What if I told you there was something you could do to decrease your depression, level out your mood swings, get better sleep, lose weight, fight disease and improve your overall health? Most of us would spend loads of money on whatever pill we had to take to get these results, am I right? Now what if I told you that the change is totally free? Too good to be true! What’s the catch? The catch is there is nothing you can add to medicine cabinet that could help you to achieve all of these results. It isn’t anything you can add at all, but something you must give up. Sugar. I know, now you’re thinking, “Great another health nut here to preach about diet fads”, but bear with me. I am not here to preach at all, simply to let you know that if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, disease or weight issues (I think I just described the entire population of America..) Sugar could be the cause of some, or all, of these symptoms.
Right now might be an unpopular time to mention how bad sugar is for you. Afterall, many of you are most likely scrolling through this article with one hand, while digging for the last of the “good candy” from your child’s Halloween bucket with the other. And no one is here to judge! This is the time of year where indulgence is commonly the focus, and trust me that goes for me as well. I’m only semi ashamed to mention the fact that I polished off an ENTIRE pint of ice cream in my very recent past (it was Pumpkin pie cheesecake flavor…sooo..).
But here I am to tell you what we all already know. Sugar is bad for you. We’ve been told this our entire lives, and yet we still eat the cookies…and the candy… and the (ahem) ice cream. It’s funny because we have been told many things are bad for us that we aren’t tempted to continue to try and eat (crayons..?). So, what makes sugar the thing we can’t leave behind, even when we are told time and again just how terrible it is? Simple, it is an addiction that has become so mainstream and accepted and even pushed on the public that it’s almost impossible to avoid, even when we want to.
First of all, let me clarify what I mean when I say “sugar”. There are different types of sugar. The better sugar, the natural occurring fructose within fruit has a different reaction in our bodies than the bad sugar this article is speaking of, which is sucrose. Sucrose is table sugar. Fructose in moderation is not as harmful because our bodies can recognize and use it. Fructose and glucose are simple sugars that require less effort for our bodies to break down. Our bodies have absolutely no use for table sugar and it is much harder for our bodies to break down. And, as a rule of thumb, the more difficult something is for our bodies to break down/digest, the more inflamed we will be… And, don’t even get me started on artificial sugars, such as sucralose or Aspartame! We’ve all moved on from those by now, right? I could write an entire separate article on why you should asap, if you haven’t. For now, I’ll stay on topic…sugar. It’s bad, don’t eat it.
The reason you shouldn’t eat sugar, however, isn’t because of a diet fad or weight loss trend. The reason sugar is terrible for us is because of what it does to our bodies. Weight gain, inflammation, bad skin, sluggishness…these are symptoms of what is going on within the majority of us, and the main culprit is sugar. As a general rule, anything you put into your body will show up on the outside in some form. So, over time, you can actually see the physical evidence of how sugar affects us. But the sneaky side of sugar is actually what it is doing to us on the inside, long before we see those symptoms in the mirror.
Sugar has many negative effects on the human body, but here are some of the major ones:
Sugar affects our brain function and mood in a big way. Sugar can slow down cognitive function and impair memory by causing inflammation in our brains. Whether you are heavy or fit, the intake of sugar can make neurons in the brain malfunction, slowing down memory and response time. Children, whose brains are still developing can actually loose the ability to concentrate and remember. Sugar also affects the quality of sleep a person is able to get. Sleeplessness and sleep disorders are a common cause for misdiagnosing children with ADHD. Cutting sugar can help you to think more clearly and feel less sluggish.
When we are sad or depressed or just having a bad day, what do we reach for? Comfort foods. And 9 times out of 10, these foods are rich in sugar (hello, pint of ice cream here!). There is a scientific reason for this. And, without boring you on scientific terms, I will tell you this. Our brains are trained to like sugar. Dopamine receptors multiply as you continue to feed your body sugar. Sounds great, dopamine is good…what’s the problem? As we have more dopamine receptors, we require more sugar to please our brains (PS, this applies to all junk food). And the cycle continues. And, as we continue the cycle of eating more and more sugar, our bodies become more and more inflamed. Inflammation causes our immune systems to be unable to function at their full potential and your body begins wasting resources and working harder to counteract the imbalances sugar is causing. This not only impairs our immune system and makes it easier for us to become ill, but it also burns out our adrenals and can cause hormone imbalances and fatigue. And, trust me, if weight is your concern the most important thing to keep in check is hormones! Those suckers can really mess you up.
And, if weight is your number one concern then listen up! Cut sugar out of your diet and you will start to shed the pounds. Why? Well, it isn’t because sugar is a high calorie food. It’s because not one thing about sugar is useful to our bodies, and the damage it does causes weight gain. Cut it out, and your body will thank you. And, you don’t have to cut all forms of sugar. In moderation, sweets like fruit are perfectly okay and sometimes even beneficial! Replacing sugar with these substitutes (in moderation, obviously) will have you feeling like you still get the treats you crave:
And, remember…no one is perfect. Be gentle with yourself and know that there will be days where you have to consume an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s. But it is what you do 80% of the time that makes the biggest change in your health. SO, do the best you can. Find recipes that replace sugar with one of the above in your favorite holiday treats. Make the effort for yourself and especially your children to avoid this popular poison. Don’t wait until you have a disease to say “I wish I had listened to that girl who rattled on about sugar way too passionately”. Change today, and avoid the disease and improve your quality of life.
And, if you still aren’t convinced that you should give up sugar, I’ll leave you with this. Sugar is one of the most aging foods you can consume. Giving up sugar can help you stay looking young FOREVER…just kidding, not forever…but for a whole lot longer, and who doesn’t want that?
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A personal chef