To anybody who’s even just a little bit health conscious, it’s probably common knowledge that an excessive intake of sugar (specifically ‘refined’ sugar) can have a detrimental effect on our health.
High sugar consumption has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and hyperactivity in children.
However, contrary to popular belief (and recent ‘no sugar diets’), sugar is not an enemy. It’s a simple carbohydrate that the body converts to glucose which it uses for energy – we need it. So diets that completely eliminate all sugars (including fruit) are not necessarily good for our health.
It’s most important to understand the difference between ‘refined’ and ‘natural’ sugars. Refined sugar comes from the sugar cane or sugar beets, is processed for extraction (‘the white stuff’) and can spike your blood sugar levels. The sugar cane originates from South and Southeast Asia, and indigenous communities have used it for thousands of years, without the health problems attached. In fact, in its raw from, consuming sugar cane brings some impressive health benefits, such as promoting healthy skin, digestive health, preventing heart disease and cancer and with a low gylcemic index, it’s also ideal for diabetics.
Natural sugar is present in fruits and vegetables, but differs from processed sugar in that being unprocessed, it still contains the fibres, vitamins and minerals. This means there is a slower release of insulin in your body.
We also know that once we get a taste of those triple chocolate cookies or more-ish sherbet lemons (especially if you have a sweet tooth), it can be hard to resist another, and another! Well, believe it or not, research has also indicated that sugar may be actually more addictive than cocaine, as it stimulates the same pleasure receptors in the brain.
So what can we do to ensure our intake of sugar isn’t excessive? Well, eating a balanced amount of fruits and vegetables is a great way of curbing sugar cravings. Try having a piece of fruit in the morning before breakfast, then again at lunch and dinner. Fill your dinner plate with vegetables and limit your intake of anything with refined sugar (cakes, sweets, tinned food, cereals, fizzy drinks etc).
The potential benefits of eliminating refined sugar are:
· Better sleep patterns
· Healthier skin and hair
· Improved mood
· Improved digestion
· Increased energy
· Clearing brain fog
· Promoting weight loss
Realistically, there should be no need for drastic changes to your diet in order to eliminate refined sugar, if you’re already eating reasonably healthy. It would be a case of checking things like tinned food, cartons of milk (dairy and non-dairy), yogurts, store-bought sauces etc for any hidden sugars, as some brands do use them. And of course, avoiding the confectionary aisle in the supermarket! Also, trying to eat a healthy breakfast goes a long way, as it can make you less likely to have energy dips or sugar cravings later in the day.
If you’re willing to get a little creative, there are so many easy snacks or refined sugar-free alternatives you can make the most of. Things like dates, frozen fruit, maple syrup, raw cacao/raw chocolates, home-made popcorn, cinnamon, plain bran flakes, pancakes etc can all be used to help keep those cravings at bay, and you still get to enjoy sweet treats!
So why not give sugar-free for one month a try? And if you do find it to be of benefit, you can share your experience with your loved ones so that they too might feel healthier and happier.