastes awful to me in both forms. It seems to be fairly side effect free, but the taste ruined my drink and food.

Sucralose
This is my most recent try. It tasted fine on first inspection and I thought I was on to a winner. Then I realised the powder I was taking was half dextrose, which is a form of sugar with approx. 12 calories per teaspoon, compared to 15 in normal sugar:



Maltodextrin
I have been advised to look into this. I recommend you do too.

Coconut Sugar
This contains a fair amount of calories but as a natural product it does have small amounts of nutrients too. Worth a try.

Brown Sugar and Raw Sugar
I always choose these over white sugar but they are still sugar and for me - to be avoided when possible.

Real Honey
I mentoned the word "real" because most honey contains rubbish from countries other than your own. Be sure to buy locally made honey or organic honey. It contains lots of calories but also some health benefits e.g. apparently it can cure my hayfever.

For now there is no perfect substitute so I am going to use aspartame, sucralose and try the others sometimes too. Rather than taking too much of one (like my family member does with aspartame) I would rather have more of different things. I think that is a good philosophy for now until we have clinical trials about the benefits and dangers of each form of sugar and the alternatives.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Update on Lowering My Cholesterol

Since being told I have high cholesterol and signs of a fatty liver, I have been doing what I can to live a healthier lifestyle. It began with cholesterol specific techniques like eating whole cloves of garlic, but I have now realised that a balanced diet and exercise regime is the way to go.

My Grandfather was recently admitted to one of the Safe Harbor care homes in Stoke on Trent and it really got me thinking. He has done pretty well without being too health conscious, but he has outlived my Grandpa, who was a drinker and smoker.

This means I now want to improve all aspects of my health by researching everything I eat. It is very interesting to learn that sugar seems to be the new fat. Cholesterol isn't something we should be focusing on too much; reducing sugar and eating a balanced diet will naturally lead to lower levels. Plus you are more likely to stick at it, I certainly gave up swallowing garlic cloves a long time ago. Whereas I have found it extremely easy to almost phase sugar out of my diet.


MY CURRENT LIFESTYLE:

  • Cycle almost every day on average 5 miles. I am lucky to live in a place with good weather so you might need to get a machine or go jogging. I find myself whistling or even singing when cycling which I would never do in a gym.
  • Play table tennis a few times a week for 20 minutes each time. It is a fun activity to do with my girlfriend and uses different parts of the body to cycling.
  • Never eat anything with sugar in it. Okay I lie, but I have almost cut it out. I now just have a tiny bit of ketchup, sugar free candies and I use Equal sweetener in coffee and tea. After discovering how much sugar is in cereal, I have stopped putting sugar on top and allow some sugary cereals for breakfast. My thinking is that early morning is probably the best time to eat sugar as I should burn it off during the day.
  • Eat fruit most days. Fruit is awesome; I used to hate it and just take a multivitamin. Nowadays I am in love with canteloupe and also enjoy watermelon, white melon, pear and water chestnut. The only other snack I now eat is broad beans which are like a lower fat version of peanuts.
  • I do like to watch the vegetarian activist videos on Youtube and documentaries. They show how badly animals are treated for our meat consumption. This helps me eat a bit less meat which is a good thing.
Plans for future health improvements: more vegetables (considering growing some) and more strenuous exercise like rock climbing which I love (it is just a bit too hot to do where I am now). 

I figure if I keep on this track I shall at least outlive my Grandfather, who is 85, and possibly even avoid the need to go to a care home. I say this because I recently saw a TV show which highlighted "blue zones" in the world where people live longer. 

These elderly people also kept sharper minds, so I will try to never fully retire. Having responsibility in later life also seems to help you stay sharp. Another elderly relative lost her husband, she was not independent at all and was lost, after a few terrible years she died fairly young. 

I think when you are elderly you need to be needed and be of value to the world. This seemed to give the 100 year olds in the TV show the vitality needed to live on and stay mentally sharp. Click here for the Blue Zones website which has tips to live longer.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I got fat again, how will I lower my cholesterol?

It has been quite some time since I started this blog because I had high cholesterol. The key ways I used to lower my cholesterol are below:

Juicing

I kept it up for a good few months. It is an extremely healthy way low improve health because you drink a glass full of raw vegetables with a piece of fruit.

Just one apple covers the taste up of seemingly horrible sounding vegetables like spinach, carrots, beetroot and many more.

I used to mix in some root veggies like carrot and beetroot, with one or more watery veggies like cucumber and tomato. Then add one apple for teh sugar which makes everything taste fine.

The downside is that it is a lot of messing around, expense and hassle. So I eventually gave up as I expect many will do. I just used a cheap juicer so I recommend doing that first to see if you stick with it. I might of had the cheapest juicer in the world.

Garlic

I swallowed whole pieces of garlic with very big gulps of water. Only try this with small bulbs of garlic. A few times they nearly got stuck in my throat. I found that cutting up larger pieces made them more likely to stick in my throat because of the sharp edges.

Instead of the potentially dangerous option of swallowing whole cloves of garlic, you can buy supplements. Also I started to cook with it more. Plus I bought some roughly ground already fried garlic to add to dishes and sprinkle over rice (very tasty).

Quit Smoking


I eventually quit smoking almost 9 months ago. It was easier than expected and I have documented this in a separate blog which started as a way to try and smoke more healthily and then turned into a successful quit smoking journal.

The problem is that i have replaced smoking with eating sugar, specifically candy. So it is time to look at lowering my cholesterol again because I am eating candy far too much.

My new plan to lower cholesterol (and waistline)

This time I am travelling, don't have a juicer, don't want to swallow whole cloves of garlic, and would like to do things in a common sense way that I can continue with forever. Swallowing whole cloves of garlic was just a quick stop-gap way of lowering cholesterol.

The new plan is to quit sugar unless it is brown and in moderation. So I have switched from a full teaspoon in my tea to half a teaspoon and it must be brown. White sugar is bad, just like white bread.

1. So when possible I now eat just sugar free candy or gum. I have already begun eating fruit more than before which contains "better" sugar. Cutting down on sugar, especially white sugar is a big deal. Honey is a wonderful replacement too and I have used that for bland fruit and wheat bread toast.

2. I am going to cycle as my primary mode of transport. Also try and take up a sport. Basically get more exercise. My feet are currently sore from a long walk this morning for example.

3. I have already cut down on fatty foods e.g. I haven't had a donut in months and I am more likely to cut off the fat on meat now too.

It is as simple as that. Less sugar, less fat and more exercise. For long term control of cholesterol a healthy lifestyle is the right solution in my opinion.