We’ve all had those days where all we want to eat are cookies, cakes, or maybe some potato chips. There is a lot of information available to us on sugar cravings, addictions, and the effect that sugar has on our bodies, but here’s a quick overview of why eating too much sugar can be dangerous, and some (hopefully) not too drastic changes that can me made to make a more wholesome, healthy life.
First of all, it’s important to understand that there are many types of sugars and sweetness, and that they can, in fact, be ranked or categorized by their “badness”. If you’re considering eating less sugar it’s good to know this, so that you can prioritize bigger offenders. Generally, your body will tell you when you have eaten enough of the simple sugar called glucose. It’s sucrose and corn syrup (the high fructose kind) that are the most dangerous to human health. Fructose is digested in the liver, meaning it’s more likely to be turned into fat. In basic terms, our brains also have difficulty telling us when we’ve had enough fructose, so your body won’t tell you that you’ve consumed enough when you’re eating high fructose foods.
Problems that come with high sugar consumption include heart failure, weight gain, insulin resistance, cancer, and liver damage. And the scary bit is that sugar is addictive. Eating sugar releases neurotransmitters in the brain, not unlike alcohol and other drugs. This explains why it feels good to eat sugar, and why our bodies continue to want more of it once we get in the habit of eating it.
North American diets are notoriously full of high sugar products, or simple carbohydrates, that your body will digest as such. Grocery stores are full of white bread, processed foods, desserts, and sugary drinks. That isn’t even to mention fast food restaurants. Around the world, people are consuming about 500 extra calories a day, simply by eating too much sugar.
If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve already figured this out. After all, plant-based, natural, organic foods are a good way to be sure to avoid refined sugars, and generally contain healthy fibers and proteins that help to control sweet cravings. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not eating sugar, though, so here is a list of seven ways to be more aware of your sugar intake:
1. Keep sugar out of the house, whenever possible. It’s as simple as that. If you find yourself eating more sugar than you’d like to be, it’s probably easiest to avoid buying products containing refined sugar or corn syrup. Replacing the white sugar in your cupboard with a natural sweetener will help as well, that way you aren’t tempted to slip some into your tea or coffee. Save the sugar for special occasions and celebratory desserts.
2. Eat fruit for dessert rather than refined goods. Nature has already provided us with plenty natural sweetness, and we need look no further than fruits and vegetables to find a nice snack of dessert. Apples and berries make great quick snacks, and even carrots can satisfy a craving with their crunch. Sprinkle a bit of lemon juice on your chopped fruit to make a refreshing fruit salad, or try making some other fruity dessert such as these popsicles.
3. Avoid refined foods and sugary beverages whenever possible. Refined and processed foods are full of disaster ingredients such as corn syrup and refined sugar (not to mention GMOs), and will only fuel addictions and cravings. Soda pop is, of course, a huge offender, and even diet sodas will keep the taste of sweets in your mouth. With so much sweetness to be found, giving this options a miss is probably your best bet.
4. Use natural sweeteners. Here’s a good breakdown of what to use when en lieu of refined white sugar.
5. Think about what your body is telling you. If you’re having a massive sugar craving, but you aren’t actually hungry, consider getting some fresh air before putting something in your mouth. If you are hungry, eat an apple while you prepare something substantial with protein and fibre to really fill your tummy. Conscious eating is important, especially once we realize how quickly we turn to sweetened, processed foods.
6. Eat regularly. Stabilizing your blood sugar is important, so eating healthy foods throughout the day will keep your body from getting into a funk. You energy levels and moods will thank you, because we all know dealing with things like cravings are that much harder when we need calories fast.
7. Don’t over do it. Eating in moderation is important, so treat yourself to a dessert every once in a while, and make it well worth it. The internet is full of amazing vegan recipes, and in many urban locations, natural food stores will have dessert sections. If you like making your own, we have some great summer recipes here.
Image Source: Lindsey B./Flickr