how to quit sugarLet 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.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666312000219‘>2 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) https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/research-reveals-people-s-mental-health-negatively-impacted-covid-19‘>4 If you’ve been dealing with a new routine, financial uncertainty, isolation, or fear, you might be feeling like your cravings are out of control and you’re turning to sugar to cope. As I’m sure you know, sugar consumption (temporarily) increases serotonin, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/habits-not-hacks/201408/want-change-your-habits-change-your-environment‘>6 And if you have the ritual of consciously or unconsciously seeking out a specific food in a specific situation, you’ll begin to form the expectation that it will occur every single time you’re in that situation.

5. Past Trauma

The Mark’s Daily Apple article I referenced above struck a chord with a lot of readers, with many bravely sharing that they felt their cravings were due to a lack of love and emotional bonding early in life, and therefore a lack of the hormone, oxytocin. Because of this, they began to turn to other things to make themselves feel good, including sugar. Studies not only validate our readers’ experiences, they show the impact of oxytocin on everything from metabolism to chronic illness.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5435775/‘>8 If you haven’t had the pleasure of tapping into your own awareness, this will be a game changer for you.

3. Ask Yourself What You Need

When you’re feeling stressed, anxious, fearful, or bored, ask yourself what you really need. A few bites of the donut in your kitchen or a quick drive through the Dairy Queen will work, but in reality, you’re just avoiding those uncomfortable feelings by numbing them with food. Be open and honest with yourself about what you need on an emotional level. It could be the comfort of reading a good book, the excitement of getting outside for some exercise, or just holding space to accept where you are in the moment.

4. Create New Rituals

Your past rituals influence your current behaviors, so why not spend some time creating new, healthier rituals? If the sound of dinner dishes being put away sends you running for dessert, think about other post-dinner rituals you could do. Maybe it’s a family walk around the neighborhood or taking a long, relaxing bath. By interrupting your patterns (when dinner ends I look for dessert) you’re able to develop new patterns that work toward your goals, instead of against them.

3. Do More Feel-Good Activities

If you lacked a sense of joy and connection growing up, it’s possible to increase oxytocinhttps://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/coping-with-emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm‘>10 and help you move forward safely.

Do any of these reasons or strategies ring true for you? Anything you’d add? Tell me about your experience with emotions and overcoming sugar cravings in the comments.

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The post 5 Reasons You Can’t Quit Sugar appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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what is monk fruit sweetenerWhen 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 provincehttps://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00216-012-6693-0‘>2 called mogrosides, with mogroside V having a sweetness 250 times that of table sugar.3 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 hence a lower relative sweetness.

Pure Monk Fruit Sweetener vs. What’s On Grocery Shelves

Contrary to what people might claim, fresh, unprocessed monk fruit is not sugar-free. It varies between cultivar and growing region. Still, fresh monk fruit is typically one-third carbohydrate, composed of a mix of fructose and glucose.

After you extract the juice, much of those carbs are left behind. At this point, a minimally-processed monk fruit extract sweetener might only contain small amounts of sugars in the form of fructose or glucose. At this point, it becomes a low-calorie natural sweetener. A half teaspoon serving of monk fruit juice powder, for example, is made up of 10% sugar, and the rest of the carbs presumably come from of mogrosides and other indigestible sweet-tasting compounds.

At the other end of the scale, pure monk fruit extracts are zero-calorie sweeteners, with no carbs and no sugar. Manufacturers are sometimes hesitant to sell straight monk fruit extract, however, because it’s easy to overdo it when you mix it into recipes. To add bulk, manufacturers will mix in small amounts of other sweeteners like erythritol or xylitol. It’s not uncommon to find sucrose or dextrose lurking on the ingredients list of so-called natural monk fruit sweeteners, but the amounts would be pretty minimal. Check labels to be sure.

While monk fruit contains several different mogrosides, https://academicjournals.org/journal/AJPP/article-abstract/088D6DA28337‘>5 Another study showed that obese mice fed mogrosides from monk fruit had significantly reduced body and liver weights compared to control mice.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mnfr.200500252‘>7

In another study, diabetic rats were fed monk fruit extract for 13 weeks. Those rats fed the monk fruit extract showed improved insulin response, reduced blood sugar levels after glucose administration, and reduced oxidative stress caused by diabetes. What’s more, the monk fruit group also showed signs of lowered kidney damage, a common symptom of advanced diabetes.https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/21351724‘>9

You get the idea. Once again, more studies in humans are needed to make any definitive conclusions.


