I often get asked: “So, you don’t eat sugar?” Well it is difficult to sidestep it completely, but I do try to avoid refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup. We live in a world where the consumption of sugar is being pounded upon – for good reason. However, it does concern me that all sugar is being treated equally. Sweeteners that are highly processed and chemically altered are getting the green light.
I would like to share some tips and thoughts so you can be more informed when the sticky sugar topic comes your way. I don’t have any intention to criticize or judge your sugar consumption, rather to encourage people to be more aware of where it is hiding and how to cut back.
Added Sugar & Sweeteners
Let’s start with the white stuff. It’s best to eliminate refined white sugar at all costs. I suggest, you try to inform yourself as best you can by starting to read labels carefully in order to help cut back on added sugar. These include any sugars or sweeteners added to your food and beverages during processing or preparation. Being aware of the existing and added sugar contents of the foods and drinks you consume is vital for your overall health. Most people are surprised to hear of all the different names sugar is hiding under, especially packaged foods. Look out for ingredients ending with “–ose”, like glucose, sucrose, fructose, maltose etc. Do not get fooled by sweeteners, they are not the healthy option and, in some cases, even worse. Low fat foods are a huge culprit, they contain even more sugar to make up for the lack of taste. Watch out for sauces that easily equal the same amount of sugar than a packet of sweets. Be sure to pay extra attention to the labels of cereal boxes, you might not be aware that you are sending your child to school already loaded up with way too many spoons of sugar just by eating breakfast.
Yes, sugar is addictive. Some claim it is even more addictive than cocaine, but that’s for you to decide. Although it does make sense, we all know how difficult it is to stop eating a packet of sweets once opened. We all have turned to something sweet when we feel tired, bored, sad or stressed. Something that feels like such an innocent act can have great consequences regarding our health.
Why do we turn to the white poison? It acts as comfort food and this is scientifically proven. It stimulates the release of dopamine, also known as the “happy hormone”, which creates a “high” and makes us feel better. When something makes us feel better, we crave it even more. The downside is, sadly, that this feeling is only temporarily and soon you will feel even more tired, depressed or even anxious.
The Bigger Picture
When we think of sugar or carbohydrates in our diets, we have to think of the bigger picture and be mindful of our overall intake. The quality and quantity of the sugar used does matter. It is very likely that the whole food recipe is also going to contain healthy fats, fiber, and protein, all of which are great to combine with carbohydrates in general to keep your blood sugars fairly stable. In the end, it is all about the good overcrowding the bad and not the other way around.
Here are a few reasons to start cultivating sugar awareness:
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners are highly acidic foods. It suppresses your immune system. When your immune system is compromised, you are more likely to get sick.
- Overconsumption can lead to weight gain, insomnia, inability to concentrate and even aging.
- Although we’re still just beginning to understand how gut microbiota affects our health, it’s scientifically proven that sugar creates havoc on our microbiome, particularly highly refined, added sugars. They feed the bad bacteria, helping them flourish and depletes the gut of the good bacteria.
TIP: Next time you reach for something sweet, ask yourself: “Is it really worth sacrificing my health?” If it feels like you are depriving yourself, start to familiarize yourself with alternative treats. You might just be surprised at how many healthy alternatives you’ll find and how much better you will start to feel.
Naturally Made Sugars
Again, I’m not saying you can’t eat any sugar anymore, but opt for more naturally-made options like raw honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and dates. Try to eliminate all sweeteners, except stevia. Focus on adding more fruits and sweeter vegetables into your diet, like carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin and beets. When that sugar craving hits after a meal, opt for a cup of peppermint tea, or even just try brushing your teeth.
It all starts with a small lifestyle change…
It’s not that difficult to make small lifestyle changes to counteract some of sugar’s potential effects on your health. I encourage you to balance your consumption of foods high in sugar with ones rich in fiber – like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – as well as sustainable sources of protein and healthy fats from nuts, seeds and avocados.
I hope that you have gained some “sugar knowledge” and feel more equipped to make informed decisions and ready to start incorporating more natural sugars – in moderation of course 😉