Sugar, the Sweet Poison

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New Zealand is the third most overweight country in the world and the rates of type-2 diabetes is growing higher and higher every year.  More than half of the New Zealand population is classified as being overweight. Obesity related diseases such as heart disease and type-2 diabetes are claiming the lives of thousands of New Zealanders each year, almost double the amount of people who are killed in car accidents.  It's sad to think that food is the main cause. These scary statistics leave us asking ourselves what do we need to do to stop this frightening epidemic?  After learning about how many people in New Zealand are obese and have obesity related diseases it made me realize that something has to be done to stop this.  This is one of the reasons why Julia and I wanted to start the Sugar Free Challenge to educate others on how harmful refined sugar is to our health and how we can help others give up their sugar addictions.

One week without sugar can benefit your health in many ways, and hopefully people will carry this challenge on for longer than a week to notice huge health benefits like we have.

Research shows that on average we consume 28.5 teaspoons of refined sugar a day, which is A LOT more than what we should be having. Refined sugar is found in boxed breakfast cereals, breads, sauces, fruit juice and baked goods (just to name a few). By lunchtime most people would have had around 15 teaspoons of sugar. If you walk through the supermarket go down the biscuit isle, chip isle, sauce isle, take a look at the ingredients and how much sugar is in everything.  It's shocking! Foods that are marketed to children are packed full of sugar - breakfast cereals, muesli bars, chips and yoghurt.  Don't even get me started on fizzy drinks.

Refined sugar acts as a chemical in our body, it contains no vitamins, minerals, fibre, fat or protein, giving us no nutrients at all - empty calories.  Refined sugar is an addictive substance and is often compared to a narcotic because of the way it acts on our brain. When we cut out sugar from out diet we experience many withdrawal symptoms, these include mood swings, headaches, low energy, trouble sleeping, irritability, aches and pains and swollen joints.

When we consume sugar we experience a sugar rush, we have an increase in energy and usually feel happy. This sugar rush doesn’t last for long and is followed by a sugar crash which leaves us feeling tired, irritable and leaves us wanting more sugar.

Sugar stimulates the release of endorphins, which make us feel good. Eating sugar on a regular basis means you are always releasing endorphins and overtime you become unaware of your own natural endorphins and need sugar to make you feel good again. This is why so many people will experience withdrawal symptoms when they cut out sugar from their diets. A sugar addict is someone who eats a large amount of sugar every day and will feel irritable and fatigued when they haven’t had any for a few hours.

People who consume a lot of sugar will have problems building muscle, this is a big factor for people who find it hard to lose weight and build a lean, muscular body. Sugar raises your blood sugar levels, giving us a spike of energy and then leaving us with an energy crash.  When this cycle happens again and again we become exhausted, exercise less, eat more sugar and gain more weight.  Eating high amounts of sugar all the time creates an acidic environment in your body, this has been linked to cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, poor eyesight, arthritis, heart problems and sugar also speeds up the aging process. A diet high in sugar will age your skin and increase the amount of wrinkles you get.

Sugar can also be known by these names:

  • Fruit syrup
  • Fructose
  • Cane juice
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Disaccharide
  • Erythritol
  • Glycerol
  • Ethyl maltol
  • Sucrose
  • Lactose
  • Malt extract
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Golden brown sugar
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Sorbitol
  • Monosaccharide
  • Mannitol

If you see any of these ingredients listed on a food label, it’s probably best you leave the food on the shelf and look for something else.

Helpful ways to cut out refined sugar from your diet:

Eat breakfast

Research shows that people who eat breakfast will eat less sugar throughout the day. It helps to regulate your blood sugar levels which helps gives you more energy in the day. Start the day off with a balanced breakfast of complex carbohydrates and proteins, these foods help brain function by stimulating the brains neurotransmitters to contribute to a feeling of well-being.  Green juices with chia seeds, green smoothies with protein powder, omelettes or oats.

Snack wisely

If you are prepared to eat healthy then it is quite easy. I always keep a piece of fruit and some nuts and seeds in my bag so whenever I feel like something sweet I will just snack on this. When I don’t have a healthy snack in my bag then I usually end up eating something that is high in sugar.

Exercise

One of the healthiest ways to experience better living through better brain chemistry is to exercise vigorously, an average of 20 minutes a day or take a brisk walk outside instead of running to the refrigerator. Do this often enough and you'll find yourself craving the exercise rather than the sweet snack.

Stay well hydrated

Many people who think they are hungry are usually dehydrated. This is why it is so important to be drinking enough water throughout the day. People should be drinking between 1.5-2 litres of water a day, this keeps you feeling full and makes you less likely to reach for a sugary snack.  If you are not a big fan of guzzling down water drink herbal teas or vegetable juices.

Green smoothies

Green smoothies are a great way to start the day off and you can get your sweet fix from the fruits in the smoothie. Green smoothies have an alkalising effect on the body from the green vegetables, sugar cravings persist in an acid environment.

Eat fruit

Since birth we have been used to sweet flavours, a mothers milk is sweet to a baby's tongue. Humans need sugars to help us function as every single cell in our body is made of glucose, but it is the natural sugars from fruit that we need to run on, not refined, processed sugar that is found in baked goods, soda drinks and lollies. Eating around 3 - 4 pieces of fruit a day when you are in the process of cutting out refined sugar is going to help curb those sugar cravings and to prevent you from over eating.

Eating foods that contain a lot of sugar are going to make you very addicted to them. When a habit has been formed it can also be broken, begin by cutting out sugar a little at a time. The first week of cutting out or cutting down on refined sugar is the hardest but it is only going to get easier. Be prepared to find it difficult to cut sugar out of your diet but also be prepared to feel so much better when you do, your body is going to thank you for it.

We aren't saying you have to cut out sugar completely, opt for natural sugars.  Stevia, Organic maple syrup, raw organic honey, coconut oil, raw cacao, use dates as a snack.  For some inspiration check out our peanut butter cups, bliss balls, chocolate chip banana whip, lemon and lime tart or cacao crackle.

Libby Matthews x