Here are some tested and true recipes that use monk fruit:

Keto Angel Food Cake

Keto Sugar Cookies

Low-carb Fudgy Brownies


Possible Anti-cancer Benefits of Monk Fruit

While research is very much in its infancy regarding the link between monk fruit and cancer, there’s likely to be more on the horizon. A 2016 study https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf0206320‘>11 showed that a range of triterpenoids (including several mogrosides) isolated from monk fruit showed “potent inhibitory effects” on Eppstein-Barr Virus-induced tumor growth.

It makes plenty of sense, as multiple studies have highlighted the antioxidant 12 powers of mogrosides found in monk fruit sweeteners.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Monk Fruit

A 2011 study indicated that mogrosides administered to mice significantly reduced inflammation by quieting genes that trigger inflammation and up-regulating anti-inflammatory genes.https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/13880209.2013.867451‘>14 Researchers have shown that monk fruit extracts reduce physical fatigue in mice (allowing them to swim for longer).http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-YYXX200603010.htm‘>16 At the end of the trial, both mogroside groups (but particularly the low-dose group) showed significant protection against diabetes-induced immune dysfunction. Interestingly, this immune-bolstering effect was only apparent in immune-suppressed diabetic mice, suggesting it plays a vital role in restoring homeostasis in the body.

Specific monk fruit isolates’ anti-bacterial properties http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTotal-AHNY201403050.htm‘>18 That said, the use of highly concentrated monk fruit sweeteners is very much in its infancy. Moderation is a safe bet.

Tips For Buying and Using Monk Fruit Sweeteners

Which product you choose will depend on your preference. Those who prefer an entirely non-caloric formulation will want to go with pure monk fruit extract. Or you may prioritize less-processed versions, which might contain a small amount of simple sugars and a little less mogroside.

At the other end of the spectrum, those who have a hard time measuring pure monk fruit, or want to cut down on the aftertaste might opt for a blended product that includes erythritol, xylitol, and stevia.

While most people enjoy the taste of monk fruit, it’s not necessarily for everyone. Taste descriptors vary markedly from person to person, with some noting it tastes like caramel or molasses, others more like sweet licorice. Keep in mind that the more refined the monk fruit sweetener, the more it loses its butterscotch character, and the sweeter it will taste.

And speaking of sweetness, remember that mogroside V, the key ingredient in most monk fruit sweeteners, is up to 250 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. Most labels provide a sugar substitution guide for recipes.

How to Use Monk Fruit Sweetener

How you use monk fruit sweeteners will also depend on your taste preferences. Some common uses include:

  • Baked goods
  • Sauces and salad dressings
  • Teas
  • Fruit/vegetable-based drinks
  • Smoothies
  • Asian dishes that call for a dash of sweetness

That’s just the beginning. Experiment, and see how it might work for you and your family.

Thanks for stopping by, folks. Have you used monk fruit as a sweetener, or would you consider trying it? Be sure to share your thoughts below.

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The post What Is Monk Fruit Sweetener, and Is It Keto? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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how to get back into ketosisA 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.


Instantly download the Keto Reset Diet Recipe Sampler


Can You Have a Cheat Day on Keto or a Primal Diet?

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of calling them “cheat days,” for a few reasons:

  • “Cheating” implies that you did something wrong and should feel guilty about it.
  • Earmarking “cheat days” sends the message that you can eat whatever you want that day with abandon. You’d be surprised how much you can backpedal on your goals in a 24-hour period.

I prefer to frame higher carb meals or snacks as carb cycling or carb refeeding, which is an intentional higher carb meal to enhance your results; or, frame them as treats, which are planned. That way, the extra carbs are enjoyable, planned in advance, and come with limitations so you don’t go overboard. And, there’s no guilt involved.

So, can you have high-carb days on keto? If you are in ketosis and have a sudden surge in sugar or carbs, your body will burn glucose instead of producing ketones. In order to get back into ketosis, you have to use up the glucose you just consumed, and the glycogen your body just stored.

