Ahhh, the white stuff.
Sugar is arguably one of the most addictive substances on the planet. It’s accessible, acceptable, and sneaky! Even when you think you are avoiding it, you’re probably not.
Sure it tastes good but the negative effects on health make it worth looking at alternatives.
How it harms the body:
- Sugar suppresses immune function – A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition watched how white blood cells behaved in response to a dose of sugar. Researchers found that not only did sugar dramatically reduce the ability of the white blood cells to target and engulf bacteria, but the effect lasted for up to 5 hours!! Sugar did not impact the number of white blood cells but rather their function. Apply this to real life. A child consumes a bowl of sugary cereal and a glass of juice before heading to school. By the time she gets on the bus, her ability to defend against bacteria is dramatically reduced. By mid-morning, her immune function has hit rock bottom. If she doesn’t consume any more sugar that day (unlikely), she will have returned to normal function by the time she gets on the bus to come home. Yikes!
- Sugar creates inflammation – Various inflammatory chemicals (including cytokines and NF kappa B) are released after relatively low doses of sugar intake. Sugar also contributes to oxidative stress. Chronic inflammation has been identified as an underlying factor in pretty much every chronic disease, including the big “killers”, heart disease and cancer.
- Sugar contributes to insulin resistance and diabetes – even small doses of refined sugar cause rapid increase in blood glucose levels. The body quickly responds by releasing insulin. In fact, it responds so well that often TOO much insulin is released and blood sugar levels drop! This causes sugar cravings in an effort
- Sugar causes weight gain – high sugar foods provide little to no nutritional value. They are empty calories and are easy to overeat. They also taste good and leave us wanting more! The “drug-like” effect sugar has on the body make it hard to consume in moderation. Overconsumption as well as the impact on blood sugar control make sugar a major contributor to obesity.
Luckily, avoiding refined sugar doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a sweet treat. Although I would still recommend using alternatives in moderation, there are a few good options you can switch to when working towards a refined sugar-free life!
- Raw, local honey – yes, honey is still a sugar but it also contains minerals and vitamins that contribute to wellness. Honey has been shown to benefit seasonal allergies, promote healthy sleep, and support immune health due to it’s powerful antioxidant content. One of my favourite nighttime routines is to enjoy a hot cup of Yogi Tulsi Spiced Berry Tea with a teaspoon of Bee Powered from BeeKeeper’s Naturals.
- Coconut sugar – basically, coconut sugar is a less refined version of sugar. It maintains some nutritional value and causes a slower and lower rise in glucose levels.
- Stevia – this sweetener comes from a plant that just happens to taste sweet while having no impact on blood sugar levels. Use stevia in it’s natural form.
Just because there are alternatives doesn’t mean eating honey (or stevia or coconut sugar) by the spoonful is healthy. Moderation is key. The great thing about the alternatives is that you have more control over how much sugar you are consuming. Rather than getting doses of refined sugar throughout the day, you can become more mindful of your intake and keep it to a minimum and as a treat. There is a big difference between 1 tsp of honey everyday compared to the average intake of 19 teaspoons!! Eating whole, natural foods helps you maintain control of your intake.
Sugar free can still be sweet 😉