Cancer cells feed off of sugar.
That statement alone should be enough to make people want to ditch all refined, artificial and even certain ‘natural’ sugars right now. But, it isn’t working. No matter what we hear or read about sugar, so many people still eat a LOT of the nasty stuff!
Why? Because sugar is highly addictive. In fact, scientists have compared the additive nature of sugar to hardcore drugs like cocaine! Crazy, right?
The average American consumes around 95 pounds of sugar (including natural, artificial, and refined) each year. For the average Canadian, this runs in around 88 pounds each year. Before food processing, when people ate naturally, off the land, they consumed on average 30 grams of sugar per day, or roughly 40-45 pounds each year.
Why is Sugar So Bad For Us?
Besides its relation to cancer, refined sugars mess with hormone balance, immunity, and digestion. Some of the effects of sugar include premature aging, weight gain, fatigue, bone loss, malnutrition, anxiety, depression, brain fog and poor stress response. Not to mention major diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.
A few other problems with sugar are that:
- It causes people to eat more, even if they aren’t really hungry.
- A tolerance to sugar develops, meaning you’ll need more to satisfy ever-growing sugar cravings.
- Some people are so reliant on sugar that they hide stashes of sugary treats.
- It gives you some pretty awful withdrawal symptoms when you quit it.
While some people know they eat too much sugar, many aren’t even aware of it. And that’s not their fault!
Food manufacturers have “hidden” sugar in so many different packaged and processed foods. Unless you’re a food label guru, you probably don’t realize how often you eat sugar either.
Refined sugar has been added to just about every processed food out there. And, to make things more confusing, food manufacturers use a whole pile of different names that mean the same thing – refined sugar. Ingredients that end in ‘-ose’, any type of syrup, dextrin, hydrolyzed starch, sorbitol, evaporated cane juice and agave are just a few refined sugars hidden in most foods.
And, to top it off, as our society becomes more health conscious, food manufacturers have begun making claims that certain packaged foods are ‘healthy’. Things like Special K cereal, granola bars, gluten-free cookies, non-fat yogurt and 100-calorie snack packs still have some form of refined sugar or sweeteners in them. And these sugars and sweeteners still affect your body by boosting blood glucose and insulin levels.
The flip side of this coin is that, somewhere along the line, some diet advocates have made people afraid to eat fruit or high-carb veggies. Why? Because they claim that these foods are too high in sugar and will make people gain weight.
The truth is, yes, fruit and some vegetables do have a high amount of naturally occurring fructose. And it’s in everyone’s best interest to moderate their fruit intake anyway. But, fruit and vegetables also have these amazing nutrients that help balance out and slow down digestion of the natural fructose: fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants. These are all GOOD things your body needs!
So, fruit is good…in moderation!
How to Ditch the Sugar For Good
Sugar is probably responsible for most diseases in our society. Even a little bit of sugar will spike your blood sugar and insulin, making you more susceptible to insulin resistance. People who are naturally thin and who can eat sugary treats without worrying about weight are especially at risk for developing insulin resistance and other hormonal issues. Unfortunately, most people only decide to ditch the sugar when they notice their weight creeping up.
With a little planning and maybe some major accountability (i.e. ask a friend to help you ditch the sugar), you can drastically cut back on your refined sugar and sweetener intake. And, as a result, boost your energy, reduce your cravings, feel more focused and happier, and so much more!
Step 1 – Mindset
All major changes need to be planned out, in my opinion. It never works long-term to jump into a new diet plan a day or two after you feel the excitement. Right? At least I’ve never seen this work. You need to plan things out.
Decide when you’ll ditch the sugar and do a bit of research to find out how to swap out some of your sugary treats with healthier options. Join a free online challenge or maybe a group of like-minded women at your gym.
Plan your meals for an entire week at a time, get your grocery shopping done in one swoop, and then prep anything you can ahead of time to make meals and snacks easier. If it’s already there, made and ready to eat, you’ll be less likely to turn to the vending machine.
Step 2 – Prepare Yourself
Think about when you eat sugar. Or when you crave it most. Can you think of an activity that you can do to distract yourself next time that craving hits? Or maybe you need to avoid certain triggers?
Many women crave sugar and sweets in the afternoon. Blood sugar gets really low around that time because women often don’t eat enough food during the day. Their energy reserves are too low to keep them energized and fulfilled, so their bodies crave quick energy from sugar.
If this happens to you, eat a slightly bigger breakfast and lunch, and keep healthy whole food snacks with you. Snacks that are great for afternoon slumps are an apple with almond butter, a handful of nuts, beef jerky, a hard-boiled egg, or even avocado sweet potato toast.
Step 3 – Learn About Alternatives
There are so many alternatives to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners available to us! The top two are stevia and xylitol because neither affect blood sugar or insulin. And this is the goal of ditching the sugar – you want to start balancing blood sugar to help get rid of the cravings that tank your energy levels.
If you like to bake, 1 cup of regular refined white sugar = 2 tablespoons of powdered stevia or 1 tsp of liquid stevia.
Alternatively, you can choose all-natural sweeteners like raw honey, pure maple syrup, or coconut sugar. Each of these will elevate blood sugar but your body is much better equipped to break these down without causing inflammation.
Unsweetened dates, dried fruits, bananas, or unsweetened applesauce make great snacks for when a sugar craving does hit. While still high in natural sugars, the fiber helps to keep blood sugar more stable.
Step 4 – Start With Breakfast
Breakfast is your most important meal of the day because what you eat for your first meal sets you up for the day.
A breakfast high in carbs and sugars will lead to sugar cravings later on. And, many people don’t realize just how much sugar they’re consuming at breakfast. I know we’re talking about ditching refined sugar, but it really, really helps to address your breakfast first before completely cutting out all sugar.
So, think about your typical breakfast. If it includes any of the following, your breakfast needs an overhaul.
- Orange juice (or any juice)
- Toast and jam or jelly (even sugar-free versions)
- A smoothie without added protein and healthy fats (Greek yogurt only slightly counts as it contains natural sugars)
- Lattes (unless it’s plain with unsweetened almond or coconut milk)
- Muffins or donuts
- Cereal, including oatmeal, even steel cut oats, without added fat or protein
What should you eat? Well, the best breakfast includes healthy fats, a good portion of protein, and some low-carb veggies. For example, a few slices of turkey or pork bacon, a couple of whole eggs, and sautéed or steamed broccoli, peppers and onions, with some sliced avocado on the side.
Step 5 – Choose Different Snacks
Because cravings can be hard to ignore, always have healthy snacks on hand. When a craving hits, eat something like an energy bite, a few nuts, or a hard-boiled egg first before reaching for sweet treats. Often the craving will disappear if you just have a nice, small snack that’s entirely healthy fat!
It’s no coincidence that the rise in more sugar in the North American diet coincides with the rise in many of our worst diseases. Sugar is a tough addiction to break, but one that can be done with some forethought and motivation. Plus, when you do finally ditch the sugar habit, your energy improves, sleep gets better, your memory and concentration skyrocket, your waistline shrinks and SO many other very amazing healthy improvements happen!
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