As I read more and more about breast cancers and ways to prevent recurrence, I have to address sugar. Sugar is bad for breast cancer as it just fuels the tumors. How is a girl to survive without any sweets? Geez...no wine, no sweets, no beef, what next? I guess I have to really understand what the limitations are and find ways to enjoy the sweets that are safer for me in moderation. What does that look like? What can I have? Oh how I will miss anything sweet and chocolate! I love chocolate cake and brownies.....sigh.
From what I have read, sugar and white flour have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause a big increase in the blood glucose levels. Insulin and insulin growth factor are secreted and then can enter the body's cells. The insulin and IGF actually provide fuel for the cells, stimulate cell growth and inflammation which actually can act as a fertilizer for tumors. In some studies on mice, the effects of chemotherapy were compromised in mice that had high levels of insulin after being stimulated by sugar.
So how do I change my diet to avoid increases in insulin and IGF? First of all I started with flour. I have made the change to avoid all bleached flour (white flour) and refined sugars in my diet. I will need to strictly restrict my desserts to special occasions and convert to natural sugar substitutes that have a lower glycemic index. So what does all of this mean and how do I do it?
Multi grain bread and and whole wheat flour is a good start. Eating foods rich in these items will slow down the conversion into sugar in the body. I have replaced white rice with brown, whole grain rice and basmati rice because they have a lower glycemic index. For pasta (which typically contains bleached flour), I have switched to whole wheat pasta which really doesn't taste much different with sauce on it at all. I have avoided potatoes which also have a high glycemic index too. For breakfast cereals, avoid regular cereals that contain sugar and bleached flour and choose whole grain cereals high in fiber and low in sugar. Jellies and jams are also high in sugar and cause insulin to spike so I have eliminated them from my diet. Juices and soda are full of sugar so they are not in my diet either, but I never really indulged in these things before. I did however indulge in diet soda which I have also removed from my diet and only drink occasionally when I am out. Candy is another thing to remove from the diet. I don't usually eat candy, only on occasion so that was not that hard for me. I guess I don't keep it in the house so it is not usually an issue, but if you put a bowl in front of me, that may be another story. For now, I will try to keep it out of the house!
The other thing is you have to read the labels on all of the foods you buy. I have found that simple items contain sugar and if you don't realize that, it can add up by the end of the day. Check labels on yogurts, snack foods, cereal and granola bars. There is sugar! There isn't really a daily recommenced amount of sugar for the diet because sugar really isn't necessary, but it is recommended not to have more than 40 grams of sugar a day. Once you read the labels and add up the sugar you get in prepared foods it is super easy to hit 40 grams per day even before dinner. Start reading the labels and searching for low sugar options to avoid increasing the insulin levels in your body that can fuel breast cancer cells.
So what can I eat when I want sweets? Who can live without chocolate or dessert? What's a girl to do? I have been reading and trying to determine how I can survive without any sweets and how do I do this when I have a family? The things I can include in my diet in moderation are natural sweeteners including agave nectar, honey, dark chocolate less than 70%, unsweetened cocoa powder and natural fruit. Agave nectar is made from the cactus plant and is very sweet - three times sweeter than table sugar. It is a good alternative to sugar as the glycemic index is much lower than that of sugar. The glycemic index of agave nectar is between 15-21 while the glycemic index of sugar is 100. Another option with a low glycemic index is acacia honey (glycemic index of 30). Regular honey has a glycemic index of 60 to 80. For something to be considered a low glycemic index, it must be below 55. Coconut sugar also has a low glycmic index of 35.
Now I have some choices of sugar, but sugars are still high calorie food items and should only be eaten in moderation. I guess for me I have decided to bake more as prepackaged foods will not contain these types of sugars with a low glycemic index and whole wheat flour. You can shop for low sugar/diabetic options but often times they are made with white flour. I have started baking my own muffins, cookies and brownies and have used organic oats, organic whole wheat flour and controlled amounts of natural sweeteners that have a low glycemic index. I often use apple sauce or pumpkin to replace fat so the baked goods are low fat or have no fat at all. For me the good news is that my family has accepted the new baked goods. I have been baking oatmeal banana cinnamon muffins now for weeks and I can't keep them in the house! My four year old eats two of my low calorie, high fiber, low sugar muffins every morning! In fact when Daddy ate the last one the other day it caused a meltdown and I was instructed to bake more before he got home from school.
For me, these changes have been relatively easy once I read and knew what I should and shouldn't have. I have been taking time to find recipes and adapt them into things that are healthier which means no refined flour, no regular sugar/brown sugar and low fat. I can live with things this way and find ways to enjoy a regular dessert for special occasions. I have even found some dark chocolates low in sugar at Trader Joe's for when I have that occasional chocolate craving that is out of control. I am experimenting with added cocoa powder to fat free organic yogurt too for occasional sweet snacks.
I am a wife, a mom, a sister, a daughter, a neice, an aunt and a friend. I never thought I would hear the words "It's not good. There are cancer cells". December 8, 2010 changed my life forever. This is my scary, long, enlightening journey through breast cancer. I hope that my words help others facing a similar situation or those that love someone going through breast cancer. I don't know where the road in front of me leads, but I know that Breast Cancer won't define me.
"Don't spend time worrying about how you are going to die. Worry about how you are going to live today"
Friday, March 18, 2011
Is sugar killing me too??
Labels: Breast Cancer, Food
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Thank you for this information I shared it with my family. My baby sister was just diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. I will keep you in my prayersReplyDelete