Tricks, Treats and Tummy-aches
How Sugar affects immunity, sleep, mood, chronic disease risk etc.
In my early 20s I read a book that made me pause and analyze my sugar addiction. It was called Sugar Blues, by William Dufty and was written in 1975 and may have been one of the first books to seriously question the dangers of our diet of highly processed foods. He was also among the first to compare sugar addiction to that of drugs such as cocaine and heroin, and once free of his addiction claimed some surprising results beyond the obvious weight loss, clear skin, generally improved well-being, but surprising benefits such as reduced attractiveness to mosquitos, reduced tendency to sunburn his fair skin, and an assertion that sugar was a large causative factor in cases of mental illness and addiction. In fact, many recovering addicts, especially alcoholics, substitute one addiction for another, enjoying unlimited donuts and coffee at AA meetings and coffee shops.
This book set me on a 2+year journey of living sugar free. It was a challenge to say the least and put me in good shape for my first pregnancy. I have to say though, my obsessiveness, made me somewhat difficult to live with and put me into my first state of orthorexia. It was truly a challenge to avoid sugar completely at that time nearly 30 years ago, and has gotten worse in more recent years, with the favoured replacement for fat and more recently gluten in processed foods being sugar or other simple carbohydrates. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have remained sugar free all these years, and have been extremely challenged at times while raising 2 kids, but I am highly aware of its presence in my food and make it really worthwhile if I decide to partake. Avoiding it as much as possible in processed food, allows for more enjoyment of smaller amounts of sweets.
With our first big sugar binge of the season, Halloween, let’s look at some of the affects of sugar on the body and how and why it can and should be avoided.
How to avoid sugar:
Sugar is well hidden in many processed foods and disguised under many names, so label reading is imperative to avoid the unintended sources. Look for names such as brown sugar, glucose, fructose (and any other –ose names), high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup etc. But don’t be tempted to substitute artificial sweeteners. They are known to cause many unwanted side effects, such as headaches, rashes, neurological problems, allergic reactions etc, and they have been found to contribute to weight gain rather than prevent it.
These sweeteners are found in some surprising places and once you give them up, you will find them to be sickeningly sweet to the taste. Look for them in sauces, dressings, processed meats, cereals, breads and other baked goods, frozen entrees, and most processed food.
Plan to do more of your own cooking from simple whole foods with emphasis on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Add some probiotic foods such as plain, unpasteurized yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir etc. or probiotic supplements to keep your gut flora balanced. Keep your meals simple and it won’t take any longer than processed food or eating out. Your tastes will change over time and sweets will become unappealing. When baking, use healthier sugar, such as Sucanat, Coconut palm sugar, honey (small amounts), date sugar, molasses, fruit sauces. These choices will add their own dimension of flavour as well.
Unfortunately sugary treats are very closely tied with all of our emotions, social traditions and holidays, so it takes real commitment to make changes to reduce or eliminate it. But it's not impossible. It takes education and perseverance.
If you want to have your healthiest winter ever, consider a break from sugar.
To see how your diet and nutrition stack up, contact me for a free 30 minute phone consultation where I’ll provide you with a brief analysis of areas that could be improved in your diet. Focus On Healthy Eating Pilot Program.
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Tanya Sullivan is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant with many opinions on the state of our food and health.
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