30-Day Challenge: Why I Quit Sugar, Dairy & Gluten
A year ago, if anyone suggested I quit sugar, dairy or gluten, I would look at them like they had a third eye on their forehead. Why? I love cake! When I say love, I mean I might bite your hand off if you try to take a piece. Imagine my families surprise, and admittedly my own, when I decided to quit sugar, dairy, and gluten for 30-days.
Quitting sugar, dairy and gluten is a battle I've often lost but the few times I triumphed resulted in a light feeling, physically and emotionally, of satisfaction! Why? Because when you have food allergies, hay fever, Celiac disease, and continuous inflammation in your gut cutting out this trifecta helps reboot your body!
Below I explain the health risks associated with sugar, dairy, and gluten. I also dish the dirt on what I'm looking forward to the most at the end of the 30-day challenge, and my strategy to effectively quit sugar, dairy and gluten.
Why Quit Added-Sugar?
During my 30-day elimination challenge, I plan on completely avoiding added sugar, which means avoiding sugar that is added to foods to enhance flavor and texture. The problem with added sugar is that it not only increases your weight but Harvard Medical School states that a diet high in sugar is directly correlated to death due to heart disease even if you're not overweight. The health risk of consuming added sugar is so extensive I could write a book about it and in fact many already have. If you're interested in more information on the variety of ways added-sugar affects your health, here's a great piece by the Mayo Clinic.
Perks of Ditching Added-Sugar
- Achieve flawless skin overnight. Did you know sugar ages your skin?! It reacts with proteins in your body resulting in collagen that is prone to sunburn, less supple and less radiant. By removing added sugar from your diet your skin will look brighter than ever.
- Effortlessly loss weight! The last time I quit sugar I lost 5 lbs in one month without changing anything else in my diet or lifestyle.
- Re-energize and stabilize your mood. By decreasing sugar and increasing your intake of greens, healthy fats and protein you will feel completely re-energized, which will also balance out your mood and lift your spirit.
Decrease Sugar Intake
- Drink water! The majority of the time that you find yourself reaching for that candy bar and crave sugar your body is actually craving hydration. Fill up on water, and if you find that after 20 minutes you still want a sweet treat, eat fruit instead.
- Minimize the number of sugary drinks you consume in a day. I'm talking Gatorade, soda and even fruit juice. This means swapping your diet coke for a Tea Tonic or green tea. After a couple of weeks, you'll no longer crave the sugary drinks you didn't think you could live without.
- Replace refined sugar with naturally occurring sweeteners like honey, coconut sugar or fruit. For example, add honey to your coffee instead of sugar or dates your baked foods.
Why Quit Dairy?
For decades Americans have been fooled into believing that dairy is an integral part of a healthy diet. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing like an aged piece of smoked Gouda but many, like Dr. Mark Hyman, believe that dairy can have a negative impact on your health and that it should be avoided at all costs. My view on dairy consumption isn't as drastic, but I can't ignore the fact that about 75% of the world's population is unable to digest milk/ dairy. A lactose intolerance can manifest as allergies, intestinal inflammation, respiratory disease, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, skin problems/ rashes, and even joint disease. If you find that you're experiencing any of the symptoms above, quit dairy for a month. Check in with your body once the 30-days are up. Are you still experiencing those symptoms? If not, you might have figured out the cause of your discomfort.
Perks of Ditching Dairy
- Say goodbye to acne. Dairy contains testosterone-like hormones that stimulate oil glands that can cause acne.
- Cut down your risk of getting ovarian cancer! By decreasing the insulin-like growth factors that increase when consuming dairy products you also cut down your risk of ovarian cancer.
- Prevent allergy and sensitivity reactions. As mentioned before, a large portion of our population has a dairy sensitivity or flat out can't digest it. By removing dairy for 30-days you might find that some of the symptoms you've grown accustomed to disappeared.
Enjoy Dairy-Free Alternatives
- My love for ice-cream is real! If you're as ice-cream obsessed as me, choose ice-cream made from coconut milk or bananas. There's plenty of recipes for homemade ice-cream like this one by Insonnets Kitchen, which is free of sugar, dairy, soy, and gluten. I promise this stuff is delicious! For a little extra sweetness add honey and a ripe banana like I do.
- Experiment with alternatives to milk such as coconut milk, hemp milk or almond milk. Many times they are the perfect replacement in your recipes and taste just as good when enjoying a green smoothie.
Why Quit Gluten?
As someone who discovered that they have Celiac disease three years ago, I have a serious love-hate relationship with gluten. I grew up eating pan de queso con guava with a side of cafe Bustelo for breakfast, and I, too, enjoyed a late night slice of Mia's pizza while in college. Or so I thought. You see, for as long as I can remember I've had major stomach issues. I was such a regular in the ER that my mother and I stopped going all together because all they prescribed were fluids and crackers. By the age of 10, I had my midnight bathroom run and stomach ache routine on lock only to discover years later my routine was far from normal. Studies show that 1% of the population suffer from Celiac disease. That's 3 million people undiagnosed in the U.S. that live life believing their eczema, diarrhea, bloated stomach and constipation are normal. Worse yet, there are people with osteoporosis, nerve damage, chronic migraines, infertility, dementia and cancer that are completely unaware that these symptoms and diseases are all caused by their undiagnosed Celiac disease.
Perks of Ditching Gluten
- Rash and Eczema free skin. If you've ever suffered from itchy or flaky skin, dry patches or rashes, cutting gluten might be exactly what you need. The summer before being diagnosed with Celiac disease I had eczema breakouts so severe I couldn't be in the sun or overheat because my skin would itch and burn immediately. I haven't had an eczema breakout since eating a gluten-free diet.
- Enjoy meals without discomfort. Like with dairy, eating a gluten-free diet can seriously alleviate bloating and discomfort when eating meals. Nothing feels better than enjoying a meal without a stomach ache- trust me, I know. Enjoying food could be your new norm.
- Improve overall mood. Research shows that symptoms such as mood swings, aggression, and emotional sensitivity improve in both adults and children when on a gluten-free diet.
Indulge in Gluten-Free Meals
- Are you a fan of baked goods? You're in luck! Chick Pea Flour is the key to moist and delicious cakes, muffins and cookies. Use it as a replacement for wheat flour and you won't be able to tell the difference.
- Instead of discussing the foods you should avoid (wheat, barley & rye) focus on the grains you can happily indulge in when on a gluten-free diet. I highly recommend experimenting with legumes, seeds, and grains like quinoa, wild/brown rice and an assortment of beans.
- Enjoy a plant-based diet. There are a ton of websites and books like Food Heavens cookbook that will ease your transition into eating delicious plant-based meals while cutting back on gluten.
With that deliciously satisfying feeling in mind, for the next 30 days, I plan on crowding out sugar, dairy, and gluten by incorporating delicious alternatives to my diet. Would you embark on the 30-day sugar, dairy, and gluten-free challenge? If so, what would you crowd out- sugar, dairy or gluten? Tell me more about your journey below!