Sugar has a bad reputation for ballooning waistbands and increasing illness. It is especially linked to a skyrocketing rate of diabetes diagnoses.
But the truth is, without sugar we would die! Every cell in our bodies needs sugar to function, yet too much sugar can make us sick. So what is there to do?
The key is in understanding the difference between natural sugar and added sugar. Plenty of healthy foods are naturally high in sugar.
In the case of carbohydrates, like fruit, starches, starchy vegetables, yogurt, and milk, the food breaks down into sugar during the digestive process. These foods have a balance of sugar and the vitamins and minerals necessary for prime fitness.
Natural sugars (glucose) produce immediate energy and move any excess to storage for later. When you consume natural sugar in the form of complex carbohydrates, the body takes a long time to digest the food and therefore provides a steady level of glucose between meals. That will provide you with optimal energy and even-keeled emotions.
Added sugar, on the other hand, is found is almost any processed food you can buy. It spikes the blood sugar immediately but burns off very quickly, leading to a crash.
Added sugar is used to make foods that don’t have much nutrition taste good. Because sugar is so vital to cellular function and energy, the cravings for it can be intense, and major food manufacturers know that heaping helpings of added sugar will get you hooked on their products.
Health care professionals are blaming the insane levels of added sugar in food products for the rise in Type 2 diabetes, when a body is unable to properly regulate blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes typically presents later in life and is thought to be caused by having asked the pancreas to work too hard at processing sugar over an extended period of time.
After years of overwhelming the pancreas, the insulin it produces becomes less and less adept at moving glucose into our cells for use and storage.
The body then begins to suck water out of its cells in an effort to flush out the excess glucose. This leads to dehydration, an inability to properly absorb nutrition, and a host of other medical complications including a shortened life span.
It is vital to overall health that we pay better attention to our intake of added sugar. It’s no easy task, though. Sugar and processed foods are understood to be as addictive as heroin or cocaine!
That’s because added sugar artificially stimulates the brain to produce dopamine, our “feel good” chemical. So even though these foods are really unhealthy for the body, they do make us feel happy.
Lucikly, there are ways of combating the craving for excess sugar while still getting the sugar our bodies desperately need.
The first, most important thing is to get your sugars from natural sources of complex carbohydrates, rather than processed food. So you don’t have to stop eating bread – just shift to whole grain, or better yet, seed bread rather than white.
You can also eat all the fruit you want. Though high in sugar, fruit contains the vitamins and minerals your body needs to use energy effectively.
What if fruit doesn’t satisfy the craving? Enter Stevia, an all-natural sweetener that has zero calories and does not raise blood sugar levels. Stevia is actually 300x sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way.
Stevia is a good choice for sweetening drinks or mixing with healthy cereal. For baking, the product Lakanto is another all-natural sweetener with zero calories, zero glycemic index, and zero additives. It can be substituted cup for cup with sugar in recipes.
A great option for tackling the sugar cravings head on is to consume fermented foods and beverages such as yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and miso.
Many people report that after just 4-5 days of eating fermented foods along with their regular diets, their sugar cravings decreased dramatically.
But that’s not all. When you do eat something sweet, the probiotics present in fermented products eat up the sugar and thereby reduce the damage it can do in your body.
Dieticians recommend that if you are new to fermented foods, start with just half a cup per day and go up from there.
Along with common sense tips like drinking enough water, getting plenty of sleep, and taking time to do things that make us naturally happy, these tips should get you on the path to a better relationship with sugar.
You can’t quit it – not completely – but you can put it in its proper place and break the stranglehold of cravings for added sugar. You will feel so much better, and that is a powerful reward.