It is no secret: Sugar really is making us sick.
Excess sugar in our diet, regardless of the source, will negatively impact our health over time. Frequently eating added sugars may also mean excess calories are being consumed. This can have a major impact on the hormones that help regulate both blood sugar and appetite, ultimately creating circumstances that encourage fat storage and affect our health.
In a nutshell, Sugars are carbohydrates composed of the elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. When we consume carbs, our blood glucose levels rise and the body produces insulin, our fat storage hormone. Sugar is either used as fuel for our body in the form of glucose or, stored in the liver. The excess sugar we can’t burn or store, is then stored as fat. When both blood glucose and insulin levels stay at a high level, we can develop insulin resistance which in turn causes Type 2 Diabetes. Sugar is also highly inflammatory, so this along with the increased fat stored in our bodies, can increase our risk of developing other chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, some cancers and many other health issues.
There are many different forms of sugar but the two most discussed are glucose and fructose (found in fruit). Sugars have an important significance in the diet: humans are genetically programmed to seek out sweet foods. We are even exposed to the natural sugar in breast milk as babies. Traditionally, this taste indicated that a food was safe to eat. Safe food is much easier to find today, and exposure to sugar is exponentially higher than during our ancestors’ time, but we haven’t outgrown the preference for sweet foods.
It’s good to be aware that there are hidden sugars in many of the foods, drinks, dressings and sauces we consume daily. High Fructose corn syrup is one of the culprits here. On ingredients labels sugar can also be found as sucrose, lactose, dextrose, maltose and galactose. Also don’t forget the ‘healthier’ and more natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, agave etc are all still a form of sugar at the end of the day. Unfortunately, dried fruits have a high sugar content too.
Giving up refined sugar is a very effective way to reduce your overall sugar consumption, and whilst it is not easy for the first few days the health benefits FAR outweigh continuing on the slippery slope of momentarily enjoying sugary foods > feeding our gut bacteria sugary foods > leading to more cravings for sugary foods and so on…!
Here are some of my tips for kicking the sugar habit:
- Drink plenty of water. Sometimes sweet cravings are a sign of dehydration. Before you go for the sugar, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes.
- Get more sleep, rest, and relaxation. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, are the most readily available source of energy for an exhausted body and mind. If you’re in a state of chronic stress and/or sleep deprivation, your body will crave the quickest form of energy available – sugar.
- Eliminate fat-free or low-fat packaged snack foods. These foods often contain large quantities of sugar to compensate for lack of flavour and fat, which will send you on a roller coaster ride of sugar highs and lows.
- Experiment with spices. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom will naturally sweeten your food and reduce cravings.
- Try making a cup of liquorice herbal tea after dinner. This has a lovely, slightly sweet aftertaste.
You will find your palate really changes, for the better, and there won’t be a need for a 3pm pick-me-up or intense cravings for an after dinner sweet treat etc…it will be much easier to break these habits we have created. You will notice some changes in your energy levels, perhaps a few headaches and a general ‘flat’ feeling, but I promise you this will be temporary, and it will be so worth the energy and health benefits you gain on the other side !