Are you ready for a challenge that will change your life?! Come on, people, let’s muster up some enthusiasm! Last month, I did a personal 30 day challenge of no sugar. Guess what? It was much easier than I expected! I have a pretty terrible sweet tooth. I grew up eating candy and whatever other sugar can be found in the standard American diet (SAD). Before I started trying to live a healthier lifestyle, I never paid any attention to what was in the food I ate. Slowly but surely, I started learning what all of the different things in my food were and which ones I should avoid.
The problem is that as a society, we are completely and utterly addicted to sugar. It’s in almost everything we eat in some form or another, and the more we eat it, the more we crave it. In fact, sugar consumption is processed in the brain the same way a high from a drug such as heroin is processed. THAT is scary! Sugar stimulates the exact same pleasure center in the brain as some illegal drugs. Addiction is addiction.
First, you need to understand what role sugar consumption plays in your health. Obviously, sugar contributes to weight gain. But it also feeds a naturally-occuring yeast found in your body called candida. Overgrowth of candida in the body leads to many health problems, including depression, migraines, pms, impaired immune system, yeast infections, digestive issues, and even low sex drive. The more sugar you eat, the more out of control candida becomes in your body, causing more and more health issues. The only way to get the candida under control is to starve it: i.e. stop eating sugar! It can take at least thirty days for the sugar to get out of your system and cravings to subside, depending on how much sugar you consume. But like many other things, the less you have it, the less you want/need it.
Did you know there are a lot of different names and forms of sugar?
With so many options for sweeteners on the market today, let’s look at the good, the bad and the ugly:
Raw Honey- contains enzymes which help with digestion, natural vitamins, antioxidants and other important natural nutrients. Raw honey is very different from pasteurized honey, in which most of the medicinal and other nutritional benefits have been destroyed. Raw honey is creamy in texture and lighter in color than pasteurized honey. Often, you will find honey labelled as raw, but it won’t look any different from the other honeys on the shelf. You can assume it is probably not truly raw if this is the case, but instead has been heated to a lower temperature. Honey that is not truly raw will not retain the health benefits of raw honey.
Real Maple Syrup- a delicious and versatile sweetener which also contains nutrients, such as manganese and zinc, as well as antioxidants which help to support and strengthen your immune system. I’ve used it in cakes, doughnuts, and of course on sourdough pancakes.
Agave Nectar/Syrup- marketed as a healthy alternative to other sweeteners, agave nectar is little different from high fructose corn syrup in its nature and production. This is as man-made sweetener, produced by chemical means and taken from the starchy bulb of the yucca plant, not the sap as advertisements would have you believe. Furthermore, “raw” agave nectar just means it has only been heated to a certain temperature, not that it is truly raw.
Organic Sugar- any form of organic sugar is still sugar. It has been refined from the sugar cane plant and will still act as sugar in your body. Avoid it.
High Fructose Corn Syrup- you will find this highly refined, chemically-produced syrup in many (if not most) conventionally-packaged products. It is not only made from GMO (genetically modified organism) corn (like most of the corn and corn products in the US), but will wreak havoc on your body in a number of ways, starting with your waist line. Consumption of HFCS contributes to a plethora of health problems and should be avoided entirely.
- Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
These artificial sweeteners are most often found in products labelled “sugar-free.” They are toxic, terrible stuff. They are known neurotoxins and have been proven to cause problems such as Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders. AVOID THEM.
So, rule number one for our 30 Day No Sugar Challenge: NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS! Do NOT fall into the “low-calorie”/”sugar-free” trap that is the health crisis caused by these toxins.
If you are unsure of where to start, start off your day by taking inventory of what you eat on a daily basis. Are there regular things you consume every day? For instance, my mom also took part in my personal challenge last month and went cold turkey off of her coffee creamer she’d been drinking for years. She’s lost nearly ten pounds in the first two weeks! Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not always about losing weight, but consumption of sugar is a huge cause of obesity in our country, so if you are overweight and remove sugar from your diet, you are sure to shed some weight.
Obviously, remove any known sources of sugar from your diet: soda, candy, baked goods, etc. It will be important for you to get into the habit of reading labels. Sugar is in so many things you might not expect: peanut butter (which I hope you are buying organic or natural!), ketchup, jam, barbecue sauce… the list goes on. You will need to be diligent about reading labels!
Finally, and I don’t want to overwhelm you here, but you will want to eliminate starchy foods from your diet as well: white potatoes, rice and bread, among others. These foods are processed as sugar in your body and will contribute to candida overgrowth as well, in addition to contributing to colon issues of their own.
So, are you ready for the challenge?! Are you ready to feel like a new person in 30 days? I am so very excited for you to join me in defeating addiction to sugar, one day at a time. This month, I will share recipes for basics you can make on your own to avoid sugar, as well as treats you can enjoy without sugar!
Let me know in the comments if you are taking part in the challenge!