Of all the fads that get under my skin, it would be the no-carb, no-sugar and sugar-free craze that does it the most. The entire fad stems from a basic misunderstanding in food, something we can all relate to in this country. It's all mess and it's hard to find a place to start but here goes...
It's impossible to Sustain Sugar-Free
According to some in the health field, I probably "shouldn't" be telling you this, but...
It's natural for our bodies to ask for sugar. And we need sugar.
When we eat any kinds of foods, foods will be converted into blood sugars necessary to feed our brains, our muscles and the majority of the cells in our bodies. There's really no "escaping it" and there's no reason to be scared of sugar like the food industry want us to be.
But because we have diseases like diabetes that are heavily affected by too much sugar in the blood, we blame sugars when the real issue in diseases like diabetes is insulin resistance. (Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that allows our bodies to absorb sugar, also known as glucose from foods). Insulin helps keeps our blood sugar level from getting too high, and yes, the sugars we eat affect how much insulin our bodies pump out.
Whether you go for a meaty, meat-free, gluten-free and/or mostly vegan diet, your body will raise its blood sugars. The trick is in keeping blood sugars in control and within a healthy range.
So what kind of sugars are ok?
From a marketing perspective, food companies will take out real sugar in packaged foods and replace it with other sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, cyclamates, shit we can't pronounce, etc... to claim it's "sugar-free" and because it's cheaper to produce than real sugar. Let's be real. Food production is mostly about the money, not our health. These artificial sweeteners are addictive, over-excite and kill our brain cells and have been linked to diseases like cancer, obesity, and autism among tons of others.
Like I mentioned before, if we're focusing on a plant-based diet or eating more veggies for the most part, then even the veggies we eat will raise our blood sugar. And we need it, so make sure the foods you eat are good quality. Whether they are starchy or not, once veggies are digested and absorbed, it will affect your blood sugar levels. Yes, veggies will raise our blood sugar, but will also deliver fiber (which helps stabilize sugar levels), water and a slew of other nutrients.
Feel good knowing you can get good for you sugars from fresh veggies, fresh low-sugar fruits, dried fruits, nuts, legumes, and grains like rice. Just make sure they're in their most natural states. Nothing packaged unless you can trust the company that packaged it for you. I wish more health educators and nutritionists would teach this to their clients. It would save us all a lot of headache to understand these nutrition basics.
Low sugar fruits include green apples, berries, kiwis, lemons, limes, kumquats, pomegranates, and grapefruit.
What sugars you can enjoy: stevia, coconut nectar, raw honey, dates, and from spices like ginger, clove, and cinnamon.
What sugars to avoid: the refined, totally processed junk like high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, aspartame, sucrose, lactose, malt syrup, fruit juice, cane juice, any white sugar, Splenda, and Agave (I know it's natural, but it raises blood sugars too fast, creating an inflammatory response.) Eat these sparingly or not at all if you're controlling your sugars!
How to Pick Foods with Good Quality Sugars
1. Go natural - Eat natural foods like fruits and veggies first. These are the best foods because of the fiber and other nutrients. Fiber helps normalize blood sugar levels. Antioxidants in fruit help reduce inflammation.
2. Buy local- there are tons of local food purveyors that don't add added sugars to their products. One of my favorites is Butcher's Bunches. The company started from a mother's desire to not feed her son any foods with added sugars or artificial sweeteners because of autism and developmental delays. Nothing but all fruit preserves and they are BOMB!
3. Read your labels- if you're going get something canned or bottled, make sure you read the ingredient list and understand everything in it. Don't recognize an ingredient? Google that ish up!
3 Natural Sugar Recipes You Can Make with Fresh Fruit Jams & Preserves
As much as I wanted to share a bunch of chocolate recipes (chocolate is probably my fave way to eat sugar), I wanted to keep these recipes close to fruit as possible because let's be honest... Fruit is nature's best candy! And there's lots of good we can do with it.