In some of my recipes, I have been using alternatives to refined sugar such as fruit and dates. I have a very sweet tooth and I love to bake but I am also aware of what refined sugar can do to the body, so I’m determined to find healthier alternatives that still taste good. I ordered some coconut sugar last week, which has just arrived and I’m excited about trying it out. I’m going to have to wait a while to use it though because I’m on day 1 of my 2-week sugar-free challenge. You can join me and do the challenge yourself: for more information, see The Sugar-Free Challenge page.

If you have any of the following symptoms, it could be that sugar is the culprit:

  • Aching joints
  • Permanently blocked sinuses (you know that feeling when you think you’re going down with a cold, but it never quite happens?)
  • Always tired
  • Lethargic
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry skin
  • Thrush
  • Bad digestion
  • Fuzzy head
  • Forgetful
  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Prone to mood swings

So, why is refined sugar so bad for us?

There is so much information out there about how sugar damages your health, so I’m going to stick to the basics and leave it you to find out the specifics if you want to. Let’s start off with the obvious.

Sugar is quite bad for you because

  • It leads to tooth decay;
  • It is high in calories and completely lacking in nutrients, which leads to weight gain and malnutrition.

Ok, you probably already knew those 2, but that’s just the start.

Sugar is terrible for you because

  • It supresses the immune system;
  • It promotes inflammation;
  • It speeds up the ageing process;
  • It raises insulin levels. In the short term, this means sudden energy slumps and food cravings. In the long term, this can lead to diabetes;
  • It robs the body of B vitamins, which are basically needed to keep your nervous system, muscles and tissues healthy and functioning. See here for more information.

For more information on the list above, there’s a great article here at www.nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com.

For a truly terrifying list of how sugar damages your health, see 141 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health at www.nancyappleton.com.

Now for the worst part:

The problem with sugar is that it’s just too tasty. No matter how much we want to hate the stuff, it’s very difficult to give up and that’s because sugar is a drug; it is addictive. There is an amazing lecture about this on YouTube called Sugar: The Bitter Truth by Prof. Robert Lustig, which I really recommend you watch if you are at all interested in the subject. Be warned, it’s over an hour long though!

What are the alternatives?

It’s important to remember that alternatives to refined sugar are still high in calories and will still raise insulin levels, so we shouldn’t go crazy and eat loads of them. However, it’s nice to have a sweet treat here and there and the alternatives in the list below contain more vitamins and minerals than refined sugar, meaning they nourish our bodies when we eat them rather than stripping the nutrients from us.

  • Fruit
  • Dates
  • Rapadura sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup

Alternatives to avoid:

In my opinion, sweeteners are even worse than refined sugar and should be avoided at all costs. But that’s a huge subject in itself, so I won’t go into it now.

By now you’re probably beginning to hate me a little for making you feel bad about eating sugar, but please don’t!  I wish I could eat lots of sugar too. As I said in my very first post, “I love food…especially cake. It makes me happy”  and I like nothing more than enjoying yummy food with family and friends. Emotional health is just as important as physical health so I’ve had to find a balance that is reasonable and sustainable: I try to eat healthily most of the time, if I have treats at home I try to use the healthier alternatives, but I’m not going to beat myself up about the odd indulgent meal at a friend’s house or a delicious, sugar-laden pudding at a restaurant. Life is for living and enjoying after all!

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