Refined sugars are simple sugars, generally made from fructose that has been extracted from plant materials – normally sugar cane. This is then used as an additive in many foods, while many other people will add it themselves to tea and coffee. In other words it’s the white grains of sugar that you find on your doughnuts and cakes, that’s mixed in with chocolate, that’s used in cooking and that you spoon into your tea.
Refined sugar although it tastes nice is however a bad thing to eat in serious quantities. When you consume sugar it will go straight into your blood stream (unlike complex carbs which are the healthier form of energy such as bread). This will then mean that you have a ‘sugar high’ where your blood sugar level is temporarily much higher, and like all highs it will be followed by a comparative low where by your body then loses the high of the sugar and you feel tired, lethargic and often even depressed.
At the same time these fluctuations in blood sugar mean that your insulin has to work extra hard to use up the energy and this can cause diabetes whereby the insulin stops working to use up the sugar leaving it in your blood stream where it can cause damage to your nerves and organs – eventually sometimes resulting in amputation and blindness.
As though that wasn’t enough, refined sugars also damage our teeth both directly and by providing fuel for plaque that lives on our enamel causing it to spread and to produce corrosive acids that cause abscesses. Then there’s the fact that sugar also is high in calories and so is likely to be stored as fat and thus cause obesity (a problem worsened by the fact that we crave more sugar and carbs during our sugar lows). So there are plenty of reasons to eat less refined sugar and yet it’s in a whole range of what we eat. Here then we will look at some ways to improve your diet but drastically reducing the amount of refined sugar in it.
Cut Out Added Sugar
First of all, stop adding sugar to things. This means that you should stop adding sugar to your tea, to your cereal and to your strawberries and melon. At first the taste will seem bland, but in less than a month you’ll find that you get used to it and don’t want to go back to the sugary taste of sweet tea – it will seem absurd that you ever drank that much sugar. It’s also best to avoid sweetener for several reasons. The first of these is that it causes the body to have an insulin response – thinking its getting sugar – which uses up the sugar in your blood and leaves you craving more sweet things. The second is that if you completely remove sweet things from your tea you can slowly start to get rid of your ‘sweet tooth’ and you’ll find you need less sugar in other areas too.
Stop Eating Sweets
We all need some sweets and a bit of refined sugar never killed anyone. However set a limit on the things you know are covered in sugar such as chocolate bars, cakes, pastries etc to maybe just one a day as a treat. If you’re the sort of person who snacks on jelly beans and chocolates every time they go to the kitchen then just throw these things out so that the temptation is not there.
Check Your Fridge and Cupboards
Now look at the rest of your foods. While you’ll have eliminated sugary snacks, you’d be surprised to learn that there’s a lot of sugar in a range of other things that don’t even taste sweet. Check the mayonnaise, the sandwich spreads, the crackers and more and look for the word ‘fructose’ in the ingredients. If they’re guilty – replace them for their low sugar counterparts or just try to use them in lower quantities. Tinned food and frozen meals are particularly guilty too and contain a lot of refined sugars and a lot of salt. Even your drinks aren’t safe – particularly pop drinks that normally include copious amounts of sugar.
If your cutting this much sugar out of your diet in one go then it won’t be easy and it will leave you craving quick snacks for that sugar high. As such you need to replace those sources of energy with something more substantial and natural. Snacking on fruit is a great way to get natural sugar, and you also need to give yourself lots of complex carbs at the beginning of the day to release themselves slowly for the remainder. These will keep you energised so you don’t start snacking. Fruit juice is also a great way to top up your energy levels. In general if you can stop yourself getting very tired then the pull towards that box of Thornton’s won’t be so strong, so it’s also crucial that you get lots of sleep in order to stay wide eyed throughout the day.
As well as replacing your energy levels you also need to replace your refined sugar psychologically. When we eat chocolates and cakes it’s something to look forward to and a treat and you’ll miss that when it’s gone. Find alternative deserts then such as dried fruits, yoghurt, plain cereal or fruit salads.