The ills and evils of refined sugar are all over the news these days, but still the country, as a whole, keeps on keeping on with the sugar craze. When we understand the negative consequences of our actions, why do we persist in perpetuating them? That’s a question for the ages, and we can’t begin to answer it in one blog post–unless we stick to the topic of refined sugar. Here’s why scientists are saying we can’t get off the sugar train:
1. The desire for fructose is hardwired in humans because, in nature, anything containing fructose is safe to eat.
2. Your brain releases dopamine when you eat something sweet, and you feel good. In this way, scientists believe that sugar has the potential to be addictive.
And here’s why simple fructose isn’t so good for you:
1. The sugar “crash.” Fructose is processed by the body pretty quickly, and it causes an insulin rush so that the body can bring blood glucose levels back to normal. Guess what happens when that sugar burns up? You’re hungry again; maybe even more hungry than you’d be if you’d eaten something healthy (that took longer to process internally). So, what do you do? You eat more, and maybe because you’re feeling so sluggish, tired and hungry, you reach for something sugary again and start the cycle all over.
2. Foods sweetened with the simple sugar fructose don’t trigger the same “fullness” response that other sugars do. So, your body is less able to tell when you’ve had enough.
3. Reasons 1 and 2 (as well as reasons 1 and 2 from the “Why you can’t off the sugar train” list) lead to over-eating, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a host of other health problems.
So, what to do? Cut the sugar. Did we just hear you scream? It sounds kind of extreme and maybe even a little scary, but cutting refined sugar out of your life isn’t the end. In fact, it’s not terribly hard. Yes, you will have to be more aware of what you’re eating and read labels (especially on pre-made or processed foods), but if you’re eating healthy already, it’s not so tough. You won’t be giving up fruits, by the way; getting your sugar there isn’t the problem. When we get too much sugar from processed foods and unhealthy food choices, that’s when a problem develops. It’s amazing just how satisfying a bowl of berries or a baked sweet potato with cinnamon can be for dessert when you’ve been off of refined sugar for a bit.
Now, sometimes, you just need a sweetener, right? Certain recipes, maybe a breakfast smoothie, whatever. Our suggestion: Look to some natural sweeteners. Stevia is calorie free and all natural. Be warned: Stevia is some sweet stuff, so be aware when adding to baked goods or smoothies, etc. that it is much sweeter than refined sugar and you need to adjust the amount you add (a lot!). Different brands are better than others, so you may need to experiment a little, but we’re quite fond of NuNaturals. Honey and maple sugar are also natural sugars that are unrefined, and while similar to refined sugar in their calorie load, they break down in the body more slowly and you avoid the “crash” of refined sugars. Honey and maple syrup make great sweeteners for plain yogurt, granola and loads of other things–and you can bake with them!
The long and short of it, folks, is that the sugar train may be taking you off the tracks, healthwise, and cutting back (or cutting it out) isn’t a bad idea. You can always find lots of healthy sugar-free options for breakfast and lunch at Brown Bag (including fresh fruit for dessert!), and we’re happy to be your go-to during the transition. We’ll be here quietly cheering you on.:)