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Before your eyes glaze over and roll back in your head after reading the words “sugar-free,” give us a few minutes to convince you that sugar-free doesn’t have to be a boring chicken and broccoli based diet, but that it can be filled with your favorite foods and be highly beneficial at the same time.
Like most foods, too much of one thing is not good for our health. Sugar, salt, fat, carbohydrates… you name it. Consuming high amounts of sugar on a regular basis speeds up the aging process, damages our teeth and gums, increases one's risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and worst of all, increases our tolerance for sugar making us want more and more! The recommended daily allowance of sugar, or RDA, is 9 teaspoons for men (36 grams) and 6 teaspoons for women (24 grams) on a daily basis. The average breakfast contains between 12-20 grams of sugar depending on its contents. Donuts, pastries, cereals, oatmeals, juices, granola bars... they are all packed with sugar.
The next time you are at the grocery store, turn over one of your favorite products and look for one of the following names: sugar, brown sugar, dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose, agave, molasses, corn syrup, fruit juice, brown rice syrup, malt syrup or any other name that sounds like it could be sugar’s relative. Believe it or not, there are over 50 different names for sugar that are disguised in everything from ketchup to barbecue sauce, pasta sauce, granola bars, jam, salad dressings, dried fruit and yoghurt to name a few. Sugar is addictive. The more we have of it, the more we want it.
In today’s blog post, we are going to be talking about the benefits of a sugar-free diet with the hope to convince you to break up with sugar once and for all!
What is Sugar?
Sugar is made in the leaves of the sugarcane plant that is native to Thailand, South Africa, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, India, China and Australia. It is a type of grass with a bamboo-like stem that shoots out of the ground and grows to be 5 meters high. Sugarcane is cut down and harvested then sent to a factory where the cane juice is extracted, purified, filtered and crystalized into golden, raw sugar. Sugar is naturally a light brown or yellow colour, but this is removed from the typical white sugar we are used to seeing at the superstore. The colour is removed from the sugar crystal with water and centrifuging and carbon filters absorb any remaining colored plant materials. Then it is packaged and distributed to grocery stores, bakeries, factories and it eventually becomes the sugar that most of us have in our homes today.
We’ve already mentioned the health effects of sugar, so let’s dive into the benefits of going sugar-free...
Benefit #1: Improved Mental Clarity
Take a moment to imagine what it would be like to arrive at work feeling energized, focused and as sharp as a laser. Knowing exactly what you need to accomplish throughout the day, how to do and then executing that plan like a boss. Your head is down, you are working efficiently and crossing to do’s off of your list like a mad person. The only time you lift your head up is when you get hungry, so you pull out your sugar-free meal and then get right back to work! That would be the dream right? Most of us however, spend the bulk of our day being distracted, snacking, losing focus and battling fatigue. Why is this? Because sugar is dictating how our day will run.
Research published in 2015 indicates that sugar can contribute to memory loss and an inability to concentrate. It has also been shown to contribute to nervousness, fatigue and negative thoughts. Sugar has the ability to disrupt our brain’s chemistry and work against us. That’s the complete opposite of what we are after! Cutting out sugar gives you back what you so badly want, control. Control over how you think, act and how your day will go. Giving up sugar isn’t just giving up a white granular substance, it's giving up the energy slumps, fatigue, brain fog and the sugar cravings that come with it!
Benefit #2: Increased Energy
Sugar gives you a temporary rush of energy, but it eventually results in your energy levels plummeting and you crash. Excess sugar slows you down. With every bite of sugar, our blood sugar levels rise, our pancreas is forced to secrete insulin and a substance known as tryptophan is produced. Tryptophan is the precursor for serotonin, a sleep hormone, which leaves us ready for a nap. Fruits and vegetables on the other hand contain something that sugar doesn’t - fibre and lots of it! When you're eating whole, unrefined foods that are naturally you are loading up on vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, water and proteins that fuel your brain and your body, helping you to bounce through your day, rather than shuffle slowly from one sugar fix to the next.
Benefit #3: Weight Loss
The magical two words that everyone loves to hear. Well, what if losing weight could be easier than ever? Our bodies thrive on healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates that are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Excess sugar is converted to fat, so we are essentially fighting ourselves and our goals with every bite of it! Fruit is different due to its fibre content, but refined sugar has been stripped of its fibre and will metabolize even faster. To make it short and sweet, the more sugar you eat, the more fat will be stored on your body.
Benefit #4: Glowing Skin
Long story short, sugar ages you. What? We know, it’s a horrifying fact. Consuming sugar also robs your body of minerals and vitamins that keep you looking and feeling fabulous. When we consume sugar, a process called, glycation begins. This is when sugar attaches to a protein, resulting in the creation of AGEs or Advanced Glycation Endproducts. These are known for causing dull, saggy, dry and wrinkled skin. The by-products build up and as you age, become more and more evident. So do your future self a favour and skimp on the sugar to keep yourself looking youthful for many decades to come!
Benefit #5: Lowered Risk of Disease and Illness
Last, but certainly not least important. Sugar is known to draw on our nutrient reserves and is associated with osteoporosis, immune deficiencies and even anemia. Sugar diminishes our immune system and causes inflammation - the cardinal signals being redness, heat, swelling and pain. Inflammation can then be tied to indigestion, depression, arthritis and many other conditions. Do you body a favour and take some of its work off its plate by reducing your sugar consumption. It’s easier said than done, but in the long run, your body will thank you!
Did we convince you to try to wean yourself off of sugar? We hope so! With endless sugar-free alternatives and products on the market, there have never been so many readily available alternatives at our fingertips. Challenge yourself to see if you can cut your sugar intake in half every week, in 4 short weeks, you will be consuming a sixteenth of what you used to!