I have a love/hate relationship with sugar.
Since I was a little girl, and well into my early twenties, it’s always been something I can’t resist. Hell, until today I still struggle resisting the siren call of desserts at dinner! I know what its like to demolish a packet of cookies, or a tub of ice cream, and feel like you have no control over your body. Sugar does that to you.
White sugar is a greedy thing. All it does is take take take and it gives nothing back. In fact, all you get is a few minutes of pleasure followed by many more minutes of pain – be it physical or emotional. It’s like a bad boyfriend you just can’t seem to let go of.
To quickly explain it, sugars are basically a classification of carbohydrates. Once sugar is digested, it is absorbed in the form of glucose. Our pancreas then secretes the hormone insulin, which gets the glucose and gets it to the cells in our body to use as energy. That’s why kids tend to go mental when they have something with lots of sugar, as they are literally being given a big ol’ dose of fast energy.
The same is true for carbohydrates seen as healthy, such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, and buckwheat. The difference is the speed in which this happens, as the healthy alternatives are complex carbohydrates, so are higher in fibre, which means they don’t release sugars as quickly into our blood stream and also provide us with great nutrition.
If we eat too much sugar, the insulin will in turn convert and store the excess glucose as fat in our bodies, and while insulin is present, our bodies actually can’t burn fat, giving us that hated pudge in our mid-sections. Urgh. There is also research showing how excess sugar can not only make us insulin resistant (which can lead to diabetes) but also leptin resistant – and leptin is what tells our bodies to burn fat and also tells us when we are full.
So basically it is public enemy number one of the flat tummy, glowing skin, and healthy hair. Joy.
I’m not insane. I’m not saying you should completely forgo sugar for life (though you definitely can if you want to!), but there are better options out there: the so-called natural sweeteners.
One thing that definitely always gets under my skin though is when someone declares something “sugar-free” only to have a recipe filled with maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar. Yes, those sugars are way better than refined white sugar, but they are still a form of sugar, and so should be seen as such and used in moderation. They’re not a white card to gorge on cake – trust me, I found that out the hard way.
I definitely use natural and unrefined sugars in my baking, and for me using things like coconut sugar in cookies and maple syrup over my pancakes is still a treat. Its not something I will do every day, but when I do, I don’t feel bloated, or tired, or horrible afterwards. I don’t run around the house in a sugar-rush, and then proceed to feel all guilty and shitty about myself. They don’t spike my blood sugar levels like using greedy white sugar would, and they do contain nutrients and minerals, so they’re giving something back as well. It’s basically the ‘better than’ rule.
The scary thing is, sugar is hidden in everything now-a-days. From things like yoghurt to ketchup and mustard, to ready-made “healthy” soups and granola bars. It goes way beyond things we know to be unhealthy, like Coke or candy bars, and it’s hidden in words that aren’t evident as sugars to some people, like dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltodextrin, evaporated cane juice, and the list goes on and on. It’s pretty insane!
One thing that drives me crazy, as in makes we want to climb up the walls crazy, is baby formula and food. We’re feeding newborns formulas filled with sugar and then proceeding to giving them sugar-laden baby food, all while they’re being bombarded with treats and snack commercials full of colours, cartoons, and heroes. I mean, what kind of chance does a kid have? Babies are raised surrounded by sugar, and it is so so hard to wean off, because we become hooked on it. Food companies know this, and so they cleverly get us addicted from infancy. It’s sad, angering, and disgusting.
In the UK, you have Tesco banning sugary drinks like Ribena from their shelves, while Jamie Oliver is petitioning to impose taxes on high sugar drinks. You know what? I support both of those causes. I know many will have angry shouts of an imposing ‘nanny state’, while other will laugh and say this does not solve anything. True, it doesn’t solve the problem, but they’re baby steps in the right direction. With obesity rising everywhere, I find it immoral to just stand by and let it happen, so yep, I’ll support even the smallest change if it means ultimately leading to something that could make a big difference to millions of lives.
I’ll be doing a post on my favourite naturals sweeteners next week (I’ve even made a chart!), but in the meantime one of my the easiest and yummiest ways is just to use actual fruit, as in my Very Berry Chia Pots and my Banana, Oat, & Vanilla Protein Cookies.
If you’re got any serious concerns or worries, make sure to check with your doctor or naturopath.
Fat Chance by Dr Robert Lustig
Clean by Dr Alejando Junger
Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr