If inflammation is the culprit of all lifestyle diseases, sugar acts as the fuel. There are countless studies that indicate the dangers of sugar. Although it’s unrealistic in our modern world to completely avoid or eliminate sugar in our diets, there are simple steps we can take to help us enjoy the occasional sugary treat.
If you want to keep the ill effects of sugar at bay and have your cake too, check out how you can help your body stay healthy while you enjoy your sweets.
Firstly, the dangers of refined sugar
Sugar is an all-natural compound found in many whole foods. It’s considered a refined carbohydrate, and although antagonized in the health world, a little sugar in moderation can comprise of a balanced diet for healthy individuals.
Where sugar gets its bad rap is mainly from table sugar or white sugar, which is a highly refined form of this simple carbohydrate. Processing white sugar involves a lot of chemical additives to make the seemingly innocent white granules that we all see so commonly.
Refined sugar, especially when frequently consumed in large amounts has been linked and known to be the cause of many health ailments such as inflammation, obesity, diabetes, cancer, malnourishment, tooth decay and heart disease.
Healthier refined sugar alternatives
What makes sugar harmful to the body is essentially its effects on our blood sugar. Sugar comes in many forms, but once ingested in our body, sugar is sugar. What we can do, short of eliminating sugar entirely, is to opt for all-natural sugar alternatives that have a lower glycemic index and are less refined than white sugar. Try these all-natural sugar swaps (but still consume sparingly) for a healthier sweet treat:
- Agave: Agave, from the agave plant, is turned into a syrup that goes well with cocktails and mocktails thanks to its liquid syrupy form that makes it easy to mix with other liquids.
- Coconut sugar and nectar: From the coconut tree, coconut sugar and nectar is a minimally processed sweetener with a glycemic index of 35, which is almost half of table sugar. It can be used as a table sugar replacement and works especially well with coffee and raw baked goods.
- Yacon syrup: Yacon is a naturally sweet root, and turned into a syrup as an alternative sweetener with a very low glycemic index.
- Stevia: Stevia comes from the South America stevia plant. Its naturally sweet leaves contain no sugar and don’t affect blood sugar. Made into drops or powdered form, use ¼ the amount of stevia as you would normal sugar.
Sprinkle Cinnamon on Everything!
If there was a magic bullet that could counter the blood sugar spiking effect of sugar, it would definitely contain cinnamon. This spice, not only goes wonderfully with sugary treats, it increases our sensitivity to insulin, helping to prevent blood sugar crashes and puts less strain on our liver and pancreas as they work hard to process sugar. Additionally, cinnamon also helps to curb sugar cravings.
Fortunately, this spice goes well on most sugary foods, so sprinkle away to enjoy a sugary treat without having to worry about a major sugar crash.
For when you over indulge
For days when a small treat turns into an overindulgence, you’re bound to feel a little off balance. To help reduce the ill feelings sugar may bring on, follow the below tips to help your body get back on track:
- Don’t starve yourself: You may think cutting out a meal or two to compensate for all the empty sugary calories you consumed will help keep your body in check. This is quite the opposite, when over indulging in sugar, it’s important to not starve your body and to eat a quality fiber and protein-rich meal to keep your blood sugar from spiking and crashing.
- Hydrate and alkalize: Too much sugar can leave your body feeling dehydrated and acidic. When you’ve had too much sugar, be sure to drink plenty of water to help your body process the sugar and to eat or drink alkalizing foods such as a green juice.
Being educated about the negative effects of sugar and how you can counter and minimize these effects, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the occasional sweet treat in moderation.