I (Sharon) want to share with you some of my efforts to try and avoid sugar. It has proven not to be so simple. Sugar is hidden in just about every packaged/processed product out there. I went to the herb and spice section of the supermarket the other day to check out what is in the herb blends. I was shocked (but not surprised) that there it was in black and white: “sugar.” Really, we need sugar in our spices?!
I have cut out heaps of sugar just by going primal in the first place, but it is so easy to be caught out by the unexpected sugar hidden in many places. We really need to be carefully checking the ingredients on the labels of our food items when we do buy something in a packet. But then, who would have thought you would have had to check your spice blends!
Of course it’s best not to buy packaged foods at all! That way you not only eliminate the sugars but all the other things that go with processing – bad chemicals, additives, bleaches, and colours etc. Bonus!
Why do I need to give up my `sweet tooth’?
My aim here is not to give you a science lesson on sugars, but rather a practical guide for you. Here goes…..for optimal health we should aim to be keeping our blood sugar levels nice and even – well within the range of normal. Not the roller coaster of highs and lows that come from eating the sweet, high sugar items….and all the damage that comes as a result of these.
I didn’t realise it was sugar that could be making me feel like this!
Shaky, dizzy, grumpy, hunger, craving, anxious, increased heartbeat, sluggish, headaches, brain fog…and more.
And the effects of these highs and lows?
Some of the `powerful’ list are: heart disease, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, depression and other emotional disorders.
Some others are: mood swings and irritibilty, hyperactivity, adrenal gland depletion, candida overgrowth, chronic fatigue, immune depression, mineral depletion, and some that you may not even be aware of.
Now we have had a look at what sugar could be doing to our body. Let’s have a look at what types of sugars there are out there – whether chemical, natural, or the so-called `natural’.
Whats in a name?
There are so many names of things on nutrition labels, it’s sometimes hard to know what they are, let alone whether they are sugars or not. Here is a list of some of the names that sugar has that you may or may not be familiar with:
HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), dextrose, fructose, glucose, sorghum syrup, sorbitol, refiner’s syrup, mannitol, maltose, maltodextrin, ethyl maltol, diastatic malt, diatase, dextran, barley malt, muscovado, panocha.
They say its ‘healthy’ but is it really?
You will find these chemical sweeteners in pretty much most processed foods and soft drinks. They really are nasty stuff. Keep in mind that these things are produced in a lab or factory, not nature. I’ve learned to apply the rule: if you cant pronounce it (or don’t know what it is) then don’t eat it! It’s pretty ruthless, but I figure it’s worth it for the sake of our long term health.
We haven’t even talked about artificial sweeteners yet!!! That’s things like aspartame (Nutra-sweet, Equal), sucralose (Splenda), Sugarine, saccharine, etc. (That will come in another post.)
There are also some others, such as agave syrup, in which the processing is an issue.
What’s left now?
So, you have a sweet tooth and NEED some sweetness occasionally.
I would strongly recommend working on getting rid of those cravings. A simple switch to a primal/paleo way of eating will get you started. It will generally take you about two to three weeks for the switch to happen. If you still need some help I would suggest that you go over to the Balanced Bites blog and have a look at Dianne Sanfilippo’s sugar detox program.
Of course there are some things that just need some sweetness. There are also the times when you want to serve a special desert treat so need some sweetness. A good rule of thumb to follow is: if it comes from nature and is not processed then it’s probably safe to consume.
You can enjoy these sugars in moderation as long as you follow the nature rule above:
Coconut sugar – this is one of our favourites. It has a lovely dark, subtle caramelly kind of flavour and can be used anywhere you would use regular sugar. You’ll also find it called coco sugar, coconut palm sugar or coco sap sugar. The sugar is from the sap of the cut flower buds of the coconut palm. The one from Kokonut Pacific is the one we really like.
Fruit – Lots of fruits can be used as a sweetener in much of what we cook. Try some banana or pureed apple in muffins, pancakes, cakes etc. Citrus fruits, and even apple, can be used a flavouring for water.
Maple Syrup – that’s the 100% pure, organic one. Maple Syrup also has an array of vitamins and minerals in it similar to molasses but including some of the vitamins B group. No, it’s not cheap, BUT you don’t need that much to give a nice sweetness.
Honey – It seems that the jury is out on whether or not honey is truly paleo. Yes, it contains both glucose and fructose, but it also contains a whole lot of minerals, amino acids, and vitamins. When buying honey it’s the darker the better, and preferably raw and certified organic. (Aldi honey is certified organic.) Be alert for honey that has water or sugar syrup added!!! Check out Mark’s Daily Apple for more details about honey.
Molasses – again it contains glucose and fructose. But it also contains trace amounts of vitamins and significant amounts of several minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.
Date sugar – A good alternative to brown sugar although it doesn’t melt like sugar does. You can make your own date syrup as well.
Palm sugar – is boiled down from the sap of the Palmyra, date, sugar date, sago palm or sugar palm trees.
Green leaf stevia – I grow this out the back in my garden. I got my plant from Bunnings here in Melbourne. Diggers Seeds has them too. The best way to have this is in dried green leaf or liquid form.
I feel like we have just scratched the surface of a huge topic with this post. Stay tuned!!