Who isn’t all for having a sweet tooth? Eating dessert first? Treating yo’self to some delicious cookies, cakes and candy?
I have to eat something sweet every single evening, no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. While I love bitter chocolates and coffees, and I’m always down for some plant-based savory comfort foods, there is a special place in my heart (and stomach) for dessert.
Since really diving head-first into finding optimal wellness through functional medicine, I have come to learn more about how certain foods and ingredients can really detriment my progress. As you can guess, one of those ingredients is refined sugar. Specifically the combination of all-purpose flour and cane sugar is apparently a huge no-no if you deal with irritable bowel symptoms, so I’m slowly transitioning away from them.
I had known already about how addictive and dangerous refined sugars can be on our bodies and minds, but now I’m really going to practice what I preach. With research and alternatives, I encourage you to also consider making the change, too.
What’s so bad about refined sugar?
Refined sugar in its conventional forms like cane sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar and more, can harm us from the inside out, especially if we already struggle digesting carbohydrates or struggle with our blood sugar levels.
If we’re relying upon packaged foods and drinks every day, then we can hardly avoid them. What’s more, many foods contain hidden sugar, or sugar that is masked by other names such as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and sucanat. There are plenty of sneaky ways we’re adding in excess sugar without realizing it, and that might be the worst part: trying to choose a more well-balanced lifestyle but unknowingly are still hurting our journeys.
Compared to other forms of carbohydrates, sugars are metabolized at a much quicker rate, a major reason why we experience the “sugar high” and “sugar crash” when eating lots of it. That goes straight to our liver to process, and that immediate burst of energy not only contains zero nutrients we actually need, but it’s addictive. The more we consume, the more we crave it.
Sugar in the conventional American diet is a huge contributor of our obesity epidemic. Sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them. A daily dose of sugar causes altered internal pH levels resulting in a more acidic body, known to be a breeding ground for disease.
Are natural sugars better?
Notice how I’m focusing on refined sugars this whole time without mentioning natural sugars found in fresh fruits and vegetables or even agave, maple syrup and stevia. Is there a major difference between refined and natural sugars?
Rather than coming from the source itself, refined sugars are exactly as the name implies: sugar canes and sugar beets are heavily processed to extract their sugars for a plethora of foods, and high-fructose corn syrup is chemically produced just to add into packaged goods.
Because refined sugar is digested quickly, you don’t feel full after you’re done eating, no matter how many calories you consumed. The fiber in natural sources slows down the metabolism, helping us actually feel satisfied and absorb accompanying nutrients. However, once the sugar passes through the stomach and reaches the small intestine, it doesn’t matter if it came from an apple or a soft drink.
Overall, if you still want something sweet, you might as well go with something that isn’t extracted or produced to taste that way. Our bodies aren’t meant to be consuming that substance, let alone the immense amounts most of us do. There’s no better time to begin cutting down on those refined sugars than now when there are so many more options available for us to eat and bake with.
Finding sweet and staying well.
When you’re buying packaged foods at the grocery store and eating out at restaurants, chances are there’s some refined sugars in there. That’s just life, and some of that every once in a while won’t cause cancer and disease, but I would suggest making your own desserts and foods when possible. You’ll feel good knowing that your diet is chock-full of amazing nutrients and ingredients.
I’m always diving onto Pinterest for recipe ideas, especially for plant-based desserts that can already be a struggle to find, but what about ones without refined sugar? Even more challenging. But I’ve found that by searching for vegan and paleo recipes will be without refined sugar. If you’re willing to find egg substitutes, even just choosing paleo desserts are healthier options you can still easily fit into a plant-based lifestyle.
Some awesome choices for natural sugars include maple syrup, honey (for some vegans…I say honey from local sources can be acceptable), agave syrup, molasses, monk fruit, stevia, coconut sugar, and date sugar all have their place for alleviating our sweet cravings. Plus, most of these sources have extra nutrients and will count out empty calories we’d otherwise eat from the refined version.
This isn’t a change I suggest making overnight, but I do recommend doing some of your own research into how refined sugar and conventional flour can interact in our bodies and the benefits of cutting down on sugar consumption. Since it can be addictive, cutting it cold-turkey is for some people, but certainly not me. Do what’s best for you, and treat yourself well however you know best.
Do you have any tips for those of us cutting down on refined sugars? Please share them in the comments below; I’m sure many of us would appreciate it!
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie