Humans love sweet things. It’s in our nature. Sweet tastes to the long-ago hunter gatherer meant safety. If a food was sweet, then it was safe to eat. It also meant a quick source of energy which we needed when we were running away from mountain lions, and foraging for our food.
Today we love sugar just as much but it means something else completely. In our food culture, it has become a toxin. Why? It comes down to two things. One, we have removed the fiber. And two, we eat way too much of it.
Sugar has become so pervasive in our society that the average American eats over 140 pounds a year or more than 20 teaspoons a day. This is more than twice what the USDA recommends. It’s in everything from hamburger buns to cereal, canned vegetables, peanut butter, baby foods, tomato sauce, and of course the obvious cookies, cakes and ice cream.
What is sugar?
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. When it is eaten in its whole form, such as in fruits, grains, beans and vegetables, the sugar is broken down by our systems and burned slowly and evenly for energy.
In nature, sugar comes in a fibrous package- like an apple, carrot, kidney bean, or rice kernel. The fiber is necessary to regulate the sugar that enters our system. Sugar raises our insulin levels while fiber brings it back down again. Basically, the sugars are the bad guys and the fiber is the police. You need the fiber to keep the sugar in check and to prevent sugar anarchy.
Why remove the fiber?
Fiber is the element in food that makes it take longer to cook, and to have a shorter shelf life. This does not jive with processed food. In order to make it quick, easy, and long lasting, the foods’ fibrous outer layer has to be stripped away. Essentially, fast food and processed foods are simply, food with the fiber removed.
So what’s the problem?
When we remove the fiber, the sugar is able to go on a rampage. First it pushes our blood sugar levels up, and then makes it come crashing down, sending us on a sugar-fueled roller coaster ride. Just think of what happens at a typical child’s birthday party. Pizza and cake send them running in crazy circles, followed by a flood of tears. When we get that spike and crash it also makes our organs work harder. Not only do these refined sugars and carbohydrates take an emotional toll, they take a physical one too.
So what do we do?
As I said at the beginning of this post, everybody loves sweet things. There is no need to eliminate the very things that we love. We just need to consume them in a more conscious way.
Here are three easy ways to cut out a big chunk of sugar from your diet without going crazy.
- Avoid the unnecessary added sugars in sweet snacks and drinks. Choose drinks and snack that contain fiber without added sugar. Don’t drink soda or sports drinks. Just don’t do it. There is nothing good about it. It is all caffeine, salt and sugar. They actually dehydrate you which is exactly the opposite of what drinking something is supposed to do.
- Eat your sugars with fiber. Preferably the one nature packed it with. The sweets that I make at home are as sweet as candy but packed with the dietary fiber that your body needs to police the sugar and keep it from flooding your system. My Vegan Chocolate Truffles are made with dates which are an excellent source of fiber. I make cookies, like my Jam Dots, and cakes, like my Vegan Chocolate Cake, using coconut, quinoa, millet and garbanzo bean flours. I usually stick in some spinach to drive that fiber up even further.
- Use unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup, honey and molasses. They all have vitamins and minerals that add to the nutritional content of the food as opposed to detracting from it. Also, they have the advantage of not being processed so are less likely to have preservatives and chemical additives.
Originally published on my website, Tapp’s Tips.