The concern is whether the transition back into ketosis will be as difficult as you remember from those first days cutting carbs. If you have been in and out of ketosis for a while, you may slip back into ketosis fairly easily because you’ve developed metabolic flexibility. If you’re just starting, you may go through some of the discomfort of transitioning between fueling with sugar vs. fueling with ketones. Your body “remembers” though, and most likely, it will not last as long or be as severe. This article contains some things you can do if you experience “low-carb flu.”

What Happens to Your Body After a Carb Binge?

So, you decided to give in. First, don’t beat yourself up. It happens. What does your metabolism do with the surge of insulin and carbs? Even a few quick forkfuls can shift you from small doses of quality carbs wisely spread throughout the day to possibly 100 or more grams of pure sugar in one sitting. It’s likely you’ll experience some effects, but you can get past it.

First off, the good news. There’s no carb police coming to take away your keto card. Nor is there any other permanent fate awaiting you. You’ll go about your day a live, generally functional human being. There is no truly long-term risk elevation for that matter. Nonetheless, you’ll likely experience a fair amount of regret for cheating on keto.

  1. Your Pancreas Kicks Into Overdrive. Within a few minutes, your pancreas starts pumping out a flood of insulin to try to sop up all the excess glucose that’s suddenly rushing through your bloodstream. Remember, while glucose is muscle fuel when it’s in the muscles, it’s toxic sludge when it stays in your bloodstream. Your body knows that and does everything it can to get it out of there. Perhaps you’re feeling flushed, a little high, spastic, anxious, or nauseous depending on how much you ate, how big you are, what your normal carb load is, and how acutely you tend to “feel” the effects of sugar and other substances. Ironically, if you were insulin resistant, you might not even notice these sensations.
  2. Excess glucose converts into body fat. The gush of insulin now creates a see-saw effect. If your glycogen stores have room, some of the sugar goes into muscles. If there’s no more room, the excess goes into fat cells, where it is stored as fat. In reaction to this quasi-emergency that your brain perceives as a life-threatening stress, the body steps up its efforts to achieve homeostasis by releasing both epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol from your adrenals. Your heart starts racing, and you’re starting to feel uncomfortable, maybe even sweating. And we’re still likely within the first hour after you finished off that cake!
  3. Sugar crash. After a bit more time passes, burnout settles in? That’s called a sugar crash – when all the glucose is gone from the bloodstream and you start to feel sluggish, off-kilter, like the internal circuits are all fried after sparking in a heap of now smoldering wires.
  4. Your immune system slows down. The havoc that sugar rush set off – the swing of glucose and insulin, the cortisol and adrenaline – they’ve sent your immune system into a tailspin. Researchhttp://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/85/8/2970?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=1&andorexacttitle=and&andorexacttitleabs=and&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&volume=85&firstpage=2970&resourcetype=HWCIT‘>2 on the body. Your blood even thickens as a response to the stressors. A hefty dose of sugar can compromise the immune systemHi folks, in this edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin discusses why fasting might feel harder right now, why you need more than just a good workout plan, and what to eat when you’re sick of having eggs for breakfast every day. Keep your questions coming in the MDA Facebook Group or in the comments below.

    Being home all day has been a real test to my willpower. Fasting is harder and I’m hungry all the time. Any tips for navigating this “new normal?” – Stephanie

    I’m with you Stephanie. A lot of things feel out of our control right now and with so much uncertainty, just rolling with it might be your best bet for the next few weeks. Does that mean saying “screw it!” and scarfing down a few donuts every morning? Or grazing on chips and cookies throughout the day? No. But it does mean acknowledging your new routine, your new struggles, the fact that you’re under more stress than usual, and of course, the reality that you’re surrounded by food 24/7.

    Usually when my clients talk about willpower, I find that they’re white-knuckling it through their day. Flat out resisting the temptation to eat with no strategies other than trying not to think about food. By definition, willpower is simply ignoring hunger. You’re choosing not to eat when your body is begging you to feed it!

