Hello everyone! Welcome to October – Under 3 month’s now til Christmas – Eek! Yes? Freaking? Don’t go for the sugary donut just yet..
This month is National Diabetes Month, so today we are talking about SUGAR.
Dun Dun Dun
It really does deserve that sort of a welcome, it is a bit of a naughty villain.
So let’s talk about sugar!
Sugar has been a staple in everybody’s pantry for years – our grandparents, grandparents, grandparents (you catch my drift) used it when they did their cooking and baking at home – when it was rare to get the abundance of foods we now have in our grocery stores. Back then, it was mainly used in bread, and sweet baking things. Now?? It is in everything – I won’t even pull up that list.
Most things have added sugar, unless they are diet, which then they have added aspartame. Hmm..
There are an abundance of different sugars, some natural, some not, but the main piece of work is table sugar, or white sugar. All sugars are a form of carbohydrate, and we do actually need them in our food, as they are broken down in the body into glucose which fuels our bodies, and our brains.
White sugar though is highly refined, and this is what the problem is. There are no nutrients in white sugar – it is classed as empty calories. When something isn’t in it’s natural form, the body has trouble breaking it down as it doesn’t recognise it’s “genetic makeup” – it has to figure out the best way to break it down. This alone creates a world of problems – just look at what processed foods are doing to our bodies… aka, the obesity epidemic.
Not only that, when sugar is broken down in the stomach, it is absorbed into the blood stream (aka, that boost of energy every body loves, or that hyperactivity in children mum’s don’t love). When the body gets way too much sugar, the pancreas comes into play and produces insulin, which sends the sugar into your cells, to burn off as energy. (Ref)
What Sugar Does to the Body
Sugar alone can do detrimental things to the body. Sugary foods have high kilojoules, and if not burnt off adequately with exercise, this can lead to weight gain. Sugar is also a high GI food source (quick to break down and enter the blood stream), and this alone can cause abdominal obesity (fat around the middle, and important organs), high cholesterol, heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure). (Ref)
You’re also looking at tooth decay, fatty liver, insulin resistance, cancer growth (from large amounts of insulin release), infertility, and more.. (Ref)
Diabetes and the Signs to Look For
As I said before, insulin helps sugar to be transferred into the cells for energy production. Now, some people have trouble with insulin production and the sugar burning process – this is called Diabetes. It is either disrupted (the body can’t use or absorb the insulin properly – Type 2), or it can’t produce enough insulin for the amount of sugar that is in the body at the time (Type 1). Type 2 Diabetes is classed as the most destructive of the two, due to the fact that even with insulin, the sugar cannot be transferred to energy properly and thus ends up staying in the body, resulting in weight gain and many other complications. (Ref)
There is also Pre-diabetes, where people have been diagnosed as ‘close-to-having-Diabetes’. I was diagnosed with Pre-diabetes two years ago, from my doctor looking through all my blood work, and even though I didn’t have diabetes ‘yet’, I had to drastically look at my eating, and make changes. My doctor told me that if I didn’t do this and lose weight, I would have diabetes in less than 10 years (witch doctor right — can see the future??). This definitely scared me, as there is a history of Diabetes in my family and I have seen what it can do to the body (in extreme circumstances).
Pregnant women can also be diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes – diabetes when they are pregnant. This can be a huge risk for the growing baby, and the mother and child have a risk after birth of Type 2 Diabetes (Ref).
Diabetes if not managed properly, can lead to blindness, metabolic syndrome, increased risk of stroke, kidney disease, hyperhidrosis, nerve troubles, sexual dysfunction, digestion issues. (Ref). These are in extreme cases, but diabetes can be managed with the help of good health services.
The Signs of Diabetes
The following are some signs of Diabetes to look out for, and contact your doctor if you are having reoccurring instances. (Ref)
- Increased urination/excessive thirst,
- Rapid weight loss,
- Excessive hunger,
- Skin problems, such as itchy or dry skin, darkened skin around neck or armpits,
- Slow healing of wounds,
- Yeast infections,
- Irritability and mood swings,
- Blurred vision,
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet,
- Results from blood work.
So What Do You Do!?
Eat less sugar of course! and educate yourself on the foods that you are eating.
Sometimes a little sugar is nice, a pleasure if you will, and even with Diabetes, people can still enjoy some every now and then, but they keep track of how much and when. This is a healthy practice to do for yourself, whether you have health troubles or not.
Healthy eating and exercise, whether you are at risk or not, whether you are older or not, whether you are overweight or not, are the most crucial forms to good health that you should be implementing into EACH day. Exercise isn’t just about weight loss, it’s about helping your body work effectively – and it also gives you energy, and happy hormones!
Eating healthy is the cure to so many illnesses. Even just increasing your fruit and veg intake can improve your health 100 times over. Take little steps, track your health, and you will see the change. If you’d like to learn more about how exactly to eat healthier, you can read my Fundamentals of Healthy Eating Series.
