With Valentine's day upon us it can be easy to overdose on an array of refined sugar products disguised in cute little heart shape packages and gifts. While there's nothing wrong with keeping life sweet and happy with a little sugar now and again, the main issue arises when we consume too much of the white stuff, most of the time without even realising, and many times while believing we are making healthy eating choices.
Good Sugar, Bad Sugar?
Unfortunately, there's nothing good about refined sugar and everything good about eliminating it from your diet, be it slowly making small changes each day, or either as part of a controlled cleanse, healthy holiday or detox. This is one of the key concepts at the core of our five day programme at Yeotown, my lifestyle retreat in Devon. Each and every week I get to see how cutting out sugar really does help bolster energy levels and how your body really will thank you for it. More importantly science is now saying the same thing.
In fact, science has gone even further and now suggests that most people eating a typical 21st Century and sugar-rich diet are actually (and often without realising it) sugar addicts. We know this is not an easy addiction to kick and the scientists are now backing up what we've seen in practice. In fact French scientists in Bordeaux report that in animal trials, rats will choose sugar over cocaine - even when they are addicted to cocaine.
The trouble with giving in to that sugar craving is that whilst it will give you an instant high and a sudden energy boost, this is followed by an equally dramatic crash which sets up the cycle of craving sugar to remedy the crash, leaving you consuming more and more. Sugar is a mood-altering substance so as well as insidiously draining you of energy and leaving you feeling exhausted, it can also make you feel anxious and ill-tempered.
Places Where They Hide The Sugar
You may find it hard to believe you are one of those average people consuming more than 200 teaspoons of refined sugar each and every week but that's only because the bulk of this weekly intake is HIDDEN in foods. Here are just some foods you might be surprised to learn are loaded with sugar:
Almost all 'low fat' foodstuffs, including low fat yoghurts (these would taste like cardboard without the high sugar content)
To be honest, refine sugar is now so deeply embedded in our food chain, this list really could (alarmingly) go on and on and on ....
How About Sweeteners?
Saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, sucralose...these may seem like the healthy alternative to refined white sugar but don't be fooled because they come with their own health risks including an overall risk they can 'desensitise' you to sweetness meaning healthier sweet food options don't taste as sweet as they would have if you were not using sweeteners. Plus, the only natural low calorie sweetener that has been approved by the FDA is stevia... so that's none of those at the start of this list.
The Good News
Once the body gets used to it, most people say they feel much better and have much more energy after they cut refined sugar from their diets. It is also proven that a sugar addiction, while the hardest one to let go of, it is also the easiest one to stay off of once you crack the habit. Plus there are so many healthier, and in some cases sweeter, refined sugar free alternatives you can use such as maple syrup, honey, dates, molasses and fruit. Not such bad replacements indeed!