We all know that sugar and artificial sweeteners in our diet should be kept to a minimum. Sugar and artificial sweeteners can be tricky to notice in your food because they are often disguised by other names. I am sharing some great info regarding sugar and sugar alternatives. The good, the bad and the ugly plus 15+ sugar free meals to help you make the switch away from sugar.
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The Truth About Sugar
To start here are a few not so fun facts regarding sugar:
- the daily recommendation of sugar intake is no more than 6 tsp per day. The average American adult consumes 22 tsp of sugar per day. The average child consumes 32 tsp of sugar per day. (Added sugar, not necessarily natural occurring sugar)
- eating or drinking too much sugar can weaken the lining of the gut, which can then allow toxins to pass through into the body’s circulation and eventually make their way to organs like the brain, where they can affect memory, mood and behavior.
- when you drink fruit juice or sodas the fructose is converted in the liver to fat. This fat can build up in the liver causing fatty liver disease. This fat also gets released and transported around the body. This contributes to lipid build up in the blood, which can lead to heart disease.
- did you know that food companies often add sweeteners to mask the taste of other chemicals and preservatives and to enhance preservability.
- consuming unhealthily processed foods like baked goods and soda which are loaded with refined and added sugar floods the brain with too much glucose. This ‘sugar flood’ can lead to inflammation in the brain and may result in depression.
- when your blood sugar is high, it causes inflammation and damages your immune system. A high glycemic diet raises blood sugar rapidly and puts you at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It also makes you feel tired and depressed.
- one in two Americans has pre diabetes or type 2 diabetes, and 75% are overweight. This is from the amount of sugar and flour we consume, which leads to high glucose and insulin. This drives excess calories into fat cells and causes inflammation. In women too much insulin turns estrogen into testosterone and can lead to PCOS. In men the testosterone converts to estrogen which is why men who have big bellies often have “man boobs” and lose their hair.
Now that we see why sugar can pose such a health risk let’s also look at the artificial sweeteners that are suggested as alternatives but in reality are no better.
Learn The Truth About Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners aren’t just simply a replacement for granulated sugar; it’s much more complicated than that. Artificial sweeteners can sometimes have adverse effects on your body.
If you’re thinking of cutting back on sugar, but want to try artificial sweeteners, here’s what you need to know.
Names And Types of Artificial Sweeteners
The first thing to understand is that they might go by some different names. You can typically find them on the ingredients list of foods or drinks you are consuming, usually ones that claim to be diet or sugar-free. For example, do you enjoy adding Splenda as a natural sugar-free option to your coffee? Well, it is not natural: it’s an artificial sweetener known as sucralose. Some others include aspartame (Equal), saccharin (sweet ‘n low), and D-Tagatose. Simply put, just about anything ending in ‘one’ is an artificial sweetener.
They Are Not the Same as Added Sugar
One of the common misconceptions is that artificial sweeteners are added sugars. This is sometimes the case, but not always. There are also healthier and natural versions of added sugars, including maple syrup and honey. These aren’t really bad for you, but still have a lot of the same effects as sugar. Artificial sweeteners are only the manmade sweeteners that don’t come from any natural sources. This also means that sweeteners like Stevia are not included, since it comes from a plant.
Artificial Sweeteners Affect Everyone Differently
While the American Heart Association has approved using artificial sweeteners in moderation to replace sugar and help with some of sugary side effects, some people don’t react well to them. There are people who might end up with stomach aches and digestive issues, headaches, and many other side effects. It is important to test out one artificial sweetener at a time to see how your body reacts to it. You might do better with more of a natural sweetener, or none at all. You’ll be surprised at how you can learn to go without sugar once you decide to remove it from your day to day.
Final Note About Artificial Sweeteners
Like anything you consume, these may affect you completely differently than someone else. If you are trying to reduce your fructose intake because of pre-diabetes or weight control issues, they can be a great alternative for some added sweetness to baked goods or coffee. However, they should not be relied on to just keep eating the same types of foods as you were before, with the same amount of sweetness. With a sugar detox, they should be avoided first to see how your body reacts to having no added sugars whatsoever.When you do decide to remove sugar you may go through detox and withdrawal symptoms that are normal and not pleasant, so don’t let that uncomfortable feeling surprise you.
Stages Of A Sugar Withdrawal Detox
There are many reasons why you might want to embark on a sugar detox, but before you do, you should know what to expect. Your body and mind will go through many changes, because, after all, sugar is addictive! You should be aware of the stages during this withdrawal period. If you rely on sugar-laden foods, you may be impacted by many of these stages.
Note: before beginning any major change in your diet, please consult your doctor.
When your body discovers it is not getting the same amount of sugar as it is used to, cravings will occur. Cravings are a common stage during a sugar detox and may manifest itself as headaches. It may occur immediately, a few days into your detox or a week or so later. Much depends on how much sugar you were consuming before starting the sugar detox diet.
When you abruptly quit something, be it sugar, smoking or consuming caffeine, you may have experienced withdrawal headaches. This may happen to you with a sugar detox. It’s important to remember that these headaches will eventually pass, so stay strong! If you give up and give in by consuming sugar just to get rid of the cravings and headache, you’ll just have to go through these withdrawal symptoms the next time you try the detox.
- Aches and Pains
You may experience aches and pains the further you get into the sugar withdrawal period. Not everyone will experience this, but if you do, it’s just another stage of the detox. You may experience leg cramps or other physical discomforts, which may be your body’s way of reacting to the lack of sugar. If the aches and pains are severe, discuss this with your doctor.
- Mood Swings
As you get further along in your sugar detox, you may become aware of mood swings. Irritability can be because you’re still having headaches or body aches. If you’re still craving sugar, your mood can also be affected. Your mind will try to rationalize why you should have sugar while you’re trying to resist. This can definitely cause mood swings. As your body and brain realize you aren’t going to give in, this will eventually pass.
- Body Shakes and Trembling
If you’ve ever had too much caffeine and started to shake and tremble, lack of sugar in the body can have a similar effect. If you experience this and are uneasy about it, talk with your doctor to rule out other possible causes.
Ways to Help Transition from Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Those stages of detox probably sound horrible. But don’t let that deter you. The benefits to quitting sugar are definitely worth the short term discomfort. When you are detoxing from sugar there are a few things that may actually help with the uncomfortable feeling that comes with it. For starters, make sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. One thing that has been said to help with headaches are blueberries, or wild blueberry juice. So grab those natural little antioxidants and dig in.
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Finding ways to create healthy meals that don’t include sugar may also feel challenging. Here are some tasty sugar free meals and sides to get you started: