Everyone knows sugar is not great for our health…
Sugar ain’t as sweet to our bodies as it is to our taste buds. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends we get 25 grams or less (emphasis on the less) of sugar (sucrose/dextrose/maltose/lactose/corn syrup/molasses/HFCS/agave/all the other terms for sugar that are hidden on food labels…) per day. Umm, helloooo this is kinda difficult considering basically everything has added sugar in it. Food companies pump extra sugar into their foods so their buyers will enjoy the sweet taste and so they will want/buy/eat more, and also get addicted to it. Just to give you an idea of how many grams of sugar are in common foods, “a 12-ounce can of regular Coke contains 39 grams of total sugar, which is about 9 1/3 teaspoons of sugar.”
Umm YEAH it sickens me to think of the people who drink 3 cans of sodas per day….just one soda is over the recommended amount of sugar we should have in a day!!
Besides known consequences of high sugar intake like Type II Diabetes, Obesity, Depression, Cancer, Metabolic Syndrome, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Heart Disease, Fatty Liver Disease, and so much more, sugar is also now being talked about as an actual “toxin”. What’s so crazy to me is that sugar actually acts on the brain similar to hardcore drugs like cocaine and heroin. Sugar is addictive! The more we eat, the more our body craves it and the more it needs to get the same effect. Receptors in our brains “light up” when we eat sugar, producing feel-good hormones and making us want more. Just like drug dependence, people can have sugar dependence without realizing it. Ever noticed if you eat sugar more often one week and end up craving it even more? Ever feel like you have GOT to have that small candy bar every afternoon? Yeah. Scary stuff. Here is just one of the research studies on it: click here. Therefore, sugar dependence can cause similar withdrawal effects like drug withdrawal such as headaches, dizziness, depression, mood swings, nausea and fatigue, and when you haven’t had sugar in x amount of time, you tend to reach for more sugar to get a buzz and get rid of these symptoms.
When it comes to sugar, I thought I’d interview my friend Ali who, in conjunction with her UGA soccer player roommate, decided to completely nix sugar for the whole month of September. Kudos to them! This has got me thinking about wanting to try and go for at least a week without ANY sugar just to see how I feel and if I can do it….here is some insight from Ali who completed the “IQuitSugarChallenge” for a month this fall.
Q: So I know you decided to embark on a 30-day completely no sugar challenge. Tell me a little bit about how you found out about this, what it entailed, and why you decided to do it.
A: “Well my roommate, Laura Eddy, is a complete health nut and found about the IQuitSugar program. She is all about a good healthy challenge when it comes to food. She knew I enjoy being healthy and challenged me to do it with her. She gave me a brief overview of what sugar actually does to not only your body and mind but to your tastebuds. It didn’t take too much convincing. So we decided to make the month of September a month without any added sugar in the ingredients of our food. For me, I was not allowed to even have fruit for the first two weeks. So we basically ate a TONNNN of fresh produce.”
Q: What was the hardest part of the challenge?
A: “The hardest part was dreaming about doughnuts, waking up craving them and not being able to run through Dunkin and grab one. Ha! But in all seriousness, it wasn’t too bad. I really missed fruit and of course had cravings for the beginning of the month. But what is crazy is that you don’t realize that pretty much everything has sugar. People don’t realize how much added sugar they are really taking in unless they have a reason to monitor it. Not only did I have to look at the food label for grams of sugar but I had to look at the ingredients to make sure there weren’t any “hidden” sugars included. I had to be sooo careful, especially if I ate out with friends. Things you don’t really even think about having sugar, typically have sugar. (Milk, bread, tomato sauce-LOTS)….also having to get used to drinking black coffee was hard at first.”
Q: Did you try any sugar replacements/natural sweeteners or was absolutely no sugar allowed?
A: “I actually didn’t use any replacements or natural sweeteners. I didn’t read up on the IQuitSugar program as much as I should have but I don’t think it really encourages any replacements. I think it really focuses on calibrating your tastebuds so that you can actually savor the flavor of other foods.
Q: How did you feel during the 30 days?
A: “I won’t sugar coat this (pun intended), but the first week or two I felt horrible. My body was of course detoxing and trying to adjust to not having sugar or even certain things that I was used to eating that had a tiny bit of sugar added. Towards the middle and end of the month, I felt fine.”
Q: What was the most rewarding aspect of this challenge?
A: “I think the most rewarding was being able to actually accomplish something so strict. I was able to recognize the self-discipline I had which is something that everyone needs and acknowledge the fact that I’m a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. I mean, going a whole month with no added sugar is one tough cookie (not to make sugar references here).That’s definitely something I can be proud of. It helped me see my own strength and ability to stick to something and be able to accomplish it like a piece of cake (also another sugary reference that wasn’t intentional).”
Q: Who would you recommend this challenge for?
A: “I would recommend this for any health nut who is up for challenges concerning their diet.” And I would further recommend it to anyone who feels like they have a sugar dependence or want to quit the toxin for a little while the reset their system.
Q: Will you ever do it again?
A: “I think I will do mini sessions. I might do a week or two every once in a while but 30 days was hard. I won’t rule out ever doing the 30 days ever again, but if I decided to detox from sugar again, I would shoot for a smaller goal like a week and go from there.”
Q: Do you think you eat less sugar now because of the challenge?
A: “Oh I already do. I am constantly checking ingredient labels and making sure I am aware of how much sugar intake I have. No, it doesn’t mean I won’t indulge in a few doughnuts here and there but on a daily basis I am so much more aware of what I eat. And now, I know the effect it will have on my body afterwards so I can rationalize if eating a trail mix bar with 26g of sugar is worth it or not at the moment.”
Q: Okay…so after the 30 days how did you celebrate? What sugary indulgence did you have first?
A: “I actually drove through Chick Fil A and grabbed a cookies and crème milkshake. Holy cow! It was delicious, but it was almost so sweet it was disgusting. It didn’t even take 5 minutes before I felt a terrible headache coming on. I know most people think a milkshake tastes normal on a sweet scale, but for me, it was like drinking just pure sugar or syrup (which I probably was). My taste buds had no idea what was going on. I maybe drank a little over a half of it and just couldn’t drink anymore.”Ali is a senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Spanish. She says, “I enjoy eating healthy because not only does my body feel good, but my mind feels good. There is nothing like a good detox from sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and even breads and meats. It’s worth the wholeness that you begin to feel after doing it.”
You think I could quit sugar for a week? I’m going to try!! Eek! 🙂
Here is a super easy, low sugar dessert recipe to help you quit the white stuff!
- Serving size: 1
- Calories: 114
- Fat: 3g
- Saturated fat: 0g
- Unsaturated fat: 0g
- Trans fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 21g
- Sugar: 8g
- Sodium: 2mg
- Fiber: 6g
- Protein: 2g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- ½ ripe banana
- 2 Tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- handful of raw cacao nibs for garnish
- Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
(the only sugar in this recipe comes naturally from the banana)