What's so bad?
I used to think that sugar-laden food was just "empty calories," but in reality, these foods are far worse than that. Not only do they not have any nutritional value, but the sugar actually depletes your body of nutrients as it struggles to digest and rid you of it. Your body has to deplete its own store of minerals and enzymes in order to metabolize it. This causes an inflammatory reaction in the body, which leads to an array of diseases and prematurely aged skin. What happens when you consume more sugar than your body can use? It turns to fat. Want to get rid of that extra layer around your gut, butt, or thighs? Think about cutting down the sugar.
Added sugar is everywhere, and it's addictive. You can find added sugar in nearly every prepared food in the grocery store. From the obvious sources of cookies and cakes and soda, to less obvious sources of salad dressings and tomato sauces. Once you get a taste of the sweet stuff, your body instantly craves more. It has been proven in many studies that it is as addictive as a drug. That’s why the food manufacturers love it! You literally get addicted to their food.
It may not exactly be the devil, but this stuff is pretty awful. According to one of my favorite functional doctors, Dr. Mark Hyman, “Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol) this is why it is the major cause of liver damage in this country and causes a condition called ‘fatty liver’ which affects 70 million people. The rapidly absorbed glucose triggers big spikes in insulin–our body’s major fat storage hormone. Both these features of HFCS lead to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more (source).” Please try to avoid this stuff.
Don't let the marketing fool you!
I mentioned this in my cancer post. Just because a label says "organic" or "all-natural" doesn't mean it is good for you. Let's compare a can of Coke with a "healthy" bottle of fancy juice you find in the produce aisle...you know, one of the green ones that looks like kale, and it also says "no sugar added" on the label so it has to be good for you? Coca-Cola has 3.25 grams of sugar per ounce. This “healthy” juice has 3.5 grams per ounce – yes, more sugar per ounce than the soda.
One of those 15.2 oz. bottles (which is just one serving) has 53 GRAMS OF SUGAR (that’s 13.25 teaspoons worth), with 0 fiber and 0 fat to help slow down the digestive process of that sugar hitting your system.
Do you think you might experience a slight sugar crash after drinking this stuff? You betcha! If you want to get the benefits of all the vitamins and minerals that are also included, take your whole fruits and vegetables, and blend them in a high-powered blender.
I hear what some people are thinking now: “OK, Melissa, you’ve sold me on the toxic effects of sugar. But don’t worry…I only eat ‘sugar-free’ foods and diet soda.” No. No. No. Artificial sweeteners are actually worse than the added sugar.
Here are the most common artificial sweeteners:
- Aspartame (brand name: Equal® or NutraSweet®)
- Sucralose (brand name: Splenda®)
- Saccharine (brand name: Sweet'N Low®)
None of the other artificial sweeteners are any better. When there are health disclaimers that legally have to be added to your box of artificial sweetener, you know there is an issue. Seriously. Just.say.no.
I wouldn’t leave you without some good news, would I? Here are some sweet foods you can work on incorporating into your diet:
- Raw honey: This sweetener has all kinds of beneficial antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties. It contains minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, many B vitamins and vitamin C. Great to put directly on wounds or consume for hangovers.
- Dates: these little fruits may not exactly look pretty, but they pack a nutritional punch! They are loaded with fiber, tannins (anti-inflammatory, anti-hemorrhagic), beta carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin (helps with age-related macular degeneration), iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, copper, magnesium, B vitamins and Vitamin K.
- Other natural sweeteners: pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses
- Whole fruits and vegetables: sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, any whole fruit. Try roasting these foods – it will bring the sweetness out even more.
- Have you been eating foods loaded with salt? Salty foods can induce a craving for a "balancing" taste of sweetness.
- Are your emotions dictating your craving? Feeling alone? Call a friend to chat. Bored? Go for a walk. Eating just to eat (sitting in front of the TV)? Limit your time here – pick up a book, take up coloring, cleaning, knitting or anything that keeps your hands out of the cookie jar.
- Are you getting enough water? I can’t stress this enough. Dehydration can make us think we are hungry. Drink more water.