25 Apr The truth: What you don’t know about sugar!
I’m not sure about you guys but I’m definitely feeling the after effects of Easter. Last week I was left feeling flat and lethargic and have really had to dig deep to pull my mood up and get my mojo back. It has been a well needed check-in for me on how drastically my nutrition affects my mood, my energy levels and my skin (cue teenager style spots…gross). So those seemingly harmless little chocolate eggs have a lot to answer for! Or more to the point, that little devil called sugar!
Most of us know that sugar is not good for us, right? It is high in calories and too many calories from any source will be stored as fat if not burned. However, what you may not realise is that the lack of other nutrients in sugar makes it so much easier to consume in mass volume that before we know it we have taken on far more than the recommended daily amount and there are some seriously negative impacts that the white stuff has on our bodies that we are perhaps not aware of. So, before we mindlessly throw handfuls of sweets and chocolate down our throats, surely it is important to get to the bottom of this?
What is sugar REALLY doing to our bodies?
Brain: Sugar causes the brain to release serotonin, our “happy hormone”, into the blood stream creating feelings of joy and elation. These feelings of instant gratification encourage us to eat more sugar and strive for these feelings again and again. The result is an addictive cycle of cravings and binge eating. The serotonin lift is only short lived however and after a couple of hours you can experience a sugar crash leaving you feeling flat, unfocussed and lethargic. There is also a connection between sugar and our overall mental health. Excess sugar is linked to deficiencies in memory, a reduction in our mood, increased likelihood of depression, overall cognitive health and neurological disorders like Alzeimer’s.
Teeth: Sugar coats your teeth, causing bacteria to attack the enamel leading to cavities, gum disease and bad breath. Yum!!
Skin: Sugar not only increases the risk of majorly gross skin breakouts, it can also damage the collagen in your skin leading to premature ageing. Reducing your sugar intake can visibly reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Heart: An immediate sugar high can increase your heart rate and can actually affect the pumping mechanism of your heart, increasing your risk of heart failure. When sugar is metabolised, the excess is tired as fat around the tummy area, which can increase chances of obesity and the rate of heart disease.
Liver: Like alcohol, sugar in excess can have a toxic effect on the liver as the liver metabolises sugar and stores the excess as fat.
Pancreas: The pancreas increases insulin production to deal with the sugar rush. In the long term this can lead to insulin resistance which can cause type-2 diabetes and has been linked to an increase in the risk of cancer. Please let this be a reason to look at your sugar intake if ever there was one!
Gut: Sugar is hard to digest causing gas and bloating and a gut bacteria imbalance over time. Our gut is often referred to as our “second brain” and therefore an imbalance in the gut can be another contributor to mental health issues.
ok guys…enough of the doom and gloom…time to get into solution mode…
So what can we about this pesky little white substance?
As you well know, I am not about deprivation in any way, shape of form! If I want a glass of wine, I’ll have it…if my body is telling me to treat it to a croissant, I’ll treat it…and over Easter I was not going to restrict myself of a cheeky choccie egg or two! So, it is all about getting your body into a place where it doesn’t crave sugar anymore and it is making the right choices so we do not have to rely on our (non-existent) self control to get us through!
To keep it simple, I want to talk about two things have altered for me over the last few years that have enabled me to really get a handle on my health…
Firstly, I am more educated. I am dedicated to living the healthiest and longest life possible and therefore I want to know as much as I can about what I put into my body:
- If I am going to eat sugar, I want to do so knowing exactly the impacts and side effects it will have on my body and my mind. The same goes for anything else I’m eating for that matter! We have so much information thrust at us in today’s society – people with different agendas and different opinions – but it is up to us to dig deeper and ensure we are taking our information from sources we trust.
- Find out where sugar may be hiding! Whilst it may be easy enough to avoid the “normal” sugary culprits (sweets, chocolate, biccies, cake, etc), we are often baffled to discover some other foods that also contain lots of sugar. Examples include tomato sauce, fat free dressing, tonic water, low fat milk and even bread.
- Research and seek out healthier alternatives. There are so many sugar free recipes out there so spend some time finding menu options that will get more of the good stuff into your diet in a fun and delicious way that doesn’t feel like you are depriving yourself of the foods you love!
Secondly, I am much more aware. Through my mindfulness practise I am so much more in tune with what is happening with my body and mind on the back of what I have eaten. This ability to join the dots has removed the need for too much self control as I will more naturally chose the foods that make my body thrive. For example, if I feed myself a deliciously nourishing breakfast and I feel energetic, focussed and firing on all cylinders for the rest of the morning, I’m going after that feeling again…and again, and again!
Just to sum all of this up, become interested in your body! How it feels and how it responds to the fuel you put into it. I am a total nerd…I would read and listen to podcasts on this stuff until the cows came home so here are three of my recommendations:
- http://www.seven-health.com. I love his simple approach to food and nutrition. Nothing faddy or restrictive just great information on wholesome eating for your unique body.
- https://iquitsugar.com. Great sugar-free recipes and more info on sugar and its dangers to your health.
- http://bellawellbeing.co.uk/blog/ My Naturopath! I consult a naturopath on an adhoc basis when I feel that my body is not working at its optimum and I require the second opinion of an expert after exhausting my research methods. Nikki also has a great blog and recipes about how to optimise your health through a great, simple diet.