One of the more difficult tasks on my list was the elimination of sugar. I’ve always been a sweet-toothed chocoholic, which under the new order was going to be a challenge for me. I always had candy stashed somewhere – purses, pockets, backpacks, and glove compartments. Sadly, looking back, I was the person who would steal candy from a child (granted, only on Halloween – but still unacceptable…).
Sugar has a number of pseudonyms. So when you flip a pack and check for ingredients, I’m referring to cellulose, dextrin, dextrose, disaccharide, fructose, galactose, glucose, glycogen, lactose, maltose, monosaccharide, polysaccharide, starch, sucrose and plain old, “sugar”.
There’s no question that sugar is a huge problem in today’s society. We eat almost our entire body weight in sugars each year. Sugar causes obesity, kidney stones, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cavities. For women it exasperates PMS symptoms and in general, is linked to depression, mood swings and hyperactivity.
I’ve known for years about the sugar-coaster and how it affected my moods and general nutrition. Convenience drove a lot of the habit and often times a serving of gummy bears replaced a meal.
A few years ago I tested the sugar issue by trying the GI Diet. What an eye-opener! After only a few days, I noticed a dramatic difference in my mood and I felt more nourished than ever. The only trouble was that the GI Diet is a huge supporter of artificial sweeteners. So while my moods improved and I started eating smarter foods, I found myself doubled over in pain from the use of Splenda and other sugar replacements.
I started to do some research on artificial sweeteners and here were some of the disturbing findings:
Saccharin – original artificial sweetener now banned in Canada but still used in the States (check your package of gum). It was found to cause cancer in lab rats.
Aspartame – used widely in diet colas and while Health Canada insists it’s safe, numerous studies internationally urge that it is heavily linked to cancer, lymphoma and leukemia.
Sucralose (Splenda – a.k.a. “chlorinated sugar”) – Is used in baked goods, yogurts and all sorts of product claiming to be “no sugar added”. Delusional advocates call this the sweet panacea, but it causes all sorts of digestive issues, has been found to enlarge the kidneys and liver and is linked with serious reproductive issues.
High Fructose Corn Syrup – Comes from corn and is cheaper to grow than sugar cane. Aside from the pesticide contamination, this is a synthetic sweetener because it goes through such extensive lab processing that it’s certainly not as natural as people like to market it as. This is a hidden sweetener that is found almost everywhere and is a prime suspect in the alarming rise of obesity in children.
Beet Sugar – is often marketed as “alternative” but has high exposure to pesticides and herbicides – if you must use this, go organic.
So here’s the lesson I learned – Cutting out sugar will improve your health BUT if you’re serious about this DO NOT replace it with artificial sweeteners.
Now, assuming you’ve taken detox seriously, you’ve already started to address some of the deeper reasons of why we tend to reach for the sugar in the first place. This is a critical time to support yourself by making the right choices widely available to you.
Here’s a list of great sugar alternatives and how I use them:
Agave Syrup – is a super-sweet natural syrup from the Agave plant grown in Mexico. Great for deserts, coffee/tea sweetener and cooking
Brown Rice Syrup – is less sweet and can be used in baking. I’ve also found some candies made with brown rice syrup (thank god).
Maple Syrup – use this for baking and as a replacement for any brown sugar-type topping. Maple syrup is a great natural sweetener for oatmeal.
Honey – I love honey right out of the jar. This was my first go to when I started. There’s a great honey vendor at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto and there are literally hundreds of honeys to enjoy. A lot of them like Manuka, have medicinal properties worth exploring for digestive and immune system boosts. It’s also great for cooking and baking.
Stevia – A natural South American plant-based sweetener, I find stevia expensive compared to most of the alternatives but it is great for baking
Fruit Juices – used in baking and cooking – specially for breads and baked goods that don’t call for a lot of sugar
Dried Fruit –use dates as a natural sweet ingredient in bars and deserts
Cutting out sugar is extremely rewarding. Once you become conscious of how much sugar is around us on a daily basis, you’ll appreciate how challenging the task is. But trust me, each time you turn down a sugar fix, you’ll feel stronger and you’ll be sparing yourself the crash, lethargy, possible allergy and the missed opportunity to truly nourish your body.
If you can’t cut out sugar – please, please try to cut out sweeteners like the ones above. If you must drink soft drinks (although THAT’s another post…), go for the full deal over drinking those filled with aspartame or Splenda. As for kids., who’s systems are smaller and more vulnerable and who’s behaviors are being shaped and patterned for the rest of their lives by habits that are forming today…please consider the sugar factor.