Sugar: our body’s most vital food group needed for brain function. With modern life, it has become the source of our greatest misery. Sugar is our number one most socially accepted drug; we are addicted to it and are suffering silently.
Unless you are already on a mission to eat only whole foods, I can almost guarantee that you have a sugar addiction that is quietly thriving inside you on a cellular level, and you don’t even know it.
Motherhood and sugar is a friendship hard to break. I have personally fallen into sugar’s inviting, warming, no-questions-asked bosom (You can read more about my personal journey which very much consisted of quick fixes and sugary foods). It feels good and oh so right. Until it doesn’t, and my body is yelling at me to please snap out of this; time and time again, I pull myself out of the sticky addiction. And I always swear never to look back…
Now, before I go on, I want you to know that I don’t particularly like extreme diets or food shaming (denying or hating certain foods) – I much prefer to understand exactly why your body is not responding well to certain food groups or chemicals. There truly are no one-size fits all when it comes to food. There just isn’t. Trust me, I have tried; it would make my job easy breezy if that was the case, but no. My job as a nutritionist requires me to be a daily food detective, investigator, food planner, and a recipe creator. It’s the only way a patient gets better. I am not anti-sugar – that would be disastrous. as I mentioned, it’s needed for your brain to function! Instead I am hoping to clarify the types of sugars that cause disruption and addiction in your body and why that is so important to avoid.
Are you addicted to sugar?
You may be nodding your head at me knowingly ignoring this sweet addiction of yours, or you may be remembering the last time you were caught in the sweet spot, chowing down the sugary goodness like a hungry mother wolf.
Sugar cravings set in almost without any conscious awareness. You will find yourself blindly unaware digging into the lolly drawer, finishing up the last muffin crumbs or just casually ordering a slice of banana bread (nope, it’s not bread … it’s cake!) with your morning coffee on your way to the playground with the kids. Classics.
But then, there are these less obvious signs that you’re addicted:
-Feeling like you must have something, right this moment to keep you going.
-Mood swings; sugar will take you up a notch and then drop you into the black abyss feeling tired, irritated, grumpy, and hungry… again.
-Foggy mind, like you haven’t woken up yet, despite it being 3pm.
-Living on high and lows
-Recurrent UTI’s, thrush and candida
-Skin rashes, eczema and psoriasis flare-ups and acne.
-Hormonal problems inc. irregular periods and fertillity issues.
– To mention a few typical tell tell signs
What the harm?
It’s just sugar right…. Well, yes and no. Sugar is part of nature’s intended food source to keep you well and functioning. What happened was our ability to refine it, isolate it and add it into (almost) everything possible. Far from how nature initially served it to us; bound together with fibre and proteins in a wholefood structure.
Because we are wired to see sugar as a vital part for function and survival, we have very strong signals forcing us to eat it if we are not thriving, and our body doesn’t know any better than to bring us back up if we are running low; hence, you may find yourself eating sugary snacks but you don’t recall opening the package or buying it in the first place. What your body doesn’t take into consideration —when sending you these hard to resist signals —is that it isn’t coming as part of a whole food.
The major concern here is the stress it puts on your insulin and kidneys. In short, when sugar enters your body, insulin is produced to grab it and distribute it for absorption. When this happens too frequently, and you consume more than you need, it will store the excess sugar for later, in case you need it (think about all the sugar you eat because you want to and not because you need to…). A genetic set up that we have to stay alive during times of hunger and famine, undoubtedly something you are not worried about I hope. This storage of sugar is preserved as fat. Hence, excess sugar consumption can make you gain weight! And long-term, this puts a huge pressure on your organs, insulin receptors and therefore it escalates…
As I said, if you eat mostly whole foods and very little pre-packaged or pre-made food, I am most certain that you are getting the right sugar you actually need and not too much. But if you have a little extra here and a little extra there, every day, you are facing this:
-Rapid ageing (this is due to a process called glycation – sugar reduces the strength of collagen and reduces the health of arteries and more)
-Possible weight gain
-Dry skin and possible skin breakouts
-Poor bone health
-Low immune function
-Poor muscle recovery
-And so on.
Sugar compete with nutrient absorption so you can see how it’s all down hill from that first banana bread you had this morning.
Why should you care?
Because your health is the most important thing you have in your life. Think about it. Without good health, everything else will suffer. Everything! Of course, this all can happen relatively slowly. But cleaning up refined and added sugars from your diet now will improve your long-term health. The health that allows you to be the nurturing mother you wish to be, and feeling vibrant as you age.
Giving up on added sugar can be a battle. I hate that it is such a battle to tell you the truth. One thing is the addiction we have to combat, but the fact that you have sugary items jumping at you everywhere, in almost every shop you enter, is just unfair. But getting off the sugar addiction is worth it. You will feel much more balanced, satisfied, calmer, rested, stronger, and you will look irresistible. There’s nothing like a happy, content, well-nourished mamma strutting down the park. It’s contagious; share the news!
Health foods that will trap you:
Here’s the part where you need to pay attention. Just because something has the word natural, healthy, or organic on it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. May I suggest, once again, that you avoid anything in a package? Anyhow, when you go to the shops, you must turn to the ingredients list. If there’s added sugar, inverted sugar, Anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice … it has been added to the food and is more that you need. Boom. Sorry to say, Skip it and go straight to the whole food (real food) aisle. Sugar is almost always added to any premade, pre-packaged, breads, crackers, takeaway food and bottled drinks.
My solution & The Sugar that you MUST have:
Just because I suggest you avoid sugar does not mean you can’t enjoy the little daily sweetness; in fact, you must. It just needs to be the right kind of sweetness to not take away from your health, but instead be part of the bigger plan of adding greatness to your health —as you eat your way through the day.
- Take a look at your diet first; perhaps it is not giving you everything you need. Pack the protein on your plate, always add a natural source of fat and don’t forget the vegetables. If your plate doesn’t contain the combo of these three, chances are you are not satisfied and your body will ask for more energy—a feeling translated to sugar cravings
- Are you thirsty? Sometimes quenching your thirst with water or herbal tea can totally disrupt the sugar craving feedback.
- Protein snacks between meals can help ease the cravings: A boiled egg, some nuts, smoked salmon and avocado, or natural yoghurt with some chopped nuts, chia seeds and fresh berries.
- To give your brain the energy it needs, you need to consume some sugary foods, especially if you are a mum or pregnant as your energy requirements are high; so having fruit and berries daily is part of a very important whole food diet. Try having a green apple and some almonds, fresh berries in a smoothie or in yoghurt, a few slices of pineapple after dinner with some coconut yoghurt, or an oven baked sweet potato with your meal or cold in a salad. The sugar in these types of snacks compared to a muffin or the teaspoon(s) in your morning coffee will not give you highs and lows, or burden your health.
The results are numerous once you’ve weaned yourself of the sugary crystals; if you have been down the sugar addiction path, I’d love to hear from you. And if you are caught in the sugary trap and the way out is looking bleak, just get in touch—I can help you back on track.
Take a look at my previous post here for some ideas on how to get started on your sugar-free journey.