Benefits of a Sugar-Conscious Diet
Sugar… it makes life so sweet! However, sugar is void of nutrients and many people are opting for or are restricted to sugar-free or sugar-reduced diets to help improve their overall health. In this week’s blog post, we’re diving into the topic of sugar, the many different forms of sugar, and the benefits of a sugar-conscious diet.
Before we get started, I’d love to introduce myself! My name is Megan Roosevelt and I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, mom of two, the founder of HealthyGroceryGirl.com and I am honored to be contributing a guest blog post! My passion is sharing simple, healthy recipes and natural living tips that the whole family can enjoy!
Sugar, Not So Sweet!
White cane sugar is a simple carbohydrate derived from the sugarcane plant that is often added to food for flavor, texture and it can even act as a preservative. When sugar is added into food, this is what we call "added sugar". Below are some of the different names you may find on an ingredient list that are actually just added sugar!
- anhydrous dextrose
- brown sugar
- confectioner’s powdered sugar
- corn syrup
- corn syrup solids
- high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- invert sugar
- malt syrup
- maple syrup
- nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar)
- pancake syrup
- raw sugar
- white granulated sugar
From this list, these forms of sugar do have some nutritional value: maple syrup, date syrup, honey and coconut sugar.
What Are The Negatives Of Consuming Too Much Sugar?
While limiting added sugar is key for overall health, let’s not write off all sources of sugar! We do need carbohydrates for energy and whole food sources (aka fruits and veggies) are the best way to provide the body with sustained energy along with vitamins and minerals.
However, consuming too much added sugar may contribute to skin issues such as acne, weight gain, constant sugar cravings, disrupted sleep, a weakened immune system, gut issues such as bloating and gas, hormone imbalance and even insulin resistance.
How Sugar May Affect Immunity
Did you know that sugar can suppress the immune system? Approximately 70% of your immune cells reside in the lining around your gut, called the epithelium. When sugar is consumed, your immune cells around the epithelium are hindered because they temporarily decrease in function. This decrease in function keeps them from doing their job of fighting off bacteria and viruses. Immune suppression usually starts around 30 minutes after consuming sugar and can last for up to a few hours! Overconsumption of sugar may also lead to inflammation, which can also negatively impact our immune system.
How Sugar May Affect Gut Health
Your digestive system also known as your “gut” contains both good and bad bacteria. The “bad bacteria” actually love sugar and therefore a high sugar diet feeds the bad guys!
Gut dysbiosis can occur when there is an imbalance of the microorganisms within our intestines. The goal for optimal gut health is more good guys than bad guys. However, being in a state of dysbiosis can increase sugar cravings, which continues the vicious cycle.
To support optional digestion and gut health it’s essential to be conscious of our intake of added sugar. In addition, eating fibrous plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices have all been shown to support good gut health! Simply put, increase your intake of real, whole plant-based foods and decrease or limit your intake of processed foods with added sugar.
How Sugar May Affect Mood and Mental Health
Sugar contains zero grams of fiber, fat or protein. Therefore, it is digested quickly resulting in a spike in blood sugar levels. This spike may lead to a quick burst of energy followed by a crash in energy and mood. Which can be a slippery slope to craving more foods containing simple sources of sugar to support energy levels. However, this dependency on sugar for energy can lead to a roller coaster of mood and emotional disorders. In fact, a high sugar diet is associated with greater symptoms of fatigue, decreased mood, difficulty managing stress, and may play a role in depression and anxiety.
What Is A Sugar Conscious Diet?
A healthy lifestyle is not about deprivation or feeling like you are on a diet, this is not sustainable or enjoyable! Therefore, instead of vowing to never eat sugar, aim to eat a sugar conscious diet.
A sugar conscious diet is one where the majority of what you consume comes from real whole foods, mostly plants. While fruits and some vegetables are a source of carbohydrates, they also contain fiber, vitamin and minerals which in whole affects the body very differently than eating a slice of cake or candy. In fact, fresh fruit and dried fruit is nature’s candy and the perfect way to treat yourself and nourish at the same time. You can make your own homemade jam by cooking down fresh strawberries, use bananas or applesauce in baked goods or even make homemade granola bars sweetened with dates.
Second, read nutrition labels and aim to limit your intake of foods high in added sugars and making the swap to more nutritious options.
Third, when making your own food - find a sweetener you love that loves you back! A great option for adding sweetness to your recipes without the negative effects of white sugar is Purecane! Purecane found a revolutionary way to ferment sugarcane to make it into a zero calorie and low glycemic sweetener. It contains no artificial chemicals or GMO's. Purecane has a Baking Sweetener which is perfect for cooking and baking. There are also Individual Packets or a Canister for adding a touch of sweetness to drinks. It tastes like sugar, because it’s made from sugar - without the sugar spike!
How Purecane Can Support a Sugar Conscious Diet
Not sure where to start? Here are 3 easy swaps from sugar to Purecane!
1. Purecane works great in your favorite sweetened drink recipes such as lemonade or iced tea!
2. Have a favorite cookie recipe? Use Purecane™ Baking Sweetener instead of white or brown sugar.
3. Love adding sweetness to your morning coffee? Instead of a high sugar coffee creamer opt for an unsweetened non-dairy milk such as almond milk and add a packet of Purecane™ Packets or Canister for some delicious flavor. I also love to add a dash of cinnamon!
I hope today’s blog post has inspired you to begin eating a sugar conscious diet and continue on your very own wellness journey!
Have a happy and healthy day!