Its effects on your body and how to wean yourself off with sugar alternatives.
Let’s talk about sugar: its history, its effects on your body, and how to wean yourself off with sugar alternatives. However, the bottom line about sugar, and, to lay it out straight, sugar is highly addictive, nutrient-depleting, immune- suppressing food for bacteria, viruses and tumors. Yes, it is so devilishly sweet, but so are many other things.
Years ago, I read an article from a doctor speaking about sugar addiction with a patient. He broached the subject of why she craved so many sweets. She had no response. He decided to dig a little deeper and discovered that she was craving sweets because she did not have enough sweetness in her life. This revelation allowed her to make significant changes in her life, get off her sugar high and more on a life high. I plan to talk about this amongst other things but first, I will tell you a little bit about the history of sugar.
It is believed that sugar cane was discovered in India during the invasion of India from Persia. At this time, sugar cane was described as the: “reed which gives honey without bees.”
Sugar was kept secret for nearly 1000 years when it eventually made it to America via Europe and North Africa by Christopher Columbus.
The Processing of Sugar
Sugar, sucrose, is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in every fruit and vegetable. Sugar appears in the most significant quantities in sugar cane and sugar beets, from which it is separated for commercial use.
In the first stage of processing, the natural sugar stored in the cane stalk or beet root is separated from the rest of the plant material by physical methods. For sugar cane, this is accomplished by:
a) pressing the cane to extract the juice containing the sugar
b) boiling the juice until it begins to thicken and sugar begins to crystallize
c) spinning the sugar crystals in a centrifuge to remove the syrup, producing raw sugar; the raw sugar still contains many impurities
d) shipping the raw sugar to a refinery where it is washed and filtered to remove remaining non-sugar ingredients and packaging the refined sugar.
Beet sugar processing is similar but done in one continuous process without the raw sugar stage. The sugar beets are washed, sliced and soaked in hot water to separate the sugar-containing juice from the beet fibre. The sugar-laden liquid is purified, filtered, concentrated and dried in a series of steps similar to cane sugar processing.
Is sugar so bad?
This processing strips away all the nutrients – fibre, vitamins, minerals, protein, fat – that the original plant had to offer.
In addition, excess sugar creates havoc in the body:
- inflammation, depresses the immune system
- has no nutrient value
- robs the body of nutrients
- contributes to chronic diseases, heart disease and obesity
How to beat your sugar habit:
Many people eat sugar to give them that ” sugar high,” therefore, I don’t always suggest people go cold turkey with sugar. I suggest weaning off using sugar alternatives and working on other aspects of their life to give them the energy they desire.
- Sleep 8 hours and be aware of how you feel when you wake
- Eat whole colourful foods and packed with fibre
- Exercise everyday
- Drink more water and/or herbal tea
One crucial thing I mention to all of my patients is that the body likes structure. By structure, I mean:
- going to bed at the same time
- waking up at the same time
- eating at the same time
A few sweetener alternatives have very minimal refining or processing and are nutrient-rich.
In almost every town, you can find a beekeeper; if you have kids, they will LOVE to go to the farm and learn all about the bees, as they are truly fascinating! Raw honey is packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and enzymes that aid digestion. For this reason, I do not use honey in baked goods; I do not want to destroy the enzymes during heating.
A side note: Honey is also anti-microbial. Raw honey contains propolis, also referred to as bee glues act as a barrier against bacteria in the beehive. This substance helps boost and protect our immune systems.
Dark Maple Syrup
I had a friend who lived on a farm with maple trees as a kid. Every fall, we would spend the day collecting the syrup from the trees and making it into a delicious syrup.
A side note: Manganese and zinc are the two powerful nutrients in maple syrup. Manganese is a mineral that aids in fighting free radicals, mostly in our cell’s mitochondria, where our body’s energy is made. Maple syrup also has a good amount of zinc which not only supports the immune system but plays a vital role in the health of the blood vessels in our heart.
Date or Coconut Sugar
Date and coconut sugar are suitable substitutions for brown sugar as the tastes are similar.
A side note: Both contain a good amount of potassium which will help reduce hypertension, regulate blood sugar levels and aid in transmitting nerve impulses.
People ask me about stevia all the time. Stevia is a natural sweetener from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana, and it has 50 to 300 times the sweetness of sugar! Since it is absorbed in a different part of the digestive system, stevia does not impact glucose blood levels.
It is a great alternative; however, it does have a strong herbal taste. I don’t mind it, yet many people react adversely to the flavour.