Imagine eating 170 pounds of sugar in a year. That would come to about half a pound in a day. And that’s the equivalent of around 50 teaspoons daily. You’re probably telling yourself that you couldn’t possibly be consuming THAT much sugar in such a short period of time. [ref]
“Everybody’s got their poison, and mine is sugar.” – Derrick Rose
But according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), that’s pretty much what Americans are having in a given year.
If you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around that statistic, think of it this way:
One serving of your typical soda already has eight teaspoons. [*] And if someone’s chugging down 5-6 of these in a day, they’re close to the 50-teaspoon mark!
And that’s not counting “low-fat” food like yogurt, muffins and mayonnaise……those “healthy” energy bars and dried fruit snacks……or your favorite pasta sauces and skim lattes.
Those are just some of the sugar-laden types of food that are cleverly marketed as “healthy” meals. Most stores and grocery aisles are CRAWLING with them.
And chances are you’re eating a good handful of these on most days.
That half-a-pound statistic doesn’t seem so crazy now, does it? [*]
Let’s face it: a diet high in fructose and excess sugar makes you weak. Simple sugars cause food cravings, age your tissues, disrupt hormone function, sap your brain energy and dopamine, and raise triglycerides – leading to leptin resistance, insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity.
The Sweet Trap of Sugar
Before we get into the best non-sugar sweeteners out there, you’ll need to understand WHY you need to make the switch in the first place.
As you already know, excessive sugar consumption is radically detrimental to your health.
But what makes it so destructive to your body?
Well, it starts with insulin.
You’ve heard people mention this hormone when they talk about conditions like diabetes, but here’s what you should know:
- When you eat anything with sugar, it goes into your bloodstream, which then spurs the pancreas, your insulin-making organ, into action.
- Insulin then gets busy by moving nutrients into your cells in order to store energy for later use. As for sugar (which is broken down into glucose), insulin also works to get it OUT of your bloodstream and bring down your blood sugar levels to normal.
- Some sugar stays in your blood, while insulin transports the rest into your muscles and liver.
Got all that?
In a healthy individual, this should be a balanced process that keeps them nice and fueled throughout the day. For people who eat too much sugar however, things get off-track in a bad way.
If your system is already loaded with all that glucose (like in the muscles, liver and cells), the excess amount they consume has nowhere to go.
This is the point where your body is forced to turn that sugar into saturated fats, which is NOT a good thing. What’s worse, you’ll also end up creating something called triglycerides in your system which compounds the problem.
After putting yourself through this abuse, your metabolism will “remember” sugar as your choice of fuel. Ideally, you should also be burning fat aside from sugar.
Instead, that fat is now taking up space around your gut (which increases your risk of heart disease) and other parts of your body.
This is bad news for your leptin, your appetite-regulating hormone. Your system produces this as a way of telling you that you’ve had enough to eat.
Once your blood turns into a cocktail of excess sugar and triglycerides, it “jams” the signal sent out by leptin. This means there’s nothing stopping you from eating past your limit.
This is called leptin resistance – and with this also comes insulin resistance.
You see, insulin transmits a signal of its own, which is directed to your cells. It’s ordering your cells to store nutrients, which is fine under normal circumstances.
But with so much sugar already in your blood, your cells can’t take in any more. Not unlike a cranky toddler, they dig in their heels and “resist” insulin’s efforts to feed it nutrients and energy.
So your pancreas also digs in its heels and pumps more insulin in your bloodstream. As you can guess, this escalates the situation. Your cells end up getting damaged from the struggle, triggering them to push back even HARDER.
And so they begin this back-and-forth dance, which creates a ripple effect across your body. For instance, your immune system gets involved in this mess. They’ll try to contain the damage from the oxidative stress that your cells are now undergoing.
But when this goes on for extended periods of time, it leads to chronic inflammation. This opens the door to a host of complications.
This includes arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and the big “C”.
So you can see how sugar can be a problem. Most people aren’t aware of what’s going on behind the scenes.
They mindlessly consume sugar, blissfully ignorant of their fate.
Cathy, a senior technician for the IT department of a financial institution, certainly didn’t think much of her sugar addiction. In the morning, she’d have a low-fat muffin, ready-made oatmeal and a “lite” mocha frappe from the coffee shop a couple of blocks from her office.
For lunch, she’d have a bowl of pasta and a slice of pizza. She’d wash it down with low-sugar apple juice (and maybe a “light” iced tea if she was extra thirsty), plus a handful of dried fruit for dessert.
She’d have an energy bar and a couple of more frappes later on in the day to deal with the afternoon slump.
And when dinner time rolled around, Cathy would have roasted chicken with honey sauce and salad drowning in sugar-loaded dressing.
With her leptin on mute, she’d then have low-fat frozen yogurt for dessert. Only in her mid-thirties, it puzzled Cathy why she was always in constant pain, had brain fog and was constantly tired.
At first, she brushed it off as stress from her demanding job (which fuelled her emotional eating habits).
But something told her there was more to it than that. Even doing simple things started to hurt more than normal. Her doctor then advised her to cut the sugar from her diet. For the first couple of weeks, she had terrible withdrawal symptoms, like tossing and turning in bed, feeling nauseous and being cranky all the time.
But after powering through this difficult time, Cathy ended up losing almost eight pounds. She had limitless energy, got work done twice as fast and stopped having those terrible cravings.
