It’s been five years since I gave up soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, and candies and sweets with high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors. I went cold turkey. This abrupt dismissal was due to my nutrition education. In school, I was exposed to the good, bad, and ugly. Sugar happened to be one of the beloved foods with too many not-so-pretty faces.
Sugar…it’s sweet, it’s addicting (8 times more addicting than cocaine), it’s a staple in the American diet, it’s often tied to happy events and memories, it’s everywhere, it’s disguised in many unsuspected foods, and sadly, it’s slowly killing us.
How’s that for bittersweet?
The Big Sugar Impact:
We all know sugar is loaded with empty calories that can lead to weight gain. But, did you know it’s a disease igniter too?
Sugar is fuel for preventable, deadly killers, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, heart disease and obesity. A few years ago, 60 Minutes aired a special on the toxicity of sugar; it was incredibly eye opening and powerful; it led me to write a personal letter to my family voicing my concern. I later shared it on my blog: A Letter to My Family As a Result of the 60 Minutes Toxic Sugar Segment.
Sugar and Sweetener Types:
Okay, there are all kinds of sugars out there; it’s like trying to pick the lesser of evils. Sugars and sweeteners go by many names. Here are some examples:
- Ugly Artificial Sweeteners (Chemical concoctions – not food! The worst evils): Sucralose (Splenda/Equal Sucralose), Aspartame (Equal original), Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low/Equal Saccharin), etc.; these can be found in colorful “sugar” packets and “no calorie” drinks and foods.
- Bad Sugar: sucrose, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, sorbitol, etc.; these can be found everywhere, even in bread and peanut butter.
- Good Natural Sugar (Sugar is still sugar, but these are much healthier): maple syrup, molasses, honey, stevia, agave syrup, etc.
- Best Healthy Sugar: Whole fruits, sweet spices (cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg) and some good, old TLC (tender loving care)
Kicking the Sugar Habit:
If you want to reduce your sugar consumption, you don’t necessarily have to do it overnight. You can take small steps.
For example, when I drank coffee, I would make it “sweet” with artificial sweeteners (the ugly stuff!). When I learned the “ugly” side of those deceptive color packets, I switched to raw sugar (“bad” sugar). Then, I slowly moved to honey (“good” natural sugar) and cinnamon (“best” sweetness). Eventually, I drank my coffee black. Now, I’ve gone almost two years without drinking coffee at all. While I did abruptly kick the habit with some sugars and sweeteners, others took time. I had to make lifestyle changes with them.
Just remember, you can always start now by making small steps to a healthier you.
Share your sugar experiences below. Have you struggled to reduce your sugar consumption?