- If there is one thing that will change your health for the better it is avoiding, or at least reducing your sugar intake. Alternatives to refined sugar include maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, stevia and xylitol. However, while natural sugars are better they will still trigger an insulin response, so use as little as possible and take it one step at a time to allow yourself to adjust in a way that enables you to maintain it longterm. Low-calorie sweeteners (I only recommend stevia + xylitol) can help bridge the gap, but ultimately the less you depend on all sugars the faster you will adapt to a low-sugar lifestyle. Because sugar is so addictive (much more than we think) ditching it can be tough at first, but usually within the first week your body and taste buds will adapt and your sweet cravings will diminish and you will feel much better all round! Sugars impair the immune system, encourages yeast and is far more damaging to our metabolism and overall health than we give it credit for.
Ditch refined grains and wheat flours and instead go for brown and black rice, quinoa, coconut and chickpea, oats and rye flour. Gluten levels are much higher in modern wheat and has been shown to irritate the intestinal lining, potentially leading to leaky gut syndrome and inflammation. Even for those who are not sensitive to wheat/gluten, it is much better to diversify your sources of carbohydrate and you will likely notice a big difference in your digestion and skin health after a few weeks without.
- Ditch cow’s milk and switch to coconut milk, unsweetened almond, cashew or rice milk. Cow’s milk is one of the seven most allergenic foods and is best avoided, even if you are not allergic. Dairy is hard to digest and is often the root cause of digestive problems, eczema, psoriasis, asthma, increased mucus and low moods. Nuts, seeds and greens provide better, more absorbable sources of calcium, and milk alternatives are so easy to buy if you don’t want to make your own.
Reduce your alcohol intake and make it a weekend pleasure if you can’t go without. When you do drink, go for dry wine or pure spirits with sparkling water and lime or lemon juice, rather than cocktails made with sugar-laden syrups and soft drinks. Alcohol is void of nutrients and high in empty calories and is taxing on our liver (major detox organ), and when consumed too often or in excess, alcohol can worsen sugar cravings and aggravate digestive and skin problems. If you’re used to a glass of wine every night and can’t go cold turkey, take it a step at a time step and start by reducing to a glass every second night, and then twice a week until you can keep it to a glass or two a week. Or mix a little wine with sparkling water to slowly wean yourself.
As with anything, I believe progress should be the focus – not perfection. Start by introducing new foods you like and start to outcrowd less healthy habits with new, healthier ones that will benefit you and your health longterm. When you do it in ways you actually enjoy, it becomes something you can sustain! And finally, don’t compare your health journey to anyone else, but listen to your body and focus on your own journey – and make it fun.