Today sugar has become the new health villain, and with good reasons. Sugar has made its way into almost everything we eat, and there are more than enough health problems (and scientific evidence) to go around to seriously consider cutting down on sugar.
One of the main concerns and well-known reasons is that too much sugar will lead to gain weight, which can cause obesity, and raise cancer risk.
The high-sugar foods and drinks increase inflammation in your body and may cause insulin resistance, which means big trouble. Yes, “insulin resistance”. So what does that awkward term mean?
To gain some valuable insight here, let’s first explain what glucose, insuline and finally insuline resistance are, so you know what kind of things are happening inside your body.
INSIDE THE BODY
“Glucose” is a type of sugar that comes from the foods you eat, and it’s the main source of energy that your body uses. As it travels through the bloodstream to all your cells, we call it blood glucose (blood sugar).
“Insulin” is a hormone produced and released by the pancreas and tells the cell doors to open up to let the glucose in, so it moves glucose from your blood into your muscle, fat, and liver cells, where it’s then used for energy and storage. The insulin makes sure your blood sugar levels remain steady.
“Insulin resistance”, is when your body becomes insensitive to the effects of insulin, which means the cell doors won’t open, and the glucose will have trouble getting into the cell.
This forces the pancreas to work overtime to produce more insulin, because the body’s cells are “resistant” to the effects of insulin.
Even with the extra production of insuline, the cell doors still won’t open and don’t let enough of the glucose into the cells. The problem is, the extra glucose stays in the bloodstream, causing high blood glucose levels, and high blood glucose for a long period of time can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes, brain and other organs.
The use of too much sugar, refined sugar, products with hidden added sugars along with refined carbs (white flour, white bread, white rice, cereals and pastas), allow the surges in your blood sugar levels to build up “visceral fat storage”.
This is the body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity, that is being wrapped around vital internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines, which is another high risk factor.
CHALLENGES & BENEFITS
For me personally it’s all about energy balance. Foods and drinks that are high in sugar but seem healthy (fruit smoothies, granola, iced tea, sport drinks and protein bars) and especially refined sugars in sweets, cookies, and bars lead to a quick temporary sugar high followed by a steep crash that will soon drain your overal energy level.
I want to avoid that and keep my energy levels at a constant level as much as possible, so I keep my productive and blissful spirit alive throughout the entire day.
Simply the act of avoiding sugar or cutting down on sugar will make you more aware of everything you eat. You will notice you’re going to start choosing more healthy foods and drinks altogether.
In the beginning when you’re cutting down on sugar and you decide to choose foods and beverages without sugar, your body and mind are CRAVING for sugar (severe withdrawal symptoms) and your system has to adjust for a certain amount of time. Don’t give into this urge, be patient and tough!
So what happens? The consumption of sugar makes your body release dopamine (also called the “happy hormone”) into the bloodstream. Sugar repeatedly elevates dopamine levels which control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres.
When you consume sugar for an extended period of time, the opposite will take place, and reduce the levels of dopamine, which leads to a higher intake of sugar to get the same level of satisfaction and reward. It’s a vicious circle.
Besides that, your taste pupils will be far from amused. It’s because you’ve spoiled your taste senses to the extent that you don’t like anything without sugar anymore. But…
If you stick to your non-sugar regimen for a while this WILL change. You will start to have an improved and sharper sense of taste, and find that healthy things will taste and feel much better than anything with sugar. After some longer time you will dislike foods with sugar and you no-more need it. You will even begin to crave healthy foods. Now that’s a win-win scenario!
So what is the intelligent choice to eat and drink? What are some great foods and drinks that keep your energy balanced, create a healthy and vibrant body and mind, and increase your longevity?
Here’s the good stuff:
– Non starchy vegetables (leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, etc.)
– Starchy vegetables (potatoes, beans, lentils, peas, corn, squash, plantains)
– Nuts and seeds
– Avocado (super healthy and a great protein source)
– All whole fruits, as found in nature like apples, bananas, kiwifruit, pear, (avoid dried with added sugar, or juiced fruit like smoothies, etc).
– 100% whole wheat, brown rice and oats.
– Plant based unsweetened yogurt, or greek yohurt
– Honey in moderation
– Hot water (try it 3 times, and you’ve got yourself a winner to drink throughout the day)
– Unsweetened plant milk
– Green tea
Now, start working on your new health plan, write out some breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes, get your groceries and start reaping the amazing health and energy benefits!
There’s also a great documentary on Netflix called That Sugar film which I really recommend. Inspiring, entertaining en educating.
Do you have any recommendations for sugar-free or low-sugar foods, drink and recipes? Please share them in the comments. I’d appreciate it. I read them all.