There’s been a lot of stuff going around the media and the internet lately about quitting sugar – a lot of it saying that its bad for you or too extreme, but on the most part that it can be a really good way to get your health in control, which is certainly my perspective.
Have you heard of ‘I Quit Sugar’, the movement created by Sarah Wilson? I for one think it’s a fantastic direction as far as the health world is concerned. I’ve followed Sarah Wilson’s blog for years now – in fact I remember when she first Quit Sugar, as an experiment when she had nothing else to write about for her health column at the time.
From the outside, it can seem like Sarah Wilson’s lifestyle and expectations are unrealistic and unattainable for an everyday person, which I believe is the reason she cops so much flak – people look at the surface of Sarah Wilson’s brand, her book and her philosophy, but don’t really try to understand where she is coming from and as such, they completely misjudge her and her intentions (honestly, if you’ve read her books or even her blog at all, you’ll know that Sarah Wilson has a very easy-going approach to things). I love Sarah Wilson’s food philosophy, not only because its helped to make our culture question the foods that we regularly consume, but because she has a very user-friendly approach to cooking and encompasses her passion for the environment by ensuring her recipes, food storage and preparation techniques all reduce waste, be it food scraps, containers or energy usage. These are all things that speak to me on a core level, and I really adore her for it.
Why cut out sugar?
Cutting out sugar isn’t about being extreme or unrealistically restricting your diet in a way that will harm your body – in fact, it’s the complete opposite. Too much of a good thing really can be TOO MUCH, especially when it is refined and only considered for its calorie content, instead of all of the other impacts it can have on the body. In order to help you understand this properly, I thought I would explain what sugar is and its roles in the body, as well as what happens when we eat too much.
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. Called ‘simple’ because it is made of one or two molecules, so it is fast for the body to break down and use. Carbohydrates are an energy source (as are protein and fat). The sugar that we usually think of – table sugar/cane sugar – is sucrose. Sucrose is a disaccharide, meaning it is made of two molecules (monosaccharides); glucose and fructose.
Glucose is converted into energy, especially important for use by the brain, but also for use by the rest of your cells. The level of glucose in the blood (known as blood sugar) is controlled by insulin and glucagon, substances that tell the brain whether there is not enough or too much glucose in the blood, and aids the uptake of glucose into the cells to be used for energy.
Fructose is another monosaccharide that is 2.3 times sweeter than glucose. Unlike glucose, it is metabolised by the liver and converted to glucose to be used as an energy source. The consumption of fructose is linked to obesity, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which rose after the introduction of high fructose corn syrup and low fat products designed to aid weight loss, that have sugar added to make them palatable. While our bodies can process fructose, they are not designed to process such vast amounts, which is where the problems start to arise (and I’m not just talking about weight gain).
Let me clear, by being sugar-free, I’m not advocating that you stop eating all sources of all sugars and stop eating fruit altogether and forever. Remember, I am NOT a person who takes anything to extremes, I just don’t believe in it. It is however a removal of processed sugar, and sources high in fructose, and baby, it’s not always easy! We are, after all, absolutely addicted to the sweet stuff, so at the very least, if you look at this as a way to reduce your emotional attachment to food, its going to do you a lot of good!
Sugar-free September is a lovely month-long challenge created by Cassandra Michelin of the blog Live It Do It and this year is the third year its been running (I’ve taken part every year). The challenge is to remove all processed/refined sugar from your diet for a whole month but to do it with a community of other people who are going through the same things as you, and to find some inspiration. You can choose how “hardcore” you want to do this, so I’ll give you a few examples;
- Level 1 – cut out processed sugar (including table sugar and high fructose corn syrup), but still eat sweeteners such as honey, dates, agave, pure maple syrup and coconut sugar, that still contain high levels of fructose, but in a more naturally occurring form
- Level 2 – cut out processed sugar and other sweeteners high in fructose (mentioned above), but use rice malt syrup and stevia to sweeten
- Level 3 – cut out processed sugar, natural fructose-containing sweeteners, dried fruit, fruit juice, jams, high fructose fruits such as bananas, (in general, aim for foods with 3-6g sugar per 100g), and replacing such foods with all whole foods, lots of protein, fats and vegetables.
I think it’s safe to say I’ll be doing a mix of level 2 & 3 – I’ve got some bananas that are browning up in my pantry right now, and may occasionally feel the need to create a sweet treat with the rice malt syrup I have on hand, but on the whole (and as a nutritionist) my diet is already fairly close to level 2 already, so best I actually challenge myself, hey?
To join Sugarfree September, simply follow the Sugarfree September photo-a-day challenge (below) with the #sugarfreeseptember hashtag on every post on either Facebook or Instagram.
You can follow me as I take part on my Instagram account (@mirandaswellness) and on Facebook, posting one photo every day. Just make sure that you add the hashtag #sugarfreeseptember to every post you make, and check out the hashtag for some inspiration if you’re feeling a little uninspired about the whole thing.
I’ll be posting another blog here and there to keep you inspired, so feel free to ask me any questions throughout.