    Stress Triggers Sugar Cravings

    Hunger is a biological survival mechanism triggered by our cells and driven by our brains. When you’re eating food, you’re feeding your cells. And when you’re resisting or restricting it, you’re starving your cells. Also keep in mind that extra stress puts you into fight-or-flight mode, making those donuts, muffins, leftover Easter candies look extra good. Your cells are craving sugar! And when you give in, you start the vicious cycle of sugar high, followed by sugar crash, followed by feeling hungry, hangry, and craving everything in sight.

    Sure, you might just be bored or procrastinating on a looming deadline, but if you’re genuinely hungry, put a sheet of bacon in the oven, fry up a few eggs with butter, and sit down to a meal. Actually sit down — don’t check emails, do chores, or stand in front of the fridge with the door wide open. And when it comes to intermittent fasting, no one’s going to come knocking on your door and tell you you’re doing it wrong. There’s no fasting police. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you usually fast for 20 hours and now you’re fasting for 12. As a matter of fact, there’s research that proves that fasting for as few as 10 hours has solid benefits.

    Finally, if you are working from home, make sure your setup isn’t at the kitchen table. I know a lot of people have limited space, but having a designated place to work that doesn’t involve you smelling your family members’ lunches or putting you at arm’s reach from the fridge will serve you well.

    I’ve been following Mark’s Daily Apple for 6 months, but I still have 30 pounds to lose. What’s the best workout for someone on a Primal diet? -Gerald

    I love that you have a specific goal, Gerald. Determining your end point is so important for long-term success. It could be losing 30 pounds like you mentioned, or improving the way your joints feel, or being able to chase your kids around the yard without stopping to catch your breath.

    Honestly, there are tons of workouts out there. Free ones too. In fact, I just Googled “workout plans for Primal diet” and came up with this, this, and this  in about 1.5 seconds. But it’s not just about picking a plan and following it. If it were that easy, everyone would do it.

    Identify your Obstacles and Make a Plan to Get Past Them

    Wellness is a journey. One that requires navigating obstacles and determining the path of least resistance. So, before you dive into your first set of squats, take some time to think about what barriers might stand in your way. Do you have the right exercise equipment at home to complete your workouts? Do you have the support of your family? Have you carved out time and space to exercise? You need to get real about what your obstacles are, so you can devise a plan to get past them and reach your goal. If you need a hand with this step, online health coaches and personal trainers can be a great resource.

    A plan is just a plan. It’s two-dimensional. And things always come up. That’s why it’s crucial to have a strategy for all the ups, downs, and unexpected in-betweens that come with your individual journey.

    I’m tired of eating eggs for breakfast every day. Got recommendations for changing things up? – Jeanine

    You were probably in a nutrition rut before you started the eggs-for-breakfast routine. Let me guess: a light yogurt and banana before work, sandwich for lunch, instant oatmeal packets, cans of soup, take out… Somehow you got yourself out of that rut and into another one.

    Listen, everyone likes the things they’re familiar with, and most people don’t like change. It’s a human truth. You were familiar with eggs. You liked them. You started making them every day. And now you’re completely sick of them. Totally understandable.

    Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

    I’m in the business of getting people out of their comfort zones, but I don’t do meal plans or recipes, simply because they’re too fussy. If I say, “how about venison patties and chopped up veggies” and you don’t happen to like those, what good does it do?” As a health coach, I supply my clients with a comprehensive list of supportive foods they should be eating. I provide the education, but I expect them to go out into the world and figure out what that looks like for them, so they don’t need me to tell them specifically what to eat at every meal.

    Like I’m sure you are, I’m a big fan of protein-rich breakfasts since they’re known to keep you feeling satiated throughout the day. Remember that breakfast doesn’t have to look like a typical breakfast though. There are lots of great protein sources out there — everything from bone broth, beef, and bison to salmon, sardines, and sausage, just to name a few.

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    The post Ask a Health Coach: Why Willpower Doesn’t Work, Primal-Inspired Workouts, and What to Eat for Breakfast appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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This awesome dairy-free fat-burning ice cream recipe is easy to make at home with just a few ingredients and a cheap ice cream maker. Cool and creamy, with just enough dark chocolate to soothe the savage beast, mint chip ice cream is truly a dessert for all occasions, all ages, and every sweet craving.

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