Of all the processed foods that can infiltrate our lives, one of the most addictive is refined sugar.
Refined sugar leads to harmful sugar addictions because it causes rapid spikes in insulin and blood sugar, and is very disruptive to the healthy functioning of the brain and gut microbiome.
All of these factors contribute to a range of common health problems, including:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Cardiovascular Disease and;
- Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
When it comes to inflammation and dis-ease in the body, there is no bigger culprit than refined sugar.
And sadly for the past 50 years, the food industry has utilised refined sugar as a staple ingredient to profit from highly addictive products such as white bread, breakfast cereals, energy bars, cookies, cakes, confectionary, frozen foods and soft drinks.
Refined sugar is so prolific in today's supermarket foods, that it's estimated that the average person inadvertently consumes upwards of 20 teaspoons of refined sugar per day without even realising it.
Sugar addiction is difficult to break because the appetite for sugar becomes so strong that the individual is constantly searching for the "energy hit". In other words, it becomes a vicious cycle that's tough to break, similar to how a drug addict is always on the look out for the next "hit" just to keep them going.
Processed and refined sugar is causing an inflammatory lifestyle disease epidemic that impacts the body - not just physically - but mentally and emotionally as well.
Why Not All Sugar is Actually Bad
The first thing to realise about sugar, is that not all sugar is bad or created equal.
In our blog, The Truth About Sugar, we reveal how in simple terms there are really only two types of sugar that exist. However, each of these sugars act very differently in the body because they have fundamentally different compositions and characteristics.
The two types of sugar are:
1. Man-Made Sugar - These sugars are mostly refined versions of what was originally a natural sugar, that have been artificially or synthetically processed in some way. This refining process, dramatically reduces the molecular size of the sugars, turning them into "fast sugars".
The most common example of a man-made sugar is refined white sugar, which was originally sugar cane but has been chemically tweaked to form the harmful white crystal product known as table sugar. Another example are artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, which may have a sweet taste and no calories, but is actually very disruptive to the body and brain.
Fast sugars cause blood sugar spikes, short bursts of energy and can eventually wear out the pancreas because it causes it to constantly pump out insulin.
Fast sugars also upset the terrain or ecology of the gut and the energy function in the cell mitochondria, which ultimately leads to chronic lifestyle conditions like diabetes, obesity and chronic fatigue syndrome.
2. Plant-Made Sugar - Plant made sugars are whole unrefined sugars that occur in nature and which have not been refined in any way. Good examples include, whole seasonal fruits, vegetables and certain whole grains which convert to glucose (a form of sugar) in the blood stream for energy production.
The sugar molecules in these naturally occurring sugars are much larger and more complex, hence they run slowly through the blood stream. This is why the term "complex carbohydrates" or "slow sugars".
When you understand the key distinction between harmful sugar and healthy sugar it changes the paradigm and how you look at sweet foods.
One delivers nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals and cellular energy, whilst the other causes chaos in the body and addictions in the brain.
Examples of Refined Sugars
As mentioned, the most obvious example of refined sugar is white crystal table sugar.
However, refined sugar can also be disguised as these chemical aliases, particularly in packaged food ingredients:
- Corn Syrup
- High-fructose Corn Syrup
- Malt syrup
The Negative Health Effects of Refined Sugar
Refined sugars raise blood pressure and cause a chemical response in the brain that tells the pancreas that there is chaos in the body and to release insulin.
The sudden burst of insulin in the blood stream generally gives a temporary burst of energy, but then quickly crashes making you feel lethargic.
This process also tells the body to lay down fat to protect itself. Refined sugar also can cause the brain to atrophy or shrink, reducing blood flow to the brain, which ultimately leads to cognitive decline and the development of vascular dementia.
Some of the most common effects of ongoing refined sugar consumption are:
- Rapid weight gain
- Fatigue and adrenal weakness
- Hyperactivity and mood swings
- Skin reactions
- Gut inflammation, including candida and yeast infections
- Lowered immunity
- Intestinal parasites ...and
- Teeth cavities.
