Cut the Sugar
It is no secret that everyone should cut back on sugar, it is also no secret that a treat here and there can be too hard to refuse sometimes!!
Recently, one of the staff members at Active Health underwent a ‘last straw’, ‘saving-grace’ attempt to help a health problem before a major medical intervention would occur. That was to cut out sugar. Simple, right? NO! But worth it? ABSOLUTELY! After 8 years of a terrible inflammatory disease, more doctors than we could count, procedures, medication, and so much more, after 1 month of no sugar… pain-free!
Some benefits of a no-sugar/ low-sugar diet:
Improved gut health
Clear, bright skin
Healthy, steady weight loss
Reduce the risk of heart disease
Improved mental health
so much more!
Now, it is important to note that our doctors don’t recommend completely cutting out sugar (natural sugars in particular), as this isn’t a one size fits all diet change, and natural sugars can play a very important role. That doesn't mean we couldn’t all cut back on the treats and replace them with something healthier.
All predispositions for dementia, ADHD, anxiety or depression, mood disorders, hormone imbalance, can all lead to high levels of inflammation, linked to increasing blood sugar. Removing sugar can have drastic effects on chronic pain, arthritis, heart disease, memory loss, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and so much more.
Once a person quits sugar, they can expect to experience decreased levels of inflammation in the body, including a reduction in nerve, muscle, and joint pain.
(We only go into small detail, about a few types of sugar. Scroll down to the end for more resources that can help educate yourself on sugar)
There are a number of types of sugars, fructose, lactose, maltose, etc., however, let’s focus our attention on sucrose (refined table sugar). Sucrose is a simple disaccharide made of glucose and fructose, heavily refined. Upon eating sucrose, it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream where the fructose molecule is taken up by the liver to convert it into glucose that can be used for fuel. Our body requires the use of macronutrients, magnesium, and vitamin B1 for this metabolic reaction to occur, keep in mind, sucrose has no macronutrients.
As you may expect, corn is very high in fructose content and therefore has been used as a processed sweetener for a number of years. The issue with corn-derived sweeteners is only the liver can break down these fructose enzymes, overloading your already busy liver. Let's say your liver to doing its job and is processing the removal of toxins, hormones, and drugs, and you go eat a high fructose treat, you are overwhelming the liver and in this case, the fructose will be converted into fat which is a cause of many chronic health concerns like type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and so much more.
Natural carbohydrates, such as vegetables, are needed for day-to-day life and are a mass source of many micronutrients, fiber being a big one. The issue with carbohydrates comes when we attempt to refine them, where many of those critical macronutrients are lost. Try to stick to whole foods and unrefined carbs.
Is sugar a drug?
Sugar is so attractive to us that scientists have recently revealed through brain scans that our brains react to sugar in a similar way as it does when we ingest strong drugs, such as cocaine. This has to do with our dopamine-reward system. Sucrose activates sweet taste receptors in the mouth which ultimately leads to the release of a chemical called dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, meaning it's a chemical that passes messages between nerves in the brain. When we're exposed to a rewarding stimulus, the brain responds by releasing dopamine. The rewarding effects of dopamine are largely seen in the part of the brain involved in pleasure and reward. Reward governs our behaviour – meaning we're driven to repeat the behaviours which cause dopamine to be released. Intense sweetness surpasses even cocaine in terms of the internal reward it triggers, studies have shown. Sugar is able to activate these reward pathways in the brain whether it's tasted in the mouth or injected into the bloodstream, as shown in studies on mice. This means its effects are independent of the sweet taste.
If you want to challenge yourself to cut out sugar, take it slow and listen to your body. You body is a very powerful being, while this change may be drastic, you will be doing your body a huge favour.
Is this a change I should be making in my diet?
Take the quiz in our office to find out if you may be suffering from sugar intolerance!!
What are my first steps?
1) Take the sugar sensitivity test
2) Educate yourself to ensure maximum results with minimal side effects
3) Make a list of food, natural sweeteners, etc. that are targeted as "bad". This way, when you grocery shopping you can refer back to this list.
4) Find support!! Maybe you and a friend can challenge each other. Start with one full day of no sugar, work your way up to a week!
5) Collect go to recipes that you can fall back on for those busy days where you dont want to cook. (We will be posting some recipes on our instagram account!)
6) Start slow! Since we have already established that sugar has very similar effects as many drugs, it is safe to assume the withdrawal will not be easy. Connect and listen to your body, don't push anything if it doesn't feel right.
Foods that are high in sugar to watch out for
- Sauces and dressings
- Granola/ cereals/ cereal or protein bars
- Sport drinks/ energy drinks
- Canned soup
- pre-made smoothies
These are just a few examples of foods we encounter in our day-to-day lives that shockingly contain a large amount of sugar.
Many products, particularly "diet" products that claim to be sugar free or zero calories have sweeteners that cause mimic the effects of sugar or have harmful neurotoxins. Keep an eye out for...
- Artificial sweeteners (aspartame: Ace-K, Nutrasweet, Equal spoonful, Equal Measure, Benevia, AminoSweet. Saccharin: Sweet'N low, Necta Sweet, Sugar Twin, Sweet 10, Cyclamate: Sucaryl, Cologran. Sucralose: Splenda, Nevella.
- Barbados sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Buttered syrup
- Turbinado Sugar (Caramel flavour)
- Cane sugar
- Caster Sugar
- Corn Syrup/ Fructose corn syrup
- Demerara Sugar ( Toffee flavour)
- Dextrose (VERY high glycemic index)
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Grain Syrups/ malts (BBQ sauce, baked beans, candied vegetables, etc.)
- Pasteurized honey (stick with raw, unpasteurized)
- Malt Syrup
- Mannitol (strong laxative)
- Powdered sugar
- Raw sugar
- Rice syrup
- Refined date sugar (plain old dates are great!)
- Refined fructose (lots of sauces and dressings)
- Sorbitol (commonly found in sugar-free candy)
- Sucanat (molasses flavour)
- Tapioca Syrup
- Beet Sugar
Here are some well tolerated sweeteners...
- Coconut palm sugar
- Coconut nectar
- Dates and other fruit
- Raw honey
- Liquorice root
- 100% pure Monk fruit
- 100% pure Stevia leaf
- Stevia leaf extract
- Tiger nut
This can be a lot of information to digest all at once, but this is just touching briefly on the topic. Do some research, take inspiration, and try challenging yourself to incorporate some no sugar meals, days, or weeks! Every little bit counts. One very important thing to remember, cutting the calories of sugar means you must replace those lost calories. A lean protein is a GREAT way to do this.
If you have any questions, feel free to call our clinic or check out these resources...
Some great resources!
Book: Becoming Sugar-free by Julie Daniluk
Book: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet & Action Plans by Dorothy Calimeris &Sondi Bruner
Visit our instagram for some sweet, sugar-free recipes to try!! @activehealthburlington