Sugar has sadly become a staple in modern nutrition. It is added in huge quantities to virtually all processed foods, including savoury ones. We have developed a dependence on this sugar and getting it out of the diet is really not that straightforward. It is however one of the most important things you can do for your health. Important doesn’t mean easy and getting rid of sugar altogether is going to demand an effort.
So just why is it so important to stop eating sugar? Even fruit has sugar, right? Perhaps the first thing to realize is that not all sugars are equal. There is a huge difference between eating an apple or some raw honey and adding three spoonfuls of processed white sugar to your morning coffee. In general terms, the more something has been refined, processed or treated, the less you want to eat it. These sorts of foods contain what are basically empty calories. This means that they are calories that don’t have any essential nutrients.
These sugars are broken down by the body into glucose and fructose. Whilst getting some fructose from fruit is no bad thing, when you are consuming it in huge quantities in your diet in refined form, the liver quickly becomes overloaded and converts it to fat. No nutritional value and converted quickly to fat? Sounds great, doesn’t it? If you add to this the problems of tooth decay for example, you start to see just why you need to be rid of sugar.
So far, so good. Extra sugar is bad, so I ill just stop eating it. Not so fast. The next time you go to the supermarket, check the list of ingredients in every item that you put in the trolley. Ingredients are helpfully listed in order of size, the ingredient that is most present at the top of the list. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to see that those fruit yogurts you bought have so much sugar in them. What about canned goods? Hold on, there is sugar in there too! Well, at least my meat is safe from sugar. What? Sugar in there too? Ok, one more time. SUGAR IS EVERYWHERE. If you are buying anything in a packet, carton or tin, you are buying sugar.
Fortunately, paleo saves the day here. The beauty of natural nutrition is that you know exactly what you are eating. Creating recipes yourself just reduced your consumption by a huge amount. Sure, you still get sugar from fruit, for example, but you are getting in controlled amounts and you will soon lose the need to sweeten everything excessively that was brought on by all those hidden empty calories that you were eating before.
Unfortunately, the transition from addict to natural can be tough. You can expect everything from headaches and upset stomachs to finding all food bland and tasteless. This effects won’t last long but for most people this can make for a couple of unpleasant weeks.
The easiest thing to say here would be that you should just suck it up and get on with life. If this is possible for you, great. Go cold turkey and just man (or woman) up for a week or two. However, for some people this really is too hard and they fall off the wagon. This is a real shame because you need to go though this stage to get the benefits on the other side. All isn’t lost however. Whilst I certainly wouldn’t recommend keeping any quantity of added sugar in the diet if possible during this transition, you need something to help with the cravings for sweet stuff.
The three things that I have found good here are honey, fruit and nuts (or seeds if they are part of your version of paleo). Don’t go overboard with the honey, but adding a little now and again will curb the edge of the candy cravings. Fruit is also great because you are getting your sugar in a natural form along with a lot of nutritional bang for your buck, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber and water. Once more, don’t do wild. Just eat 2-3 pieces of fruit a day and allow yourself to enjoy the sweet taste.
Nuts or seeds if you eat them can also be good. Obviously, you aren’t getting the same sugar hit, but I have found that chewing on this sort of snack often takes away the desire for something sweet altogether.
Look, giving up sugar is hard. It is so present in our modern diet that it has become a drug that we depend on. However, the health benefits to a sugar-free lifestyle are huge. Find a way to cut it out of your life and reap the rewards for your body and health.