Does sugar really make your life sweeter? A lot of us were raised with sugar and it’s become part of our childhoods and migrated into our adult lives. Sugar has come to symbolize comfort for many. It’s also generally thought that it’s better to consume too much sugar than too much fat. But, does sugar have any value to us and can we still eat it in moderation if we switch to the “raw” brown sugars?
Let’s start with what sugar really is. It’s really just a bunch of “empty calories”; a term I’m sure you’ve heard before. What do I mean by “empty”? I mean that sugar has no nutritional value to your body. Aside from deriving a short burst of energy from the calories in sugar, there are no helpful nutrients in sugar. Unlike the right kinds of fats, which do provide myriad healthy benefits, sugar is just another substance that your body has to waste time burning off. That means that you’re getting all of the calories and none of the nutrients. Sugar is also beyond processed. It’s refined with chemicals to the point where there is literally nothing left except pure white sugar crystals. And, don’t be fooled by the so-called “raw” or natural less refined sugars. Believe it or not, they all start out as the ultra refined pure white sugar first, and then are darkened by adding molasses back into the mix.
Experts even suggest that sugar is physically addictive. Research has shown that people (and rats) will continue to eat sugar long after they are no longer hungry. It’s a downward spiral of the more sugar you eat, the more you want. And whether or not it is legitimately physically addictive or not, it’s certainly mentally addictive. Childhood memories make sugar and sugary treats hard to part with. As youngsters, we were often rewarded with desserts like cookies or ice cream, a lollypop after a successful dentist’s visit (counterproductive!), cotton candy at the Fair, and even an occasional piece of cake or pie at gatherings. Every major holiday revolved around some type of candy, like chocolate and peppermint at Christmas; chocolate, malted, or marshmallow eggs at Easter; Birthday cakes; ice cream cones in the Summer; and don’t get me started on all the Halloween candy.
So, what’s a girl to do? First, you can start by clearing out your immediate surroundings. Get rid of obvious junk and sugar-laden treats. Then, you can substitute with fresh fruits or frozen berries. Start using Stevia in it’s various forms. Use in place of sugar in your morning tea or coffee. Switch to plain, unflavored, or naturally flavored varieties of some of your regular foods like yogurt and sports drinks. You can always add some stevia to taste, or try adding a little bit of sugar free protein powder to the mix. You can also experiment with more “natural” forms of sugar like maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar. But, realize that these substance are really just sugar-once-removed.
Once you’ve stripped most of the obvious sugars from your daily diet, you’ll start to reawaken your taste buds to the subtle and fresh sweetness found in natural foods like fruits. You’ll learn to appreciate and savor the sweetness of a berry or a piece of melon. It will probably take a while and you will most likely have to deal with a few cravings here and there. But, for the most part, people report that after a week or two after banishing sugar from their diets, most people’s palates start to come out of hibernation and they are able to enjoy natural sweetness once again.
The point isn’t to go cold turkey completely cutting every last grain of sugar out or your life or to go crazy making huge changes all at once. Just start to realize all the hidden sources of sugar in your foods and drinks and scale back where you can. Make sure you read labels and look for high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, and other hidden forms of sugar. All in all, a little moderation will go a long way and, over time, you can really cut back on the empty sugar calories and replace them with real and nutritious foods that will leave you feeling vibrant and full of lasting energy.