It might seem impossible to quit sugar like Cathy did, but YOU can do the same – read on…
Breaking the Habit
Switching over to a sugar-free life (or one with WAY LESS sugar at the very least) isn’t fun and games. You know too much is bad for you, but your body just can’t quit it. To untangle yourself from the tentacles of the sugar trap, you’ll need to unlearn those poor eating habits.
And part of that is looking for a healthier replacement for industrial-grade sugar.
To reduce your dependence, here are some substitutes worth looking into:
#1 Raw Honey
Humans have been consuming this since the dawn of time – including tribal groups who don’t have obesity or diabetes. While raw honey is a natural food source, it’s important to note that it’s still almost half fructose (which is what makes processed food sweet), along with carbs and calories.So while it’s not as bad as refined sugar, it’s best to use this sparingly.
Recommended – Manuka Honey
#2 Organic Maple Syrup
It’s safe to say you shouldn’t bother with the likes of Aunt Jemima Syrup which has obesity-causing High Fructose Corn Syrup. Maple syrup, in its organic form, has antioxidants and even zinc.Being way less processed than its industrially-produced equivalents, this old-school sweetener is a better choice.
Recommended – Runamok Maple Syrup
This is another zero-calorie sweetener that’s been around for hundreds of years. They’re derived from the plant Stevia rebaudiana, and it’s hundreds of times sweeter than conventional sugar. However, look for the organic brand of stevia powder (which are raw green as opposed to grocery store white). This is to make sure you won’t get one that’s processed or filled with additives that can cause gas or make you feel bloated. In fact, it’s best consumed in its raw form, which is stevia leaves.
Recommended – Buy Stevia from Amazon
#4 Chicory Root Sweetener
This might not be readily available in some parts of the world, but it is worth mentioning. The great thing about chicory root is that it also doesn’t have calories or carbohydrates. Better yet, it won’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike or trigger high insulin production. Some brands offer varieties which can be directly used on your favorite foods or for baking. It even has probiotic properties which are good for your gut health.
#5 Sugar Alcohols
A little warning before you try them: not all are good for you, so tread lightly. First off, you’ll want to avoid sorbitol, isomalt, mannitol, and maltitol. These won’t help you break your addiction to sugar because they still have fructose. What’s more, they’re chemically processed. They have ingredients that will either stay in your gut or give you a bad case of gas.Instead, stick to erythritol and xylitol.
Erythritol only has 0.24 calories in each gram and is safe as far as your blood sugar levels are concerned. It’s not necessarily beneficial otherwise, but at least it passes through your system without doing much else.
Xylitol, on the other hand, has about 2 calories for each gram and benefits your teeth and gums. And like erythritol, it won’t wreak havoc on your sugar or insulin levels either.
#6 Coconut Sugar
This one’s got a load of nutrients such as polyphenols, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium. It also has antioxidants which reverse cell damage from oxidative stress. You get the sugar from the sap taken from coconut blooms. This is then evaporated into its crystallized form. You also get the short fatty acids which are good for the brain (also found in coconut oil), and there’s blood sugar friendly inulin fiber as well.
#7 Monk Fruit
As the name suggests, this originated from the Far East where a group of monks first used this natural sweetener. It doesn’t have any calories or carbohydrates, and no regular sugar either.Taken from the fruit pulp itself, monk fruit sweetener has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, some brands add extra ingredients that reduce its healthy qualities. So, choose the purest and least processed version of this sweetener.
While these sweeteners are healthy alternatives to refined sugar or table sugar, you shouldn’t start slathering your foods with them. At the heart of it, they still contain sugar, even with the extra benefits.
And like what we just talked about, it’s NEVER a good idea to burden your bloodstream with too much sugar.
Moderation is key, so apply a little restraint while keeping your sweet tooth happy.
And I’d also like to point out that people living with certain health conditions like Type 2 diabetes shouldn’t be having them so much – or at all.Consuming sugar – even the healthier kind – should always be on a case-to-case basis.
Always consult with your doctor if you have any conditions or if you’re trying to lose weight.
Now, we only covered a small part of why controlling your sugar intake is so important. We’ve just scratched the surface, and seeing the whole picture could save your life.
There are far worse consequences to eating processed sugary snacks that you need to know about. A lot of people think that it’s healthy to eat less, exercise more and help themselves to those “healthy” low-fat foods that are marketed to them.
The truth is that it’s this kind of thinking (which is shaped by major food companies) that’s KILLING more and more people every year.
Did You Know?
- Growing scientific evidence shows that eating too much added sugar over time is linked to health problems, including serious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and liver disease.
- Every day, the average American consumes almost three times more sugar than is recommended. That adds up to an average of 66 pounds of added sugar each year.
- Added sugar is hiding in 74% of packaged foods, including foods that many of us think are healthy, like yogurt and energy bars, and even in savory foods, like pasta sauce, breads, salad dressing and ketchup.
- In an effort to make foods “low-fat,” many food companies replaced added fat with added sugar.
- There are at least 61 names for added sugar on food labels.
- Liquid sugar, like that in soda and sports drinks, is the largest source of added sugar in the American diet (36%).
- Too much added sugar from soda and sports drinks can overload critical organs over time, leading to serious diseases.
When you consume sugar as a beverage, you don’t feel as full. It’s easy
to down 9 teaspoons of sugar in a single 12-oz. soda. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.
- Drinking just one 12-oz. soda every day, or 7 sodas per week, can increase your risk of dying from heart disease by almost 1/3. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
- Fructose is a common type of sugar found in soda, sports drinks and many packaged foods. Too much fructose can damage your liver, just like too much alcohol.