Refined white sugar has no nutritional value. It is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and produces a rush that triggers the pancreas to try and re-balance sugar-levels in the blood. Too much sugar over-activates the pancreas, absorbs calcium from your bones and teeth that later gets deposited in your muscles, arteries, joints and major organs, which causes inflammation and can lead to arthritis or osteoporosis. Sugar lowers immunity and creates imbalances throughout your body and produces cravings for more sugar. For some people sugar is addictive, as it produces serotonin in the brain, which can give us a feeling of temporary well-being. Fungal infections such as thrush are more likely when the pancreas are over-triggered.
All sugar alternatives are sugar and will have similar negative effects, use them sparingly as you wean yourself off refined sugars. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a mix of fructose and glucose and is a common ingredient in many soft drinks, jams and other processed foods.
- Most brown sugars are caramelised white sugar.
- Carbohydrates are also sugars.
- Avoid all artificial sweeteners, they will maintain your sugar cravings and are associated with many negative side effects.
- Read food labels: look for hidden sugars such as high fructose corn syrup.
Try some of the following sugar alternatives:
Honey is higher in sugar content than refined sugar but it does have antibiotic properties and nutrient value. Try and source local honey as most imported honey will have been heated to treat bee disease problems, which destroys the medicinal properties.
Organic blackstrap molasses is made from the ingredients removed from sugar before refinement, it provides iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, and is alkalising to the body. It has a unique flavour and is safe for cooking and baking.
Coconut palm sugar is a minimally refined sugar that is rich in magnesium, potassium and zinc. Look for raw coconut palm sugar or low heat treated for a lower glycaemic index.
Stevia is a leaf extract that is 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar and is an excellent alternative to artificial sweeteners.
Agave is an unrefined sweetener that is high in fructose and is 50% sweeter than sugar.
Dates are about 60% carbohydrates and provide essential micro nutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins. Eat a couple on their own to satisfy a sugar craving, or to sweeten smoothies, or in other recipes that call for a little sweetness.
Fresh fruits can account for up to 20% of your daily food intake; they are a natural source of simple carbohydrates and provide immediate energy without the crash you get with refined sugars. Fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and fibre.
Some tell-tale signs that you may have a blood-sugar imbalance:
- Sugar cravings
- Fluctuations in energy levels
- Excessive hunger
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive sweating
- Frequent urination
- Mood swings, anxiety, irritability
- Regular headaches
- Waking in the middle of the night
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty losing weight
- Fat around the middle of the body
TIP: If you are experiencing sugar cravings try eating or tasting something bitter or sour rather than sweet. The taste of bitter helps to reduce cravings for sugars. Most herbalists will tell you that the craving for sweets is an indication of a need for bitters, which are tonic, improve digestion, help to balance blood sugar levels, combat depression and benefit the body as a whole.