“It’s Not Me, It’s You!” – Breaking Up With Sugar

Addictive. Deceiving. Harmful. Making us sick – body & soul. Stalking us everywhere we go, even where we least expect it. We all know we’re better off without. Or not? And how to quit?

Meeting Sugar: Getting the Facts Straight

Sugar is not bad per se – basically, sugar is just a word to describe sweet, short-chain and soluble carbohydrates.
Scientifically speaking, there are “basic” simple sugars (monosaccharides) such as glucose/dextrose/grape sugar, fructose, galactose; there are disaccharaides like our table sugar (glucose+fructose), lactose, and maltose; there are oligosaccharides like fructo-oligosaccharide and inulin (occur naturally in sweet fruits and are used industrially as sugar substitutes) that are considered fibre and help our gut absorb calcium, or the prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides that help grow beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.

Giving up sugar doesn’t mean giving up all sugars. It means reducing and dumping its health-damaging varieties.”

Sugar: “Give Me A Chance? Please?”

There’s on-going research on the risks and benefits of sugar consumption. Different sugars (above) act differently in our bodies, leading to different results of which some are good for us and some bad.
TIP: if you want some more info on sugar metabolism and would like to understand why watermelons have a high GI and low GL (“Wut?” – Exactly) and what this means for your diet, you might want to look closer into Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load.

What everyone seems to agree upon though is that it’s the added refined sugar that the food industry has inflicted upon us that leads to diabetes, inflammations, premature aging, obesity, metabolic and cardiovascular dysfunction, addiction (!) and obviously and last but not least, caries – brief, that exact kind of zombie apocalypse stuff no one likes to encounter in their bathroom mirror.

Enjoying added sugar? Say ‘farewell’ to your skin, tissues, and blood vessel wall elasticity!
Say ‘hello’ to tooth decay, obesity, heart disease, generally deteriorating health and a budding diabetes.”

But what are researchers actually warning us of? We have seen how many sugar varieties exist. We know that sugar – carbohydrate, you guys – are important to gain energy.
Well, researchers advise us against so-called free sugars, meaning all monosaccharides and disaccharides (above) that are added to foods PLUS natural sugars in fruit juices (!) honey, and syrups (agave, brown rice).
Honey is also hard work for the pancreas to metabolise, so maybe leave it to the bees altogether.

Eating an apple is okay, drinking apple juice is not.
Eating a banana is great, eating coffehouse banana bread not so much.”


Sugar: “I Will Stalk You!”

Seriously, isn’t it creepy?
Added sugar is found nearly in anything processed! Apart from the obvious – sweetened yogurts, soda, fruit juice drinks, take-away vanilla lattes, pastry, desserts, jams and chocolates – you’ll find sugar in savoury and spicy sauces, ketchups and dips; in herbal and spice blends; in bread; in store-bought refrigerated pizza and convenience food; in canned foods like soups and stews; in fast food and restaurant meals…

Sugar, like salt and fat, is a beloved ingredient with the food, restaurant and fast food industries because it adds taste or, if we’re absolutely honest, also covers not-so-great-taste of not-so-fresh or not-so-good ingredients. 

Dumping added sugar means cooking at home – or watching your plate Argus-eyed.”

Quitting sugar is simple for those among us who have no sweet tooth, who experience no painful chocolate, pastry, soda cravings and no withdrawal struggles. If you prefer savoury to sweet, you’re already halfway there.
Just make sure you’re not consuming more sugar than you think!


Give It A Rest: Why I Wouldn’t Binge On Sugar Alternatives Either

Like after the end of any bad, addictive relationship, don’t set your heart on the next best thing.
Yes, there are tooth-friendly sweeteners like Xylitol or amazingly beneficial coconut sugar.
Yes, there are dried fruits that you can use to sweeten meals (more in a sec, hold on).
But frankly, the sense in ditching A for bingeing on B escapes me.

Thankfully, there are sugar-free foods (and foods containing only traces of sugar) that help you satisfy, or rather outwit your sweet tooth, that you can start adding to your meals right away:
1. Cinnamon – the cinnamon aroma tricks you to believe that your food is sweeter than it is, and so does
2. Vanilla pod – notice, we’re not talking “vanilla sugar”, we’re talking the real thing with the rich, oily, dark and mellow taste. Rrroarrr!
3. Raw cacao – good cacao is mildly sweet, like many other nuts.
4. Cashew nuts, almonds, pine & cedar nuts – delicious as is, fantastic as nut butter, lovely as topping for salads and pasta dishes
5. Coconut, pumpkin seed, macadamia oils – with their sweet, ‘warm’ aromas they add a dimension of sweetness beyond sugar

TIP: If you’re a chocolate lover, you might want to check out my friend Lyss’ YouTube channel where she creates the world’s healthiest hot chocolate and the best ever chocolate espresso.
You can thank me later.

