As I stated in my ‘about me’ section I am refined Sugar free. I gave up around 4 years ago due to health reasons, tried to reintroduce it and realised that life is actually better without sugar.
So many of my female friends and family go through spats where they feel constantly exhausted no matter what they do (Particularly at a certain time of the month). I was one of these women; in fact I was the worst of the bunch. I found myself always moaning how tired I was and banging on about how lucky I would be if I got to have a nap. Sometimes it was as though I was a premature oldie, and believe me people sure let me know that this was the case, friends are charmers at time.
I never knew what caused my tiredness; consuming sugar would probably have never even made the list of probable causes as we all associate sugar as a pick me up and as something that gives us energy right? Not something that takes it away. So like most of us I just made an educated guess and put it down to having some sort of deficiency, Iron in my case. Yet any type of Iron supplement I tried didn’t work.
When it came to cutting out sugar I never actually noticed that my energy levels and lack of tiredness were not there until I reintroduced it back into my diet. And there it was again, that moaning women, dreaming of her next nap (at 23!!!) not to mention the slight nausea that slowly crept back into my life. So I made the decision then and there to never have refined sugar touch my lips again where I could help it.
As soon as I found out that I couldn’t eat sugar I wanted to know everything there was to it. I spent ages looking at some scientific case studies online, brought a book and did a lot of trawling through online forums yet so few people I spoke knew anything about sugar, just that it was bad for your teeth and tasted good which was pretty surprising.
Now however, especially over the past year to be specific I have seen a dramatic change. The exposure about sugar and how bad it is for you has hit our screens and newspapers on a massive scale. Finally!! Why shouldn’t we all know what the impact of a donut could have on our health? To share this with you guys, here are just some of the nasty effects that are linked to eating sugar:
- Increase stomach acidity
- Which could contribute to the growing number of people being diagnosed with IBS and food intolerances.
- Upsets the balance in our bodies and absorption of nutrients and minerals
- Increases blood sugar which in turn speeds up the ageing process
- Causes fatigue
- Linked as a cause of dementia
- Not to mention being the cause of the increase in Diabetes in the UK
So if you want to make a change and reduce your sugar intake or be a brave soul and cut it out completely how do you know what to look out for? I have been a foodie all my life and pride myself on knowing a lot about food but when it came to having to learn about sugar I was amazed at the sorts of words they would use not to mention what contains sugar. Food manufacturers like to make life difficult. For example I have not yet found one brand of stock cubes in the UK that does not contain sugar not to mention the fact that you will not find a proper mayonnaise anywhere. Chinese and Thai food? Well we won’t even go into that.
When I first started doing my research I probably knew about 3 or 4 different names for sugar but soon realised that this list is endless. I actually had to keep a list in my handbag for the first month of sugar free shopping just as a reference point. Just to give you an idea, there was an American article in women’s health recently where they listed 56 difference names for Sugar, absolute madness!! I am not going to be cruel enough to bore you with all of these so here are some the most common names for refined sugar I have come across in our food over here:
Cane sugar, Beet Sugar, Fructose, Glucose, Dextrose, Lactose, Rice syrup, Maltose, Corn syrup and Sucrose.
Now that we know what the truly bad types of sugar are the harder task is deciding what is classed as a healthy or acceptable sugar. So many people have such different viewpoints on the matter. For example some people think that Agave Nectar(I still have no idea on the correct pronunciation for this word) is great and use it by the bucket load while others avoid it like the plague due to its high fructose content. Another thing that people disagree on is the fructose content in fruit juices such as orange juice.
So what on earth should we believe? One minute we are being forced the idea that we have to have a least 5-a-day while the next minute we are being told fruit is bad for us?
Personally I think that if we all started to cut out everything that is high in natural sugar then we would have a pretty limited weekly menu. I have decided to go by the ethos that if it’s natural and nutritional or has great health benefits that outweigh the negatives then go for it, but just remember all in moderation. I mean if I am feeling a slight onset of a cold I will always grab a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice. Although Orange juice is high in vitamin C there are so many other foods that are higher in the stuff but I just cannot shift the thought that orange juice will fix everything.
Now if my attempt at persuasive writing has got you wanting to join the No Refined Sugar bandwagon to see if it improves your health (which it will), or if you simply want to reduce your daily intake then there are a few things that my own personal experience has taught me.
Firstly: Going cold turkey is as hard as giving up smoking, or so they say. You need to be mentally prepared just how hard it will be otherwise it is too easy to pick up that box of éclairs’ the next time you are in Tescos.
Secondly: You will feel crap and have horrible headaches for up to two weeks. Sugar is to a degree a drug so withdrawal symptoms do happen, but I promise you they pass and you won’t even remember how bad it was when you are through the other side.
Thirdly: There is a risk of addiction transference. Mine was fat. I was craving fatty foods, chips to be more specific and I ate them uncontrollably so just be aware that this can happen and try to limit the chips.
Fourthly: You will look like a completely wally, people will assume you are a food snob and you will take forever in the supermarket for the first few weeks as you have to read every ingredients list in the shop. Even if you are 100% sure that something you normally buy would never in a million years contain sugar. Chances are you a wrong.
And finally: Eating out. Now this is the biggest challenge of them all. Going back to my chip addiction, I had no clue to start with what had sugar in it so I stuck to Steak and Chips to be safe, my goodness it was boring. So a few tips to prevent you ruining your social life: anything in gravy, tomato based or with a dressing will contain sugar so just make sure you ask your server as they are normally pretty helpful. If I have a salad when out I will always ask them for no dressing and a pot of olive oil on the side, grilled fish and meat is normally a safe bet, but sorry no desert. If you feel like a treat or don’t want to be left out then cheese with sliced apple is a good alternative.
So now that I have shared my knowledge on Sugar and touched how to live without it let me know if you feel like you want to give it a go, if you have any questions big or small I would be happy to answer them. Or even better if you have already cut it out of your diet I would love to hear some of your stories and what you have discovered, what you found the hardest bit and how much better you feel because of it J.