Cut Sugar. Reclaim Health.
Sugar may be one of the worst substances for the human form. It has very little nutritive value and, when consumed in excess, contributes to countless disease processes such as addiction, obesity and diabetes, heart disease, cancer and mood disorders such as anxiety, ADD/ADHD, and depression. I believe that everyone would be well served by a diet low, if not devoid, of added sugars.
Sugar can be classified as either that which is naturally found in food, what many call “natural sugars”, or that which is added during the food production process, often known as “added sugars”. Natural sugars are found mostly in fruit and vegetables and are okay when they are they are consumed “packaged” in their whole food source. Added sugars are those that are extracted from whole foods or are the product of chemical manipulation in a laboratory. Although too much of either kind may be a bad idea, I believe that added sugars are the real culprit in the increased prevalence of all the conditions mentioned above.
With regards to what you might see on a food label, some of the most common added sugars include: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrin, dextrose, maltose, sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose, maltodextrin, and xylose. Added sugars extracted from natural sources that can also be harmful when consumed in excess, include: agave nectar, barley malt syrup, beet sugar, rice syrup, cane sugar, coconut sugar, coconut palm sugar, honey, maple syrup, palm sugar, raw sugar, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, and evaporated or dehydrated can juice.
Whether they are produced in a lab or extracted from natural sources, food manufactures utilize added sugars in order to increase palatability and heighten reward. Many assert that the increased use of added sugars is the result of the low-fat craze where food processors have to compensate for the absence of highly-rewarding fats by adding obnoxious amounts of highly-rewarding sugars so that consumer taste preferences are still met and product sales are maintained.
Related Article: Alcoholism and Blood Sugar Management.
I can tell you that sugar is bad all day long, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least attempt to explain why within the context of the human physiology – the scientific study of how our cells, muscles, and organs work together as a function to the whole integrated behavior of the entire body.
The body responds to the consumption of sugar by spitting out large amounts of insulin. Insulin helps move sugar out of our blood and into our cells. This is, of course, a good thing. Sugar fuels cellular activity, which better allows us to produce energy and run, jump, lift, push, pull, and do all the other fun things we like to do with our time. Unfortunately, when the body consistently spits out large amounts of insulin in response to the consumption of large amounts of added sugars, it can become desensitized to the effect that insulin is supposed to produce allowing sugar to roam free in the blood stream where it can cause all sorts of damage.
Related article: The Effects of Sugar on Alcohol Cravings and Relapse.
Sugar has many long-term implications for health (see above), but it can also be extremely harmful over relatively short periods of time such as over a period of a couple days or even within hours of consumption. Sugar is a highly stimulating substance that can cause dramatic swings in mood and energy and may even set the body of an addict up for cravings, symptoms of withdrawal, and, ultimately, drug or alcohol use.
Dramatically reducing or completely eliminating sugar intake is a sure-fire way to improve health and wellbeing. However, that easier said than done in a food system based upon convenience that is saturated with highly processed, sugar-laden foods.
All is not lost, my friends. Here are a few simple strategies for reducing sugar consumption and reclaiming your health and wellbeing.
- Eat a breakfast rich in protein and healthy fats. Protein and fat are more satiating than carbohydrate heave foods and stabilize blood sugar so that we are less likely to reach for a sweet treat when our energy levels dip.
- Eat early and often. Better manage blood sugar by eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
- Favor whole, unprocessed foods. Real foods that are consumed in a form close to that which it is grown or raised contain a complex array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which keep blood sugar steady and promote proper organ function.
- Get the right amount of sleep. Getting an ample amount of sleep revitalizes the body and will help prevent cravings for food that stimulate the body and mind.
- Eliminate stress. Stress (http://twelvewellness.com/the-science-of-stress-and-addiction/) is known to contribute to poor dietary decision making and makes the body more susceptible to cravings for foods that stimulate the body or comfort the soul.
- Don’t deprive yourself of a little “healthy” sugar during holidays or other celebratory moments. In the right context, a little sugar can have a tremendously therapeutic effect and may actually make special occasions more enjoyable and memorable. Besides, nobody likes an orthorexic (http://twelvewellness.com/orthorexia-nervosa-and-recovering-from-a-healthy-diet/), right?
Life is not a zero-sum game. It is meant to be enjoyed. If that means the inclusion of a little sugar every once in a while, by all means go for it. However, too much sugar can increase disease risk dramatically and should never be a substantial component of any healthy diet. Like they say, “enjoy responsibly.”