If You Are Ready For A New Beginning… – Better Added Sugar Alternatives

Bad news first.
Baking is the hardest to pull of sans refined sugar. Meringues, sponge cakes, anything where sugar is needed for texture/formula, forget it!
If you’re vegan and maybe even gluten-intolerant to make matters worse, better say farewell now to all the pastry classics (or maybe go for it and experiment FOR THE SAKE OF ALL OF US!!!)

Cooking works just fine without refined sugar. Also without agave, honey, or raw sugar. 
I find that spicy food, recipes with various herbs and spices, really helps satisfy sugar cravings.

However, here are my top 5 foods that aren’t sweeteners but help sweeten stews, sauces, beverages, dough and desserts:
1. Coconut nectar / sugar. It has an incredibly low GI and GL and doesn’t rash blood sugar levels. Has a caramel-like taste, colour and flavour that it passes on to the recipe. Makes it great for BBQ herbal blends, and less ideal for custard creams and the likes.
2. Dried apricots. If you like sweetened tea, try putting 3-4 dried apricots to one cup while the tea brews. Sugar-conscious vegans like their pitted dates, but to me, dates have more aftertaste than apricots. Even though their GL is higher than their GI – still beating dates – apricots in moderation are a great sweetener and a fabulous source of beta-carotene, Vitamin E, and iron. Here’s a dessert recipe I’ve posted a few weeks ago that you might like.
3. Bananas. The go-to ingredient to sweeten smoothies, to create vegan and soy-free chocolate mousse desserts (picture below) and to bake with (egg replacer!) Another option are pineapples, melons and berries (think blackberries, strawberries, blueberries). They are quite low in sugar (pineapple has a moderate GI but a low glycemic load) but the taste, the ripe aromas help infuse your recipes with a mellow sweetness. For baking, combine fresh and dried fruit and you will hardly notice the lack of added sugar.
4. Spices like ginger and paprika powder, condiments like raw cacao powder or cacao nibs are a fantastic source of sweetness!
5. Almond, peanut, cashew butter, pure, without additives, sugar, or palm oil. They will add a nice melt to your recipes.

chocolatemousse-vegan-avocado-bananaThe trick here is to get crazy and creative, and not let the “good old” recipes get in your way.
Be inspired, not dominated.

Now, Adventurer, tell me: Are you a sweet type? Do you eat a lot of “hidden” sugar? 
Do you prefer sweet or savoury?
And what is your favourite sweet dish, pastry, or beverage? Do tell!


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at BEAUTYCALYPSE.com (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)

12 Responses

  1. […] 1. NOM NOM NOM. Find a delicious food, an easy to make recipe for a sweet or savoury treat or for a home-made beverage to replace your fave “you know I’m no good” packaged foods like chips, chocolates, cookies, bretzels, as well as candy or sweet spreads made from industrial sugar, conflict palm oil and artificial colourings, preservatives and flavourings. Great ideas for healthy comfort food wait for you in modern, fabulous vegan cookbooks (like these and these) and on food blogs. Green smoothies, green juices and green teas offer a lot more refreshment and flavour than any cola, lemonade, or soda. + If you want to reduce your intake of sugar, please read this. […]

  2. I can easily have a box of chocolate untouched for months in my house. Crunchy salty is what I find hard to resist – I virtually inhale cashews & crisps. Apparently something to do with our mother’s diet during gestation. I love the complex taste of coconut sugar and it’s the main sweetener I use when I bake (i don’t do meringue so no loss).

  3. Thanks for all the information.
    I confess to have a sweet tooth, so total sugar elimination would be hard for me. However the good news, for me, is that I don’t overindulge in baked goods and other sweet things. And also on the plus side I rarely eat processed foods. 😉

  4. I seem to have food phases. At one time I couldn’t eat enough blackcurrants; then it was cherries. I have had love affairs with grapefruit marmalade and home-made apricot jam. For the last year I have been madly attracted to manuka honey, but recently I have begun to return to another old favourite mashed banana on toast. So I do consume some sugar but I prefer sour to sweet, any day.

  5. I love everything sweet, maybe that’s why I have such a hard time to say no to sugar. But I’m working on it and have been since last year, then I realized that my migraines and sugar intake are related. Before that realization I had migraines constantly, since then only three times after I ate a lot of cake and torte (so yummy!). So for me it’s totally worth it to fight against my sweet tooth.
    My best way to eat less sugar is dark chocolate (at least 75%, the higher the better), one little piece a day makes it easier to say no to other sweet things, I also love coconut oil and nuts. And I learned to like my tea without anything sweet in it. And frozen fruits are also a nice treat.

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