Okay, I have to confess, there was a time, many years ago, that a nice tall glass of Dr. Pepper and a bag of ranch flavored Doritos, followed by a handful of Twizzlers was one of my all-time favorite snacks.
Back in the day, when I had youth on my side, eating such things didn’t seem like any crime. After all, I was lean and fit, and couldn’t see any indication that the empty calories I was consuming were causing any harm. Sound familiar?
Well, needless to say, things have changed. My increasing interest in the human body led me down a path of studying health and nutrition. The more I learned, the less of the “bad” stuff I ate and the more I embraced whole foods and healthy living habits. However, the transformation was not overnight, and at times, it was not easy.
After finding out with my first daughter that I had gestational diabetes, it became clear that sugar was my enemy. After making necessary changes to my diet, I was able to control the diabetes throughout my pregnancy with food. It was at this time that I became so aware of the power of food and began making even more extreme healthy lifestyle changes.
My doctor told me that I must have a predisposition to gestational diabetes (my sister also had it), and as a result, I had a much greater chance of developing Type ll diabetes as I aged. Ugh, that hurt to hear. I ended up being borderline with my second child and with the third (I had made enough changes) I was home free—no sign of gestational diabetes at all.
Best decision I have ever made
Although I dabbled in sugar on and off through my thirties (the odd cookie here, and even a soda or two)—things really started to change as I entered my forties. I noticed a shift in my metabolism, despite a pretty intense workout plan and healthy eating.
All of a sudden, it became markedly clear that I needed to take my affair with clean eating to the next level. Not to mention the fact that I kept hearing the doctor’s voice in my ear telling me that I had a much greater chance of developing diabetes as I aged because of my bout with it when I was pregnant. That was enough to scare me straight!
So, as I entered my forties—that was almost 10 years ago now—I vowed to give up sugar entirely. So far, this has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Just a short period of time after breaking it off with this sweet villain, I had more energy, my skin was super clear, my joint inflammation decreased markedly and even my emotional state seemed more balanced. I started using raw honey, raw stevia, coconut crystals and dates for sweeteners in recipes, and my whole family benefited.
Here are a few good reasons why everyone should quit sugar:
Food manufacturers don’t want us to know what really happens to our bodies when we consume sugar. Most of us associate sugar with energy – and rightly so, it provides an immediate source of energy. However, unless you are an elite athlete, which most of us are not, this can be a major problem.
When sugar is consumed, the bonds between glucose and fructose are broken and the fructose goes straight to the liver where it is absorbed. If there is not an immediate need for energy, the fructose is stored as fat. The overconsumption of sugar also causes insulin resistance and completely turns our internal balance upside down.
In addition, every time fructose is processed, hydrogen peroxide is released inside of cells. While hydrogen peroxide on a cut may be a good thing, it spells disaster to our cells. In fact, it kills our cells and accelerates the aging process. Here are some more shocking truths about sugar:
- Sugar suppresses the immune system.
- Sugar elevates blood sugar.
- Sugar elevates blood pressure.
- Sugar disrupts mineral balance.
- Sugar disrupts digestion.
- Sugar causes tooth decay.
- Sugar contributes to obesity.
- Sugar can cause heart disease.
- Sugar can cause kidney disease.
- Sugar can cause food allergies.
- Sugar can cause depression.
- Sugar increases the risk of certain cancers.
Read labels closely
I now read labels like a hawk and try very hard to stay under the recommended six teaspoons of sugar each day. Because I eat a non-processed, whole food diet, it is pretty easy to keep track of my sugar intake. My beverage of choice is water with lemon, followed by herbal teas, kombucha and anything I can juice.
For me, the sugar I now have to watch comes from fruit—although the body knows how to handle this better than cane or high fructose corn syrup—it all still counts, especially if you have a predisposition to diabetes like me.
Eat fruit in the morning
So, what I usually do is consume three pieces of fruit each morning. Generally a banana, apple, and an orange, but sometimes I have a dish of berries or melon. That gives me my fruit fix and allows my body time to metabolize and use the fruit sugar for energy throughout the day.
Having been clean for almost ten years now, some people ask, do you miss it? I have to honestly say no. After you get through the first little bit (maybe a month or so) without it, you won’t miss it or crave it at all. There are so many great real foods out there that are either sugar-free or only contain small amounts of natural sugar that there is now, no place for the imposter in my life.
If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to give up sugar completely. You will be very surprised at how well your body bounces back once you quit. Just be very careful of all the places where sugar hides. Food manufacturers don’t want us to know it, but they sneak it in all over the place.
There are actually over 40 names for sugar, and one of the best things you can do for yourself is to become familiar with all of them. Be extra careful of drinks—even so called “healthy” drinks are often loaded with the stuff. It hides in strange places like salad dressings, condiments, bread (which you should also give up), sauces, etc…
One final bit of advice—don’t look at giving up sugar as deprivation. Think of it as the best gift you can give yourself and have fun experimenting with a vast array of nutritious and delicious whole foods. Your body will thank you.
Have you already given it up? How has your journey to living a sugar-free life been so far? I would love to hear your story.
– Susan Patterson
Susan is the Content Director at The Alternative Daily, a Certified Health Coach, Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor and Master Gardener. With an extensive knowledge of whole foods and wellness, Susan enjoys educating others on how to live healthy and sustainable lives. She presently lives off grid in the middle of the New Mexican high desert with her three children and numerous animals.