If you follow me on Twitter or have read my goals for this year, you may know that I am going sugar free for the whole of January. It’s something I’ve dabbled with before. A month before one of my birthdays I decided to give up sugar purely because it’s in everything bad that I was eating and I wanted to shape up a bit for my birthday. This time around, it’s a bit deeper than that.
Type 2 diabetes is in my family and because of that I have been conscious of my weight and my sweet tooth. Not that I’m saying sugar and weight gain are direct causes of diabetes, but they can play a part. I decided in December that I’d experiment with giving up sugar after seeing someone on my Instagram feed had bought Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar book. I looked into Sarah’s story and her 8-week quitting program and decided to buy her I Quit Sugar and I Quit Sugar for Life books, with the aim of quitting in January. Then Amanda Hamilton tweeted about #sugarfreejan and has been offering useful tips on sugar via her Twitter.
How much sugar was I eating before?
When I was at School I’d have several cups of tea a day with 2.5tsp of sugar in each cup. I’d add sugar to my porridge or weetabix and jam on toast was my weakness. Oh, not forgetting the Go Ahead Crispy Fruit Slices I ate everyday at lunch- each bar has 1tsp of sugar in it and there are 3 bars in a pack! Then Uni came and supernoodles, greasy pizza and alcohol played a part of my diet and social life. I cleaned up my act towards the end and started reading more and more about healthy eating.
For the last 2 years or so I haven’t bought or used refined sugar in anything. I stopped drinking tea because I couldn’t stand the taste without sugar. Now I drink herbal teas, sweeten my porridge with fruit and honey and jam on toast is a rarity. If I baked, I’d use honey or Truvia, a natural sweetener. But then Christmas came and there were no-holds barred, sugar was back in my life. By New Years I was ill, bloated, tired, I’d gained weight and my skin had broken out. I was more than ready to quit sugar.
Why is sugar bad for you?
There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about sugar and going sugar free. I’m super happy about this as it means that 1) it’s made it easier for me to quit and 2) more people are aware of it. To explain why sugar is bad for you, I’m going to give you 5 reasons why I’m quitting sugar.
1. Sugar has no essential nutrients and rots your teeth
This is something I’m sure we’ve all heard at some point in our life. Sugar has absolutely no essential nutrients. No vitamins, no minerals, none of the good stuff, just pure “empty calories”. Every time you add a teaspoon of sugar to your tea you’re just adding calories. Sugar also rots your teeth as it feeds the harmful bacteria in your mouth, causing tooth decay- ew.
2. Sugar is addictive
Ever opened a pack of chocolate biscuits, eaten one and not instantly wanted another one? If you don’t succumb to eating a second biscuit, I salute you! If you’re already onto your third biscuit, don’t worry, you’re not alone! Sugar has been said to be as addictive as drugs. Scarily, French scientists found that cocaine addicted rats chose sugar over cocaine. Sugar gives our brains a happy signal and can override our self-control mechanisms causing us to want more.
3. Our bodies aren’t designed to handle the amount of sugar we’re eating
When in our bodies, sugar is broken down into glucose and fructose. Our bodies produce glucose and we burn it for energy. Fructose is not produced by our bodies. It is a sugar that is found naturally in fruit, but it is the sugar our bodies can’t handle in vast amounts. And by vast, I mean the amount a typical adult eats today. Fructose can only be metabolised by the liver and when the liver is full of glycogen (which it most often is) the liver turns fructose straight into fat. Typical white table sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. It is very, very hard to consume too much fructose by eating fruit, but very easy to get too much by eating sugar and foods containing sugar.
4. Sugar is in almost everything in today’s diet
Way back when, there were very few sources of sugar like fruit and honey (if you wanted to fight a swarm of bees for some). Nowadays everything is so readily available, we’ve invented new sources of sugar and put it in almost all modern day processed foods. When I first started quitting sugar I was shocked to discover just how many foods had sugar. Besides the obvious cakes, chocolate, sweets etc, sugar is added to yogurts, ‘healthy’ fruit smoothies and juices, bread, pasta sauces, ketchup and other condiments, fast food, cereals, frozen foods and much more. In fact, in America they found a baby powder for making up babies milk had more sugar in it than a can of coke!!
5. Sugar increases the effects of ageing
I’m sure we all want to look youthful for as long as we can, naturally I mean. Well, sugar produces free radicals that break down collagen, leading to sagging skin and wrinkles. It can also aggravate skin conditions like acne. Whenever I gorge on too much sugar, I get a few spots spring up the next day.
So there you have it, five reasons why sugar is bad for you and partly why I decided to quit. There is more to sugar than what I have listed here. If you want to find out more, I recommend watching Robert Lustig’s talk, Sugar: The Bitter Truth on YouTube. It get’s a bit “sciency” at times, but it is a very interesting and in fact, eye-opening talk. Also have a look at David Gillespie’s talk on his books, Sweet Poison and Big Fat Lies and of course, Sarah Wilson’s books where she has great sugar free recipes and a lot of information about sugar.