Sugar comes in many different forms. Fruits and vegetables naturally contain healthy sources of glucose. However, it’s also prevalent in baked goods, junk foods, and even items marketed as “healthy” for consumers. With the amount of sugar circulating on grocery store shelves, restaurant menus, and dinner plates, it’s more important than ever to question just how sugar affects our bodies.
In order to understand sugar-burn, it’s important to understand how energy works. While the body burns both sugar and fat, research has shown that burning fat is a superior source of energy. When the body burns more of its fat reserves than sugar, it provides longer-lasting energy, enhances endurance, and aids in weight loss. On the other hand, burning sugar results in a short-lived burst of energy which can quickly result in a depressed or low-energy state once the effects wear off. This is an especially important issue for plant-based eaters to consider as a lot of vegans fill out their diets with carbohydrates.
How does one create energy? It starts with your metabolism. Metabolism, an often misunderstood term, refers to the process by which the body converts food and liquid into energy. Once the body has used the necessary amount of energy for basic bodily functions, referred to as basal metabolism, it moves on to energizing other important functions such as physical activity and food processing. Basal metabolism differs depending on body size and composition, age, and sex, which means everybody’s metabolism is different.
Almost all of our energy originates from food, specifically carbohydrates.
Throughout the digestion process, sugar is moved away into cells and stored for energy. This essential sugar is called glucose. Glucose, also referred to as blood glucose works in tandem with a hormone called insulin. Insulin moves glucose from the blood into cells for storage. Then, it can be used immediately or stored in our bodies to use as energy later.
Energy is also derived from healthy fats such as avocados and olive oil, and protein such as beans, spinach, and cruciferous vegetables. With that said, there is a hierarchy to the usefulness of all these energy resources. More simply put, there are highly-efficient and highly-inefficient forms of energy.
If there ever was an expert on the topic of efficient energy it would be Phil Maffetone.
Maffetone is a clinician, a health coach, and an innovator in his field. His private practice focuses on helping athletes enhance their performance by producing efficient energy within the body based upon diet. From aiding Olympic athletes to music moguls, Maffetone is a miracle worker.
How does he achieve such amazing results?
Maffetone’s success is based on diet and exercise. He says, “The point is not to see how fast your body can move. The point is to change the way your body gets energy. You want to burn more fat and less sugar.”
Refined carbs — processed, plant-based food items in which the whole grain has been removed — along with junk foods and processed food, inhibit the body from burning fat. Therefore, Maffetone recommends a low-carb, high-fat, plant-centric diet. Sugars become lowered and healthy fat in cells increases.
This diet is very similar to the recently popularized keto diet. The keto diet focuses on healthy fats, which creates a “metabolic state called ketosis.” Ketosis is when your body is using more water-soluble ketone bodies for energy than glucose, sugar, or carbohydrate molecules. The keto diet relies on meat for sources of healthy fat and protein, but it’s easy to substitute plant-based alternatives. For example, beans, legumes, and nut-based products, for meat.
While the outright benefits of this low-carb, high-fat diet are very persuasive, avoiding sugar can also improve cholesterol levels. It will reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, improve skin health and lower your blood glucose levels. It’ll also help to eliminate hunger.
In the past, the main source of energy sourced from fat were meat products. Therefore, plant-based eaters have faced an extra challenge when trying to reduce the amount of sugar used for energy.
With that said, it all comes down to identifying the right dietary energy sources.
Make Lists of Your Favorite Plant-Based Energy Sources
Begin by compiling a list of high-sugar foods to avoid. These include junk foods and refined carbs such as cereal, bread, bagels, and muffins, or energy bars and sports drinks, as well as most packaged foods. With that said, sugar hides in almost everything. Some unknown, high-sugar foods include flour-based products. Others include canned meals such as soups, sauces, beans, and fruit.
Next, incorporate your favorite fruits and vegetables that have a lower sugar content and are higher in fiber and protein.
A few versatile and tasty options include winter squash, such as butternut, spaghetti, and acorn, beets, and carrots. These veggies are moderately starchy and filling and are digested slowly. Foods that are digested at a slower rate provide longer and more sustained energy bursts.
While fiber and protein are helpful, healthy fats are essential for creating sustained energy. Some of the best plant-based sources of healthy fat include avocados, which are 77 percent fat. Nuts, a great snack that is chalk full of fat, fiber, vitamin E, and magnesium. Seeds, such as chia seeds, which offer nine grams of fat in just one ounce, and extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, both of which offer a great source of healthy fat, as well as essential vitamins.
While incorporating high-fat, low-sugar foods is great, the best way to cut sugar is through cooking. When you use raw, organic ingredients at home, you can more easily avoid added sugars and processed grains.
It’s also important to note that there are healthy sugars in many plant-based foods. These sugars are generally referred to as simple sugars and are easier for your digestive system to break down into energy. Apples, pears, and bananas contain simple sugars. And are found in vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and peas.
Vegans can rely on meatless, hearty, and power-packed meals such as this Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed With Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf recipe, which uses unprocessed grains, meaty vegetables, and filling textures. Or this Sticky Peanut Cauliflower Wings recipe, a cruciferous delight packing a punch of healthy protein. Or this simple Sesame Roasted Beets and Greens to help get long-lasting, healthy energy.
High-fat, low-carb, fat-burning recipes can be found on the Food Monster App.It offers more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. It is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. Check it out!
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