reading time: 5 min
Do you get an energy slump in the afternoon? Do you need something sweet after lunch or dinner? Are you unable to eat just one piece of cake and walk away? Then this blog post is for you, my friend!
There's something that has been bothering me. Over the past few weeks (and after quite a long period of feeling kind of unattracted to chocolate and sweet treats) I somehow have slowly acquired the habit to end the night with something sweet, such as a piece of dark chocolate, a handful of gummies, homemade chocolate popcorn, homemade banana chocolate cookies or a chocolate-coated rice cake. That "dessert" habit just kind of crept into my daily routine without me even realizing it. Until now!
I'm not a doctor, nor am I a nutritionist. However, I'm a sugar addict! And you are, too.
The answer to this question is probably: yes! Don't agree with me? Just try quitting to drink soda or eating candy or chocolate for a day or more! It's frickin hard, isn't it?! As sugar has a similar effect on the human brain as drugs like cocaine do, sugary treats such as chocolate are often referred to as a "feel-good-snack". Basically, sugar is a drug.
Before I delve into the way my No-Sugar Challenge works, I feel like I should give you a little bit of a background story. As you may or may not know, I used to have an eating disorder during my late teenage years. Besides a distorted body image (dysmorphia), I also developed an unhealthy relationship with food during that time. During my recovery in my early twenties, I went through different stages of binge eating, "veganism for health and fitness" (a.k.a to loose weight) and so-called "orthorexia", the obsession to eat healthy. Those stages were challenging, but necessary for my recovery. Now I'm at the point where I can eat whatever I feel like, as long as it's vegan (for both ethical and health reasons) - however, that has led me to eat more unhealthy foods than I should. And I don't mean that in terms of my weight or outer appearance (I'm quite content with the way I am now), but rather in terms of my actual health.
Last Thursday, after buying a box of vegan chocolate cookies with loads of refined sugar and eating 8 cookies in a row, I realised that I have developed a sugar addiction. As most people have, and we don't even notice! Which is particularly disastrous when you have to study for an exam or are - like me - writing your master thesis and always feel the need to have an unhealthy pick-me-up. Why? Because sugar-laden treats are deficient in nutrients, high in calories and will burst your energy only briefly (sugar rush), making you crave even more sugary things during the day.
Here are 7 more reasons why you should quit sugar!
After watching the documentary Sugar Coated on that same Thursday, which was a real eye-opener for me, I was convinced to stop putting toxic sugar into my body:
- Sugar leads to weight-gain and eventually obesity.
- Sugar is poison. Similar to alcohol, sugar weakens your immune system and leads to high blood sugar levels.
- Sugar causes life threatening illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, metabolic problems and possibly even cancer and dementia.
- Sugar triggers your appetite.
- Sugar will ruin your teeth by causing gum disease and tooth decay which will lead to cavities.
- Sugar consumption makes you feel sluggish once the "sugar high" has worn off.
- Extreme fructose consumption (soda, juices, candy) will flood your liver as fructose can only be metabolised by the liver (unlike glucose which can be metabolised by various organs) and will eventually result in a fatty liver, diabetes and heart disease.
Now, one piece of cake won't make you a sugar addict, but regular consumption of sugar will! It's a simple equation: Eat sugar –> crave sugar. Quit sugar –> don't crave sugar (unless you don't eat enough complex carbs which will make you crave for the quickest way to get an energy boost).
First off, what I mean by "no sugar" is "no added sugar" or "no refined sugar". There are 50 names for sugar, including fructose, glucose, sucrose, syrup etc., so it can be quite a challenge to eat sugar-free for a month. Here are the rules I go by:
- No added sugar of any kind. Check the labels!
- No sugar substitutes (including honey, coconut palm sugar, xylitol, molasses, agave, maple syrup, stevia, etc). However, this doesn't mean no dessert at all! I'll list a bunch of sugar-free recipes below :)
- No fruit juice (even if it says 100% fruit juice and doesn't list added sugars - this is highly concentrated fruit sugar that will spike your blood sugar!).
- Stay away from low-fat labelled food and overall processed foods. They usually contain loads of added sugar to compensate the lack of taste.
- Consume white flour or white starches (bread, pasta, potatoes, rice) only in moderation. Use brown rice, whole grain spelt or whole wheat flour instead. If you are allergic to gluten, make sure your gluten-free products don't come with any added sugar.
- Minimize your alcohol intake. You may be thinking: First sugar, then flour and now alcohol?! I thought this was a no-SUGAR challenge?! But both refined flour that is stripped from almost all nutrients, and also alcohol are high on the glycemic index and turn into sugar in our bodies.
- Drink 6 (12 ounce) glasses of plain water each day, or about 2 litres. That way you will flush out all the toxins that may be released during your sugar detox.
|sugar-free hazelnut truffles|
Sooo... What Can I Eat?
Cutting out all 50 kinds of sugar seems like an overwhelming task at first. But actually, it's not that hard. Cooking at home and letting your friends & family know you are quitting sugar for a month will make things significantly easier.
Eat whole foods! Whole foods include vegetables, fruits, (whole) grains and legumes. But what about the sugar in fruits? Yes, fruits contain fructose, but they also have nutritional value as well as fibre and water and are not as concentrated as fruit juices. Stick to fruits that are low in fructose such as berries and apples. Ripe bananas or applesauce are a great way to naturally sweeten baked goods.
Dried fruits such as dried plums, dates, apricots or raisins are also a great alternative to sugar, especially in baking.
Here are some of the sugar-free treats you can find on my blog:
- Chocolate Nut Truffles
- Banana Oat Cookies
- Raisin Chocolate Bliss Balls
- Banana Bread
- Oat Pancakes
- Coconut Date Rolls
- Chocolate Mint Energy Balls
- Walnut Apple Bread
- Spelt Banana Waffles
- Tahini Date Balls
- Almond Butter Blondies
- Coconut Rice Pudding (omit sweetener or sub for pure vanilla)
- Chilli Chocolate Brownies
- Raw Ferrero Rocher Truffles
And there are many, many more sugar-free options out there! By the way, I also started a pinterest board for sugar-free treats, so take a look if you like :)
|sugar-free tahini date balls|
After The Challenge
With all the knowledge we now have about the unhealthy effects of sugar on our bodies, we don't want to go right back to where we started once the month is over. Instead, start to introduce unrefined sweeteners into your diet rather than refined. For example, xylitol, raw honey, coconut palm sugar or green stevia.
Also, replace dairy chocolate with dark chocolate (75% and up), drink your coffee black, try to drink your tea without any sugar or honey. Make your own treats and use natural sugar sources such as dates, bananas or fruit purée to sweeten them.
Don't beat up yourself for slipping. It's natural and it will happen. If you mess up, remember that your next meal is an opportunity to eat healthy. Just do your best, and I promise you will feel your best in turn!
I challenge you to join me on this 1-month sugar detox! We start TODAY – whenever you read this! No excuses. We can do this!!
Here are some interesting and helpful sugar related articles:
Toxic Truth About Sugar (UHS Berkeley)
Sugar Dangers (Mercola)
Dangers of Sugar (Huffington Post)
Harmful Effects of Sugar (Wellness Mama)