Sugar – it’s not just for rotting your teeth!

Sugar image courtesy of Moyan Brenn @ FlickrWhen you were younger, did well-meaning adults warn you against eating too much sugary food because “it will rot your teeth!”? I know that I grew up hearing that, but there are consequences far worse than rotting teeth that I was not warned about.

And maybe that’s because our parents just didn’t know.

About ten years ago, it was estimated that we all consumed about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, in one form or another. Recent studies suggest that the average adult consumes about 238 teaspoons of sugar a week. Almost double the amount that we were eating ten years ago.

So, what’s the deal?

Why should I give up sugar?

Why is sugar known as “The White Devil” or “The White Death”? Click To TweetBefore you continue reading this post, I’d like to divert your attention to a story that was published in the New York Times magazine in 2011. This article by Gary Taubes is food – pun intended – for thought.

The article is long, in-depth, and well worth the investment of your time. I’ll wait while you read it …

How to give up sugar

Awareness is the key. But let’s take this a step at a time.

You could try cold turkey.

The downside is that it’s a huge learning curve. You will have a ton of research to do when it comes to reading food labels and nutrition panels. You’ll need to recognize all the “cloaking” words that sugar hides under. Fructose, for instance, is “fruit sugar”, but may be considered less of a beast than refined sugar because it is surrounded by the healthiness of the fruit – the fibre, the vitamins. If you eat your fruit with seeds or nuts, that will help to lessen the impact of the fructose-induced insulin spike. Just don’t overdo it, OK?

Start with eliminating added sugar from your diet.

Don’t add sugar to your coffee. No more sprinkling sugar on your cereal. Avoid processed food that has artificial sweeteners added to it – diet soda, candy, doughnuts, you get the idea … If you’re reading food labels, as mentioned above – watch out for the “hidden” sugar – anything ending in -ose is an added natural sugar. Fructose, lactose, sucrose, dextrose, etc. Added artificial sugars include saccharin, xylitol, aspartame, sorbitol, malitol, etc.

Ditch the alcohol.

It’s full of sugar. It’s made of sugar. If you must drink alcohol, dry red wine is lower in sugar than most other alcoholic drinks.

Cut out the carbs.

Pretty much all refined carbohydrates convert to glucose. A refined carbohydrate is one that has been processed to the point where most of the intact grain has been removed. Examples are white bread, pasta, and white rice.

Go paleo!

Paleo dinner by sbshine @ FlickrYes, the Caveman Diet. If it wasn’t available to paleolithic man, don’t eat it! This does not mean that you have to go hunting for sabertooth tigers, or search out a roadkill brontosaurus – it just means that you can only eat what is naturally occurring “in the wild”. Or, in your backyard if you were to grow veggies and raise livestock.

Our neanderthal ancestors had no refined sugar in their diet, they did not grow grains – they foraged. And they, apparently, had no issues with obesity, or cancer, or heart disease (though I can’t vouch for their dental health or hygiene!) I honestly don’t know if cavemen kept in shape by running away from predatory dinosaurs, or if their paleo diet really did keep them healthy, but there is plenty of evidence that it’s a great food program to follow anyway.

Make your own food from scratch

Then you’ll be sure that you know what you’re eating! Frozen food, salad dressings, canned soup, packaged snacks and most over foods usually have added sugar.

How do I control the sugar cravings?

Here’s a great article full of tips on controlling cravings.

What will happen when I give up sugar?

I can’t say what your personal results will be, but people who purposely avoid sugar have reported that they:

  • Healthy body by LyndaSanchez @ FlickrLose weight
  • Sleep better
  • Have more energy
  • Focus better
  • Have healthy blood sugar levels
  • Find their food more flavorful
  • Eliminate sugar cravings
  • Enjoy real food
  • Have better dental health
  • Reduce their triglycerides
  • Normalize their blood pressure

It takes about 3 weeks for your body to become comfortable with it’s new sugar-free state. In the beginning, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. You will probably be irritable, and your head may ache. You may even feel nauseous. It’s worth persisting, and pushing through these minor discomforts – they won’t last long!

Remind yourself  – and your family – that the discomfort is only temporary, and the results are worth it. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and make sure you eat regular meals. Take a break! Rest up! You’re going to have lots of energy once you’re over this little kink in the roadmap.

Further reading: Why Sugar is the White Death