This one's a no brainer really. Sugary drinks increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Apart from all this, avoiding the high's and low's that pure sugar creates, allows me to function at a more constant, predictable and sustained level of energy. By eliminating processed sugar, all those cakes, pastries and unhealthy sweets also go out the door - yay! Don't get me wrong, I still like the odd treat, but I've learned to substitute pure sugar in my baking for other alternatives such as dates, bananas, molasses or even maple syrup or agave. My sweet tooth has subsided over the years since not eating sugar which is great. These days, I wouldn't be able to handle how sweet most of those past indulgences are!
One of the first things I noticed in giving up dairy, was an improvement in my skin - no more dry patches and my skin looks generally healthier and feels softer. This isn't unusual. Ten years working in the health industry, I've observed this effect over and over again. So if you have psoriasis, eczema or other skin complaints, I highly recommend giving this a go. Less allergies is another benefit. I have noticeably less hayfever (or no hayfever) than I did while consuming dairy. My digestive system is happier too. Humans were simply not designed (like all other animals) to continue drinking milk after infancy. When digested, the breakdown products of lactose are two simple sugars: glucose and galactose. Nursing children have active enzymes that break down galactose, but as we age, many of us lose much of this capacity. Dairy is also on the acidic end of the acid-alkaline scale, meaning it has a significant inflammatory effect in the body. In saying this, cheese was probably the hardest thing for me to give up, but after a while, I found yummy alternatives and now I have (thankfully) forgotten all about my dairy addiction.
O.K so I haven't completely eliminated alcohol from my diet but I have severely cut back. I would say I don't drink more than five alcoholic beverages a month. My motivation for not drinking comes mainly from a fitness perspective (good enough for me!) - I don't want to undo all my hard work with empty calories! And with it being another highly acidic substance in our body, I can do without the extra inflammation it causes. Alcohol can also get in the way of other processes, including absorbing nutrients and burning fat. My motivation tends to wain when I drink too. If I have a drink in the early afternoon, it's guaranteed I wont be exercising later. Also, if I had a few bevies in the evening, I'd most likely feel too dehydrated to exercise the next morning! If you ever want to lose weight and look less bloated, alcohol should be one of the first things to go. I've seen weight appear to "fall off" people who give up or drastically cut back on the booze. Easy!
Along with dairy, bread seems to be another food that can make people feel bloated and uncomfortable. Whether it is from the processed flours, high gluten content, additives, preservatives, stabilizers or milk solids, for whatever reason, it doesn't make me feel great. I still eat bread occasionally but I do have a different relationship with bread than I used to. I consider bread a treat, knowing full well it contributes negligible amounts of anything good to my diet. I always make sure I purchase an organic, naturally fermented sourdough that is dairy free and fresh from the oven. Even so, I have to admit, I still feel better without bread in my belly.
It took a few attempts to give up coffee but I was determined because I felt SO much better without it! Now, I can enjoy the delicious smell of coffee without feeling like I need to have one. Another acid forming beverage in the body, coffee is highly addictive and I think this was one reason why I wanted to give it up - I didn't like the fact that whether I had a coffee or not, was so influential on my mood. I didn't like the way I felt like I had to have a coffee in order to function properly. God forbid I end up somewhere where I couldn't get my fix! Upon kicking my coffee habit, I was very unpleasant person to be around for a few days. After that, my eyes became clearer, my energy levels balanced out and I felt generally a lot calmer. Which is to be expected really. Caffeine causes your heart to beat more forcefully. Other problems shown to arise with caffeine intake include gout flare-ups (from it's inflammatory effect), increased blood pressure in those already suffering hypertension, insomnia, headaches and impaired glucose metabolism in people with type 2 diabetes. Other, concerns about caffeine consumption are adrenal fatigue, increased risk of osteoporosis and irregular heat beats.
Eating sausages, deli meat, bacon and other processed meats have long been associated with increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Harvard School of Public Health states eating red or processed meats can also increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes by up to 50% percent. No matter what quality of meat it may be, it is also devoid of any fiber. At any one time, most middle-aged people have 1-7 kilo's of undigested fecal matter sitting in their colon! It is no surprise that NZ has one of the highest, if not THE highest bowel cancer rate in the world - we also have one of the lowest fiber diets. We need fiber to help move waste through our system. If food is lacking in fiber, it can take a very long time to be excreted. Whether it be for their high sodium and preservative content, L-carnitine content, nil fiber content, highly acidic nature in the body, inflammatory effect, carcinogenic compounds that can arise from cooking meat at high temperatures or low micro-nutrient content compared to other foods I could be eating (meat has no nutrients that provide any sort of protective effect at all), this food group is one I leave out for my future health.