What would your life look like if you never ate sugar again? By sugar, I mean the refined white sugar found in your coffee, muffins, and lots of packaged foods, not natural sugars found in whole grains, fruit, or natural sweeteners. Ending the daily ride on the roller coaster of sugar dependency lowers the risk of diabetes, gives the gift of mental clarity, strengthens the immune system and puts an end to the mid afternoon crash.
No sugar, ever? I started to contemplate what that would look like. How could that even be possible? How would my body and mind feel? What would I eat for desert? How would I reward myself? With my lifeline of daily mochas and muffins to reward and soothe myself during times of stress and discontent, a life without sugar was unfathomable. Honestly, I couldn’t even begin to imagine it.
Three years after the question was asked of me, I am a tried and true non-sugar-eater. In a quest to break patterns of emotional eating and numbing through food, giving up sugar has set me free from the roller coaster and given me balance and calm in my life. Sounds dramatic, right? Read on!
So, what does a life without sugar look like?
A life without sugar means no more need for 3pm naps, no more dependency on sugar-filled foods and caffeine for energy, it means a brain that works clearly and efficiently, less acne, better digestion, and an immune system of steel.
Have you considered giving yourself the gift of experiencing how good it would feel to end the addiction to sugar and feel the benefits?
Refined sugar, or sucrose, has entered into the American diet in staggering amounts. In the refining, it is stripped of any nutritional value, and upon consumption, immediately spikes blood sugar level, then drops it.
I suspect you are familiar with this roller coaster of having a sugar high and a surge in energy, and the subsequent crash.
So many people are falling asleep at their desks mid afternoon, and are depending on some stimulant to get them through the day. Refined sugar is highly addictive: after consuming just a small amount, the body craves more. Eliminating sugar from your diet can cause headaches, moodiness, cravings and fatigue, but only at first.
Unrefined sugar, a simple carbohydrate occurring naturally in grains, beans, fruit, and vegetables, contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins. In digestion, when broken down into molecules of glucose, the body can burn them efficiently and evenly, giving you lasting energy without the roller coaster ride.
The extreme rise in sugar consumption in the United States, on average 3 pounds per week of table sugar, per person, has been connected to a rise in obesity, the alarming rates of diabetes in adults and children, significantly compromising the immune system, as well as a long list of other health problems.
Three pounds per person, per week?! How does this happen? Sugar, often disguised by another name such as sucrose, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, raw sugar, or cane sugar is hidden in almost every processed food on the market. Of course it is found in sweet dessert foods such as cakes, cookies and candy, and is also can be hidden in canned vegetables, baby food, cereals, peanut butter, bread, salsa, tomato sauce, and salad dressings. Once you start looking at labels, you’ll be shocked at where sugar is added.
Get Off the Sugar Roller Coaster with Natural Sweeteners
I encourage you take a few minutes to imagine your life without eating any processed sugar. I know it seems like an extreme situation to imagine, but it’s a fun exercise to see what comes up for you.
As a health counselor, I work with clients who are having strong sugar cravings and support them in making dietary changes to break those cycles and unearth the underlying causes of cravings. The benefits my clients experience, once off of sugar, are miraculous. Many enjoy the ability to think clearly, stop hiding under the numbing effects of sugar and thrive in their relationships and jobs, have sustained energy throughout the day without dependence on caffeine and sugar, and save money on expensive coffee drinks and low quality sweet treats.
For me, sugar has been the hardest “drug” to quit, and having someone there to support me in getting off the roller coaster was key to my success.
It’s natural for us to crave sweet things, and there are many alternative natural sweeteners that do not have the same detrimental effects on blood sugar levels and health. Natural sweeteners are great alternatives to processed sugar when cooking or baking at home, although depending on their sweetness and texture, some adjustments to quantities are needed. Here is a list of the most common alternative natural sweeteners:
Agave Nectar, also called agave syrup, is a low glycemic sweetener that is light and mild. Agave is made through the extraction and purification of the juice of the agave cactus.
Raw Honey is a common natural sweetener made by bees using nectar from flowers. Honey will have a different flavor depending on the plant source. Raw honey is unrefined and contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals and vitamins.
Maple Syrup is the concentrated extract of the sap of maple trees. It has a rich, deep flavor and is high the minerals zinc and manganese. Make sure to buy 100% pure maple syrup.
Brown Rice Syrup is produced by steeping brown rice with a special enzyme preparation. The broken whole grains of brown rice are converted into a smooth-flavored and pleasantly sweet liquid extract, about half as sweet as sugar.
Stevia is a South American herb used as a natural sweetener for centuries. The leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant have a refreshing taste, zero glycemic index, zero calories and zero carbs. It is 25-30 times sweeter than sugar.
Are you ready to start eating yummy foods using natural sweeteners? Try these recipes to get you started on the road to living sugar free. These foods are examples of snacks that will satisfy your desire for a sweet treat without spiking your blood sugar and then causing the subsequent crash.
Brooke’s Naturally Sweetened Cookies
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugarless apple sauce
- 3/4 cup coconut milk (not lite)
- 3/4 cup sugarless peanut butter
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup brown rice flour
- 1 cup chocolate chips OR fruit juice sweetened cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
With a wooden spoon mix together oats with wet ingredients (eggs, applesauce, coconut milk, peanut butter, honey and vanilla).
Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients in order and mix well (the batter will be quite wet).
Cover your baking sheet with foil and scoop teaspoon sized drops onto the sheet.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
Agave Sweetened Fresh Mint Lemonade
from Vegetarian Food
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup raw agave nectar
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
6 to 8 cups water
Blend the lemon juice, agave nectar, and mint leaves on high speed for 10 to 15 seconds or until the mint leaves are well blended. Pour into a pitcher and add 6 cups of the water. Keep adding water until it reaches your desired strength.
Add 1 cup fresh strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries into the blender. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.