Artificial sweeteners are even worse for your health than white sugar because they contain known neurotoxins that disrupt healthy brain function.
Artificial sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame are not meant for your body.
They provide no beneficial nutrients and are known to cause nerve degeneration, mental fog, headaches, irregular sleep/wake cycles, anxiety and depression.
Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms
One of the challenges with overcoming sugar addictions is that you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms as you cut back your sugar intake. Common reactions include:
- Cravings & Hunger Pangs
- Muscle Aches...and
The important thing to realise, is that this is your body's way of detoxifying itself from the addiction and these reactions will eventually subside.
The worst thing you can do is relapse back into overeating processed sugar again to deal with your cravings.
The sugar addiction has been formed over a long period of time and will take a little time to alleviate before you no longer desire processed sugar any more.
How to Reduce Sugar Cravings
Giving up refined sugar doesn't necessarily mean giving up your sweet tooth.
However, as your cells become more nourished, you will generally experience less sugar cravings.
The best way to reduce harmful sugar cravings is to start to move away from the addictive versions and towards wholesome and whole food sweeteners.
Healthy Natural Sugar Substitutes
Raw Organic Honey
Raw Honey is a natural go-to sweetener that is the perfect substitute to refined sugar. Honey is a natural antibacterial, anti fungal food that is loaded with antioxidants and is one of the healthiest, mineral-rich foods you can eat. Look for local sources at your weekend farmer's market or from your whole food store.
Organic Maple Syrup
Made from the sap of black or red maple trees, maple syrup is loaded with antioxidants, minerals and has numerous anti-inflammatory qualities.
Characterised by an earthy, sweet taste, maple syrup is a delightful plant-based substitute for harmful sugars for use in raw deserts and as an addition to homemade oatmeal (porridge) and smoothies. You will find good brands of organic maple syrup at your local health food store.
Packed with phytonutrients, Medjool Dates are nature's unprocessed sweetener and are also rich in dietary fibre and immune-boosting qualities.
Delightfully soft in texture, add pitted medjool dates to your smoothie and raw dessert recipes before you blend.
Medjool Dates are also a wonderful energising snack food to eat with raw macadamia nuts, walnuts or almonds.
Organic Green Stevia
Stevia is a natural sweetener that does not spike blood sugar and reduces the craving for sweets and fatty foods. However, when choosing Stevia, be sure to only look for organic green stevia, which unlike white stevia, has not been chemically processed.
Steviosides, the principle sugar molecule component of stevia, pass through the alimentary canal without being altered by digestive processes, demonstrating remarkable stability.
The sugar molecules pass through the gastrointestinal tract and are not absorbed into the blood, producing no calories.
Preliminary research indicates that stevia may actually reset the hunger mechanism in people where the pathway between the hypothalamus and the stomach has become obstructed. In other words, it clears the communication pathway between the stomach and the brain, reducing hunger sensations faster. Stevia is another common product you'll find in good health food stores.
Whole Summer Fruits
Nothing beats the juicy natural sweetness of whole summer fruits that are in season.
And some of the best for satisfying sweet cravings or adding wholesome sweetness to desserts and/or smoothies, include:
Fresh berries, bananas and mango chunks are ideal kept frozen in small bags for later use in smoothies for convenience.
Additionally, the whole dried fruits in our handcrafted Raw Food Pulse provide a delightful sweetness that satisfies hunger pangs and sweet cravings that may show up in between meals or throughout your day.
The Main Takeaway
The human body relies on a certain amount of sugar for energy and body function, but the type of sugar you eat is crucial to your overall health and wellbeing.
Remember, not all sugars are created equal.
In fact, sugars that have been refined and chemically processed are extremely harmful to the body and should be avoided.
The good news is that nature provides a wonderful selection of whole foods that satisfy sweet cravings and provide wholesome energy to your body and cells.
Don't be fearful of sugar or give up sweet things. Just stick to the nature-made unrefined varieties of sweet foods and you'll be doing the best for your health and you'll go a long way to avoiding the diseases we've highlighted here that refined sugar is known to cause.
Tolman Self Care.