Natural vs. Processed Sugar
Why we have become a sugar-addicted nation and how to cut your sugar addiction.
You may be wondering “What fun would life be without sweetness?!” After all, sweetness is how we describe the best events in our life, the happiest moments, and even our sweetest dreams. It conjures up childhood memories of candy canes, Halloween and Easter egg hunts. So certainly, we’re not suggesting that you should give up all that’s sweet in your life, but understanding what’s going on in your body when you consume sugar is important.
When you eat sucrose – the white sugar next to your coffee pot – it’s been stripped of all of the fiber, minerals and nutrients that were in the sugar cane plant that it came from. And this highly processed, unnatural state causes an imbalance in your body when you consume too much.
We’re not just talking about candy and cookies, either. When it comes to carbohydrates, one must remember that sugar is the basis for them. But different kinds of carbohydrates have different effects on our bodies. Simple carbs like sugar, fructose, lactose, maltose and glucose break down very quickly in our bodies. Complex carbs like beans, legumes, vegetables and whole grains absorb at a slower rate, giving us longer lasting energy. Sounds simple, right?
The confusing part is where many complex carbs have been turned into simple carbs, right before our very eyes, and we may not even realize it. Some examples of these are white pasta, white bread, white rice, bagels, cookies and crackers. At one time, their ingredients came from a complex whole grain, but they have been processed so much that they act like a simple carb when you eat them – which means they take your blood sugar for a ride. And if this is what makes up the majority of your diet, you will be riding this roller coaster all day long. It’s that 10 a.m. sugar craving or the 3 p.m. blues when we reach for a candy bar that tells us we aren’t eating the right kinds of foods to give us sustained energy.
Sugar, in all forms, is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. But the effect on the body and your overall health depends on the type of sugar you’re eating, either natural or refined.
We have become a Sugar-Addicted Nation.
Though we may not be consciously choosing to add sugar to our foods, it is in many of the products we buy off the grocery shelves. Foods that once never had a sweet taste – like soups, peanut butter and salad dressing – now are packed with sugar.
So how can we be sure what is in the foods we eat? Before you venture out to the grocery store, knowing ahead of time what to look for can help.
Here is a list of common names for sugar:
Barley malt, Beet sugar, Brown sugar, Buttered syrup, Cane juice crystals, Cane sugar, Caramel, Carob syrup, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Date sugar, Dextran, Dextrose, Diastase, Diastatic malt, Ethyl maltol, Fructose, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Glucose, Glucose solids, Golden sugar, Golden syrup, Grape sugar, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Invert sugar, Lactose, Malt syrup, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Mannitol, Molasses, Raw sugar, Refiner’s syrup, Sorbitol, Sorghum syrup, Sucrose, Sugar, Turbinado sugar, Xylitol and Yellow sugar.
Easy Ways to Overcome Your Sugar Addiction
You may think that you can’t live without sugar. But biologically speaking, your body does not need refined sugar. Type 2 Diabetes is becoming an epidemic in the U.S., not to mention China and India, due to unnecessarily high amounts of refined sugar in our diets. Here are some easy ways to overcome the sugar bug:
Eat fruit and sweet veggies.
Not only will this help you get your five to eight servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, but it will curb your sweet tooth! You’ll be amazed at how your cravings for sweets decreases when you indulge in luscious fruits. Choose fruits you love: strawberries, pineapple, peaches, bananas, cherries, blueberries—the list goes on and on. There are plenty of sweet veggies to snack on, too, such as sugar snap peas or baby carrots. And the great thing about eating fruits and veggies is that you can eat as many as you want, whenever you want!
Drink plenty of water.
Sometimes having a sweet tooth is a sign of dehydration. When the sugar bug bites you, drink an entire glass of water. But don’t count on soft drinks to rehydrate you. They’re the number one dietary source of added sugar in the U.S. Just one can of soda contains a whopping 40 grams of sugar! That’s about 10-12 teaspoons per can. No wonder diabetes is becoming an epidemic. It would take 1 hour and 20 minutes of continual bike riding to burn off these calories.
Use natural sweeteners.
Maple syrup, honey and brown rice syrup are downright miraculous. Try maple syrup in your baked goods instead of refined sugar. Agave nectar is another delicious choice. Other plant-based sweeteners for your beverages such as Stevia is an excellent choice. Stevia comes in packets and liquid form. Natural sweeteners still contain the minerals and nutrients from the plant that they came from, unlike white, refined sugar which has been highly processed. The body likes nutrients and can better process a natural sweetener. Your blood sugar won’t spike like it does with white sugar. They are so sweet, yet entirely natural, that it’s mind boggling!
Enjoy exercise every day.
Start with 10 minutes a day of an easy activity, such as gentle yoga or going for a walk. Work up to 45 minutes a day. Mix it up and try other activities you enjoy—maybe it’s kayaking, playing volleyball or cross-country skiing. Exercise balances blood sugar levels and provides a very necessary outlet for everyday stress, thereby reducing your need to “medicate” with refined sugar.
Sweeten your foods naturally with wonderful spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, coriander or cardamom. They will help reduce your sugar cravings.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake.
Caffeine dehydrates the body and spikes blood sugar, which then forces it to plummet. This precipitous drop, along with dehydration, instigates sugar cravings.
Get plenty of sleep and relaxation. When you’re fatigued, stressed out and generally sleep deprived, your body craves energy—in the form of refined sugar.
Adjust the amount of animal foods in your diet.
This includes all mammal products, all bird products, fish, eggs and dairy products. Eating too many, or too few, of these foods can result in craving sweets.
Eliminate low-fat or fat-free packaged foods.
These processed foods may be low in fat, but they’re high in sugar. They may also be high in refined sugar’s evil twin: high-fructose corn syrup. Besides, they taste awful. Read labels very carefully.
Sweeten your life.
Life is short, so you should regularly indulge in its sweet moments! Get plenty of hugs from family and friends, treat yourself to a massage or watch the sunset. When you regularly enjoy life’s sweet moments, you’ll naturally reduce your need to “medicate” with refined sugar.
About the Author: I am Jen Martin, a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach, and help with a number of challenges. If you need help with cutting out sugar and stopping your addiction, making healthier food choices, starting your health and wellness journey, I would love to help, support and empower you with the tools you’ll need to transform your life from existing to living with vitality and abundance!