We all know, more or less, that sugar is bad for us and that manufactures put it in pretty much everything they can because, as consumers, we have developed an insatiable need for more and more sugar to make our tastebuds happy. This isn’t really news to you, I’m guessing.
But, just how bad is sugar, really?
Well, research shows that refined sugar is associated with weight gain, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, and depression, among others. <— NONE of those are good things.
But, let’s clear one thing up: It’s actually not SUGAR, by itself, that is the main problem here.
Stay with me, here…
I propose we need to rethink how we approach our viewpoint on sugar.
Just like the demonized calories and carbs, sugar gets a bad wrap that is not necessarily deserving. “Real” sugar — the kind that exists in natural foods, like fruits, vegetables, and milk, to name a few — actually satisfies a legitimate nutritional and functional purpose in our bodies. Yep: sugar is something that exists in natural, whole foods and it provides our bodies with energy. Energy is good, in this sense.
Wanna see how I go a whole day without refined sugars and still love the food I eat?
What’s NOT good is that us sweet tooth freaks have (myself totally included), over time, developed a certain need for sweeter and sweeter things. Couple that with becoming addicted to sweet stuff and you got yourself a gold mine, if you’re a manufacturer selling sweet foods. This has led to processing sugar (i.e. high fructose corn syrup, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and so on) into what we now have in most of the packaged foods out there.
These highly (highly highly highly x10,000) refined forms of sugar are no longer taken from a fruit or a bean or a vegetable. When we consume those real foods, the naturally occurring sugar enters our bloodstream slowly as we digest the food and all the other nutrients provided by those foods. This is what we WANT.
Refined sugars, on the other hand, don’t work in our bodies in the same way. They are pure energy from the very start – no need to digest and process the fibrous tissue of an apple to get your naturally occurring sugar. Instead, you get a shot of the straight sugar without any chance of slowing it down. This is NOT what we want. Over time, this will put such a toll on our bodies and our organs will start to fail (i.e. Diabetes, heart disease, etc.).
So, how can we quit PROCESSED sugar, then?
The good news is you can totally do this. I did. Many others have.
And it’s as glorious as it sounds. BUT, there are some steps I recommend you take to be successful. Let me share the 7 steps I took for how to quit sugar and work towards a refined sugar free life and how you can, too!
Step 1: Read your nutrition labels.
This is possibly the most important thing you can do to take charge of what foods you’re putting into your body. For any drink, cereal, package, energy bar, or whatever prepared food you purchase at the grocery store, read the label. What is this going to tell you? Everything!
Most of us, after reading the label and seeing high fructose corn syrup as one of the top 5 ingredients in the list would realize that food probably isn’t a good choice. But, what if you saw brown sugar, fruit juice, malt syrup, or organic cane juice? Would you stop and think this is just as bad?
Because, despite how much nicer they may sound, they’re still forms of refined sugar.
Another very easy way to spot sugar in the nutrition labels is by recognizing the “-ose” suffix. So, when you see words that end in -ose, like sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, galactose, high fructose corn syrup, etc., there’s a good chance it is sugar.
Step 2: Choose healthier, more real sources of sugar.
Like I mentioned before, sugar exists in whole foods, like beans, vegetables, and fruits. Sugar provides us with energy and is not a bad thing if consumed in moderation from whole foods and within a well-balanced diet. There are several healthier alternatives to adding sweeteners to your food. They are the following:
- Coconut Palm Sugar – this sugar is actually sap from the coconut palm which is heated and evaporated which reduces it to granules. Coconut sugar is nutritious and has a low score on the glycemic index (which essentially means it doesn’t tax your body and make you crash after giving you a sugar rush). Coconut sugar tastes similar to brown sugar, but slightly richer. (Here are some recipes that use coconut sugar).
- Raw Honey – is simply honey that has not been filtered or pasteurized so it includes beeswax, royal jelly, bee pollen and propolis (a substance collected by honeybees from tree buds, used to fill crevices and seal honeycombs.). Raw honey is pretty awesome. It’s used by many cultures as a remedy for ailments, including ulcers, digestion problems, and as an antibiotic. Raw honey contains antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes. Make sure to look for raw in the name, as processed honey has no such health benefits. A honey simply labelled as un-pasteurized is likely filtered, but hasn’t been heated. It would not be considered raw because it has been filtered and had the royal jelly, beeswax, bee pollen, and propolis removed. (Here are some recipes that use raw honey).
- Pure Maple Syrup – contains beneficial nutrients, lower Glycemic Index score (so not as harmful to liver), helps with digestion, and contains antioxidants. When used in appropriate amounts, pure maple syrup benefits can lower inflammation, supply nutrients, and better manage blood sugar. (Here are some recipes that use pure maple syrup).
While these three better-for-you sugars do contain many more health benefits than processed sugar, I want to stress they are all still…sugar. Therefore, make sure you consume them in moderation.
For more recipe ideas that use only unrefined ingredients, grab my free one day cleanse to get started today!
Step 3: Beware of artificial sweeteners.
