Low Sugar Diet
About three years ago, after the birth of my second baby, my body was all out of whack. I was seeing a naturopath and my family physician every eight weeks, but none of their ideas were working. I finally narrowed down the culprit: refined sugar. For some crazy reason, sugar and my body were no longer playing nicely with each other. Something had to give, and significantly cutting back on refined sugar was the only thing that made a noticeable difference in my health.
On sugar, I feel sick, tired, uncomfortable, and all kinds of other things that are TMI for blog-land. Off sugar, I feel balanced. I feel good and strong and healthy. And loads of research backs this up.
- The average American consumes approximately 160 lbs. of sugar a year.
- The chemicals released by eating sugar travel the same brain pathways as heroin. It’s highly addictive.
- There is no nutritional value in sugar. It provides extra calories (average of 500/day), without the feeling of being full.
- Sugar can suppress the immune system.
- Sugar is a major contributor to cancer, obesity, heart disease, tooth decay, yeast infections, and a host of other problems.
So, you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Just cut out sugar!” Well, that’s like telling a chain smoker to go cold turkey or a sports nut to cancel cable. It wasn’t that simple.
It might be easy for those of you who crave dill pickles and potato chips. You can’t eat just one? Well, I can. I don’t crave salt. I crave sugar. All the time. While cleaning up breakfast dishes, I’d grab a handful of chocolate chips. And it would just continue through the day: a steady stream of empty sugar until I crashed at night. And that doesn’t even count all the places added sugar pops up in everyday ingredients, from yogurt to ketchup to crackers. Sheesh.
When I first seriously started cutting back on sugar consumption, I felt terrible. My head was pounding, and I was tired all the time. I kept telling my friends, “I think I have an undiagnosed medical condition.” Sugar detox is no joke. I bounced back and forth. Having a husband with a serious sweet tooth, who considers “Christmas Cookies” a romantic love song, wasn’t making it any easier. But I was on a mission, and if I was giving up my beloved Oreos and hot fudge sundaes, I was going to make my loved ones do it with me.
After 2-3 months, things were looking up. The less sugar we ate, the less we craved. We have been at it for five months now, and sugar is squarely in the “occasional treat” category, instead of something we mindlessly eat multiple times a day. I still bake desserts and keep sugar in the house, but we save it for the weekend or special events. If we’re craving something sweet, we reach for fruit or make a fresh juice instead. The kids are doing better, and I notice that they are not asking for sweet stuff constantly. My husband and I are like two octogenarians now, eating dried prunes while we watch our favorite murder-mystery on the television. But they don’t make me sick! So I’m cool with that.
I started out by cutting sugar by 50% in recipes that could handle it and skipping recipes that couldn’t. I also started using natural sweeteners as a sugar substitute whenever possible. I looked for easy ways to cut back: I stopped adding sugar when making pancakes and started using honey for baking bread or making salad dressing. I stopped giving the kids suckers every single time we went to the bank and started feeding the family homemade plain yogurt instead of sweetened. Little things. I also stopped baking treats during the week, which was actually a benefit to both our health and our grocery budget. As a side benefit, we are also going through way less butter and flour these days.
We still indulge when friends come over or we go on vacation or we are celebrating a special event. I can eat sugar in moderation without experiencing awful side effects, but if I go overboard I feel miserable almost immediately. Again, we are trying to train our bodies to see sugar as a rare treat, instead of a daily part of our diet. It’s a work in progress, but I feel like we are heading in the right direction.
I’d love to hear your tips and stories! Share in the comments section.
No-bake energy bites (gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free)
The 21 Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo (Amazon) was one of the very first books I checked out as I started the challenge of cutting our sugar cravings. It is a great guide, with three different levels and lots of modifications. Even if you don’t follow her plan, it provides a good starting place for cutting back on refined sugar. I personally liked it better than I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson (Amazon).
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