Chances are you are “addicted” to sugar, but if you consume it in a healthy manner coming mostly from whole forms this doesn’t need to be a bad thing. It may even be one of the most healthy addictions you can have!
In natural foods, fiber is almost always found with sugar, with many of the most sweet fruits containing considerable amounts of soluble fiber. Some of this sugar found in fruit is called fructose, a unique function of which is its ability to be absorbed by the body without needing to interact with the hormone insulin. Low insulin levels are associated with healthy weight and longevity. Insulin is an anabolic hormone which means it can help us put on mass, and this is one of the reasons why protein powders work so well for those trying to gain muscle. This is because concentrated protein requires a significant insulin response. On the other hand, those who are looking to lose weight should try to keep their insulin at a relatively low level. This can be accomplished by consuming large amounts of raw fruits which contain the sugar fructose as a main source of calories.
Sugars that are found in natural, whole foods are bound to fiber and minerals in a way that the body can easily recognize and be used as the primary fuel for healthy cells. However, refined and processed sugars are devoid of these naturally balancing vitamins, minerals and fiber. The only people who should consume large quantities of refined sugar are ultra-endurance athletes such as runners and cyclists who can quickly burn these empty calories.
7 Signs You’re Addicted to Sugar
1. Inconsistent Energy Levels – Many of us suffer from unstable blood sugar causing peaks and crashes in energy. When our blood sugar becomes uneven, it’s common to have periods of energy followed by a crash, which sometimes causes us to seek out that afternoon donut and coffee fix. One solution to this is making sure to avoid processed foods that contain refined sugars and processed flours. Instead focus on consuming enough carbohydrates from whole plant sources throughout the day, providing plenty of phytonutrients and fiber which help to keep our blood sugar and energy at a sustainable level. One of the many appealing qualities of a high raw food diet is the sustained energy that raw food can provide. Ideally, we should always try to get the energy we need from the foods we eat, and not from stimulants.
2. Junk Food Cravings – Many of us skip meals or go long periods without eating. When our hunger begins to catch up with us is when we normally find ourselves reaching for the chocolate bars and gummy bears at the checkout counter. A great way to avoid these predicaments is by ensuring that you’re eating enough carbohydrates from healthy plant foods before you get to the point where candy or junk food becomes irresistible.
A healthy alternative to these cravings can almost always be achieved. Try replacing things that contain both fat and sugar like ice cream, with something that contains just natural sugar and almost zero fat like a frozen banana puree. Instead of eating candy bars reach for the denser sweet foods like dates, mulberries and bananas.
3. Hot Drink Dependance – People often drink tea and coffee daily not just for the caffeine fix, but for the calories it provides. Many need the energy boost that comes not only from the caffeine but also the spoonfuls of honey or sugar they mix into these drinks. Although it may not be a conscious act some people treat these drinks as a meal replacement which can be unsustainable. Hot drinks can be great and health promoting staple in your diet but shouldn’t become a substitute for real food calories.
4. Mood Instability – Sugar affects the reward centers in our brains in much the same way addictive drugs can. This is an excellent survival mechanism because it keeps us from starving. However, it can cause addictive behavior towards foods and sometimes even mood swings if we get too hungry. An important way to avoid this is by eating food combinations that help to modulate the release of sugar into our blood so we have a consistent source of fuel all day, without the crash. Adding fiber rich foods like flax and chia, or minimally processed plant proteins to smoothie and salads is an easy and healthful way to achieve this.
5. Sweet Tooth – We have predominantly sugar sensing taste buds for a reason! When we fail to meet our bodies daily carbohydrate intake, we can begin to develop cravings for simple and refined sources of carbs. This is our body’s way of telling us that it needs fuel. Once we get the instant satisfaction of fiber free processed sugars, they can simply spike our blood sugar and start this process all over again. The most sustaining sources of carbohydrates for humans are fruits, root vegetables and grains. All of which can help to satisfy our natural sweet tooth.
6. Pain and Inflammation – One theory is that many common medical conditions are rooted in improper regulation of blood sugar. The regulation of sugar in the blood is controlled by hormones like insulin. Factors like dietary fat, fiber, minerals and macro-nutrients can effect the clearance of sugar in the blood. Excessive levels of sugar in the blood can cause inflammation and oxidize fatty acids which may eventually contribute to arterial plaque buildup. It’s integral that we allow our bodies to absorb these sugars effectively. Exercise, proper chewing and not over-eating during meals can help our bodies to achieve this proper clearance of sugar into our cells.
7. Fungal Infections – Re-occurring fungal infections afflict many people and candida is one of the most popular topics of discussion within the health community. Many have pointed to high consumption of sugar as the main culprit, but the answer doesn’t appear to be that simple. Fat consumption and poor immune system function also play a role of the regulation of this natural yeast/fungus.
Candida albicans actually plays an important role in eliminating excess sugar in the blood stream. When high levels of blood sugar become a regular occurrence, the candida can convert from its yeast form to a fungal one and begin to affect our system in various negative ways. High levels of fat can effect the consistency of human blood in a process known as lipidemia. This can cause an inability to clear elevated levels of blood sugar which can suspend sugar in the bloodstream, which is one factor contributing to uncontrolled candida blooms. For this reason high amounts of both sugar and fats are best consumed away from each other.
Unfortunately, the common recommendation to eliminate all forms of sugar from one’s diet is unsustainable for most people, and can lead to discouraging results. The optimal diet for candida recovery should include limited fat intake, plenty of filtered water and predominantly plant-based and unprocessed carbohydrate-rich foods.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite healthy sweeteners:
- Dates and date paste
- Lucuma fruit
- Dried apricots
- Fresh or frozen banana
Mineral-Rich Sugar Options
- Maple syrup
- Coconut nectar sugar
- Date sugar
Calorie-Free Natural Sweeteners
- Green stevia leaf
- Stevia leaf extract