Many people turn to artificial sweeteners when trying to avoid excess sugar in their diets. While many consider these type of zero calorie sweeteners “safe” or “guilt-free,” they’re not helping you one bit. No, they don’t contain calories, but they also don’t contain any nutritional value so your body wants more and more of them, thinking the sweetness will provide you, at least, with energy, which it never does so you’re left craving more and more sweets. You are still used to highly sweetened food and this is what you need to move away from. Artificial sweeteners can also increase your cravings for sugar and carbs and they can deplete your body’s store of chromium, which is a crucial nutrient in blood-sugar metabolism. There’s a reason why diet soda is highly correlated to weight gain and obesity.
For all you Stevia lovers out there, the same goes for Stevia. Forget the notion that “natural” sweeteners that contain zero calories are actually good for you. Yes, the stevia plant contains green leaves that are naturally very sweet and calorie-free. However, the extracts and powders you can purchase in the grocery store have very little to do with the original plant. Stevia, as an extract, is highly processed and only contributes to your continued dependency on needing more and more sweets.
Step 4: Identify the main culprit.
We all have one type of food or drink that is probably the most major of all the culprits of our continued dependency on processed sugar. Maybe you are a sweet coffee drinker. Maybe you love your Dr. Pepper. Maybe you sneak a candy bar every day at 2:30pm to get you through the afternoon at work. It’s likely this one culprit that scares you about letting go of processed sugar and quitting for good. It’s also likely this one culprit that is holding you back from reaching your health-related goals.
Each change you make during this process of quitting processed sugars will help you with the next change. Attacking this main culprit head-on will certainly work to help you remove the need for sweets within the rest of your diet. Start looking at that “treat” as your ball and chain to sugar. Get rid of it and you’ll be soooo much better off – I promise.
Step 5: Start to remove sugar from your home.
It all needs to go. Otherwise, it will be there for you when you’re feeling week and just want to give up. If you don’t have it, you won’t eat it. Donate, give away, or throw away all processed sugar from your home. That means sugary cereals (and even many of the so-called healthy cereals you think you purchased), candy, cookies, granulated sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc. You won’t be needing those anymore.
A note on fruit juices. Yes, they are made from from fruit. NO, they aren’t good for you. Believe it or not, they actually contain the same amount of sugar as a can of soda. While the sugar is natural sugar, not added sugar, it still is a show to your system and is too much sugar to be combining at one time. Instead, opt for eating a piece of fruit instead of drinking what is essentially 3-4 pieces of fruit very rapidly.
Also (and this goes along with reading your nutrition labels) check your condiments, pasta sauces, fruit juices, barbecue sauces, breads, and so on for lurking sugar. You’ll be surprised with just how much hidden sugars you’ll find. There are so many ways to make the foods you love WITHOUT refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup.
Step 6: Make it a transition.
If you’re ready to jump right in and start taking action, that’s great — you can try out my free one day cleanse to finally kick that sugar habit.
For others, change can be very scary and difficult for us to swallow, especially when we consider the years and years we’ve likely been addicted to refined sugars. Start small, take baby steps, and keep moving towards removing refined sugars from your diet. Each teaspoon of sugar you remove a day, the better off you’ll be.
As much as you may want to throw everything out and quit for good, that is not always the best choice because we have habits and routines and likes that will all be unhappy and thrown out of whack. Instead, make the transition gradual to the point where you don’t even feel like you’re working to remove anything. Then, one day, you’ll not even feel like that extra soda or white mocha latte or cookie. Your body and mind are capable of amazing things – so stop letting sugar control them and take charge!
Step 7: Just start.
One of the most common complaints I hear from men and women trying to get healthy is how they just can’t get past their addiction to sugar, Their sweet tooth is just too strong and is always sabotaging them from reaching their health and weight goals. They’re worried they’ll never be able to eat ice cream again, enjoy chocolate, sip a sweet latte, or have pancakes with syrup again. They focus on all the things they’ll lose and this is terrifying and keeps them from taking that jump into quitting sugar.
How To Quit Sugar
But, instead of thinking about all the things you love that you’ll lose by quitting sugar, let’s reframe it and think about all the things you’ll gain.
You’ll gain control over your health and body.
You’ll gain an understanding of all the marketing you’re letting tell you what to eat even though it’s bad for you.
You’ll gain a newfound appreciation for naturally occurring sugars, like apples, ripe bananas, and even carrots.
You’ll enjoy regular, non-sugared, foods and appreciate the balanced meal more than you ever did before inc your tastebuds were so tuned in to wanting sweets.
You’ll gain a pride and confidence in yourself and your body – that you’re doing this because you’re worth it and granulated sugar is toxic for you.
You’ll learn new and exciting ways to still enjoy sweets, through making ice cream using just bananas, experimenting with healthier forms of more natural sugars, and enjoying the simplicity of foods and all their varied flavors.
You will have significantly reduced your chances for obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and depression.
Most importantly, you’ll have actually quit sugar!
You’ve got this! Feel free to ask any questions in our free healthy community as you get started taking back your health.
What’s next? Click here to download my free one day cleanse and see how easy it can be to quit sugar and LOVE your food.