By Linsy Hilton
It’s no secret that sugar is a concern when it comes to our health. Most of us are aware that too much of the sweet stuff can put us at risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, liver issues, and unstable moods, yet we still see it pop up in so much of the foods on our supermarket shelves.
So what is sugar’s story?
SUGAR: THE LOW-DOWN
Glucose, fructose, and galactose are sugar in its simple form, as a single molecule. When these molecules merge into different combinations, they create forms such as maltose, lactose, and sucrose. Sugar technically refers to any substance that is made up of these molecules; however, it’s typically the refined version found in processed foods, fizzy drinks, and cakes that is the most harmful to your health. Packed with naturally sweet ingredients, sugar is commonly used to enrich food with flavour. The highly caloric ingredient has been a staple in cooking and our diets for thousands of years, with the first reports of humans successfully cultivating sugarcane originating in New Guinea. Soon the “sweet spice” was incorporated into Middle Eastern and Chinese cuisine, and the countries quickly jumped on the sugar trade train and established their own sugarcane plantations and productions.
Today sugar is almost everywhere we look when it comes to food. With processed foods heavily on the rise globally, sugar is hiding in more foods than many of us realise. A U.S study concluded that 74% of packaged foods sold in supermarkets included sugar as an ingredient! With scary stats like these, do we need any more reasons to opt for unprocessed foods?!
Up until the 18th century, sugar was an expensive commodity and not accessible to the general population. As plantations and productions expanded around the globe, so did sugars popularity as a food ingredient. By the 19th century, sugar was considered a necessity and commonly found in diets across the world.
Beyond its flavour and kilojoule enhancing qualities, why is sugar so frequently used as an ingredient in our food? Believe it or not, sugar serves many functions beyond satisfying your sweet tooth and fuelling your sugar high. Sugar is included as an ingredient in foods to contribute to the texture, as a preservative, to enhance flavours, and add colour and density. This means the unique role sugar plays in the production of food, apart from its role as a sweetener, is a major hurdle for food manufacturers who are actively trying to reduce the sugar content in their products or create sugar-free foods.
Before you give all sugars the boot, it’s essential to understand the role it has in our diet. The body needs sugar to operate. Sugar breaks down into glucose and is sent to our cells where it turns into energy. But don’t use that as an excuse to chow down on another chocolate bar! Sugar is also found in complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and grains. Consuming sugar in this form provides a more stable blood-sugar level than simple sugars, meaning you can still fuel your body when opting for nutrient dense foods rather than processed foods.
Though sugar has a place in our diets, it’s important to keep in mind the health risks of consumption of excess amounts of refined sugars–sometimes easier said than done, right? Sugar can be a hard vice to conquer. Studies show sugar could have an addictive effect on the brain and experts have even compared it to addictive drugs!
Blood sugar imbalances can be the primary cause of sugar cravings. Spikes in blood sugar can happen when simple sugar foods are consumed, causing the body to release insulin in an effort to stabilise the blood sugar; but if the level comes down too far, your body will crave sugar to bring it back up. Generally, this is when you will reach for the sugar-laden foods, and the vicious cycle begins. Taking a balanced approach to your diet by including plenty of protein, healthy fats, and nutrient dense foods plays an important part in stabilising your blood sugar.
NATURAL ALTERNATIVES: WHAT & HOW?
Educating ourselves about the effects of sugar is an important tool for our health and wellness. With plenty of alternatives to choose from, there’s no need to miss out on the sweeter things in life by eating natural foods when clean eating. The following are great alternatives to processed, refined sugars:
Honey: Full of antioxidants, honey is one of the easiest sugar substitutes to source and provides a robust level of sweetness. To replace one cup of sugar when baking, use two tablespoons less than one cup of honey, ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, and reduce one liquid ingredient in the recipe by three tablespoons.
Dates: Dates are an excellent substitute for sugar in baked goods and raw treats. Use two-thirds of a cup of dates to replace one cup of refined sugar when baking. Agave Nectar: Similar to honey, this plant-based sweetener is the perfect replacement for sugar in drinks and also works in salad dressings or sauces.
TAKING A BREAK
If you feel like you can’t shake the sugary stuff, a detox is the best way to combat the habit and give your body a chance to break the addiction. Taking a break from sugar is a great way to reset and could also help shift weight, reduce inflammation in the body, increase energy, and stabilise mood. An overhaul of your diet, fridge, and pantry to eliminate any refined or processed sugar is the first step to giving your body a sugar break. But if you find the idea of planning a sugar detox overwhelming, treating yourself and your body to an all-inclusive detox package with professionals is a fantastic way to kickstart your sugar-free wellness journey.
At Visit Natural Detox Resort, we take a natural approach to diet, combining raw foods, unprocessed foods, and clean eating with a holistic approach to the mind and body. Mindful movement practices such as yoga are included in our packages, ensuring your body returns to balance while it detoxes. While indulging in one of our packages, you will have The Wild Tribe Superfood Cafe on your doorstep. Here you will have access to a healthy and nutritional menu, created by a certified nutritionist and full of mouth-watering delights that will have you forgetting sugar in no time.
If you are looking for a natural detox, contact us via contact form today and kick that sugar addiction to the curb!