Be Aware of Hidden Sugars
As I said before, there are so many hidden sugars in the foods that we eat. The best way to avoid these sugars, and improve your health, is to cook your own food, and stay clear of packaged foods. Even pasta, and frozen meals have a load of sugar in them! (Ref)
Don’t be fooled by ‘natural sugars’, and ‘no added sugar’, as what is natural, can still be a large amount, and what isn’t sugar is most likely sweeteners. Advertisers love to play on words to get you to buy their product – whether it’s good for you or not, they will tell you it is. #falseadvertising.
The most popular brand of soft drink, has launched two natural sugar alternatives to their most popular drink, and I can gladly tell you that they have sweeteners in them to compensate for the normal sugar they’ve taken out. Check the labels!
Have no fear though, you can still enjoy sweet foods while being healthy. All you have to do is use natural sugar alternatives!
Natural Sugar Alternatives
Now, don’t be confused what natural really means. You need to research and do your reading on packages and recipes. Raw sugar is still sugar, and honey is natural but still a sugar.
Don’t over load yourself with sugar, even though it’s natural. But natural is definitely better than refined, and these options have nutrients in them, so they are of some benefit to your body.
The most popular natural sugar alternatives include honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, stevia/natvia, xylitol and rice malt syrup.
I’ve included an infograph below to help you along with substituting sugars in your recipes. Save it to your comp and print it out for easy reference when your baking/cooking.
Sugar Substitution Guide
How to Detox Off Sugar
One of the most troubles that people have with sugar, is when they want to get really healthy and completely remove sugar out of their diet. This is a great idea, but I don’t believe it is a sustainable weight management approach. It has great health benefits and weight loss benefits yes, but to completely remove sugar from your diet removes fruit as well, and fruit has so many benefits.
Those that follow my Juicy Facts every Friday know this!
The steps I took to reduce my sugar intake when reducing my risk of Diabetes were the following –
- Cut out takeaways and sugary drinks – the coffee every morning was not serving me at all, JUST MY GUT.
- Meal plan – when I meal planned, I could choose healthy options, and also bake home-made cookies and slices that were healthier options with less sugar.
- Replace white sugar with natural sugar alternatives (like above).
- Track my eating to be conscious of every little thing I was consuming, and reducing the habits that weren’t great for my health – two sugars in my coffee to one, one biscuit instead of two. I cannot exclaim how important portion sizes are.
However, if you want to detox to improve your health and see how it feels to not be controlled by the sugar cravings, I’ve included some steps below to help you out. Be aware that doing this will come with sugar withdrawals. The brain reacts to sugar the same way it reacts to cocaine – it definitely is an addiction.
- Make it cold – You need to quit cold turkey when it comes to sugar.
- Stick to water, and add some lemon – this will give you some flavour in your water, so you don’t feel so bad replacing the sugary drinks.
- Eat healthy – boost your energy levels with iron-rich foods, lots of protein, and adequate carbohydrates. When you are low on energy, you are going to be more likely to relapse with the sugar.
- Include fats in your diet – fat is good for you, just not too much of it – don’t compensate your sugary foods by having fatty foods instead. However, healthy fats in your meals is another good source of energy.
- Prepare for shit times – you are going to have headaches, you are going to have bad cravings, you are going to have mood swings – it’s all normal when coming off sugar. Keep busy and distract yourself – watch a movie (not Willy Wonka), or practice some mindfulness. A 5 minute meditation will get you through a craving, and there are plenty of healthy eating affirmation meditations on YouTube you can try out, this one by BexLife is a good one.
- Prepare for going out – you are going to have social outings. Peruse the menu before you go and find the best meal for you. Ring them up if you have to, and ask what meals have no sugar. Your friends won’t know (hehe). Bring snacks you’ve prepared from home, and always carry water!
- Go one further and do the Whole30 – you’re already off the sugar. How about going back to basics, and seeing exactly what certain foods do to your individual body. It is an eye opener. I purchased the book while doing my Whole30, and there are some amazing recipes including sauces that I use each week!!
If you’d like to know more about healthy eating, and how you can control your eating to reduce your risk of diabetes or other health complications, last month I introduced the Fundamentals of Healthy Eating series – which talks over all the basics to eating healthy including the right mindset, the right foods, AND the right portion sizes and macronutrients. It also includes some helpful printable’s to help you on your health journey. You can find it here.
So there we have it! All about sugar and how you can help to reduce your risk of Diabetes. I hope you enjoyed all the information! If you have any questions, or would like to share your own health journey or sugar-reducing tips, by all means leave a comment below! I love to hear from you!
Also, if you’d like to know what to do when the cravings hit for those donuts, while on your sugar-less journey, stick around by pressing the follow button (to the right), becaausse on Wednesday, I’ll be giving you some quick easy tips to beat the sugar cravings!! You’ll wanna check it out!
Good luck on your sugar-less endeavours!