We used to blame fat consumption as the main driver to health issues but research is now showing that sugar is the first culprit. It is unbelievable the extent of damage that sugar does to our mood swings and body. It can lead to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression and liver problems, to name a few.
I was shocked when I recently watched That Sugar, a film directed by Damon Gameau in which he shows how even with what is considered a healthy diet, we might be consuming an average of 40 teaspoons of sugar daily. In a 60 days experiment, his diet consisted of this same amount of sugar camouflaged in healthy food such as cereals, yogurt and fruit juices. He ended up with fatty liver disease, an extra 7 kilos, mood swings and 10 cms of fat around his waist.
Sugar is more addictive than drugs
It is astonishing what sugar does to the palate and the brain. Simply thinking of a chocolate cake topped with fresh cream, could make your mouth water. How about when you step in a pastry shop filled with muffins, cookies and sugar glazed doughnuts? Thinking of a coke could make someone thirsty straight away. These patterns can turn into addictions and before you know it, you are hooked on a downward slippery slope.
There is a remarkable mood change after indulging in a high intake of sugar. If you have ice cream for desert, you will feel different from when you had broccoli for dinner just 30 minutes before. Ice cream is so pleasing to the palate that you might crave for a second serving but I doubt you feel the same for steamed broccoli.
In his book The Blood Sugar Solution, Mark Hyman explains how sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine. Sugar lights up the same addiction centre of the brain as cocaine or heroin and stimulates the same pleasures. Once the high of the sugar has worn off, you experience a mood crash and need more to make you feel better again. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, headaches and fatigue.
Detox from sugar
Apparently 10 days of proper detox from sugar can cut out cravings and make someone feel an improvement in energy levels straight away. It might not be easy as the person might feel deprived and experience withdrawal symptoms. It is well worth it though.
A good start to the detox would be to get rid of all sugary stuff from your kitchen. It is helpful to have a backup plan in order to efficiently handle cravings when they come.
Proteins such as nuts, seeds and avocados are good for snacking. Keeping a food diary can be quite motivating as well as weighing yourself and checking your waist and hip measurements regularly.
As shown in That Sugar, a high level of sugar is used in food that are marketed to be perceived as healthy. It is as risky as plain sugar. We pick them from the supermarket shelves without thinking twice, especially with cereals and it is similar with dairy products like low fat yogurt and flavoured milk. The same applies to processed food like soup, pasta sauces, baked beans, tinned fruits and salad dressings. It is recommended to eliminate these items from meals completely.
The path to healthy eating
Just imagine two paths in front of you, one to the left and one to the right. Visualise yourself walking down the left path while still having a high intake of sugar. How do you feel one week from now? One month? 6 months? 1 year? What about 5 years down the line? What does your body look like? What is happening to your health?
Now imagine that you have done a detox programme and cut down on sugar. Go down the right path and do the same experiment step by step. How is your energy level in 5 years? Are you feeling healthier? More energised and active?
It was hard for me to write this blog as it brought up my old sugar cravings. However, I am in a better space now and I hope not to reach out for a pain au chocolat when I next go to the supermarket!